The Regional Seas Programme, launched in 1974, is one of UNEP’s most significant achievements in the past four decades.
The Programme aims to address the accelerating degradation of the world’s oceans and coastal areas through a “shared seas” approach – namely, by engaging neighboring countries in comprehensive and specific actions to protect their common marine environment.
Today, more than 143 countries have joined 18 Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans for the sustainable management and use of the marine and coastal environment. Seven of them are managed by the United Nations Environment Programme. In addition to NOWPAP, these are Caribbean Region, East Asian Seas, Eastern Africa Region, Mediterranean Region, Western Africa Region, and the Caspian Sea. Others have their own governance mechanisms, including the Black Sea Region, North-East Pacific Region, Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, ROPME Sea Area, South Asian Seas, South-East Pacific Region, Pacific Region, Arctic Region, Antarctic Region, Baltic Sea, and North-East Atlantic Region.
In most cases, the Action Plan is underpinned by a strong legal framework in the form of a regional Convention and associated Protocols on specific problems.
NOWPAP Institutional Framework
The Intergovernmental Meeting (IGM) is the high-level governing body of NOWPAP that provides policy guidance and makes decisions. The NOWPAP Intergovernmental Meetings are held annually in one of the participating countries on a rotational basis and operate according to the terms set forth in Resolution 2 of the First NOWPAP Intergovernmental Meeting (1994).
(a) Provide the overall policy direction for programme planning and execution;
(b) Assign priorities for project proposals within the scope of the NOWPAP Goals and Objectives, adopt and review continuously a workplan for the implementation of the Action Plan;
(c) Review the progress achieved in project implementation since the previous meeting;
(d) Approve the budgetary resources required for project implementation and determine their allocation;
(e) Agree upon the means for financing activities of the Action Plan, including firm pledges for contributions to the Trust Fund;
(f) Assist in the coordination of regional activities related to the protection and management of the coastal and marine environment in the Northwest Pacific region.
In accordance with the IGM decisions, four NOWPAP Regional Activity Centers (RACs) were established between 2000 and 2002. Regional Coordinating Unit (RCU) was set up in Toyama, Japan and Busan, Korea, in November 2004.
The implementation of the Action Plan comprises several projects running in parallel. These projects are entrusted to national institutions to the extent that the institutions are capable. In this, the institutions are supported by relevant regional and international organizations, particularly those that are already active in the region. In some circumstances, local capabilities are supplemented by assistance of experts from elsewhere in the region or from outside the region. A network of participating national institutions is coordinated by NOWPAP Regional Activity Centers (RACs) established for this purpose. Regional Coordinating Unit (RCU) ensures integrated and well-managed implementation under the Action Plan.