24 Jun 2020 Press release

The MedProgramme: a new push to depollute the Mediterranean Sea and coast and underpin ecosystem integrity

© J. Ghannem

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Athens, 24 June 2020—The Mediterranean Action Plan of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP/MAP) announces the “Mediterranean Sea Programme (MedProgramme): Enhancing Environmental Security”—a 43 million USD endeavour funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with the aim of reducing major environmental stresses, strengthening climate resilience and water security, and improving the health and livelihoods of coastal populations in the Mediterranean region.

The MedProgramme –an assortment of seven child projects—will deploy more than 100 coordinated actions at regional and national levels over the next 5 years (2020-2024). This is expected to lead, among other positive impacts, to the disposal of 3,250 tons of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and of fifty (50) tons of Mercury, as well as the prevention of the use of 1,309 tons of POPs per year, an increase in volumes of water treatments, and improvements in coastal and water management.

Assessments of the investments required for important infrastructure projects, including the depollution of the waters in drains and canals in the Nile Delta, wastewater collection systems in coastal hotspots in Lebanon and plans to improve surface water, groundwater and coastal water resources in Tunisia, will also be conducted. Knowledge management and gender mainstreaming activities will support overall programme implementation.

“We highly value our cooperation with the GEF. As the Executing Agency of the MedProgramme, we will ensure that it brings us closer to fulfilling the vision of a healthy Mediterranean Sea and Coast,” Mr Gaetano Leone, Coordinator, UNEP/MAP—Barcelona Convention Secretariat said.

UNEP/MAP will work with ten beneficiary countries—Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Morocco, Montenegro, Tunisia and Turkey—and with partners in the programme implementation, including UNESCO/IHP, EIB, IUCN Med, GWP Med, WWF Med and the UNEP/MAP Regional Activity Centres Plan Bleu (France), PAP/RAC (Croatia), SCP/RAC (Spain) and SPA/RAC (Tunisia).

Mr. Chris Severin, Coordinator, GEF International Waters observed that "the MedProgramme is an excellent example of the full cycles of GEF investments: from confidence building among countries, identification of key transboundary stressors specific to the ecosystem, regional target setting and subsequent implementation of national priorities. This has led to an exciting, powerful partnership unlocking infrastructure investments while boosting the national and regional policy, legal and regulatory frameworks necessary for long-term sustainability."

The MedProgramme is also supported by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB). The two International Financial Institutions will provide a co-financing of USD 700 million in the form of loans granted to the countries and to public and private actors to foster market creation and transformation, and to ensure sustainability through the private sector and municipal involvement.

With a coastline of 46,000 km, the Mediterranean Sea—the largest semi-enclosed sea in the world—has seen the population of coastal countries double in the last four decades to reach 450 million. The population is expected to grow to 600 million by 2050. The increasingly vulnerable coastal zones must cope with relentless urban pressure coupled with the rising impacts of climate change, including erosion and the salinization of river deltas and aquifers that underpin livelihoods and food security. According to the soon-to-be-launched UNEP/MAP State of the Environment and Development (SoED) report, sea-level rise may vary between 45 centimetres and more than 2 meters by 2100.

Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM)—an important aspect covered by the Barcelona Convention and its ICZM Protocol— will constitute one of the key activities of the MedProgramme with a focus on improving the effective management of coastal aquifers in the region. Specific activities will seek to bolster resilience to climate change in Morocco and Montenegro, and at the regional level.

On biological diversity, the MedProgramme will pursue the expansion of seascapes under protection, notably by enhancing the management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Libya. Under the SPA/BD Protocol of the Barcelona Convention, the Contracting Parties have established a growing network of MPAs, including 39 Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMIs). Overall, there are 1,233 MPAs and other area-based conservation measures located in the Mediterranean.

The MedProgramme will bolster the role of the UNEP/MAP—Barcelona Convention system as the linchpin of the region’s coordinated and comprehensive response to the crucial challenges pertaining to the sustainable utilization of coastal and marine resources. The programme will be fully integrated in the UNEP/MAP 2022-2027 Medium Term Strategy (MTS).

“As our region recovers from COVID-19, I am confident that the implementation of the MedProgramme will contribute to addressing several critical issues in the Mediterranean, among them the disposal of chemicals, water needs and a more efficient management of the sea and coastal zones,” Mr Leone said.

In the context of calls by UNEP to build back better, UNEP/MAP is advocating a green renaissance in the Mediterranean. Improved compliance by the Contracting Parties with the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols and with the regulatory measures adopted under the auspices of UNEP/MAP can lead to significant and lasting gains in curbing pollution. Scaling up sustainable consumption and production—an important part of the UNEP/MAP work in the region—will also be crucial for a resilient and sustainable future.

“The COVID-19 pandemic provides no excuses for revoking prior commitments or for being complacent about the very cause that provoked the crisis: human action in relation to nature. The MedProgramme will address many forms of environmental degradation in our region and help ensure the much-needed ecosystem integrity for human health,” Mr Leone observed.

Notes to editors

The Mediterranean Action Plan of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP/MAP) was created in 1975 as the first Regional Sea Programme launched under the auspices of UNEP. UNEP/MAP brings together the 21 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and the European Union—all of which are Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention—adopted in 1976 and amended in 1995— and its Protocols.

The Contracting Parties have adopted seven implementing Protocols to the Barcelona Convention addressing specific measures, technical requirements, standards and specifications to abate, phase out and eliminate marine pollution from different land and sea-based sources, protect marine and coastal biodiversity and ecosystems and apply integrated coastal zone management principles and related tools.

The Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development (MCSD), the advisory body established in 1996 by the Contracting Parties to underpin the implementation of the Barcelona Convention, was instrumental in integrating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into the Mediterranean Strategy on Sustainable Development (MSSD 2016-2025) that is guiding UNEP/MAP work.

The implementation of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols is the subject of national reports submitted by the Contracting Parties through a formal reporting system. In 2008 the Compliance Committee was established as a subsidiary body to facilitate and promote the implementation of the Convention and its Protocols.

Programmes and projects implemented by UNEP/MAP and its Regional Activity Centres (RACs) translate the vision of a healthy Mediterranean Sea and coast into a gradually expanding constellation of up-scalable sustainability bright spots.

For more information, please contact:

Jihed Ghannem, Public Information Officer, UNEP/MAP—Barcelona Convention Secretariat, ghannem[at]un.org

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