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In response to the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, Mediterranean countries are in the process of introducing policy, measures and stimulus packages to support recovery. Millions of jobs are on the line and according to initial estimates, lockdowns aiming to weather the pandemic will have already knocked several percentage points off national income. Yet despite the trail of destruction that COVID-19 is leaving in its wake, the region must seize a historic opportunity to build back better.
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The United Nations proclaimed 22 May as the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. The slogan chosen for the 2020 edition of IBD –“Our solutions are in nature”— emphasizes the importance of working together at all levels to build a future of life in harmony with nature.
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The Advisory Committee of the Strategic Action Programme for the Conservation of the Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean Region (SAPBIO) held an online meeting on 2 April 2020 to examine the roadmap for the elaboration of a post-2020 SAPBIO in the context of preparations for the post-2020 Biodiversity Framework under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
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Started by WWF and partners as a symbolic lights-out event in Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour is now one of the world's largest grassroots movements for the environment. Held every year on the last Saturday of March, Earth Hour engages millions of people in more than 180 countries, switching off their lights to show support for our planet.  Earth Hour goes beyond the symbolic action of switching lights off and has become a catalyst for positive environmental impact.
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The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 2021–2030 as the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, following a proposal for action by over 70 countries from all latitudes. The UN Decade positions the restoration of ecosystems as a major nature-based solution towards meeting a wide range of global development goals and national priorities.
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A new project implemented by the Mediterranean Action Plan of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP/MAP) and funded by the European Union went underway in March 2020 with the two-pronged aim of strengthening national capabilities in integrated monitoring of the Mediterranean Sea and coast and enhancing the management of marine protected areas in the Mediterranean region.
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UNEP/MAP was instrumental in the introduction of a ban on single-use plastic bags in Tunisia. The ban, which entered into force on 1 March 2020 for supermarkets by virtue of Decree No. 32 dated 16 January 2020, prohibits the manufacturing, import and use of conventional single-use plastic bags. Compostable and reusable plastic bags will still be allowed in the market as an alternative, provided that they bear a specific marking. A comprehensive ban will be extended to all producers and suppliers of plastic bags by 1 January 2021.
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Women at the helm of green entrepreneurship in the Mediterranean Under the auspices of UNEP/MAP, the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention adopted in 2016 a Sustainable Consumption and Production Action Plan for the Mediterranean region.The UNEP/MAP’s Regional Activity Centre for Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP/RAC) provides support to Contracting Parties in its implementation, including through the Switchmed programme.
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World Wildlife Day (3 March) is an opportunity to beat the drum for the fauna and flora of the Mediterranean because they deserve all the attention that they can get. Unsustainable human activities and overexploitation of natural resources have taken a hefty toll on biodiversity in Mare Nostrum.
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The Mediterranean Action Plan of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP/MAP) received the Excellence in the Mediterranean Award, conferred by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM), in recognition of commitment to the protection of the marine and coastal environment and to sustainable development in the region. UNEP/MAP—Barcelona Convention Secretariat Coordinator Gaetano Leone received the award on 21 February 2020 during a ceremony held in the context of the 14th Plenary Session of PAM.
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On 21-23 January 2020 the Mediterranean Action Plan of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP/MAP) joined forces with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO), the Italian Oceanographic Commission, the European Commission and the Mediterranean Science Commission to hold a workshop dedicated to the Mediterranean Sea and Coast in the context of preparations for the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).
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UNEP/MAP – Barcelona Convention Secretariat Deputy Coordinator Tatjana Hema took part in the 14th meeting of the Circle of Mediterranean Parliamentarians for Sustainable Development (COMPSUD) on 17 December 2019 in Rabat, Morocco. The meeting, which the Parliament of the Kingdom of Morocco hosted, agreed to launch of a “Decade of Sustainable Development in the Mediterranean” and on a number of related priority actions.
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The 21st Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols (COP21) took place on 2-5 December 2019 in Castel dell’Ovo, a medieval seaside castle in Naples, Italy. The COP21 report is being finalized along with the 14 decisions adopted by the Contracting Parties. The meeting documents will be published on the UNEP/MAP website: www.unepmap.org Unequivocal signals of commitment and support from the Contracting Parties
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UNEP/MAP Deputy Coordinator Tatjana Hema and Mr. Khalil Attia, SPA/RAC Director, participated in the Mediterranean Seminar on Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas held in Tirana, Albania, on 12 December 2019.
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Two days after the conclusion of COP21 of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols (Naples, Italy, 2-5 December 2019), Mr Gaetano Leone, UNEP/MAP — Barcelona Convention Secretariat Coordinator participated in a discussion hosted by H.E. Ms. Teresa Ribera, Minister for the Ecological Transition of Spain, and entitled the “Mediterranean Sea and climate change”.
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The Mayor of the Municipality of Ashdod (Israel), Mr. Yechiel Lasry, received the Istanbul Environment Friendly City Award from Ms. Maria Carmela Giarratano, President of the Bureau of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols, during an official ceremony that took place on 2 December 2019 -- the first day of COP21 -- in Naples, Italy.
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UNEP/MAP is participating in the Third Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Expert Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics (Bangkok, Thailand, 18-22 November 2019). Established in response to a resolution of the United Nations Environment Assembly on Marine Litter and Microplastics (UNEP/EA.3/Res.7), the Group includes experts with the relevant technical expertise from UNEP member States and representatives of international and regional conventions and organizations and relevant stakeholders.
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Media advisory and call for applications for media accreditation Deadline: 25 november 2019 What: The 21st Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean (Barcelona Convention) Core themes: Biodiversity and Marine Protected Areas; marine litter, blue economy; climate change.
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Deputy Coordinator Tatjana Hema represented UNEP/MAP in the 7th Meeting of the Parties to ACCOBAMS – the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area –, which was held in Istanbul, Turkey, from 5-8 November 2019. The Meeting of the Parties to ACCOBAMS reviewed progress in the implementation of the agreement since the last MOP held in Monaco in 2016.
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In September 2019, UNEP/MAP organized training workshops in Algeria and Lebanon to support the implementation of the Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Programme of the Mediterranean Sea and Coast (IMAP) and of the Regional Plan on Marine Litter Management, in both countries.
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The H2020 Review and Monitoring Group met in Athens, Greece, on 23-24 September 2019 in the context of the Shared Environmental Information Systems (SEIS) II South project, funded by the EU’s European Neighborhood Instrument (ENI).
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UNEP/MAP—Barcelona Convention Secretariat convened a regional consultation on the themes of COP21, the 21st Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention (COP21). The consultation meeting took place on 24-25 October 2019 in Athens, Greece, and saw the participation of more than 20 representatives of several civil society and intergovernmental organizations working in the Mediterranean region.
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As the Coordinator of UNEP/MAP, the Lead United Nations Agency in Greece, Mr. Gaetano Leone took part in the United Nations Day observance ceremony hosted by the Authorities of the Region of Attica at the Parthenon and Syntagma Square in Athens. Following the flag-raising ceremony in the Parthenon, H.E. Mr. Antonis H. Diamataris, Deputy Minister, Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Mr. George Patoulis, Regional Governor of Attica also delivered speeches at Syntagma Square.
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The inaugural meeting of the national competent authorities for the development of the Sub-regional Marine Oil Pollution Contingency Plan between Cyprus, Egypt and Greece took place on 9-10 October 2019 in Piraeus, a seaside suburb of Athens that hosts one of the main ports in Greece. REMPEC organized the meeting, which marked the launch of a process that would culminate in the adoption of the sub-regional contingency plan by the three countries in 2020.
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The UNEP/MAP–Barcelona Convention Secretariat Coordinator Gaetano Leone took part in the Marine Regions Forum on 30 September-2 October 2019 in Berlin, Germany. The Coordinator also participated in the 21st Global Meeting of the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans organized by UNEP on 3-5 October 2019 that also took place in the German capital.

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