Global Programme of Action

Why have a Global Programme of Action?
The major threats to the health, productivity and biodiversity of the marine environment result from human activities on land - in coastal areas and further inland. Some 80% of the pollution load in the oceans originates from land-based activities. This includes municipal, industrial and agricultural wastes and run-off, as well as atmospheric deposition. These contaminants affect the most productive areas of the marine environment, including estuaries and near-shore coastal waters. The marine environment is also threatened by physical alterations of the coastal zone, including destruction of habitats of vital importance to maintain ecosystem health.

Presently, about one billion people are living in coastal urban centers. Estimates show that almost 50 % of the world's coasts are threatened by development-related activities. The health, well-being and, in some cases, the very survival of coastal populations depends upon the health and well-being of coastal systems such as estuaries and wetlands. The intense pressures put on the coastal systems requires serious commitment and preventive action at all levels: local, national, regional and global.

In response to these major problems, 108 governments and the European Commission declared their commitment to protect and preserve the marine environment from the adverse environmental impacts of land-based activities. The Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities and the Washington Declaration was adopted in 1995 and UNEP was tasked to lead the coordination effort and to establish a GPA Coordination Office. The comprehensive, multi-sectoral approach of the GPA also reflects the desire of Governments to strengthen the collaboration and coordination of all agencies with mandates relevant to the impact of land-based activities on the marine environment, through their participation in a global programme.

Aims of the Global Programme of Action
The GPA is designed to be a source of conceptual and practical guidance to be drawn upon by national and/or regional authorities for devising and implementing sustained action to prevent, reduce, control and/or eliminate marine degradation from land-based activities.

The GPA aims at preventing the degradation of the marine environment from land-based activities by facilitating the duty of States to preserve and protect the marine environment. More specifically, it is recommended that the States:

A. Identify and assess problems related to:

B.  Establish priorities for action by assessing the five factors above (nature and severity of problems;
contaminants; physical alteration; sources of degradation; and areas of concern). It should specifically reflect the relative importance of impacts upon food security, public health, coastal and marine resources, ecosystem health, and socio-economic benefits, including cultural values in relation to (i) source- categories, (ii) the area affected and (iii) the costs, benefits and feasibility of options for action.

In the process of establishing priorities, States should (amongst others):

(a)  Apply integrated coastal area management approaches, including provisions to involve stakeholders
(b)  Recognize the basic linkages between the freshwater and marine environment through, application of watershed management
(c)  Recognize the basic linkages between sustainable development of coastal and marine resources, poverty alleviation and protection of the marine environment
(d)  Apply environmental impact assessment procedures in assessing options
(e)  Integrate national action with any relevant regional and global priorities, programmes and strategies

C.  Set management objectives for priority problems for source categories and areas affected on the basis of
established priorities.
On the basis of the priorities established, States should define specific management objectives, both with respect to source categories and areas affected. Such objectives should be set forth in terms of overall goals, targets and timetables, as well as specific targets and timetables for areas affected and for individual industrial, agricultural, urban and other sectors.

D.  Identify, evaluate and select strategies and measures to achieve these objectives.
Strategies and programmes to achieve these management objectives should include a combination of:
(a) Specific measures, including, as appropriate:

(b) Requirements and incentives to induce action to comply with measures, such as:

E.  Develop criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of strategies and measures.
A key element in successful strategies and programmes is to develop ongoing means of determining whether they are meeting their management objectives. Criteria to evaluate the effectiveness of such strategies and programmes should be tailored to the objectives, as mentioned under C. In addition, they should address:

(a) Environmental effectiveness
(b) Economic costs and benefits
(c) Equity
(d) Flexibility and effectiveness in administration
(e) Timing
Major Milestones
Numerous global and regional conventions and events relate to the protection of the marine environment from land-based activities, including:

UNEP/GPA Coordination Office - The Hague
The United Nations Environment Programme GPA Coordination Office in The Hague, The Netherlands, coordinates the tasks and activities of UNEP as secretariat of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA). This Global Programme of Action was adopted by 108 Governments, and the European Commission, in Washington D.C. in 1995. The role of the secretariat, in close partnership with relevant organizations, is to:

a.promote and facilitate implementation of the GPA at the national level;
b.promote and facilitate implementation at the regional and sub-regional level through, in particular, a revitalization of the UNEP Regional Seas Programme; and
c.play a catalytic role with other organizations and institutions in implementation of the GPA at the international level.

Funding of the Activities of the UNEP/GPA Coordination Office
Funding for the GPA Coordination Office is derived from the regular budget of UNEP (Environment Fund) and a Technical Co-operation Trust Fund financed by the Netherlands Government. A General Trust Fund in support of the implementation of the GPA has been established and is open to financial contributions for activities to be undertaken by the GPA Coordination Office. Projects for GPA implementation by Governments could be financed by sources such as the Global Environment Fund (GEF).

UNEP/GPA Coordination Office: gpa@unep.nl