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MEDITERRANEAN SEA – Outcomes of the 19th Meeting of the Contracting of the Parties to the Barcelona Convention

Tuesday, 15 March 2016
The 19th Ordinary Meeting of the Contracting Parties (COP 19) to the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean and its Protocols took place in Athens, Greece, from 9 to 12 February 2016. The Meeting, which was held under the theme ‘Forty Years of Cooperation for a Healthy and Productive Mediterranean Sea and Coast: A Collective Journey Towards Sustainable Development’ to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Barcelona Convention, was attended by delegates from 20 Mediterranean countries and the European Union as well as representatives from several inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations.

In addition to the Programme of Work and Budget for the 2016-2017 biennium (IG.22/20), the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention adopted 19 Thematic Decisions covering a broad range of issues, including the reform of the Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development (MCSD) and the amendment of its constitutive documents (IG.22/17), and the implementation of measures for sustainable consumption and production (IG.22/5), climate change (IG.22/6) and marine litter (IG.22/10). Moreover, in addition to adopting updated action plans with regard to cetaceans, coralligenous and other calcareous bio-concretions, and invasive species, the Contracting Parties granted SPA/RAC the mandate to update the existing Action Plan on Marine and Coastal Birds and revise the Reference List of Marine and Coastal Habitat Types in the Mediterranean (IG.22/12). The Contracting Parties further adopted the Mediterranean Offshore Action Plan, in the aim of facilitating the implementation of the Offshore Protocol of the Barcelona Convention (IG.22/3).

Also worth noting is the adoption of the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development 2016-2025 (IG.22/2); the Regional Strategy for Prevention of and Response to Marine Pollution from Ships (2016-2021) (IG.22/4); the Roadmap for a Comprehensive Coherent Network of Well-Managed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to achieve Aichi Target 11 in the Mediterranean (IG.22/13); and the mid-term evaluation of the Action Plan for the Implementation of the ICZM Protocol for the Mediterranean (2012-2019) (IG.22/11).
The Meeting culminated in the adoption of the Athens Declaration, by virtue of which Mediterranean Ministers have pledged “to implement the instruments, programmes, action plans and guidelines adopted at COP 19 as crucial means for the achievement of the objectives of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols”. The Declaration calls for the intensification of the efforts being exerted towards the sustainable development of the Mediterranean Sea within the global framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; the application of the ecosystem approach as an overarching principle for the implementation of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols and the achievement of the good environmental status of the Mediterranean; the effective implementation of the LBS Protocol and the relevant national and regional action plans with a particular focus on marine litter as an emerging issue of regional and global concern; the further elaboration and implementation of the Regional Climate Change Adaptation Framework; and the implementation of the ICZM Protocol and Action Plan as strategic tools for the sustainable development and integrated management of coastal zones.

Last but not least, the Secretariat of the Barcelona Convention concluded two Memoranda of Understanding: the first was signed with the Permanent Secretariat of the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS) with a view to creating a framework of cooperation vis-à-vis the collection and assessment of information relating to the conservation of cetaceans, the identification, protection and management of significant marine areas, and the promotion of ecosystem-based approaches for the conservation of the marine environment. The second Memorandum was signed with the Permanent Secretariat of the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution (BSC PS) in the aim of facilitating collaboration between the two bodies with regard to integrated marine monitoring programmes, the ecosystem-based approach, the assessment of the state of the marine environment, and the implementation of integrated coastal zone management policies.
It is worth mentioning that the contribution of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols to the protection of the marine and coastal environment of the Mediterranean was widely acknowledged throughout the Meeting. The Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of UNEP, Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw, noted that COP19 signified “forty years of cooperation, collaboration and solidarity between North and South, beyond political divergences, social upheavals, and economic differences”. He also stressed that “while 2015 will be remembered as a major milestone in terms of international agreements, 2016 has been called the year for implementation and delivery”, calling upon Contracting Parties to seize the opportunity and ride the momentum.

Moreover, the UNEP/MAP Coordinator, Mr. Gaetano Leone, highlighted the continuing relevance of the Barcelona Convention as well as “the effectiveness of the regional dimension in absorbing the global policies and agreements and providing the tools to translate them at the regional and national level”. He further remarked that the Convention’s objectives have evolved to remain aligned with the current global environmental agenda and that “the adoption of the ICZM Protocol, the application of Ecosystem-based Management, the work that [Contracting Parties] are doing on information and data, on Sustainable Consumption and Production and Green Economy, in the maritime field, biodiversity, and socio-economic analysis, all point to the vitality and growth of the MAP-Barcelona Convention work”.

Source: UNEP/MAP
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