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Countries Adopt Manila Declaration to Strengthen Protection of Global Marine Environment

Thursday, 15 March 2012
The Third Session Intergovernmental Review Meeting on the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action  for the Protection of the Marine Environment  from Land-based Activities (GLOC) was held from 25 to 27 January 2012 in Manila, Philippines. It was co-organized by the Government of Philippines and the United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP) and it brought together 17 environment ministers from 65 countries, the European Commission, marine scientists, non- governmental organizations, representatives from financial institutions and other interested bodies. The participants focused on the formulation of new policies and actions to improve the sustainable management of oceans and coastal areas, stressing the marine environment’s central role in the transition to a low-carbon resource-efficient green economy.

The main outcome of the Conference was the adoption of the Manila Declaration on Furthering the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities, which represents a renewed international commitment to step up efforts to protect the world’s oceans from land-based activities as a key element in supporting economic livehoods and food security in the face of climate change. Signatories to the Declaration stressed the commitment to the implementation of the Global Programme of Action on the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA)* at the international, regional and  national levels as a flexible and effective tool for the sustainable development of oceans, coasts and islands, and for human health and well-being.
The Manila Declaration consists of 16 provisions focusing on actions to be taken between 2012 and 2016 at international, regional and local levels within a framework of integrated coastal management on GPA’s priority areas such as wastewater, marine litter, pollution from fertilizers and biodiversity loss, Under Manila Declaration signatories decided to develop guidance and policies on the sustainable use of nutrients to improve the efficiency of fertilizers such as nitrogen and phosphorous.  This initiative would bring economic benefits to farmers, whereas mitigating devastating effect on the environment.

The Manila Declaration reflects delegates’ decision to improve cooperation and coordination at all levels to deal with issues related to oceans, coasts, islands and their associated watersheds, by applying integrated management such as “ridge to reef” approaches. It also calls on member-countries to strengthen and promote the implementation of existing Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans, and other relevant global and regional arrangements, agreements and programmes for the protection of the marine and coastal environment.

Through the Manila Declaration, the delegates invite United Nations agencies, United Nations inter-agency groups, United Nation Development Group (UNDC) and Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) to strengthen the integration of the GPA into their policies, plans and programmes. The delegates also ask Global Environment Facility (GEF) and other global and regional financial institutions to offer capacity building and technical assistance to countries to help implement the GPA.

Despite the fact that the Manila Declaration is a non- binding, political document it is expected to be presented to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development  (UNCSD), also known as Rio+20 , as a contribution to the deliberations on sustainable development.

“The Manila Declaration signals a new way forward for all of us,” said Amina Mohamed, UNEP Deputy Executive-Director, who led the UNEP delegation at the meeting. “The UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June is an excellent opportunity to take the Manila Declaration to a global audience and initiate action to reduce the impact of land-based activities on the marine environment,” she said. “It is essential that we sustain our momentum to achieve on-the-ground improvements in the health of ocean and coastal ecosystems, for which the continued and co-ordinated effort of the international community is vital,” added Ms. Mohamed.


* The GPA was adopted by the international community in 1995 and “aims at preventing the degradation of the marine environment from land-based activities by facilitating the realization of the duty of States to preserve and protect the marine environment”. It is the only global initiative directly addressing the connectivity between terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems. The GPA targets major threats to the health, productivity and biodiversity of the marine and coastal environment resulting from human activities on land and proposes an integrated multisectoral approach based on commitment to action at local, national, regional and global levels. In an era when coastal communities are threatened by new and daunting challenges, e.g. climate change, the holistic ecosystem approach advocated by the GPA is even more relevant today than when first negotiated in 1995.

Source: Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA), UN News Center, IISD Reporting Services
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