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Participated in the 19th Meeting of the Contracting Parties (COP19) of the Barcelona Convention (Athens, 9-12 February 2016)

MEPIELAN Centre, an accredited MAP Partner, participated as an observer* in the 19th Meeting of the Contracting Parties (COP19) to the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean and its Protocols, which 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 Convention, was attended by delegates from 20 Mediterranean countries and the European Union as well as representatives from several inter-governmental, non-governmental and scientific organizations. In addition to MEPIELAN Centre, the following MAP Partners participated as observers: The International Centre for Comparative Environmental Law (CIDCE), the Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association (HELMEPA), the Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles (MEDASSET), the Network of MPA Managers in the Mediterranean (MEDPAN), the Mediterranean Information Office for Environment, Culture and Sustainable Development (MIO-ECSDE) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Over the course of the Meeting, the Contracting Parties adopted 19 Thematic Decisions covering a broad range of topics, including integrated coastal zone management, offshore activities, sustainable consumption and production, marine conservation, and climate change. Of particular importance is Decision IG.22/17 entitled ‘Reform of the Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development (MCSD) and Updated MCSD Constitutive Documents’, the purpose of which is twofold: on the one hand, it assists the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention in implementing the objectives of sustainable development and, on the other, it supports other regional or local actors in their efforts to promote sustainable development in the Mediterranean region and to integrate environmental issues in their socio-economic programmes. The reform process, which was initiated pursuant to Decisions IG.17/5 of COP 15, IG.20/13 of COP 17, and IG.21/11 of COP 18, was aimed at sharpening the mandate of the MCSD as an advisory body to the Contracting Parties of the Barcelona Convention, strengthen its role and contribution vis-à-vis environmental integration, and revise its constitutive documents accordingly. 

It is worth noting that the MCSD comprises three distinct groups of non-Contracting Party members, namely the Local Authorities Group, the Socio-economic Stakeholders Group, the Non-Governmental Organizations Group, the Scientific Community Group, the Intergovernmental Organizations Group, and the Parliamentarians. Pursuant to paragraph 6 of Decision IG.22/17, MEPIELAN Centre has been designated as one of the three members of the MCSD’s Scientific Community Group. This will provide MEPIELAN with the opportunity to, inter alia, assist Contracting Parties and other stakeholders in the adoption and implementation of sustainable development policies, promote the exchange of experience and good practices regarding the integration of environmental and socioeconomic policies, and produce opinions and recommendations for integration and coordination of the work of the MCSD with other existing international and regional sustainable development and environmental programmes, policy frameworks and initiatives.

It is noteworthy to mention that, at the Ministerial Session of the Meeting, Professor Evangelos Raftopoulos, Director of MEPIELAN Centre, took the floor and, after unveiling the many distinctive and innovative features in the evolution of the Barcelona Convention system and the Mediterranean Action Plan, he highlighted the public trust approach as an effective legal tool for bridging gaps in the implementation of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols at the national and international levels. Professor Raftopoulos stressed that the public trust approach has the unique ability of utilizing developing scientific knowledge and practice relating to the better understanding and protection of all ecosystem components, thus giving legal substance to the ecosystem-based approach. These points were properly reflected in the Report of the Meeting (paragraph 181 of the Report).

* MEPIELAN Centre was represented by its Director, Professor Evangelos Raftopoulos, and two MEPIELAN Researchers, Dr.Socrates-Constantine Zachos and Ms Maria Ntona.

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