Ministers and Heads of Delegations from 21 Mediterranean Countries Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention, and the European Commission committed to take all the necessary measures to make the Mediterranean a clean, healthy and productive sea with conserved ecosystems. This came in the framework of the 18th Ordinary Contracting parties meeting (CoP 18) that was held in Turkey from 3 to 6 December, organized by UNEP/MAP, the Barcelona Convention Secretariat and hosted by the Turkish Government.
The meeting included a ministerial segment, attended by more than half of the Mediterranean ministers and deputy ministers. For the first time, Mediterranean countries and the European Union discussed and agreed to promote Environment Friendly Cities that apply integrated coastal zone management principles to urban planning, introduce green technologies to reduce environmental pollution and adhere to the ecosystem based management of human activities.
In his welcoming speech at the opening of the Ministerial segment, Turkish Minister of Environment and Urbanization H.E Mr. Erdogan Bayraktar reiterated the commitment of Turkey to the protection of seas against pollution, and emphasized the importance of the coordinated handling of the marine litter by the Mediterranean countries. “Marine pollution knows no border”, he said “pollution in one country affects all other 21 countries” he ended, adding that it is the dream of every Mediterranean country to turn its coastal cities into Environment Friendly Cities.
The Contracting Parties discussed and adopted the Istanbul Declaration, and 17 decisions. The Marine Litter Regional Action Plan, one of the decisions adopted is of extreme importance for the Region. This plan is the first regional effort to follow up on the Rio+20 summit global commitment to reduce marine debris by 2025. It aims to ensure environmentally sound solid waste management, reduce waste volumes, recycle and promote sustainable patterns of consumption and production. “Most of the waste we produce on land eventually reaches the oceans, either through deliberate dumping or from run-off through drains and rivers”, said Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw Deputy Executive Director of UNEP, stressing that impacts from pollution and increased urbanization are taking a toll on the health and productivity of the sea. Under the Plan, MAP will engage with industry, and institutions to reduce knowledge gaps, develop and provide capacities for sound technical solutions and provide sufficient financial resources to prevent, reduce and remove litter in the Mediterranean.
UNEP/MAP also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) aiming to provide a framework of cooperation on pollution prevention and control of Mediterranean coastal and marine waters, as well as on sustainable development. The UNEP/MAP signed another Memorandum of understanding with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), to more efficiently address issues related to the conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems and the sustainable use of marine living resources in the Mediterranean region.
The Executive Secretary and Coordinator of UNEP/MAP/Barcelona Convention Secretariat Maria Luisa Silva Mejias reaffirmed the role of the MAP in catalyzing the efforts of all actors in the Mediterranean and said: “we have not just signed agreement and hold meetings with partners but also made serious efforts to provide concrete results with regards to improved management of protected areas, pollution reduction objectives and ICZM”.
The Contracting Parties also adopted concrete targets and definitions of Good Environmental Status to achieve the 11 ecological objectives agreed upon for reaching a healthy Mediterranean with marine and coastal ecosystems that are productive and biologically diverse for the benefit of present and future generations. Parties also agreed to put the question of rigorous data collection, information flows and knowledge exchange at the core of MAP’s agenda for the next two years.
Measures for the protection and conservation of species, including Monk Seals, Marine Turtles, as well as the protection of habitats and specifically Corals in the Mediterranean Sea, were also among the decisions adopted by the Contracting Parties. They also resolved to raise the number and visibility of the Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMI) established under the Barcelona Convention and to develop, a coherent, representative and well-managed network of coastal and marine protected areas in the Mediterranean. In this context, they also agreed on ensuring sustainable funding for such initiatives.
In line with the Rio+20 commitments, CoP18 also decided to develop an Action Plan for the Mediterranean region addressing common priorities for Sustainable Consumption and Production including reduction of the impacts of human activities on the marine and coastal ecosystems.
The meeting also focused on necessary measures to prevent pollution from Offshore and Shipping based activities in the Mediterranean including by requesting the revision of relevant Action Plans as part of the 2014-15 programme of work.