The Tehran Convention

A: Overview

The Caspian Sea is a unique natural reservoir on our planet. It is a land locked water body located on the border of two large parts of the continent of Eurasia. The Caspian Sea is the world’s largest land locked reservoir. The area of the sea is 392,600 km2 and the sea level lies 27 m below sea level (Baltic system of elevations). The water area of the Caspian Sea is commensurate with the area of the Baltic Sea (387,000 km2) and exceeds the area of the Adriatic Sea (139,000 km2).

Based on the features of the morphological structure and physical and geographical conditions, the Caspian Sea is conventionally divided into three parts: the Northern Sea (25 percent of the area), the Middle (36 percent of the area), and the Southern Caspian (39 percent of the area). The conditional border between the first passes through the island of Chechen - cape Tyub-Karagansky, between the Middle and South Caspian - along the line Chilov - Cape Gan-Gulu. The maximum depth of the southern basin of the sea, the so-called Southern-Caspian depression or Lankaran depression, is 1,025 m, the mean depth is 208 m.

The Caspian region is rich in biological resources and serves as the world's largest spawning grounds of sturgeon. Biological diversity of the Caspian Sea is relatively small, but distinguishes with high endemism, with over 130 fish species accounting here and rare lotus fields. There are also more than 100 species of bird wetland habitats that serve as nesting and migration grounds. The Caspian Sea is also home to the only marine mammal that lives in the Sea - the endemic Caspian Seal.

Oil production, as well as fishing and shipping are the most common economic activities in the water area of the Caspian Sea. Industry and agriculture are well developed in the Caspian Sea basin. The western coast of the Caspian Sea is more developed than the eastern one.

Baku is the largest port on the Caspian Sea and the largest capital city on the southern shore of the Absheron peninsula. It covers an area of 2,130 km² and the population of the city is over 2.2 million inhabitants (Azerbaijan, 2017). On the coast of the sea and near it, there are three more cities with a population of more than half a million people: Resht (Iran), Makhachkala and Astrakhan (Russia). There are also several cities with a population of 100 to 500 thousand people close to the sea.

Today, many Caspian species are threatened by over-exploitation, habitat destruction, pollution and climate change. It reflects negatively on human well-being, social and economic sectors, and environmental services.

B: Introduction

The need for joint protection and management of the Caspian environment and its resources has been an ongoing issue for the Caspian littoral states. In 1998, the Caspian Environment Program (CEP) as a regional umbrella program was established with its aim to halt the deterioration of environmental conditions of the Caspian Sea and to promote sustainable development in the area for the long-term benefit of the Caspian population.

Since its establishment the CEP has addressed multiple environmental issues by developing an effective coordinated management structure, Strategic and National Action Plans and various transnational measures to fight the imminent dangers towards the Caspian environment. CEP, funded by the littoral states, the European Union and the international community through the GEF, included efforts of the Caspian States to legalize its structure and activities through concluding the Tehran Convention.

In 2003, the Caspian littoral states, comprising Republic of Azerbaijan, Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, and Turkmenistan, signed the (Tehran) Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea. Following ratification by all five Governments of the Caspian littoral states, the Tehran Convention entered into force on the 12th August 2006.

The Tehran Convention serves as an overarching legal instrument laying down general requirements and the institutional mechanism for environmental protection in the Caspian Sea region. It is a framework treaty based on a number of underlying principles including the precautionary principle, the polluter pays principle and the principle of access to and exchange of information. The two major areas of concern are (i) prevention, reduction and control of pollution, and (ii) protection, preservation and restoration of the marine environment. It includes provisions on environmental impact assessment, as well as general obligations related to environmental monitoring, research and development.As stressed by the former UN Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, the signing of the Tehran Convention is a “significant step forward for the region” and once ratified “this landmark treaty will benefit the health and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people”.

C: Auxiliary Protocols to the Tehran Convention

  1. Protocol Concerning Regional Preparedness, Response and Co-operation in Combating Oil Pollution Incidents ("Aktau Protocol")
  2. Protocol on the Protection of the Caspian Sea against Pollution from Land based Sources and Activities ("Moscow Protocol")
  3. Protocol for the Conservation of Biological Diversity ("Ashgabat Protocol")
  4. Protocol on Environment Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context 

D: Ongoing projects

  • Development of the Protocol on Monitoring, Assessment and Information Exchange
  • Support to the Working Group on Monitoring and Assessment which keeps under the review the implementation of the Environment Monitoring Programme
  • Supporting the implementation of the Aktau Protocol by holding exercise to enhance the regional preparedness, response and co-operation in combating Oil pollution incidents
  • Caspian Day activities and Civil Society Participation in Caspian Environmental Stewardship with an aim to increase the participation of the public in coastal communities, as well as stakeholders of Caspian countries
  • Assisting countries to combat Marine litter in the Caspian Sea region
  • Revamping the Caspian Environment Information Centre, an instrument for the collection, storage and dissemination of environmental information

E: Partnerships

The Secretariat entertains relations with relevant other regional bodies and programmes, including CASPCOM, the secretariats of relevant regional and international conventions, international financial institutions and NGOs active in the Caspian Sea region.

F: Organizational structure

  1. Conference of the Parties: the Republic of Azerbaijan (Azerbaijan), the Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran), Republic of Kazakhstan (Kazakhstan), the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan
  2. Tehran Convention Interim Secretariat (TCIS) is located within UN Environment’s Europe Office, in Geneva, Switzerland. The Secretariat supports the Conference of the Parties and the implementation of the Tehran Convention in organizational, administrative and technical matters.
  3. National Convention Liaison Offices/Officers

G: Focal points

Republic of Azerbaijan

Mr. Rasim Sattarzadeh 
National Convention Liaison Officer 
Head, Environmental Policy Division Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources 

Islamic Republic of Iran

Ms. Farnaz Shoaie 
National Convention Liaison Officer 
Deputy Office for Marine Environment Department of the Environment 
3rd Floor, Pardisan Nature Park, Shahid Hakim Highway, Tehran 


Republic of Kazakhstan

Mr. Serik Akhmetov 
National Tehran Convention Liaison Officer 
Ministry of Environment and Water Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan 


Russian Federation

ANO “Centre for International Projects” 
National Convention Liaison Office 
58b Pervomayskaya street, 105043 Moscow 



Ms. Gozel Orazdurdyyeva 
National Convention Liaison Officer 
Ministry of Nature Protection of Turkmenistan 


Contact Us