The Mediterranean is one of the world’s 25 hot spots for biodiversity. Its highly diverse marine ecosystem hosts around 4 to 18% of the world’s marine biodiversity. The Mediterranean provides vital areas for the reproduction of pelagic species: the Atlantic bluefin tuna’s main spawning areas, the great white shark’s unique breeding areas and sea turtles, such as the green and loggerhead turtles, nesting areas along its eastern coast. These high oceanic productivity areas host a particularly rich marine mammal fauna and the eastern part of the basin is one of the last shelters for the threatened Mediterranean monk seal. The shallow coastal waters are home to key species and sensitive ecosystems such as seagrass beds and coralligenous assemblages, whilst the deep waters host a unique and fragile fauna. Many of these species are rare and / or threatened and are globally or regionally classified by IUCN as threatened or endangered. The Mediterranean region is undergoing intensive demographic, social, cultural, economic and environmental changes. The main drivers affecting the economic development in the Mediterranean are agriculture and forests, coastal urbanization, tourism, fisheries and aquaculture, industry, and maritime transport. Population growth combined with the growth of coastal (peri) urban hubs generates multiple environmental pressures stemming from increased demand for water and energy resources, generation of air and water pollution in relation to wastewater discharge or sewage overflows, waste generation, land consumption and degradation of habitats, landscapes and coastlines. These pressures are further amplified by the development of tourism, often concentrated in Mediterranean coastal areas.
The Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) of the United Nations Environment Programme was established in 1975 by Mediterranean governments as the first regional action plan under the UNEP Regional Seas Programme with clear objectives to foster regional collaboration for combatting marine pollution and promoting integrated planning and sustainable use of marine resources. At the heart of MAP lies the Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea Against Pollution, which was signed on 16 February 1976 in Barcelona, Spain, and entered into force on 12 February 1978. Over time the Convention was complemented by seven (7) Protocols addressing different aspects of marine and coastal environment and resource protection and management.
MAP was relaunched in 1995 as the “Action Plan for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Sustainable Development of the Coastal Areas of the Mediterranean”. In this context, the Contracting Parties adopted substantive amendments to the Barcelona Convention as the “Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean” encompassing key principles adopted at the 1992 Rio Conference, including the sustainable use of marine and coastal resources and sustainable development. From a sectoral approach to pollution assessment and control, the amended Barcelona Convention’s scope broadened to include integrated coastal zone planning and management, sustainable use of marine and coastal resources and conservation of biodiversity in the context of sustainable development.
The 22 Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention are Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Slovenia, Spain, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Turkey, and the European Union.
C. Organizational Structure
- Focal Points – They are appointed by the Contracting Parties to review the progress of work and ensure the implementation of recommendations at the national level.
- Bureau - Six representatives of the Contracting Parties, elected in accordance with Article 19 of the Barcelona Convention provides guidance on the implementation of the Programme of work in the interim period between the biennial meetings.
- Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development (MCSD) – the advisory body established in 1996 by the Contracting Parties to underpin the implementation of the Barcelona Convention was instrumental in integrating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into the Mediterranean Strategy on Sustainable Development (MSSD)—a strategic guiding document for all stakeholders and partners to translate the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the regional, sub-regional and national levels. MCSD brings together government representatives, local authorities, socio-economic actors, NGOs, the scientific community, IGOs, and parliamentarians.
- Compliance Committee –. To facilitate and promote compliance with the obligations under the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols, the Barcelona Convention Compliance Mechanism: (1) establishes a Compliance Committee dedicated to help Parties to implement the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols; (2) establishes a procedure that is non-adversarial, transparent, preventive and non-binding in nature; (3) takes into account the specific situation of each Party; (4) considers specific situations of actual or potential non-compliance by individual Parties with a view to determining the facts and causes of the situation; (5) promotes compliance and addresses cases of non-compliance by providing Parties advice and non-binding recommendations; and (6) considers, at the request of the Meeting of the Contracting Parties, general issues of compliance under the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols.
D. The Convention and its legal instruments
- The Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea Against Pollution (Barcelona Convention) was adopted on 16 February 1976 by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries of the Coastal States of the Mediterranean Region for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea.
- Seven Barcelona Convention Protocols addressing specific aspects of Mediterranean environmental conservation and management complete the MAP legal framework:
- Dumping Protocol: The Protocol for the Prevention of Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by Dumping from Ships and Aircraft, was adopted in 1976 and has been in force since 1978. Its objective is to take all appropriate measures to prevent, abate and eliminate to the fullest extent possible pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by dumping of wastes or other matter. In 1995, the 1976 Dumping Protocol was amended, resulting in the 1995 Protocol for the Prevention and Elimination of Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by Dumping from Ships and Aircraft or Incineration at the Sea. The 1995 Protocol has not yet entered into force. Under the 1995 Protocol, all dumping is prohibited, except for the following wastes or other matters listed in the Protocol: dredged material, fish wastes, vessels (until 31 December 2000), platforms, and inert, uncontaminated geological material.
- LBS Protocol: The Protocol for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea Against Pollution from Land-Based Sources, was adopted in 1980 and entered into force in 1983. In 1996, the LBS Protocol was amended by the Protocol for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea Against Pollution from Land-Based Sources and Activities, which is in force since 2006. The objective of the LBS Protocol is to take all appropriate measures to prevent, abate and eliminate to the fullest extent possible pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by from land-based sources and activities, by the reduction and phasing out of substances that are toxic, persistent and liable to bioaccumulate listed in the Protocol. Under the LBS Protocol point source discharges and pollutant releases are subject to an authorization or regulation system by countries, taking into account factors ranging from the characteristics and composition of the discharges to the potential impairment of marine ecosystems and seawater uses. Regional Action Plans and National Action Plans, containing specific measures and timetables, have been developed to implement the LBS Protocol.
- SPA Protocol: The Protocol Concerning Mediterranean Specially Protected Areas was adopted in 1982 and replaced by the Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean, the SPA/BD Protocol for short, adopted in 1995 and in force since 1999. The SPA/BD Protocol provides the regional framework for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in the Mediterranean. Under the Protocol, Parties are called: (1) to protect areas of particular natural or cultural value, by the establishment of Specially Protected Areas (SPAs) or Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMIs), and (2) to protect the threatened or endangered species of flora and fauna listed in the Protocol. Annex I to the Protocol sets the common criteria for the establishment of SPAMIs, Annexes II provides the list of endangered and threatened species and Annex III the list of species whose exploitation is regulated. Annexes II and III are amended to keep them abreast with the evolving status of species. Regional Action Plans with specific actions to take to protect, preserve and manage the species listed in the Protocol have been developed.
- Prevention and Emergency Protocol: The Protocol Concerning Cooperation in Combating Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by Oil and other Harmful Substances in Case of Emergency was adopted in 1976 and entered into force in 1978. In 2002, the 1976 Protocol was replaced by the Protocol Concerning Cooperation in Preventing Pollution from Ships and, in Cases of Emergency, Combating Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea, which is in force since 2004. The Prevention and Emergency Protocol provides a regional framework for international cooperation and mutual assistance in preparing for and responding to oil and hazardous noxious substances (HNS) pollution incidents. Parties to the Prevention and Emergency Protocol are required to have contingency plans, either nationally or in co-operation with other countries, backstopped by a minimum level of response equipment, communications plans, regular training and exercises. This applies to ships, platforms and ports. Parties to the Protocol are also called to provide assistance to others in the event of a pollution emergency and provision is made for the reimbursement of any assistance provided.
- Offshore Protocol: The Protocol for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution Resulting from the Exploration and Exploitation of the Continental Shelf and the Seabed and its Subsoil, the Offshore Protocol for short, was adopted in 1994 and is in force since 2011. The Offshore Protocol addresses all aspects of offshore oil and gas activities in the Mediterranean. This includes measures to reduce pollution from all phases of offshore activities (e.g. reduction of oil in produced water, substantial restrictions on the use and discharge of drilling fluids and chemicals and removal of disused offshore installations), to respond to offshore pollution incidents and concerning liability and compensation.
- Hazardous Wastes Protocol: The Protocol on the Prevention of Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, the Hazardous Wastes Protocol for short, was adopted in 1996 and is in forced since 2008. The overall objective of the Hazardous Waste Protocol is to protect human health and the marine environment against the adverse effect of hazardous wastes. The provisions of the Protocol address the following principal aims: (1) the reduction and, where possible, the elimination of hazardous wastes generation, (2) the reduction of the amount of hazardous wastes subject to transboundary movement, and (3) a regulatory system applying to cases where transboundary movements are permissible.
- ICZM Protocol: The Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean, the ICZM Protocol for short, was adopted in 2008 and entered into force in 2011. The ICZM Protocol provides the legal framework for the integrated management of the Mediterranean coastal zone. Under the Protocol, Parties are called to take the necessary measures to strengthen regional cooperation to meet the objectives of integrated coastal zone management. Measures range from those aimed at protecting the characteristics of certain specific coastal ecosystems (e.g. wetlands and estuaries, marine habitats, coastal forests and woods and dunes) to those devised at ensuring the sustainable use of the coastal zone to those aimed at ensuring that the coastal and maritime economy is adapted to the fragile nature of coastal zones.
E. Areas of work
The Medium-Term Strategy (MTS), which builds on the MAP—Barcelona Convention policy instruments, is a regional response to the global sustainable development agenda and provides the framework for the elaboration and delivery of action by the MAP system in the period from 2016 to 2021.
- Governance constitutes the overarching theme. It provides for an efficient decision-making process and a results-based approach covering broad management issues. It also includes the review of the Mediterranean environment, knowledge, information and communication.
- The Core Themes of the MTS are:
- Land and sea-based pollution – to provide effective support to the Contracting Parties to implement the five pollution-related Protocols of the Barcelona Convention;
- Biodiversity and ecosystems – to provide assistance to the Contracting Parties in meeting their obligations under Articles 4 and 10 of the Barcelona Convention, and under the "Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean" (SPA/BD Protocol), and implementing the "Strategic Action Programme for the Conservation of Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean Region" (SAP BIO), adopted by the Contracting Parties in 2003, as well as the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development (MSSD);
- Land and sea interactions and processes – supporting a better understanding and consideration of natural processes such as wave action, the risks of flood, erosion, sea level rise or even tsunami and the buffer role of dunes by decision-makers and planners with a view to enhancing the planning and management of coastal areas.
- The Cross-cutting Themes are:
- Integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) – aims to assist Contracting Parties in their efforts to implement the ICZM Protocol and the respective Action Plan;
- Sustainable consumption and production – aims to assist the Contracting Parties in their efforts to implement several Protocols of the Barcelona Convention (LBS, SPA and BD and ICZM Protocols);
- Climate change adaptation –aims to assist the Contracting Parties in their efforts to implement the ICZM Protocol of the Barcelona Convention.
MAP cooperates with various partners to provide support for capacity building and technical assistance for the development of measures and the implementation of the Barcelona Convention and Protocols. Partners include UN entities and other intergovernmental organizations active in the field of Mediterranean environmental protection and sustainable development. MAP also recognizes the expertise of Mediterranean non-governmental organizations (NGOs), supports their initiatives and encourages their participation in MAP activities. Main partners include the European Commission and EEA, GEF, IUCN, the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea and contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS), the Permanent Secretariat of the Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution (BSC PS), the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), FAO/GFCM, UNCTAD, UNEP/DTIE, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, ECLAT, ESCWA, ILO, RAMOGE, CIESM, CEDARE, GWP Med, Birdlife, WWF Med, the Mediterranean Energy Observatory and international financial institutions such as the FFEM, EBRD, EIB, IFC and WB.
G. The MAP Coordinating Unit and MAP components
In line with Article 17 of the Barcelona Convention, UNEP provides secretariat services to the Contracting Parties through its MAP Coordinating Unit, established in Athens in 1982 based on a Host Country Agreement between Greece and UNEP.
The Coordinating Unit provides secretariat services to subsidiary bodies established within the MAP—Barcelona Convention system framework, promotes and facilitates the implementation of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols as well as Strategies, Decisions and Recommendations adopted by the Contracting Parties.
- The Mediterranean Pollution Assessment and Control Programme (MED POL) based at the Coordinating Unit in Athens, Greece.
- The Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC) based in Valletta, Malta.
- The Plan Bleu Regional Activity Centre (PB/RAC), based in Marseille, France
- The Priority Actions Programme Regional Activity Centre (PAP/RAC) based in Split, Croatia.
- The Specially Protected Areas Regional Activity Centre (SPA/RAC) based in Tunis, Tunisia
- The Regional Activity Centre for Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP/RAC) based in Barcelona, Spain
- The Regional Activity Centre for Information and Communication (INFO/RAC) based in Rome, Italy
The components constitute a source of strength for the entire MAP-Barcelona Convention system. This set-up allows the system to acquire and develop essential expertise, notably through the specific mandates of the RACs, while keeping a shared sense of direction and common purpose
H. Ongoing projects
- MedProgramme Child Project 1.1 (GEF ID 9684): Reducing Pollution from Harmful Chemicals and Wastes in Mediterranean Hotspots and Measuring Progress to Impacts.
- MedProgramme Child Project 1.2 (GEF ID 9717): Mediterranean Pollution Hot Spots Investment Project.
- MedProgramme Child Project 2.1 (GEF ID 9687): Mediterranean Coastal Zones: Water Security, Climate Resilience and Habitat Protection.
- MedProgramme Child Project 2.2 (GEF ID 9685): Mediterranean Coastal Zones: Managing the Water-Energy-Food and Ecosystems Nexus.
- MedProgramme SCCF Project (GEF ID 9670): Enhancing regional climate change adaptation in the Mediterranean Marine and Coastal Areas.
- MedProgramme Child Project 3.1 (GEF ID 10158): Management Support and Expansion of Marine Protected Areas in Libya.
- MedProgramme Child Project 4.1 (GEF ID 9686): Mediterranean Sea Large Marine Ecosystem Environment and Climate Regional Support Project.
- Implementation of Ecosystem Approach in the Adriatic Sea through Marine Spatial Planning – GEF Adriatic Project (GEF ID 9545).
- Fisheries and Ecosystem Based Management for the Blue Economy of the Mediterranean - FishEBM MED Project (GEF ID 10560).
- Towards achieving the Good Environmental Status of the Mediterranean Sea and Coast through an Ecologically Representative and Efficiently Managed and Monitored Network of Marine Protected Areas (IMAP-MPA Project).
- Marine Litter MED II Project – under development with the EC.
- Support to Efficient Implementation of the Ecosystem Approach-based Integrated Monitoring and Assessment of the Mediterranean Sea and Coasts and to delivery of data-based 2023 Quality Status Report in synergy with the EU MSFD (EcAp-MED III) – under development with the EC.
The projects listed above are implemented by the Coordinating Unit. Projects implemented by the MAP Regional Activity Centres are not included in the list.
I. Key achievements
MAP Achievements come in various forms and at different levels of action. There are achievements of a policy and regulatory nature that are complemented with concrete results on the ground pertaining to the implementation of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols.
a) A uniquely comprehensive framework for regional cooperation
The MAP—Barcelona Convention system, including the seven Protocols, constitutes a uniquely advanced regulatory framework based on international law and integrating sustainable development with a focus on marine and coastal environment and their natural resources. This framework addresses the complexity of the issues being addressed with a comprehensive corpus of complementary strategic and regulatory instruments, including:
- The Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development (MSSD), which translates the SDG commitments at the regional level and provides a strategic policy framework for securing a sustainable future in the Mediterranean region.
- The Strategic Action Programme to Address Pollution from Land-based Activities (SAP MED) adopted in 1997 with a timeline of actions and commitments until 2025.
- The Strategic Action Programme for the Conservation of the Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean Region (SAPBIO). The MAP Regional Activity Centre SPA/RAC has initiated a regional, inclusive consultation for the preparation of a post-2020 SAPBIO.
- The Regional Strategy for Prevention of and Response to Marine Pollution from Ships (2016-2021). The Post-2021 Mediterranean Strategy for Prevention of and Response to Marine Pollution from Ships is currently under preparation; the MAP Regional Activity Centre REMPEC will submit a draft post-2021 Mediterranean Strategy for Prevention of and Response to Marine Pollution from Ships to the Fourteenth Meeting of its Focal Points in spring 2021.
- Pioneering legal instruments, such as the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Protocol. Under the auspices of MAP, the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention adopted the first ICZM protocol of its kind with the aim of enhancing the governance of coastal zones in an integrated manner.
- Legally binding measures on marine litter management, including a Regional Plan on Marine Litter Management, adopted in the framework of Article 15 of the LBS Protocol of the Barcelona Convention. The Regional Plan on Marine Litter aims to minimize marine litter and its impacts in the Mediterranean by preventing it from entering the marine environment and removing existing litter where possible.
- The Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Programme (IMAP), which was adopted by the Contracting Parties in 2016, has established a sound common basis for the definition of the Good Environmental Status (GES) of marine and coastal environment. IMAP is a crucial instrument that enables the coordinated and harmonised implementation of integrated monitoring and assessment programmes by the Mediterranean governments to assess GES and the effectiveness of measures taken for the implementation of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols.
- The establishment of an effective mechanism to promote compliance with Barcelona convention and its Protocols, notably through the articulation of a mechanism for the Compliance Committee to address communications from the public. Under Regional Seas, the Barcelona Convention is a pioneer in opening an avenue for civil society participation in environmental treaty compliance.
b) Enhanced knowledge for evidence-based policy-making
Assessments of the marine and coastal environment and studies of their interactions with development lie at the heart of the MAP mandate. Since 1996 MAP has delivered several assessment reports. The most recent ones include:
- The first Quality Status Report for the Mediterranean – MED QSR (2017); work is underway for the production of the next edition of MED QSR in 2023.
- Report on the State of the Environment and Development in the Mediterranean (SoED), which will be released in the second half of 2020.
- MED 2050 Foresight Study providing scenarios for the future and prospective analysis of the interactions between environment and development at medium and long term. The report will be published in 2022.
c) Partnership and outreach to maximize benefits for the region
MAP has catalysed and strengthened regional ocean governance in the Mediterranean by pursuing effective partnership based on complementarities to maximise the benefits of joint action. MAP collaborates with a considerable number of partners, including UN entities, intergovernmental organizations and international financial institutions, as well as institutions operating in the fields of sciences, academia and civil society. Examples of concrete collaboration plans agreed bilaterally that are currently under implementation include—but are not limited to— agreements with with ACCOBAMS, EEA, IMO, IUCN, FAO/GFCM, the Black Sea Commission and the Union for the Mediterranean.
MAP is committed to supporting the UN Decade for Ocean Science and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. MAP is also following the post-2020 processes on biodiversity and climate change with the aim of aligning its strategic orientations and programmatic work in the Mediterranean on the global environmental agenda.
- The MedProgramme, a new programme funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), epitomizes MAP accomplishments in the field of partnerships. The MedProgramme is a collaboration of regional and global partners focusing on the health and environmental security of the coastal ecosystems in the Mediterranean. It consists of an assortment of seven child projects that will deploy more than 100 coordinated actions at regional and national levels over the next five years (2020-2024) in ten beneficiary countries.
- Establishment of a science-policy platform on climate change in the Mediterranean through the Network of Mediterranean Experts on Climate and Environmental Change (MedECC). Supported by the MAP Regional Activity Centre Plan Bleu and other institutions, MedECC constitutes an example of innovative cooperation mechanisms that strengthen engagement with key stakeholders to bolster the Science-Policy Interface. MedECC will publish the First Mediterranean Assessment Report (MAR 1) on climate change, which was developed with the support of MAP’s Plan Bleu/RAC.
d) National implementation and actions on the ground
MAP has successfully facilitated efforts on the part of Contracting Parties at national level to formulate and implement necessary measures for the implementation of the Barcelona Convention, its Protocols and Decision adopted by the Contracting Parties. Under the auspices of MAP, the Mediterranean governments have taken and implemented major commitments in line with relevant global agendas to protect marine and coastal environment and promote sustainable development.
National Action Plans developed and updated by almost all Contracting Parties constitute important national policy instruments encompassing clear commitments to reduce and prevent marine pollution and address biodiversity protection. On coastal management, ICZM national strategies have been devised and are under implementation by several Contracting Parties.
- Removal of 900 tonnes of PCBs in 2015-2017.
- Relevant regulations and/or laws pertaining to total or partial bans on single-use plastic bags, as well as taxes/levies are in place in 17 Mediterranean countries;
- The Contracting Parties have established a growing network of 1,233 Marine Protected Areas and other area-based conservation measures in the Mediterranean, including 39 Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMIs).
- Development and ongoing implementation by all Contracting Parties of national integrated monitoring and assessment programmes of the marine and coastal environment.
J. Interesting facts about the Mediterranean
- The Mediterranean is one of the world’s 25 hot spots for biodiversity. Its highly diverse marine ecosystem hosts around 4 to 18% of the world’s marine biodiversity.
- The Mediterranean Sea is the largest semi-enclosed sea in the world with 46,000 km of coastline.
- 70% of the Mediterranean population lives in urban areas; one in three lives in Mediterranean coastal areas.
- Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, tourist arrivals sextupled since 1970, reaching 337 million in 2017.
- The Mediterranean Sea is host to the world’s busiest shipping lanes and is the second busiest cruising region in the world after the Caribbean with 15.8 per cent of global cruise fleet deployment in 2017 (MedCruise Association, 2018).
- The Mediterranean region features one of the highest amounts of municipal solid waste generated annually per person: 208 – 760 kg/year.
- Marine litter in the Mediterranean is mostly composed of plastics and concentrations are high: more than 100,000 microplastic items/km2, and up to 64 million particles/ km2 of floating litter.
- 0.5 billion items are lying on the Mediterranean seafloor with densities sometimes exceeding 100,000 items/km2.
- The Mediterranean region has warmed approx. 1.5°C since pre-industrial times, 20% faster than the global average, according to MedECC.
United Nations Environment Programme / Coordinating Unit for the Mediterranean Action Plan - Barcelona Convention Secretariat
Address: 48, Vassileos Konstantinou Ave., 116 35 Athens, Greece
E-mail: unepmap [at] un.org
Tel.: +30 210 7273100