The UNEP Regional Seas Conventions and Actions Plans have emerged over the last 40 years as the world's only legal framework for protecting the oceans and seas at the regional level. It serves as a platform on which to construct regional sustainable development – as called for at the Rio+20 Summit – including the regional implementation of programmes and activities related to global conventions and Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs).
In particular, the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans have worked for four decades to protect and restore the health, productivity and resilience of oceans and marine ecosystems, and to maintain their biodiversity. They implement protocols on land-based pollution, strengthen capacities at the national level on marine and coastal governance, and work to decouple economic growth from environmental pressures in the marine and coastal environment.
Such an approach will be a critical component to the post-2015 development agenda – what John Ashe, President of the 68th Session of the General Assembly, has called “the most ambitious project that the UN has ever had to accomplish”. Member States have repeatedly told the General Assembly that measurable, implementable targets on marine issues – ranging from the protection of fish stocks to stronger pollution controls to capacity building – must be a priority in the world's new Sustainable Development Goals.
States have further warned that leaving the majority of the Earth’s surface unregulated and unprotected in the post-2015 era would constitute a moral and political failure for humanity as a whole.