United Nations Environment Programme
environment for development
 Marine Litter Search 
UNEP Initiatives
Other Programmes
Economic Instruments
Educational Activities
Global Programmes
Shipping & Boating
Technical Aspects
Publications & References
Contact Us
Related Links



Global Organizations, Conventions & Agreements

A number of actors, such as UN and Non-UN organizations, global and regional agreements and conventions and other bodies are, either directly or indirectly, involved in activities aimed at decreasing the generation and distribution of marine litter. The following list details these and their respective link or relevance to the issue of marine litter:

The Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), entered into force in 1994,  and embodies and enshrines the notion that all problems of ocean space are closely interrelated and need to be addressed as a whole.

Agenda 21
is the comprehensive plan for global, national and local action by organizations of the United Nations system, governments, and major groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.

Chapter 17 of Agenda 21 deals with the protection of the oceans, all kinds of seas (including enclosed and semi-enclosed seas, and coastal areas and the protection, rational use and development of their living resources). Chapter 18 deals with freshwater (including the management of rivers and lakes). Chapter 21 deals with solid waste.

United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was created in 1992 to ensure effective follow-up of the UNCED; to monitor and report on implementation of the Earth Summit agreements at the local, national, regional and international levels.

Johannesburg Plan of Implementation was adopted by the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) at the Johannesburg Summit in 2002.

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78), adopted in 1973 and modified by the Protocol of 1978, is the main international convention aimed at controlling pollution from the shipping sector.

United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO) is responsible for improving maritime safety and preventing pollution to water and air from ships.

The Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Dumping of Wastes — the London Convention (formerly referred to as the London Dumping Convention, LDC) — was signed in 1972. It is a global agreement concerned solely with the control of dumping of wastes at sea. Annex I of the Convention lists wastes and other matters which must not be dumped.

The Jakarta Mandate on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity is part of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Jakarta Mandate is a global consensus on the importance of marine and coastal biological diversity and part of the work to implement the CBD.

In the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, an Agreement to the global Convention on Migratory Species, the problem of marine debris is specifically refereed to under Management of human activities: 3.3 Pollutants and marine debris.

Basel Convention
on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is a global environmental agreement for addressing the problems and challenges posed by the uncontrolled movement and dumping of hazardous wastes, including incidents of illegal dumping in developing nations by companies from developed countries.

UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC
) provides Member States with an essential mechanism for global co-operation in the study of the ocean. The IOC assists governments to address their individual and collective ocean and coastal problems through the sharing of knowledge, information and technology and through the co-ordination of national programmes. The IOC worked extensively with marine litter during the 1980s and 1990s. At present, however, the IOC has no ongoing projects in this field.

The Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (UNEP GPA) was adopted by 108 countries in 1995 (Washington Declaration). The Programme is a global recognition of the fact that the major threats to the health, productivity and biodiversity of the marine environment result from human activities on land — in coastal areas and further inland. These are available on-line on the GPA document library.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is an independent, multilateral financing mechanism created in 1991 to address global environmental issues that do not normally get funded through national, bilateral, and international finance. With GEF funds, developing countries and nations transitioning to market economies can carry the added costs of making planned projects environmentally friendly and finance regional approaches to multinational problems.

UNDP - a GEF implementing agency
Since the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has focused on assisting countries in realizing the goals of Agenda 21 by "helping countries adopt integrated approaches that focus on managing natural resources to improve the livelihoods of people living in poverty". UNDP-GEF programmes under International Waters include a large number of regional and global projects.
See also the UNDP brochure on international waters.

The World Bank - a GEF implementing agency
The World Bank views the management of freshwater, coastal and marine resources as a continuum — from the upper reaches of a watershed, flowing into rivers and to the confluence with the coastal zone and the sea. The integration of the "environmental dimension" of these connected resources has been an important aspect of the Bank's work, which is realized through strategic studies, regional programs, projects and advisory services. The Bank is a GEF implementing agency, with the primary responsibility of developing and implementing investment projects, including a number of projects under GEF International Waters (> go to Focal Area: International Waters).

The Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) is a multidisciplinary body of independent experts nominated by the Sponsoring Organizations (IMO, FAO, UNESCO-IOC, WMO, WHO, IAEA, UN, UNEP). Its mission is to provide advice to the Sponsoring Organizations, at their request, on pollution and other problems that face marine and coastal environments. A report on land-based sources and activities affecting the quality and use of marine, coastal and related freshwater environments has recently been published, as well as a report on threats to the marine environment (A Sea of Troubles).

The major UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) programme on fisheries is aimed at promoting sustainable development of responsible fisheries and contributing to food security. The FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries was adopted in 1995. Technical guidelines for the implementation of the Code have also been prepared by the FAO.

UNEP Division of Technology Industry and Economics
works closely with partners from business and industry to advance our mission and activities in the field of technology, industry and economics. This involves working with representatives of business, large and small, from all parts of the world. It also involves working with related stakeholders, ranging from labour and consumers to NGOs and research organisations. UNEP DTIE, in partnership with WTO and UNESCO have several initiatives including:

  • Tour Operators Initiative for Sustainable Development;
  • Activities with the small boats and tourism sectors in prevention of careless disposal of consumables and other disposables from overboard tourist vessels;
  • Underwater clean up campaigns in collaboration with the diving industry.