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Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA)

In 1982, with the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), nations began to consider the problem of land-based sources of pollution from a global perspective. UNCLOS obligates Parties to protect and preserve the marine environment by cooperating regionally and globally, and to adopt laws and regulations to deal with land-based sources of marine pollution.

The GPA was officially launched in November 1995, at an intergovernmental conference in Washington D.C., where 108 countries and the European Commission declared their commitment to protect and preserve the marine environment from the harmful effects of land-based activities. They invited UNEP to act as the GPA Secretariat. The GPA Coordination Office is located in The Hague, The Netherlands.

The agreement includes an action plan for curbing and controlling pollution, habitat destruction and other land-based activities affecting coastal and marine ecosystems. Although it is not binding, it provides a framework for addressing some of the most significant threats to marine ecosystems.

The governments emphasized that UNEP's Regional Seas programmes provided an important mechanism to help implement the GPA. In 1998, UNEP dedicated the International Year of the Ocean to helping implement the GPA in all the Regional Seas. Its aim was to ensure that the over 140 participating countries include the GPA's provisions and commitments in their long-term regional and national activities. For example, this could entail changes or amendments or changes to existing conventions or protocols, and new priority activities under the regional Action Plans.

Today the GPA plays an active role within the Regional Seas programmes, and a great deal of progress has been achieved in addressing Land-based Activities (LBA) in the regions.

For a start, 11 regions have Regional Conventions, of these, five regions (the Black Sea, Mediterranean, ROPME Sea Area, the Wider Caribbean and the South East Pacific have adopted Protocols on LBA. The Mediterranean, ROPME Sea Area, Wider Caribbean, East Asian Seas, South-East Pacific, Eastern Africa, North-West Pacific, Arctic, Baltic and the North-East Atlantic regions have ongoing monitoring programmes for the collection of data on LBA and their impact on the coastal and marine environment and the Mediterranean, ROPME Sea Area, Wider Caribbean, East Asian Seas, South-East Pacific, Eastern Africa, Arctic, Baltic and the North-East Atlantic regions have prepared LBA assessments.

Nearly all of the regions have ongoing or have prepared Regional Programmes on LBA, of which five have been adopted in the Mediterranean, ROPME Sea Area, Arctic, Baltic and the North-East Atlantic regions. Further to this National Programmes on LBA are also active in some of the Regional Seas programmes.