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Summary and Analysis of the GPA IGR-3

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  • Lloyd Gardner
    Third Intergovernmental Review Meeting on the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2012


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      Third Intergovernmental Review Meeting on the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Pollution (GPA)


      23-24 and 25-27 January 2012 | Manila, Philippines




      On Thursday, the high-level segment of the Third Intergovernmental Review (IGR-3) on the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land Based Activities (GPA) convened in Manila, the Philippines. UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Deputy Executive Director Amina Mohamed and Secretary of the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Ramon Paje welcomed Ministers and delegates and called for scaling up GPA implementation. Delegates and Ministers discussed policy issues in relation to the further implementation of the GPA. GPA Coordinator Vincent Sweeney presented and delegates commented on the Draft Programme of Work for the GPA Coordination Office for 2012-2016 (UNEP/GPA/IGR.3/4). Delegates agreed to forward the Programme of Work to the UNEP Governing Council for consideration. On Thursday morning during the high-level segment, delegates heard a brief report on the progress of the working group on the Manila Declaration. Drafting group Chair Meñes requested additional time to finalize the document. The plenary was suspended at 11:50 am to allow the drafting group further time for negotiations. At 4:45 pm the plenary reconvened and drafting group Chair Meñes presented the Draft Manila Declaration paragraph-by-paragraph. 

      Delegates adopted the Manila Declaration on Furthering the Implementation of the GPA at 6:36 pm. Delegates then adopted the report of the session (UNEP/GPA/IGR.3/L.1) and the meeting closed at 6:58 pm.


      The Earth Negotiations Bulletin Summary of this meeting is now available in PDF format at  http://www.iisd.ca/download/pdf/enb2577e.pdf and in HTML format at http://www.iisd.ca/vol25/enb2577e.html



      The marine and coastal environment is under threat by humans due to land-based activities. Biodiversity loss in oceans occurs at an increasing rate, faster than that which is experienced on land. As ocean and coastal ecosystems perform vital life-sustaining functions, the increase in ocean dead zones from 149 zones in 2003 to over 200 zones in 2006 highlights the ever pressing need to halt this loss. Within this context, the Third Intergovernmental Review (IGR-3) Meeting of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA) convened in Manila. IGR-3 reviewed the implementation of the GPA Work Programme 2007-2011 and defined the GPA Work Programme 2012-2016, identified and discussed emerging issues, and prepared input to the Rio+20 process of matters that fall within the defined pollutant source categories, inter alia: sewage, litter, hydrocarbons, persistent organic pollutants, nutrients, destruction of habitat, and heavy metals.


      This analysis looks at the path the GPA has taken as a soft law regime to try and halt the destruction of marine and coastal environments, specifically focusing on the setting of targets and the creation of partnerships. It then considers the impact the GPA will have at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, also known as Rio+20), particularly in the area of ocean governance. Lastly, this analysis reflects upon the future of the GPA as it undertakes its new Programme of Work and heads towards IGR-4 in 2016.



      The GPA is an action programme-based policy process rather than a legally-binding agreement such as a convention or even a protocol under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Given its status, the GPA lacks specific mechanisms to monitor implementation progress given that no formal review framework or targets against which to measure, exist at a global level.


      At IGR-2 in 2006, participants expressed hope that partnerships would be an effective way to reduce marine pollution from land-based sources and they were seen as a principal tool to implement the GPA. At IGR-3, while partnerships remained an important feature of discussions, progress on developing concrete targets within the partnerships was not achieved. Some participants had hoped that the Manila Declaration on Furthering the Implementation of the GPA would contain concrete targets and specific recommendations that would ensure that the partnerships that are already established would contribute to both measuring the impacts of the partnerships as well as strengthening the implementation of the GPA itself. Indeed, the Global Conference on Land-Ocean Connections (GLOC), which immediately preceded IGR-3, recommended specific targets for IGR-3 to consider. The GLOC proposed two targets, each with a base year of 2008: the first aims to improve nutrient use efficiency by 20%, relative to the base year, with an eventual efficiency increase of 70%; and the second targets seeks to improve full chain nutrient efficiency by 20%, relative to the base year, with an eventual use efficiency of 50%. These targets, however, were not adopted at IGR-3, with delegates instead opting to focus on further development of the Global Partnership on Nutrient Management as well as establishing global partnerships on wastewater and marine litter. The focus on global partnerships continued at IGR-3 as a means of implementing the GPA, in part because collaboration at the regional level has proven successful and it was hoped this can be replicated at the global level.


      One delegate posited that this outcome came about because many delegates did not understand the way in which the 20% targets on nutrient reduction were framed or what the commitment would require at the national level. Many also expressed concern that they could conflict with national approaches to address the issue and preferred national policy and/or regional action to address the specific challenges they face.


      Another suggested that the partnerships on nutrient management, wastewater and marine litter may be a way to attain progress, while not being overly committal at the political level, particularly during the continuing global financial crisis. To wit, partnerships are seen as requiring little investment and broadly distributing the risk of failure, while allowing countries to share in any successes. 


      However, delegates also noted that for the partnerships to gain traction there needs to be political will or ownership. One such example is the role of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in supporting and promoting the marine litter partnership as well as its grounding in the 2011 Honolulu Strategy and Commitment. In this case NOAA co-sponsored with UNEP the process that resulted in the adoption of the Honolulu Strategy and Commitment and has championed establishment of the marine litter partnership as a means of furthering its implementation. For many, the tragic earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, and which resulted in a vast amount of marine debris, also underscored the importance of urgent action on this problem.


       One noted additionally that the marine litter partnership is being established within the already successful UNEP-sponsored global partnership on solid waste, which bodes well for its launch later this year, possibly on the sidelines of the Rio+20 Conference. Consequently, this partnership seems best positioned to achieve concrete results. In contrast, the other suggested partnerships, such as wastewater, are limited to planned meetings on the periphery of other events, such as the World Water Forum and the World Water Week, without any on-the-ground action planned or champion agencies or countries thus far. One delegate worried that the wastewater partnership would primarily be discussed on the sidelines of other meetings, without producing any tangible outcomes.


      In the future, if these partnerships deliver tangible outcomes, such as the hoped for targets on nutrient management at IGR-4 and the establishment of review or monitoring mechanisms, it is possible that stakeholders will show more confidence in soft law as a successful mechanism for addressing GPA issues.


      THE GPA AND RIO+20

      The GLOC, which proposed science-based recommendations for IGR-3, aimed to provide input for a draft message from the GPA to Rio+20. In her opening statement to IGR-3, UNEP Deputy Executive Director Amina Mohamed also encouraged parties to take advantage of the meeting to formulate GPA input to Rio+20. Discussions, however, seemed to focus far less on Rio+20 and instead concentrated on setting targets for the GPA. While the GPA supports progress on Agenda 21 implementation, including through the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) 2015 sanitation target to halve the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation, in particular through action on wastewater, progress has, in UNEP’s words, “remained slow and stilted.”


      As one participant observed, the amount of influence IGR-3 would have in the overall discussion of ocean governance was limited, at best, given that the zero-draft of Rio+20 is already under discussion. He also noted that the primary value of IGR-3 is in raising the awareness of ministers on the problems faced by the GPA. Another delegate lamented that, if the IGR-3 had set tangible targets, it would have had a potential impact at Rio+20. However, he stressed that because IGR-3 did not develop targets, the GPA will have little to no impact at Rio+20.


      Many delegates noted that one possibility for action is to define targets at the regional level, noting existing efforts in Eastern Europe and the Caribbean. Delegates also suggested that action on targets can be achieved through national plans of action and regional seas programmes—a point raised by many parties during the Manila Declaration negotiations. The partnership between the GPA and NOAA to develop national plans of actions in the Caribbean may be one such mechanism for developing targets based on national circumstances. Nevertheless, as several African delegates pointed out, issues such as electronic waste and invasive species are global problems that require global responses and the current GPA framework does not address these issues.


      The final decision on what role the GPA will play at Rio+20, however, will be left to the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, which meets in February 2012. GPA officials will present the Manila Declaration, which they hope will then be forwarded to Rio+20.


      TOWARDS 2016

      As the meeting concluded, delegates appeared positive about the formation of two new partnerships on wastewater and marine litter as well as the further development of the Global Partnership on Nutrient Management. If these partnerships prove successful during the 2012-2016 period of work, then the next IGR meeting might be more willing to consider and adopt specific targets. However, if the partnerships do not define specific targets and achieve specific impacts, then the GPA is unlikely to increase its relevance as a driver of change in ocean governance and the soft law/policy process approach to addressing GPA issues may be in question. As there is no formal mechanism to assess the success of the partnerships, determining their impact remains a challenge.


      New and emerging issues that are more global in nature, such as electronic waste and alien invasive species, were also raised at IGR-3. Several delegates also stressed the need for increased attention to physical destruction and habitat, and while this topic is among the nine GPA priority areas endorsed at IGR-2 in Beijing, it is likely that this may have a higher profile in the future. These decisions now rest with the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, which has the final say on the GPA’s future Programme of Work.


      This analysis, taken from the summary issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin © <enb@...>, is written and edited by Catherine Benson, Kate Louw and Anna Schulz. The digital editor is Francis Dejon. The Editor is Pamela S. Chasek, Ph.D. <pam@...>. The Director of IISD Reporting Services is Langston James “Kimo” Goree VI <kimo@...>. The Sustaining Donors of the Bulletin are the European Commission (DG-ENV), the Government of the United States of America (through the Department of State Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs), the Government of Canada (through CIDA), the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). General Support for the Bulletin during 2012 is provided by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government of Australia, the Ministry of Environment of Sweden, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, SWAN International, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Japanese Ministry of Environment (through the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies - IGES), the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (through the Global Industrial and Social Progress Research Institute – GISPRI) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Specific funding for the coverage of this meeting has been provided by UNEP. Funding for translation of the Bulletin into French has been provided by the Government of France, the Belgium Walloon Region, the Province of Québec, and the International Organization of the Francophone (OIF and IEPF). The opinions expressed in the Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IISD or other donors. Excerpts from the Bulletin may be used in non-commercial publications with appropriate academic citation. For information on the Bulletin, including requests to provide reporting services, contact the Director of IISD Reporting Services at <kimo@...>, +1-646-536-7556 or 300 East 56th St., 11D, New York, NY 10022, United States of America.


      Langston James "Kimo" Goree VI
      Director, IISD Reporting Services
      International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) -- United Nations Office
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