In 1974, UNEP established its Regional Seas Programme with the scope of coordinating activities aimed at the protection of the marine environment through a regional approach. The Mediterranean Action Plan was the first UNEP initiative to be developed under the Programme and became the model for other seas across the globe.
In 1975, the Mediterranean States and the European Community approved the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) as the institutional framework for cooperation in addressing common challenges of marine environmental degradation. The MAP also endorsed the preparation of a framework convention for the protection of the marine environment against pollution, as well as two related protocols that would provide a legal basis for action in protecting the Mediterranean marine environment against pollution.
MAP’s initial objectives were to assist the Mediterranean Governments to assess and control pollution, as well as to formulate their national marine environmental policies. Furthermore, the governments were to improve their capacities to identify better options for development and sound decision bases for the allocation of resources, all under the assistance of the MAP.
Even though the initial focus was placed on marine pollution control, experience soon confirmed that socio-economic trends, combined with poor management and planning of development, find themselves at the root of most environmental problems.
Meaningful and lasting environmental protection is thereby linked to social and economic development. The MAP’s focus widened gradually from a sectoral approach to pollution control to integrated coastal zone planning and management, as their prime directive for solutions.
In 1995, in the aftermath of the Rio Summit, the Contracting Parties decided to revise the MAP and the Convention. MAP Phase II was designed, taking into consideration the achievements and shortcomings of the MAP, particularly in the context of developments of environmental protection policies at the international level.
The Action Plan for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Sustainable Development of the Coastal Areas of the Mediterranean (MAP Phase II), which was adopted in 1995, has the following objectives:
- to ensure the sustainable management of natural marine and land resources and to integrate the environment in social and economic development, and land-use policies;
- to protect the marine environment and coastal zones, through prevention of pollution, and by reduction and as far as possible, elimination of pollutant inputs whether chronic or accidental;
- to protect nature, and protect and enhance sites and landscapes of ecological or cultural value;
- to strengthen solidarity amongst Mediterranean coastal states, in managing their common heritage and resources for the benefit of the present and future generations; and
- to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life.
The adoption of an ecosystem-based vision, goals and 11 Mediterranean Ecological Objectives adopted by COP 15 and 17, (2008, 2012) along with a concrete timetable for the implementation of the Ecosystem Approach of the MAP system – namely Decisions IG.17/6: Implementation of the ecosystem approach to the management of human activities that may affect the Mediterranean marine and coastal environment and IG.20/4: Implementing MAP ecosystem approach roadmap: Mediterranean Ecological and Operational Objectives, Indicators and Timetable for implementing the ecosystem approach roadmap – represents a key milestone and further development of the MAP system to support regional national efforts towards achieving Good Environmental Status (GES) in the Mediterranean in synergy with relevant global and regional initiatives including the European Union Marine Strategy Directive 2008.