SOME 40 government and private sector stakeholders from across the region are to converge in the Dominican Republic later this month for the United Nations Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) meeting to review its achievements over the past biennium and set its priorities for another two years.
The meeting is to take place on October 24 at the Dreams Palm Beach Hotel in Punta Cana.
"Governments of the Wider Caribbean Region will review, discuss and make important decisions on the management and protection of the marine environment of the Wider Caribbean Region and on the work programme of the Caribbean Environment Programme," said Nelson Andrade-Colmenares, co-ordinator of the Caribbean Environment Programme, which also serves as Secretariat for the Cartagena Convention, the only legally binding regional environmental agreement for the protection and development of the Caribbean Sea.
The Cartagena Convention, which was established by regional governments under the auspices of UNEP in 1983, is designed to protect the Caribbean Sea — a recognised important natural resource for not only recreation, but also for fisheries and the tourism sector, upon which millions of Caribbean livelihoods depend as well as being a primary foreign exchange earner for many countries of the Wider Caribbean Region.
The specific items on the meeting agenda include:
* a review of the programme of activities and achievements of the two technical sub-programmes - Assessment and Management of Environmental Pollution (AMEP) and Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) for 2010-12;
* a review and endorsement of recommendations of government experts who advise the work of the three technical Protocols to the Convention - Oil Spills, Land Based Sources of Pollution (LBS) and Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW);
* a review and endorsement of the decisions taken by the Conference of Parties to the LBS and SPAW Protocols respectively; and
* approval of the Work Plan and Budget for CEP for the 2013-2014 biennium.
"Caribbean countries increasingly recognise the need to act more urgently if critical ecosystems and threatened and endangered species are to be protected." says Alessandra Vanzella-Khouri, programme officer with responsibility for the SPAW Protocol. "These ecosystems are not only the natural foundation of economic activities such as coastal tourism and fisheries but if protected and enhanced will be pivotal to achieve the required adaptation to climate change."
"Mangroves and coral reefs are not only sources and nurseries for an incredible variety of marine life, including fisheries species, but equally important for protecting coastal communities and infrastructure from the impacts of storms and hurricanes, acting as a buffer that receives first brunt of nature's force," she explained further.
Among several SPAW projects and activities to be reviewed are the strengthening of marine protected areas and support to the Caribbean Challenge Initiative and the LifeWeb Project, which helped map marine mammal corridors and their threats as a first step towards more integrated planning approaches.
The CCI is substantially funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and co-ordinated jointly by CEP and the Caribbean Marine Protected Areas Management Network and Forum.
The LifeWeb Project, funded by Ministry of Environment of Spain involves the inputs of a number of technical and management agencies.
During the meeting of Conference of Parties for the LBS Protocol set for October 24, immediately preceding the Inter-governmental Meeting, decisions will be made on how best to reduce, control and prevent marine pollution as prescribed under the protocol.
"One of the main areas of focus will be on how to mobilise technical and financial assistance for countries to implement integrated pollution prevention programmes that involve all sectors and contribute to economic and social development. This will also assist countries in meeting the obligations of the LBS Protocol which entered into force in 2010," said programme officer with responsibility for the LBS Protocol, Christopher Corbin.
"There is also to be a panel discussion on how to strengthen the participation of the private sector and civil society in LBS protocol implementation, specifically on joint efforts to address pollution of the marine environment, identify emerging pollution issues and propose priority activities for future action," Corbin added.
An overview of the protocol, available online, states that countries who have already ratified the LBS Protocol, will benefit from improved access to funding; strengthened national and regional partnerships; and increased technical support for developing and implementing pollution prevention programmes. But they also have commitments to improve national policy, institutional and legislative frameworks for pollution control activities.
According to Andrade-Colmenares, hoped-for outcomes include "decisions on the CEP projects and activities for 2013-2014, including new strategic directions taking into considerations the recommendations of RIO+20, efforts by many countries to move towards a green economy and greater emphasis on ecosystem-based management approaches."
"I also hope for enhanced political commitment by non-contracting parties to ratify and implement the Cartagena Convention and its Protocols and for greater financial support from our donor partners," he said.