UN Environment/MAP and the Barcelona Convention: Vision, Goals, and Ecological Objectives

With its three dimensions (Institutional: Contracting Parties, UN Environment/MAP Secretariat composed of the UN Environment Coordinating Unit and seven components, and Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development as advisory body; Regulatory: seven Protocols and an extensive body of strategies, action plans and decisions; and Implementation-related: partnerships, programmes, projects and activities for the delivery of the mandate), the MAP system has a unique and prominent role in the Mediterranean region for the protection of the marine environment and its coastal region as a contribution to sustainable development.

The MAP was the first UNEP initiative to be developed under the Regional Seas Programme. 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. The Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea Against Pollution (Barcelona Convention) and two Protocols addressing the prevention of pollution by dumping from ships and aircraft and cooperation in combating pollution in cases of emergency were also approved in 1975. In 1995, in the aftermath of the Rio Summit, the Contracting Parties decided to revise the MAP and the Convention. The Action Plan for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Sustainable Development of the Coastal Areas of the Mediterranean (MAP Phase II) was adopted in 1995 with 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.


In 1995, the Contracting Parties adopted substantial amendments to the Barcelona Convention of 1976 and renamed it as Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean, which entered into force in 2004. The amended Convention embodies international partnership to protect the sea, its coasts, and the uses and livelihoods that it supports. It provides a critical framework for setting environmental standards and targets agreed by all the Contracting Parties, as well as for sharing important information for management.

Seven Protocols, addressing specific aspects of Mediterranean environmental conservation, and a number of regional plans complete the MAP legal framework:

  1. The Protocol for the Prevention of Pollution in the Mediterranean Sea by Dumping from Ships and Aircraft (Dumping Protocol)
  2. The Protocol Concerning Cooperation in Preventing Pollution from Ships and, in Cases of Emergency, Combating Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea (Prevention and Emergency Protocol)
  3. The Protocol for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution from Land-Based Sources and Activities (LBS Protocol), including Regional plans under Article 15 of LBS Protocol
  4. The Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean (SPA-BD Protocol)
  5. The Protocol on the Prevention of Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (Hazardous Wastes Protocol)
  6. The Protocol for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution Resulting from Exploration and Exploitation of the Continental Shelf and the Seabed and its Subsoil (Offshore Protocol)
  7. The Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean (ICZM Protocol).


In addition, a number of key strategies have been developed and adopted:

  • Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development (MSSD)
  • Strategic Action Programme to address pollution from land-based activities (SAP-MED)
  • and Action plans on pollution reduction deriving from specific provisions of the LBS Protocol
  • Strategic Action Plan for the conservation of marine and coastal biodiversity in the Mediterranean (SAP-BIO) and Action plans on species deriving from specific provisions of the SPA-BD Protocol
  • Regional Action Plan on Sustainable Consumption and Production in the Mediterranean
  • Regional Strategy for Prevention of and Response to Marine Pollution from Ships (2016-2021)
  • Ballast Water Management Strategy.

Finally, given the increasing impact of climate change on the marine and coastal environment of the Mediterranean, the Regional Climate Change Adaptation Framework for the Mediterranean Marine and Coastal Areas was adopted in 2016.

In 2008, the Contracting Parties committed to apply the Ecosystem Approach with its vision for “A healthy Mediterranean with marine and coastal ecosystems that are productive and biologically diverse for the benefit of present and future generations”. The following three strategic goals were identified for marine and coastal areas, on the basis of the relevant priority field of action of the MSSD and the experience gained by other international and regional bodies:

  1. To protect, allow recovery and, where practicable, restore the structure and function of marine and coastal ecosystems thus also protecting biodiversity, in order to achieve and maintain good ecological status and allow for their sustainable use.
  2. To reduce pollution in the marine and coastal environment so as to minimize impacts on and risks to human and/or ecosystem health and/or uses of the sea and the coasts.
  3. To prevent, reduce and manage the vulnerability of the sea and the coasts to risks induced by human activities and natural events;

In 2012, the Contracting Parties adopted 11 Mediterranean Ecological Objectives (EO) to achieve GES, as presented in table 1 below. Supported by thematic Correspondence Groups on Monitoring (CORMON) on pollution and marine litter, biodiversity and fisheries, and coast and hydrography, and based on the above-mentioned 11 Ecological Objectives, common indicators, Good Environmental Status definition and targets were developed and adopted by the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention in in 2012 and 2013.