Secretariat of the GPA (UNEP)


UNEP serves as the Secretariat of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA) with the mandate to: a) promote and facilitate implementation of the GPA at the national, regional as well as sub-regional levels through, in particular, a thorough revitalization of the Regional Seas Programme; and b) play a catalytic role with other organizations and institutions in the implementation of the Global Programme of Action at the international level.

UNEP/GPA Coordinating office is hosted by the Freshwater and Marine Ecosystems Branch in Nairobi, Kenya.

UNEP and the GPA
UNEP’s overarching objective regarding the GPA is to encourage and support governments at all levels in their respective efforts to advance governance and policy reforms, ecosystem-based management, poverty alleviation and sustainable development at the interface of land and sea. To assist governments in their efforts to implement the GPA, UNEP conduct activities at international, regional and national scales under the following five categories:

  • Collaboration and coordination – UNEP collaborates with strategic partners to develop and showcase the ‘foundations’ for national action the following areas: Nutrient management; Waste-water management; Marine litter; and Physical alteration and destruction of habitat;
  • Policy and normative action – UNEP makes the case (through demonstration projects) for mainstreaming the protection of coastal and marine ecosystems;
  • Capacity-building and technology support – UNEP provides decision/planning support tools available to governments and regional organisations;
  • Assessment – UNEP monitors and reports on innovative and best-practice approaches by governments and other stakeholders to protect the marine environment from land-based activities; and
  • Awareness-raising and outreach – UNEP raises awareness of coastal degradation and promotion of the GPA as a multilateral initiative embodying the principles of ecosystem management at the interface of land and ocean.

Achievements of the Secretariat

  • UNEP has supported the development and implementation of regional and national action plans, and the increased use of integrated coastal area management and environmental impact assessment;
  • Legally binding agreements on land-based sources of pollution have been adopted in two regions (the Caribbean and Mediterranean), as well as the global conventions on prior informed consent and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). UNEP supported activities have catalysed a number of ratifications to Regional Seas Conventions and Protocols;
  • Since 2003, UNEP-GPA jointly with UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, in collaboration with other partners around the world has been training municipal wastewater managers on “Improving Municipal Wastewater Management for Coastal Cities”. To date, over 1,800 experts from 67 countries have benefited from the training and an evaluation conducted in 2009 indicates impact at the local level, often related to individual projects, research projects, initiation of country driven follow up training courses, and a number of examples of changes in policy guidelines and regulations;
  • UNEP has produced a number of guidelines, handbooks, Rapid Response Assessments, and State of the Marine Environment reports. This includes the report “Sick Water? – The central role of wastewater management in sustainable development” (2010);
  • UNEP has contributed to the assessments and reports from ‘The Group of Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP)’ including 10 regional assessments. Nine regional programmes of action have been developed;
  • 12 Regional Action Plans for Marine Litter have been developed through a partnership with the Regional Seas Programme;
  • Financial and technical support has been given to a number of countries to mainstream the GPA into nation and planning of development works, including Indonesia, Vietnam and DRC;



International / Intergovernmental Organisation