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UNEP's new office to tackle marine pollution opens in the Hague

Nairobi/The Hague, 19 November 1997 - An important step forward will be taken next week in the implementation of an ambitious programme of action dealing with threats to the global marine environment, and the health and economic well- being of the approximately 3.5 billion people that live in the world's coastal areas.

On Monday, 24 November, in The Hague, Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), (together with a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands), will officially open the UNEP Coordinating Office for the Global Programme of Action (GPA) for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities.

"Protecting the marine environment is an urgent global priority. To be effective, it requires a deepening of our vision and tangible commitment to collective action," said Ms. Dowdeswell. "The Global Programme of Action is our best hope for addressing this problem by recognizing the parallel aims of human development and environmental protection," she said.

The GPA, adopted in 1995 by more than 100 Governments is the latest institutional mechanism to protect and preserve the marine environment.

As UNEP's GEO Report so accurately describes, population densities, industrial growth, tourism development and the siting of transportation and trade centres have had adverse effects on a variety of coastal ecosystems, including: salt marshes, mangrove forests, coastal wetlands, estuaries and coral reefs. In actual fact, nearly 80 percent of marine pollution and other types of marine degradation is caused by land-based activities.

Through the promotion of integrating watershed and coastal zone management policies, the GPA addresses such activities as discharges from industry, agriculture, foresty, transport and urban development, in particular sewage discharges.

Significant areas of concern are waste-water treatment and management, reduction and elimination of pollution by persistent organic pollutants, physical destruction of habitats of important marine living resources, the progressive development of international law to focus on preventive action, and development of innovative management approaches within relevant international and regional forums and to promote their further application.

The new UNEP office will coordinate the activities which arise from the 1995 "Washington Declaration on Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities". The GPA aims to assist in refining existing regional and national action plans, or to promote and facilitate their development. Action to address the problems must include awareness building and the mobilization of financial resources.

"The Global Programme of Action is in its infant stages", said Ms. Dowdeswell. "The early signals are very positive. The will to make it a success seems evident but we must remain vigilant to its goals and objectives," she said.

The GPA office will be co-located with the National Institute for Coastal and Marine Management of the Department of Public Works and Water Management Facilities, of The Netherlands.

The agreement to formally establish the GPA office in The Hague will be signed during the opening ceremony.


Note to journalists:

Journalists are welcome to attend the ceremony which will take place in the Conference Hall at the National Institute for Coastal and Marine Management, part of the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management, located at Kortenaerkade 1 in The Hague.

For more information, contact:

Mr. Bylsma in The Netherlands
on telephone +31 (0)70 311 4371.

Or, Mr. Robert Bisset
at the Carlton Ambassador Hotel in The Hague
on telephone +31 (0)70 3630363, Fax: +31 (0)70 3600535

Background information on the GPA is available.

In Nairobi, contact:

Mr. Tore J. Brevik,
Director, UNEP Information and Public Affairs
Tel: +254-2-623292, Fax: +254-2623692,

Mr. Robert Bisset,
UNEP Media and Communications Officer
Tel: +254-2-623084, Fax: +254-2-623692,

UNEP News Release 1997/67

Thursday 20 Nov 1997
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