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Baltic And East African Regional Seas To Sign Twinning Arrangement

Malmo, Sweden/Nairobi, 30 May 2000 - The Helsinki Commission for Baltic Marine Environment Protection and UNEP's Regional Seas Programme for the Eastern African Region will sign a Twinning Arrangement here today during the Global Ministerial Environment Forum.

The Arrangement will help to strengthen efforts by East African countries to protect the western part of the Indian Ocean through the 1985 Nairobi Convention. It will do this by giving them fuller access to the experience and knowledge gained by the Helsinki Commission in protecting the Baltic Sea.

"Sharing best practices and lessons learned is an invaluable form of international cooperation," said Executive Director Klaus Toepfer, who will sign the Arrangement on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme, which serves as the Secretariat for the Nairobi Convention.

"Following the example set by towns and cities around the world, environmental organizations and agreements should more fully explore twinning as an effective way of bolstering the effectiveness of global environmental action," he said.

Under the Twinning Arrangement, the Helsinki Commission will support the Nairobi Convention by acting as a good-will ambassador for its work and providing technical assistance to its member States: Comoros, France (La Reunion), Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, and Tanzania.

The Arrangement identifies three priority areas. To tackle the key problem of sewage, an assessment of coastal cities and other "hot spots" will be carried out, and the impacts of sewage will be analyzed. Training will be provided on how to maintain, run, and finance waste water treatment plants.

The Commission will also advise on the drafting of a Protocol on Land-based Sources of Pollution in time to be submitted to the Convention's members in October 2000. A general review and updating of the Nairobi Convention will be conducted, including revising or drafting a new Protocol on the Management and Conservation of Fauna and Flora.

The third priority will be to share experience on integrated coastal area management. Capacity building will be offered on assessing the economic evaluation of resources, conducting environmental impact assessments, using zoning as a management tool, and determining the "carrying capacity" of the environment.

Around the world, oceans and coastal areas are under severe environmental stress. Economic growth and expanding populations are causing land-based and sea-based pollution, the overexploitation of fisheries and other natural marine resources, erosion and sedimentation, the spread of invasive species, species extinction, destruction of irreplaceable wildlife habitats, and sea-level rise due to global warming.

In response, UNEP has fostered regional cooperation on behalf of the marine and coastal environment for some three decades. Its strategy has been to stimulate the creation of "Action Plans" - prescriptions for sound environmental management - for each region. Many of these Plans include regional Conventions that are unique legal instruments designed to protect shared environmental interests.

More than 140 coastal States and Territories now participate in 12 active regional programmes. Two more programmes are in development, and there are also three partner programmes for the Arctic, the North-East Atlantic, and the Baltic. Although all these regional programmes reflect a similar approach, each has been tailored by its member governments and institutions to suit their particular environmental challenges.

The UNEP-related regional seas programmes are (in order of adoption):

- Mediterranean Action Plan, adopted in 1975 - Red Sea and Gulf of Aden Action Plan, adopted in 1976, revised in 1982 - Kuwait Action Plan Action Plan, adopted in 1978 - West and Central African Action Plan, adopted in 1981 - Caribbean Action Plan, adopted in 1981 - East Asian Seas Action Plan, adopted in 1981 - South-East Pacific Action Plan, adopted in 1981 - South Pacific Action Plan, adopted in 1982 - Eastern Africa Action Plan, adopted in 1985 - Black Sea Action Plan (interim), adopted in 1993, Strategic Action Plan adopted in 1993 - North-West Pacific Action Plan, adopted in 1994 - South Asian Seas Action Plan, adopted in 1995 - South-West Atlantic Action Plan, in preparation since 1980 - North-East Pacific Action Plan, in preparation since 1997

Note to journalists: For more information, please contact Michael Williams in Geneva at +41- 22-9178242/44 or, or visit UNEP's Regional Seas web site at In Nairobi, please contact Tore J. Brevik, UNEP Spokesman/Director of Communications and Public Information, P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya. Tel.: 254-2 623292; fax: 623692; email:


UNEP News Release 00/77

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