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MEA Bulletin - Guest Article No. 62 - Thursday, 29 January 2009
EC Partners in Innovative MEA Implementation Programme
By Elizabeth Mrema and Marko Berglund, UN Environment Programme, Division of Environmental Law and Conventions

Faced with the challenge of implementing a multitude of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) that address increasingly complex scientific and technical issues, many developing countries’ efforts are further complicated by a range of overlapping human, financial, technical and other resource constraints. In Africa, where the majority of the population lives in rural areas and faces increasing land-related pressures, areas of particular concern include climate change mitigation and adaptation, deforestation, flooding, drought and desertification, as well as chemicals, agrochemicals and pesticides management. Coastal and marine protection issues are also important. In the Caribbean, an interlocking relationship between the economy and the ecology is particularly evident. Most of the population in Caribbean countries reside in coastal areas. In addition, the agriculture, mineral-extraction and hydrocarbon exploration and tourism sectors all undertake activities that involve the direct exploitation of Caribbean countries’ natural resources. This situation is further complicated by concerns over the increasing frequency and severity of hurricanes and other extreme weather events. In the Pacific, similar concerns about marine resources and biodiversity, waste, land and climate change exist. Rising sea levels are an acute threat to low-lying States. Although the planning environment is particularly advanced in these States, support is needed for the implementation of National Sustainable Development Strategies and National Environmental Management Plans.

To enhance capacity related to MEA implementation in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, the United Nations Environment Programme has joined forces with the European Commission and seven other institutions. The partner institution are: the African Union Commission (AUC), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the UNEP Risoe Centre on Energy, Climate and Sustainable Development, the Global Mechanism of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD-GM), the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) Secretariat and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). With comparative advantages due to geographic reach – UNEP at the global level, the AUC, CARICOM and SPREP at the regional level – and substantive expertise and areas of work – UNEP Risoe Centre for the Clean Development Mechanism, UNCCD-GM for combating desertification, SAICM Secretariat for sound management of chemicals, FAO for clean up of obsolete pesticides – the partners have jointly designed a capacity enhancement programme that addresses countries’ needs in a coordinated and coherent manner. The four-year, 21 million euro EC ACP MEAs Programme will enhance MEA implementation through two components.

Regional Hubs

Three Regional Hubs have been established to support the 79 ACP countries – 48 in the African Hub, 16 in the Caribbean Hub, and 15 in the Pacific Hub – to implement MEAs at the regional and national levels. Based on existing national and regional needs assessments, specific detailed activities will be identified during the six-month inception phase, beginning in January 2009. Stakeholder consultations will highlight existing priorities and the Regional Hubs will liaise with the Secretariats of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to ensure that needs identified by MEA Parties will be considered.

Activities will generally focus on strengthening and enhancing the capacities of national governments and stakeholders, as well as regional and sub-regional organizations, related institutions and stakeholders. Training will be provided to mainstream environmental issues into Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers. The negotiating capacity of ACP country negotiators will be enhanced through training workshops. To support these negotiators, scientific networks and communities will be strengthened. Regional cooperation will be improved through the provision of additional resources to existing networks and centres. The Regional Hubs themselves will be in a unique position to facilitate the exchange of experiences and learning. Support will be given to developing regional and national harmonised legislation for the implementation of clusters of MEAs. Parliamentarians, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, judges, media and the private sector will be trained on their roles in MEA implementation. MEA knowledge management systems and harmonised reporting will be promoted. Public awareness will be raised. These and other capacity enhancement activities will be executed by the Regional Hubs as well as by experienced technical officers from UNEP and the MEA Secretariats.

Support to specific MEAs

Additional financial resources will also be provided to support the implementation of specific MEAs. The UNEP Risoe Centre will target African countries to support their full and successful engagement in the global carbon market and the Clean Development Mechanism. The Global Mechanism of the UNCCD will expand its successful SolArid Programme to Caribbean and Pacific countries, illustrating the advantages of South-South cooperation and applying lessons learnt in one region to another. Sound management of chemicals in ACP countries will receive a boost as funds are allocated to projects under the SAICM Quick Start Programme. The FAO will provide additional support to countries to eliminate existing obsolete pesticide stocks, to explore opportunities for the reduction of reliance on synthetic chemical pesticides, and to improve the management of pesticides in ACP countries.

A New Approach and New Challenges

To ensure the sustainability of the EC ACP MEAs Programme beyond the initial four years, the Regional Hubs must establish themselves as strong centres of excellence in their respective regions. They must obtain buy-in from their client countries, which may be accustomed to engaging bilaterally with donors. The high quality of capacity enhancement services provided will, however, illustrate the added value of using the Regional Hubs. Moreover, although MEAs are implemented at the national level, regions and/or sub-regions share common concerns to which there often are common solutions. Regional capacity enhancement will catalyze sharing of experiences and could lead to regional implementation of MEAs. In a donor environment with limited funds, economies of scale are always encouraged. Indeed, donors increasingly seem to be promoting regional and sub-regional initiatives.

From an institutional perspective, the EC ACP MEAs Programme provides a concrete example of working as “One UN.” Instead of financing several separate projects, the EC and its partners’ innovative approach to implementing MEAs brings together UNEP, the FAO, the GM and the UNFCCC under one framework. Moreover, UNEP is represented by several of its MEA Secretariats and Divisions. These UN bodies will work closely with three regional intergovernmental institutions, which bring their constituent members States to the Programme. There are challenges inherent in linking the two separate components but by combining these elements in one framework under the coordination and facilitation of UNEP, MEAs will be implemented in a more coherent and coordinated manner, within and between regions as well as between MEAs.

The challenges of linking several institutions are great, and the numerous goals and target countries may at first give the impression of trying to do too much with too little. However, strategic planning and priority setting should overcome the impression of overreach. The success of this multiple partnership will demonstrate the merit of a coordinated and consolidated approach to donors and target countries alike.

For more information please contact Elizabeth Mrema ( or Marko Berglund (
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