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Oceans & Seas

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Oceans, seas, islands and coastal areas form an integrated and essential component of the Earth's ecosystem and are critical for global food security and for sustaining economic prosperity and the well-being of many national economies, particularly in developing countries." (WSSD Plan of Implementation, para. 30)

The protection of the oceans, all kinds of seas and coastal areas and the protection, rational use and development of their living resources is the focus of Chapter 17 of Agenda 21. The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) reviewed implementation of the goals and targets called for in Chapter 17 at its fourth (1996), fifth (1997) and, in particular, seventh (1999) sessions, which resulted in a comprehensive decision, 7/1. The nineteenth Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly to review the implementation of Agenda 21 also considered oceans issues.

The Plan of Implementation adopted by the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, 26 August - 4 September 2002), in paragraphs 30-36, addressed issues dealing with oceans and seas, including, inter alia: global and regional coordination and cooperation; sustainable fisheries; marine biodiversity and ecosystems; marine pollution from both land-based and sea-based sources; and marine science and assessments of the marine environment.

Intergovernmental Mechanisms

Following discussion on oceans by CSD-7, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 54/33 of 24 November 1999 entitled 'Results of the review by the Commission on Sustainable Development of the sectoral theme of "Oceans and Seas": international coordination ad cooperation'. This resolution, inter alia, decided to establish an open-ended informal consultative process to facilitate the annual review by the General Assembly of developments in ocean affairs. The Consultative Process, which is open to all States Members and accredited observers of the United Nations and intergovernmental organizations and agencies with competence in ocean affairs, was initially given a three-year mandate, which was renewed for a further three years in 2002 (GA resolution 57/141). It has met for one week annually each June in 2000-2005. The reports of its meetings are available on the website of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs (DOALOS), which serves as the secretariat in cooperation with DESA/DSD. The mandate of the Consultative process was reviewed by the 60th session of the General Assembly, in 2005.

Interagency Coordination

In 2003, the Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) decided to establish UN-Oceans as the UN inter-agency coordinating mechanism on oceans and coastal issues. In addition to overseeing the management and development of the UN Atlas of the Oceans, UN-Oceans has established four time-bound task groups, each coordinated by a lead organization. These focus on: post-Tsunami Response (led by UNESCO/IOC); global monitoring of the marine environment (led by UN-DOALOS); marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (led by CBD secretariat); and the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (led by UNEP/GPA).