Multilateral Environmental Agreements

Managing the impacts of the little fire ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) in French Polynesia

Pages from LFA1 Sep2014 Final Cover3This report is the result of a scoping trip to the Island of Tahiti in French Polynesia by a team from SPREP. It contains an assessment of the spatial distribution of little fire ants, a review of the history of introduction and spread of little fire ants and details of the current situation in the municipality of Mahina.

Download PDF (8MB)
French version (2MB)

Glossary for MEAs

of MEAs related terms

This glossary briefly lists the definition of the major legal or environmental terms used in the Legal CHM, in the listed  MEAs and during SPREP activities. For a more detailed glossary please refer to the
MEA Negotiator's Handbook or to the UNEP MEAs Negotiators Glossary.


In practice acceptance is used instead of ratification when, at a national level, constitutional law does not require an agreement to be ratified by the Head of State. Acceptance has the same legal effect as ratification.
 Accession Act whereby a State becomes a Party to an international agreement already negotiated and 
closed for signature. Accession has the same legal effect as ratification, although an acceding State has not signed the agreement.
 Accreditation Approval and assertion of the fact that credentials submitted by delegates to a particular meeting are in order.
 Ad hoc
Latin word meaning “for this purpose.” An ad hoc committee, for example, is created with a unique and specific purpose or task and once it has studied and reported on a matter, it is discontinued.
1) Actions taken to help communities and ecosystems cope with changing climate conditions 
2) Genetically determined characteristic that enhances the ability of an organism to cope with 
its environment (CBD).
Adaptation Fund
Fund established under the Kyoto Protocol to provide support for adaptation projects.
1) Adoption by a country of an international agreement refers to the process of its 
incorporation into the domestic legal system, through signature, ratification or any other 
process required under national law.
2) Adoption by the international community of an international agreement is the formal act by 
which the form and content of a proposed treaty text are established.
3) Adoption of a decision, resolution, or recommendation is the formal act (e.g. strike 
of gavel) by which the form and content of a proposed decision, resolution or recommendation are approved by delegations.
Advanced Informed Agreement
Principle or procedure whereby the international exchange of resources or products that could have adverse effects on the environment should not proceed without the informed agreement of, or contrary to the decision of, the competent authority in the recipient country.
1) Generic term for an international legally binding instrument. In this sense, encompasses several instruments, such as treaties, conventions, protocols or oral agreements.
2) Specific term used to designate international instruments that are sic “less formal”, thus 
corresponding to soft law and deal with a narrower range of subject-matter than treaties
Alien Species
Species occurring in an area outside of its historically known natural range as a result of 
intentional or accidental dispersal by human activities. Alien species are not necessarily invasive species.
1) A modification or addition to an existing legal instrument (e.g., treaty, convention, or protocol).
2) A modification to a proposal under negotiation (e.g., draft decision, draft recommendation, or draft resolution).
In practice, approval has been used instead of ratification when, at a national level, constitutional law does not require an international agreement to be ratified by the Head of State. Approval has the same legal effect as ratification.
Binding Adjective that means an instrument entails an obligation (usually for States) under international law
Biodiversity  Shorthand for biological diversity. Variability among living organisms from all sources including 
terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems (CBD, CITES, CMS, Ramsar, WHC).
Biological resources  Genetic resources, organisms or parts thereof, populations, or any other biotic component of 
ecosystems with actual or potential use or value for humanity (CBD).
Set of measures or actions addressing the safety aspects related to the application of biotechnologies (see biotechnology) and to the release into the environment of transgenic plants and other organisms, particularly microorganisms, that could negatively affect plant genetic resources, plant, animal or human health, or the environment.
A formal structure that oversees the running of meetings. The Bureau is usually composed 
of representatives of each regional group and a secretariat representative. In some instances, such as the International Conference on Chemicals Management, an extended bureau may be created that includes intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations.
Clearing House Mechanism
The term originally referred to a financial establishment where checks and bills are exchanged 
among member banks so that only the net balances need to be settled in cash. Today, its meaning has been extended to include any agency that brings 
together seekers and providers of goods, services or information, thus matching demand with supply. The CBD has established a Clearing-house Mechanism to ensure that all governments have access to the information and technologies they need for their work on biodiversity.
Funding principle according to which funded activities must be coherent with national programmes and policies to maximize global environmental benefits.
Fulfillment by a Party of its obligations under an international agreement.
Conference of the Parties (COP)
One of the designations for the main negotiating body under an international agreement. The COP is a policy-making body that meets periodically to take stock of implementation of the agreement and adopt decisions, resolutions, or recommendations for the future implementation of the agreement.
A mode of adoption of decisions, resolutions, or recommendations without voting. A decision is adopted by consensus if there is no formal explicit objection made. Whether there is consensus on an issue or not is determined by the presiding officer on the basis of the views expressed by delegates and his/her subjective assessment of the sense of the meeting.
Contracting Parties
A State which has consented to be bound by an international agreement, whether or not the international agreement has entered into force (Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties).
Formal expression of the will of the governing body of an international organization or international agreement. Usually binding but may also correspond to soft law.
A formal statement of aspirations issued by a meeting. Usually issued by high-level representatives. A declaration is not binding.
Representative of a State or organization who has been authorized to act on its behalf and whose credentials are in order.
Team of delegates to a meeting from the same country or organization.
Dynamic complex of plant, animal, micro-organism communities and their non-living environment, interacting as a functional unit (CBD). Ecosystems exist irrespective of political boundaries.
Ecosystem approach
Strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way (CBD, FAO, Ramsar Convention).
Ecosystem services
Processes and functions provided by natural ecosystems that sustain life and are critical to 
human welfare.
Range of procedures and actions taken by a State and its competent authorities to ensure that persons or organizations failing to comply with laws or regulations are brought back into compliance or punished through appropriate action.
Entry into force
Coming into legal effect of an international agreement, i.e. time at which an international 
agreement becomes legally binding for the States that have ratified it or acceded to it or otherwise expressed their consent to be bound by the agreement.
Environmental Impact Assessment
Process by which the environmental consequences of a proposed project or programme are evaluated and alternatives are analyzed. EIA is an integral part of the planning and decision-making processes.
Environmentally Sound Management
In terms of the Basel Convention, the phrase is defined as taking all practicable steps to ensure that hazardous wastes or other wastes are managed in a manner which will protect human health and the 208 Multilateral Environmental Agreement Negotiator’s Handbook PACIFIC REGION environment against adverse effects which may result from such wastes.
Latin phrase meaning “not the original or natural environment.”
Framework Convention
Convention that provides a decision-making and organizational framework for the adoption of 
subsequent complementary agreements (e.g., Protocol). Usually contains substantial provisions of a general nature, the details of which can be provided in the subsequent agreements.
General clauses/provisions Clauses/provisions of an international agreement or decision that create the context, principle and directions helping the understanding and application of the rest of the agreement or decision.
Global Environmental Facility
Launched in 1991, the Global Environment Facility provides grant and concessional funds to developing countries and EITs for projects and programmes targeting global environmental issues: climate change, biological diversity, international waters, ozone layer depletion, land degradation and persistent organic pollutants. Its implementing agencies are UNEP, UNDP, and the World Bank. Designated as the operating entity of the financial mechanism for some MEAs (e.g., the CBD and the UNFCCC).
Hard Law Term used to describe the legally binding nature of various agreements or provisions, which leave no or little room for discretion. Often opposed to soft law.
Hazardous Waste
Wastes that exhibit one or more hazardous characteristics, such as being flammable, oxidizing, poisonous, infectious, corrosive, or ecotoxic (Basel Convention).
Implementation For a Party to an international agreement, implementation refers to the process of adopting relevant policies, laws and regulations, and undertaking necessary actions to meet its obligations under the agreement.
In situ Latin phrase meaning “within the original place.” In situ condition is the condition of genetic resources in their ecosystems and natural habitats and, in the case of domesticated or cultivated species, in the surroundings where they have developed their distinctive properties (CBD).
Institutional clauses/provisions
Clauses/provisions of an international agreement that relate to the institutions established under the agreement.
Inter alia  Latin term meaning “among other things.” The term is often used in legal documents to compress lists of Parties and such like.
International Seabed Authority International organization established under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to address matters related to the regime for the seabed and ocean floor, and subsoil thereof located outside the limits of national jurisdiction (i.e. “The Area” as designated pursuant to Part XI of UNCLOS). 
Invasive Species  A species that invades natural habitats.
Memorandum of Understanding A simplified type of international instrument, which can be concluded between States, between States and international organizations or between international organizations. MoUs can provide a framework for cooperation or be concluded for specific time-bound activities.
Mitigation In the context of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, mitigation refers to actions to cut net emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce climate change as a consequence.
Multilateral Environmental Agreement
A generic term for treaties, conventions, protocols, and other binding instruments related to the environment. Usually applied to instruments of a geographic scope wider than that of a bilateral agreement (i.e., between two States).
Must  As negotiating language, “must” creates an obligation to act for the addressee. It is binding
Mutatis Mutandis Latin phrase meaning “with such changes as are necessary on the points of detail” (e.g., “the dispute settlement provisions of the Convention apply mutatis mutandis to the Protocol”).
New and additional financial resources
1) Financial resources that are provided in addition to the UN target level of 0.7% of Gross National Product (GNP) for Official Development Assistance (ODA).
2) Financial resources that are new and additional to annual general ODA funding which has remained constant or increased, in absolute terms or in ODA/GNP terms.
Non-Party Informal text aimed at facilitating negotiations. It is not a formal proposal.
Notification Formal communication that bears legal consequences (e.g. start of a time-bound period)
Objection Oral or written statement by which a delegation informs a meeting that it objects to the adoption of a proposed decision, resolution, recommendation, or measure.
Obligation clauses/provisions Clauses/provisions of an international agreement or decision that provide for the actions to be taken, individually or jointly, by the Parties to achieve the objectives of the agreement or decision.
Non-State or State actor invited to participate in a limited capacity in discussions during negotiations. Observers are not allowed to negotiate text and have no voting powers. In practice, some observer States do engage in negotiations but do not participate in final decision-making.
Plenary The main meeting format of a COP or a Subsidiary Body. Decisions or recommendations approved by sub-sets of the Plenary have to be forwarded to the Plenary for formal final adoption.
Plenipotentiary Individual who carries or has been conferred full powers to represent their State or government in negotiations.
Policies and Measures
Steps taken or to be taken by countries to achieve greenhouse-gas emissions targets under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.
Preamble Set of opening statements, called “recitals,” of an international agreement, decision, resolution, or recommendation that guides the interpretation of the document. Often contrasted with the operative paragraphs.
Precautionary approach/principle
Approach/principle according to which the absence of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing action where there is a risk of serious or irreversible harm to the environment or human health. The approach/principle is embedded in several instruments, including Principle 15 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. The phrase “precautionary approach” is often used in negotiations to infer a less definite meaning than the precautionary principle.
Prior Informed Consent Consent to be acquired prior to accessing genetic resources or shipping internationally regulated chemicals, substances or products. Granted by competent authorities on the basis of the information provided by the partners to a prior informed consent agreement. The notion is linked to the principle of the Advanced Informed Agreement.
Protocol 1) International legal instrument appended or closely related to another agreement, which constitutes a separate and additional agreement and which must be signed and ratified by the Parties to the convention concerned. Protocols typically strengthen a convention by adding new, more detailed commitments.
2) Rules of diplomatic procedure, ceremony and etiquette.
3) Department within a government or organization that deals with relations with other missions.
Provisional Agenda  Draft agenda of a meeting that has yet to be adopted.
Ratification Formal process by which a Head of State or appropriate governmental official or authority signs a document that signals the consent of the State to become a Party to an international agreement once the agreement has entered into force and to be bound by its provisions.
Recommendation Formal expression of an advisory nature of the will of the governing body of an international organization or international agreement. It is not binding.
Secretariat The body established under an international agreement to arrange and service meetings of the governing body of that agreement, and assist Parties in coordinating implementation of the agreement. Also performs other functions as assigned to it by the agreement and the decisions of the governing body.
Signatory  A State that has negotiated and signed an international agreement.
Act by which the Head of State or government, the foreign minister, or another designated official indicates the authenticity of an international agreement and, where ratification is not necessary, it may also indicate the consent of the State to be bound by the agreement.
Soft Law The term used for quasi-legal instruments that either do not have any binding force or whose binding force is somewhat “weaker” than the binding nature of traditional law that is often referred to as “hard law”. In the field of the international law, soft law consists of non treaty obligations that are therefore non-enforceable and may include certain types of declarations, guidelines, communications and resolutions of international bodies (e.g. Multilateral Environmental Agreement Negotiator’s Handbook PACIFIC REGION 225 
resolutions of the UN General Assembly). Soft-law may be used to encourage broader adhesion to a proposal.
Sound Management 
Taking all practicable steps to ensure that management takes place in a manner which protects human health and the environment against the adverse effects of activities, processes, products or substances
Specialized Agency Autonomous international organization linked to the United Nations through specialagreement.
Status quo Latin phrase meaning “the current state of affairs.”
Steering Committee Restricted group of individuals planning the work of a major meeting. Deals exclusively with procedural matters.
Strategic Environmental Assessment
Procedure for incorporating environmental  onsiderations into national policies, plans and 
programmes. Sometimes referred to as “strategic environmental impact assessment.”
Subsidiary Body A body, usually created by the governing body of an international agreement or international 
organization, with a specific mandate (e.g., Subsidiary Body for Scientific, Technical and 
Technological Advice under the CBD). Different from a working group in that it is usually permanently established to assist the governing body.
Sui generis A Latin term meaning “being the only example of its kind; constituting a class of its own; unique”. Often used to describe a unique (legal) system.
Summit Meeting at which the participants are high-level officials, such as Heads of State or Government.
Traditional Knowledge The knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous people and local communities. 
Traditional knowledge is the object of various MEA provisions, including Article 8(j) of the CBD.
Transboundary movement
Movement from an area under the national jurisdiction of one State to or through an area under the national jurisdiction of another State or to or through an area not under the national jurisdiction of any State.
Treaty International agreement concluded between States in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation (Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties).
Umbrella Agreement  Framework Agreement
Unanimity  Type of decision-making. A decision is adopted by unanimity when it has received the support of all delegations. Established by show of hands, voting, or other means.
Working-group 1) During a meeting, a sub-division of the Plenary mandated to negotiate specific issues of the 
agenda, usually arranged by clusters. Open to all Parties.
2) Between meetings, a subsidiary body established by the governing body of an international agreement to provide it with advice on specific issues. These working groups can be open-ended and meet periodically, or be time-bound and meet once only. Open to all Parties. Example: the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing under the CBD.
Working Paper Informal paper used during a meeting to support negotiations.

COP Resources

Multilateral Environmental Agreement Negotiator’s Handbook

International environmental agreements are crucial to ameliorating the worst effects of environmental degradation and supporting our planet’s biological diversity and human wellbeing. The forums and processes required to achieve these outcomes often have a unique language – combining international policy, law and careful diplomacy.

In this context, the Multilateral Environmental Agreement Negotiator’s Handbook, Pacific Region 2013, has been designed to provide negotiators with comprehensive and practical advice on handling the complexities of international environmental governance.  

In order to be a practical introduction for negotiating or working in MEA’s, this Handbook lays out the elements of MEA’s, reviews the stages of the negotiation process and its technical rules, and identifies the key actors and strategic issues in the environmental field.

It has been prepared by the New Zealand Centre for Environment Law (NZCEL), University of Auckland, in association with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP)


Post card 

Ask for a Hard Copy: 

Taking the floor
A Pacific Island Country Guide to Negotiating International Environmental Agreements 


The process of international environmental negotiations is confusing, complex and intimidating. Negotiations are held in a language that is not your own. The context of speaking at these meetings is quite different from the cultural context of speaking at a meeting at home. Despite all these challenges, you are compelled to try to negotiate an outcome that best represents the interests of your country.
There is no magic bullet to negotiating. Mostly skills are developed by experience.
Taking the Floor draws on the extensive experience of the authors to try to make your task a little easier.
The booklet has been prepared with the support of SPREP and of the European Union.


Ask for a Hard Copy:

  • For assistance with MEAs and to access resources on thematic areas, go to:

UNEP-DELC (various downloads)


Environmental Treaties and Resource Indicators (ENTRI) is a fast, convenient, comprehensive online service for accessing multilateral environmental treaty data. Find status data for environmental treaties, treaty text and other related information easily. Construct custom tables by selecting countries and treaties of interest to you.

Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute, Pacific Islands Treaty Series aims to be a comprehensive treaty database for 20 countries and territories in the Pacific region, publishing bilateral and multilateral treaties which Pacific Island states have entered into amongst themselves, as well as with nations and organisations external to the region.

ECOLEX is a database providing the most comprehensive, global source of information on environmental law. ECOLEX is operated jointly by FAO, IUCN and UNEP.

A UNEP run portal covering biodiversity-related MEAs including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

Pacific Clearing House Mechanism

Clearing house mechanism for multilateral environmental agreements in the Pacific region.

The Pacific regional clearinghouse mechanism for multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) is a project component of the project "Capacity Building related to MEAs in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Countries", known as the ACP MEAs project. The ACP MEAs project is funded by the EC and implemented by UNEP.
The main method available under international law for countries to work together on global environmental issues is the multilateral environmental agreement (MEA). MEAs are agreements between states which may take the form of "soft-law", setting out non-legally binding principles which parties will respect when considering actions which affect a particular environmental issue, or "hard-law" which specify legally-binding actions to be taken to work toward an environmental objective.

Click here for a summary table of the status of Pacific Island countries in relation to International and Regional conventions.

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Hazardous Waste and Pollution

There are three multilateral environmental agreements, which share the common objective of protecting human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals and wastes: 


Considered the common major goal that these conventions are seeking, the respective Secretariats have choosen to enhance cooperation and coordination among them. Look here for more information: Synergies 
                basel                                rotterdam                                       stockholm copy

Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal

The Convention
The Basel Convention on the control of trans-boundary movement of hazardous wastes and their disposal  is an international treaty adopted on 22 March 1989 and entered into force the  5 May 1992.

The Convention was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous wastes from developed to less developed countries.
The Convention is also intended to minimize the amount and toxicity of wastes generated, to ensure their environmentally sound management as closely as possible to the source of generation, and to assist Less Developed Countries in environmentally sound management of the hazardous and other wastes they generate.

The Convention is an annex-driven agreement: it contains two Annexes that list different kind of substances and activities in order to define the hazardous wastes covered by the obligations.
A waste falls under the scope of the Convention if:
- it is within the category of wastes listed in Annex I of the Convention and it exhibits one of the hazardous characteristics contained in Annex III;  
- it is defined as or considered to be a hazardous waste under the laws of either: the exporting country, the importing country, or any of the countries of transit.
The Basel Convention specifically lists waste asbestos (dust and fibres) as a substance to be controlled under Annex I; Y36.

Obligations of the parties:
a)     The Convention recognizes the right of the Parties to prohibit the import of hazardous wastes or other wastes on condition that they inform in advance the other Parties about their decision;
b)    The Basel Convention calls for an overall reduction and environmental sound management of waste and encourages countries to keep wastes within their boundaries and as close as possible to its source of generation;
c)     The parties shall require and ensure the respect of some procedural obligations: notice, consent and tracking for movement of wastes moving across national boundaries.
d)    The Convention places a general prohibition on the exportation or importation of wastes between Parties and non-Parties. The exception to this rule is where the waste is subject to another treaty that does not take away from the Basel Convention.

Protocol on liability
The Convention states that illegal hazardous waste traffic is criminal but contains no enforcement provisions. In order to comply with this provision in behalf of the Convention has been adopted a Protocol on liability and compensation for damage resulting from trans-boundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal. The protocol is not yet in force. For more info: here

The Convention in the Pacific
Seven Pacific countries are Party to the Basel Convention. List of Parties: here.

The Convention has been implemented at a regional level by the adoption of a regional agreement that represents the Pacif mirror of the Basel Convention: Waigani Convention.
In 2003, through a MoU between the Basel Convention Secretariat and SPREP, the Pacific Regional Centre for the Waigani and Basel Conventions has been established. The purpose of these entity is to garantee the mainstreaming of activities at a regional and international level and to provide training and technology transfer in the Pacific Region. More info: here

Furthermore, in order to comply with the provisions of the Convention and in order to promote an environmental sound management of hazardous wastes, different management strategies have been adopted in the Pacific Region with the support of SPREP:

Asbestos Management Strategy
E-waste Strategy
Pacific Health Care Waste

For more information about the issues related to hazardous waste in the Pacific and the activities carried on by SPREP on hazardous waste management click:

Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, 1998

The Convention
The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade is a multilateral treaty to promote shared responsibilities in relation to importation of hazardous chemicals.
The convention promotes open exchange of information and calls on exporters of hazardous chemicals to use proper labeling, include directions on safe handling, and inform purchasers of any known restrictions or bans. Parties can decide whether to allow or ban the importation of chemicals listed in the treaty, and exporting countries are obligated to make sure that producers within their jurisdiction comply.

Obligations and provisions
To achieve its objectives the Convention includes two key provisions and related obligations, namely the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure and Information Exchange:

The Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure:The PIC procedure is a mechanism for formally obtaining and disseminating the decisions of importing Parties as to whether they wish to receive future shipments of those chemicals listed in Annex III of the Convention and for ensuring compliance with these decisions by exporting Parties. For each of the chemicals listed in Annex III and subject to the PIC procedure a decision guidance document (DGD) is prepared and sent to all Parties. The DGD is intended to help governments assess the risks connected with the handling and use of the chemical and make more informed decisions about future import and use of the chemical, taking into account local conditions. 
a)     All Parties are required to take a decision as to whether or not they will allow future import of each of the chemicals in Annex III of the Convention.
b)    All exporting Parties are required to ensure that exports of chemicals subject to the PIC procedure do not occur contrary to the decision of each importing Party.

Information Exchange:The Convention facilitates information exchange among Parties for a very broad range of potentially hazardous chemicals.
a) The Convention requires each Party to notify the Secretariat when taking a domestic regulatory action to ban or severely restrict a chemical.
b) A developing country Party or a Party with an economy in transition that is experiencing problems caused by a severely hazardous pesticide formulation may report such problems to the Secretariat.
c) When a chemical that is banned or severely restricted by a Party is exported from its territory, that Party must notify each individual importing Party before the first shipment and annually thereafter.
d) Exports of banned or severely restricted chemicals, as well as chemicals subject to the PIC procedure, are to be appropriately labeled and accompanied by basic health and safety information in the form of a safety data sheet.

Each Party must designate one or more national authorities, which are the primary contact points for matters related to the operation of the Convention and are authorized to perform the administrative functions required by the Convention.

The Pacific Region

Six Pacific countries are parties to this convention. Parties: here
For information about the PICs Parties implementation, PICs designated National Authorities and responses given by these on importing chemicals: Rotterdam country profiles.

Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, 2001 (POPs)

The Convention
The Stockholm Convention on Persist Organic Pollutants a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have adverse effects to human health or to the environment. Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can lead serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and even diminished intelligence. Given their long range transport, no one government acting alone can protect is citizens or its environment from POPs. In response to this global problem, the Stockholm Convention, which was adopted in 2001 and entered into force in 2004, requires Parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment.

For a precise definition of POP, please click: here.

Main provisions
The  Convention require each party to:
  • Prohibit and/or eliminate the production and use, as well as the import and export, of the intentionally produced POPs that are listed in Annex A to the Convention
  • Restrict the production and use, as well as the import and export, of the intentionally produced POPs that are listed in Annex B to the Convention
  • Reduce or eliminate releases from unintentionally produced POPs that are listed in Annex C to the Convention
  • Ensure that stockpiles and wastes consisting of, containing or contaminated with POPs are managed safely and in an environmentally sound manner
  • Prepare a plan on how they are going to implement the obligations under the Convention and make efforts to put such plan into operation (National Implementation Plan - NIP). The National Implementation Plan (NIP) is not a standalone plan for the management of POPs but is a part of a national sustainable development strategy.

The Convention promotes the use of best available techniques and best environmental practices for preventing releases of POPs into the environment, and provides for detailed procedures for the listing of new POPs in Annexes A, B and/or C.

Stockholm Convention in the Pacific:
All the PICs have signed the Convention.

The implementation of the agreement in the Region is in process.
In order to offer support to the countries and capacity building for the achievement of the Stockholm objectives SPREP is implementing a GEF-UNEP project on POPs Release Reduction. The project will focus on technical assistance and capacity building for the implementation of the Stockholm Convention National Implementation Plans (NIP) and the demonstration of feasible, innovative technologies for Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) reduction. For more information: here.

Atmospheric Pollution



Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, 1985

The Convention
Vienna convention is a multilateral agreement entered into force in 1988. 187 Parties are part to this Convention and relative protocols. Since at that time countries could not agree on specific control measures  the Convention is just a framework treaty in which States agree to cooperate in relevant research and scientific assessments of the ozone problem, to exchange information, and to adopt “appropriate measures” to prevent activities that harm the ozone layer. It sets general obligations and contains no specific limits on chemicals that deplete the ozone layer. 

The Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol established the precedent in UNEP for completing a framework agreement, followed later by one or more Protocols. This precedent has been used frequently since then, as in the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Montreal Protocol, 1987

The Protocol
In order to implement the Vienna Convention and set real obligations for the countries to control the production and consumption of the specific chemicals which deplete the ozone layer (ODS) the Montreal Protocol has been signed in 1987. After the success of the Monteral Protocol, also other protocols have been adopted in behalf of the Convention in order to create new committments of reduction of ODS. More detailed information:
Ozone layer depleting substance: here

The Montreal Protocol includes a unique adjustment provision that enables the Parties to the Protocol to respond quickly to new scientific information and agree to accelerate the reductions required on chemicals already covered by the Protocol. These adjustments are then automatically applicable to all countries that ratified the Protocol. Since its initial adoption, the Montreal Protocol has been adjusted five times. Furthermore the Protocol has been subject to admendments.There have been four Amendments to the Protocol: the London, Copenhagen, Montreal, and Beijing Amendments.

The provisions 
The Protocol commits the parties to gradually reduce, unitil complete ban, the production and consumption of ODS. Based on the "common and shared responsabilities" principle the protocol sets two different reduction obligations for developing (non art.5(1) countries) and non-developing countries (art.5(1) countries).

CFC and Halons: 
Developing countries: Reduction and total ban by 1996.
Non-Developing countries: Reduction and total ban by 2010.

Developing countries: reduction and total ban by 2030.
Non developing countries: reduction and total ban by 2040. 

New technologies and instruments have been developed with the support of UNEP Secretariat for the Convention and of the assessment panel, in order to facilitate the parties accomplishment of the Protocol.
More info:
The Protocol in the Pacific: 
All the pacific Islands Countries have acceded the Convention and Protocols. 

Moreover many Pacific Islands have put in force legislative instruments in order  to comply with the Convention and ban the production and consumption of ODS. Fore more information look at: PAClii
For details on the fullfillment of the Convention Goals by the Pacific Island Countries: Ozone Secretariat - Data Access Centre


Marine Pollution

The protection of the marine environment and the management of its natural resources constitute one of the major issues for the Pacific Island Countries. There are two international juridical systems that regulate the rights of use and the obligations to protect of the Countries on the marine areas:

                                      UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON THE LAW OF THE SEA  


                                                         IMO CONVENTIONS IN THE PACIFIC


United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982 

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
 lays down a comprehensive regime of law and order in the world's oceans and seas establishing rules governing all uses of the oceans and their resources. It enshrines the notion that all problems of ocean space are closely interrelated and need to be addressed as a whole. The Convention entered into force on the 16 November 1994.
The UNCLOS governs all aspects of ocean space, such as delimitation, environmental control, marine scientific research, economic and commercial activities, transfer of technology and the settlement of disputes relating to ocean matters.

The major provisions related with to Pacific Environment which define the extent of the PICs marine area of soverignty, and the rights and duties on it, are: 

Part V: Exclusive Economic Zone 
One of the major issues regulated by the Convention is the extension of States sovereignty on the sea. 
The agreement set the limit of various areas, measured from a carefully defined baseline (internal waters, territorial waters, contigous zone, EEZ, continental shelf, international waters) . 
The EEZ is defined as an area which extends 200 miles beyond the territorial sea. On this area States have:  
"sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil".
This disposition is crucial for the PICs because recognizes their sovreignity on a big portion of the Pacific Ocean (please note that 98% of the area on which PICs have soveregnty is sea) and on the resources and ecosystems of more than 27449 milion square km. 
Part XI of the Convention: Seabed beyond national jurisdiction
This section regulates the regime of exploration and minerals on the seabed outside any state's territorial waters or EEZ. This section recognizes that resources on the seabed beyond the States continental shelf are common heritage from humankind. In order to garantee the management of these resources in the interest of all humankind the convention has established a autonoumus international organization: the International Seabed Autority.  
Part XII of the Convention: protection and preservation of the marine environment
The Convention dedicates also a spefic section to the protection and preservation of the marine environment. The parties to the Convention agree that:
"States have the obligation to protect and preserve the marine environment" and "States have the sovereign right to exploit their natural resources pursuant to their environmental policies and in accordance with their duty to protect and preserve the marine environment".
In order to meet these obligations States need to take specific measures which are outlines at art.194.  
More info about the Convention:here. 

International Maritime Organisation Conventions 

The International Maritime Organization (a UN specialized agency) has developed a number of global legal frameworks related to shipping safety and marine environment in order to accomplish with its mandate of improving the safety and security of international shipping and preventing marine pollution from ships.

IMO was established by the countries to adopt legislation, it doesn’t implement it. Governments are responsible for implementing it. When a Government accepts an IMO Convention it agrees to make it part of its own national law and to enforce it.

The Conventions
During its period of activity IMO has adopted about fifty instruments (between Conventions, Protocols and amendments). The marine environment related instruments can be classed considering the object of their regulation:  
1. Pollution Prevention:
  • Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from ships 1978 (MARPOL CONVENTION) Annexes I, II, III, IV, V, VI
     Protocol to the Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from ships (MARPOL PROTOCOL);
  • Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and other Matter1972 (LONDON) Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and other matter 1996  

2. Pollution Response

  • Convention on oil pollution preparedness, response, and Co-operation, 1990 (OPRC Convention)
  • Convention on Preparadness, response and cooperation to pollution incidents by Hazardous and Noxious Substances, (OPRC-HNS) 2000
  • Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC Convention) 69 & CLC Protocol 76/92
  • Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for oil pollution damage (Fund Convention) 1971 & Fund Protocol 1976/92/03,
  • Intervention Convention 69 & Intervention Protocol 73,
  • Convention on civil liability for Bunker Oil Polluttion Damage, 2001,
  •  Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in connection with the Carriage of hazardous and       Noxoius Substances by Sea, (HNS Convention) 1996 & HNS Protocol 2010

3. Ballast Water Management and Control Convention 2004
4. Anti-Fouling Systems Convention 2001;
5. Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships,Honk Kong Convention 2009
6. Wreck Removal Nairobi Convention 2007.

Click here for information on the IMO Marine Environment Protection Conventions

Click here for a list of all the IMO Conventions

IMO was established by the countries to adopt legislation, it doesn’t implement it. Governments are responsible for incorporate it. When a Government accepts an IMO Convention it agrees to make it part of its own national law and to enforce it.
The countries meet their obligation with the Convention by ensuring that their own domestic law and practice are consistent with what is required by the treaty.In order terms the Parties to the Convention need to incorporate the agreements by passing domestic legislation that gives effect to the treaty in the national legal system.In order to facilitate the implementation of the agreements by elaborating strategies/plans/laws, often IMO offers technical and financial support to the parties. 

The IMO Conventions in the Pacific 
Among the PICs only FSM, Nauru and Niue are not members to the IMO. As regards the Conventions, for each of them and their related Protocols, the number of PICs that are party differs. In behalf of the Pacific Region the countries are working at different levels in order to protect their marine environment by the pollution originated by shipping activities, and in order to comply with their international maritime committments established through IMO:

Regional Level

Multilateral environmental agreements
Noumea Convention Protocols: two protocols have been adopted in behalf of the Noumea Convention in order to reflect at a regional level the committments that the States have took on at the international level.
  • Protocol for the Prevention of Pollution of the South Pacific Region by Dumping which is the mirror instrument of the IMO London Convention and Protocol. 
  • Protocol Concerning Co-operation in Combating Pollution Emergencies in the South Pacific Region which reflects the OPRC Convention

For info about the Protocols, the Noumea Convention and their implementation: here

> Waigani Convention: the Waigani Convention is the Convention to Ban the Importation into Forum Island Countries of Hazardous and Radioactive Wastes and to Control the Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within the South Pacific Region.
Even if this Convention represents mainly the mirror instrument of the Basel Convention, some of its provisions overlap with the dispositions of the IMO conventions. More info: here.  

Plans and strategies
Different Plans and Strategies have been adopted and carried out by the PICs, with the support of SPREP and other agencies, in order to meet their IMO obligations.

> PACPOL, Pacific Ocean Pollution Prevention Programme, 2010-2014:    Pacpol strategy - Brochure 

> PACPLAN: Pacific Island Reginal Marine Spill Contingency Plan:  Plan

WWII Wreck Strategy, a regional strategy to address marine pollution from World War II wrecks: Strategy

SRIMP-Pac, a regional strategy for Shipping related introduced marine pests in the Pacific Islands:   Draft 

National level
With the support of SPREP the countries have adopted strategies and contingency plans (look here), in addition to laws (here). In order to facilitate the development of a legislation reflecting the IMO Conventions, legislation models have been created for the PICs by SPREP : 
- Marine Polluttion Prevention Bill
- Ballast water management regulation
- Ports Reception Facilities Regulation
- Pollution Levy Regulation 

These model laws are intended to be a guide for the countries for meeting the international committments, they need to be adjusted to the particularities of national legal systems and administrative culturesures. 

Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA), 1995

The GPA “aims at preventing the degradation of the marine environment from land-based activities by facilitating the realization of the duty of States to preserve and protect the marine environment”. It is unique in that it is the only global initiative directly addressing the connectivity between terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems.

The GPA targets major threats to the health, productivity and biodiversity of the marine and coastal environment resulting from human activities on land and proposes an integrated, multisectoral approach based on commitment to action at local, national, regional and global levels.nt

MEA Database

Agreements Cook Islands FSM Fiji  Kiribati Marshall Islands Nauru Niue Palau Papua New Guinea Samoa Solomon Islands Tonga Tuvalu Vanuatu
Ratified ( R); Signed (S); Acceded (A) 
Convention on Biodiversity R R R A R R A A R R R A R R
1st Report   X X X X X X
2nd Report  X X X X X X X X
3rd Report X X X X X
4th Report   X X X X X X X X
Protected Areas Report X X X
Global Taxonomy Report X
Forest Ecosystems Report X
NBSAP (Action Plan)   X X X X X X X X X
NBSAP (Update) X
Cartagena Protocol S Profile R R A
Interim National Report        
First National Report X X X X
Second National Report X        
Biosafety Framework
Nagoya Protocol S S
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species A A A A A A
Annual Report - 2007
Annual Report - 2008
Annual Report - 2009
Annual Report - 2010
Annual Report - 2011
Convention on Migratory Species A A A
Memorandum of Understanding
Dugong S S
Marine Turtles
Pacific Islands Cetecans S S S S   S S S S S S
Sharks S S S
Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention) R R R R R
Report - COP 11 X X X X X
Report - COP 10 X X X
Report - COP 9 X
Report - COP 8 X
Report - Oceania 4
World Heritage Convention R R R A A A A A A A A A R
Basel Convention A A A A A A A
Country Fact Sheets X
Stockholm Convention A S R R A R R S R R A R A R
POPS Country Plans X X X X X X X X X X X X
National Assessment X
National Implementation Plan X X X X   X
Waigani Convention R R R R S R S R R R R A R
United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) R R R R R R R R R R R R R R
Kyoto Protocol R R R A R R R A R R R A R A
Initial Communication X X X X X X X X X X X X X X
2nd Communication X
3rd Communication
4th Communication
NAPA (Action Plan) X X X X X
NCSA (Capacity) X X X X X
United Nations Convetion to Combat Desertification A R A A A A A A A A A A A R
Preliminary Report X
1st Report X
2nd Report X X X X X X X X X X X
3rd Report X X X X X X
4th Report
London Convention R R R R R R
London Protocol R R R
International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships (MARPOL) R R R R R R R R R R
Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties (Intervention Convention) R R R R R
CLC 92 R R
HNS Convention R
UNCLOS: Chapters 1&12 R R R A A R R A R R R A R R
SPREP Dumping Protocol R R R R R R R R R R R R
SPREP Pollution Emergency R R R R R R R R R R R
Vienna Convention A A A A A A A A A A A A A A
Montreal Protocol A A A A A A A A A A A A A A
Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fishery Resources in the South Pacific Ocean S S S S S S S S S S S S S S
Apia Convention R R R R R
Noumea Convention R R R R S R R R S
Waigani R R R R S R S R R R R A R
Pacific Tuna Fisheries S S S S S S S S S S S S S S

Land Degradation

The principal MEA for Pacific Countries in the field of Land Degradation is the UNCCD. 
Information about it follows: 




United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

The Convention
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, established in 1994, is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management.
The main goal of the convention as stated in its ten year strategy 2008-2018 is to improve the conditions of populations and ecosystems affected by desertification, land degradation and droughts. Thus, the Convention’s 195 parties work together to improve the living conditions for people in drylands, to maintain and restore land and soil productivity, and to mitigate the effects of drought.
In this context, the UNCCD secretariat facilitates cooperation between developed and developing countries, particularly around knowledge and technology transfer for sustainable land management. Development and widespread of relevant technologies and best land management practices are adequately supported with innovative and integrated financing strategies and approaches.

Combat land degradation through effective action at all levels, supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements, in the framework of an integrated approach which is consistent with Agenda 21, with a view to contributing to the achievement of sustainable development in affected areas.


In carrying out their obligations, affected developing country Parties and any other affected country Party in the framework of its regional implementation annex or, otherwise, that has notified the Permanent Secretariat in writing of its intention to prepare a national action programme, shall, as appropriate, prepare, make public and implement national action programmes, utilizing and building, to the extent possible, on existing relevant successful plans and programmes, and subregional and regional action programmes, as the central element of the strategy to combat land degradation and mitigate its effects.

National Plans
1. The purpose of national action programmes is to identify the factors contributing to land degradation and practical measures necessary to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought.
2. National action programmes shall specify the respective roles of government, local communities and land users and the resources available and needed.
3. National action programmes may include, inter alia, some or all of the measures proposed by the Convention to prepare for and mitigate the effects of drought.

UNCCD in the Pacific

The aim of the Convention in the Pacific is to alleviate land degradation, reduce the risk and impact of drought, and increase productivity potential affected landscapes. Regional land degradation issues include: erosion, deforestation, land slides, impact of mining and quarries, salt incursion and contamination of industrial and productive lands. All 14 Pacific Island countries are parties to the convention.
The Pacific island countries priority is to complete and align the new UNCCD National Action Plans (NAPs) to the Convention’s Ten year Strategic Plan.

The aligned NAPs:
  • Include an integrated financing strategy (IFS) for locating and developing a mix of financial resources to fund programs and projects related to combating desertification and sustainable land management (SLM) for UNCCD implementation.
  • Establish a framework for national monitoring and reporting that meets the requirements of the Convention's monitoring and assessment system PRAIS (Performance Review and Assessment of Implementation System).
Five countries have completed NAPs, and 4 (Cook Islands, Fiji, Palau and Samoa) have started IFS development supported by the Global Mechanism.
Samoa has also started a GEF5 2012 – 2017 multi-sectoral programme under the theme SLM.

Regional and SPREP activities

1) Training on the UNCCD 10 year strategy and new monitoring system, PRAIS, 2010

2) Regional preparatory meeting for COP10, 2010:

3) Feasibility study for Integrated Financing Strategies, 2011

4) Workshops on the development of IFS/NAP alignment 

5) PRAIS online reporting portal
SPREP is the regional reporting entity and hub for UNCCD. It is planning to formulate a Sub-regional (Pacific) Action Plan or SRAP to support country’s sustainable land management needs. SPREP, together with the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD, is providing technical support and training for reporting through the PRAIS system, and also coordinating the process of NAP alignment and IFS develo

6) Global Mechanism
SPREP is currently working with the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD to build capacity to align the NAPs with the convention’s Ten-Year Strategy and develop integrated financing strategies. This is an activity led by the SLM component of the ACP MEAs project, scope|acp (south-to-south cooperation on land and environment). A useful tool for SLM practitioners is at This website provides a collaborative platform to increase investment in sustainable land management in ACP countries. It
showcases good practices and innovative approaches to mobilise resources for SLM, shares relevant funding opportunities and calls for proposals, and offers online   working spaces to design projects where the GM and partners are able to provide technical backstopping.