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Overview Report: Multilateral Environmental Agreements and their relevance to the Arctic

22 Sep 2006

Rapid environmental changes are taking place in the Arctic, threatening the livelihoods of northern peoples and endangering arctic flora and fauna. These changes, and those predicted for the future, will have global effects. Sea level rise from melting ice, altered global ocean circulation from changes in the polar seas, and changes to arctic breeding grounds of migratory birds, fish and marine mammals are global issues that require global solutions. 

Multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) are internationally agreed upon measures to protect the environment and/or to promote sustainable development, and require the engagement of stakeholders at all levels to make them truly effective. While there are several global and regional MEAs relevant to the Arctic, none is exclusively arctic in scope. While most of the arctic countries have signed most of the global and regional MEAs relevant to the Arctic (see table 1), there has been limited co-operation between the Arctic Council working groups and the international organizations implementing these MEAs. 

This report has been prepared as background and supplemental material for a seminar examining opportunities for improving the effectiveness of MEAs for addressing issues of arctic sustainable development and conservation. The seminar is co-organized by UNEP/ GRID-Arendal and the Standing Committee for Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region (SCPAR), and co-sponsored by the Nordic Council of Ministers and will be held in Arendal, Norway, on 21-22 September 2006.

The seminar builds on the 7th Conference of the Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region in Kiruna, northern Sweden, held at the beginning of August this year. One of the main topics of the conference was “Innovation in the Arctic Governance: the possibilities and limitations of a binding legal regime for the Arctic.” 

The Conference Statement from Kiruna included requests to governments in the arctic region and institutions of the European Union: “In light of the impact of climate change, and the increasing economic and human activity, [to] initiate, as a matter of urgency, an audit of existing legal regimes that impact the Arctic and to continue the discussion about strengthening or adding to them where necessary,” and to “Propose to the United Nations that the scope of the Annual Treaty Event in 2007, or at the earliest possible time, should be UN Treaties relevant to the Arctic.” 

The objective of the Arendal seminar is to identify gaps, challenges, and steps that can be taken to make the global MEAs more relevant to the Arctic and more useful in ensuring good governance and sustainable development. The outcome of this seminar will be a set of recommendations. On Day 2 we will develop draft recommendations and decide on a process for review and endorsement. The aim is to submit these recommendations for consideration by Arctic Council, the Standing Committee for Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the MEA secretariats, and to distribute them widely to arctic stakeholders.

Status: Completed

Type: Staff Publications

Author: GRID-Arendal, Nordic Council of Ministers, The Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region

Year of publication: 2006

Publisher: UNEP

Place of publication: Arendal, Norway

Tags: Arctic biodiversity conservation marine environment transboundary governance

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