UNEP Shares Findings on Coral Reef Management Ahead of UNEA-4
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The report summarizes findings from an analysis of global and regional policy instruments and governance mechanisms related to the protection and sustainable management of coral reefs.

Key challenges identified through the analysis include coordination, financing and enforcement.

The report identifies four possible policy pathways through which international policy responses could help States address locally generated drivers of reef loss and enhance coral reef resilience to climate change.

8 February 2019: In advance of the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has released a report that analyzes instruments and mechanisms related to coral reefs management. The report provides recommendations for possible policy pathways and suggested actions.

The report titled, ‘Progress in the Implementation of Resolution 2/21 on Sustainable Coral Reefs Management’ (UNEP/EA.4/23), summarizes findings from an analysis of global and regional policy instruments and governance mechanisms related to the protection and sustainable management of coral reefs. The analysis encompasses 232 binding and non-binding policy instruments that directly or indirectly support the conservation and sustainable management of coral reef ecosystems and/or address anthropogenic drivers of change in these ecosystems. The report finds that, while there is a “vast” breadth of international coral reef-related policy, policy commitments tend to be “quite general and largely voluntary.”

Key challenges identified through the analysis include coordination, financing and enforcement. According to the report, few mechanisms are designated or established to promote coordination, despite the fact that the transboundary nature of coral reefs requires policy coherence and coordination among global, regional and national efforts to be effective. Only 25 percent of instruments mention financing provisions and mechanisms, most of which are related to climate change, and most policy instruments are not linked to financial mechanisms to help support associated costs, presenting a particular challenge for lower-income States. Further, only 13 percent of reef-related policy commitments reference enforcement mechanisms.

The report recommends a new financing mechanism for coral reef ecosystems to accelerate progress towards international targets.

The report identifies four possible policy pathways through which international policy responses could help States address locally generated drivers of reef loss, such as pollution and overfishing, and enhance coral reef resilience to climate change.

  • First, the report suggests maintaining the status quo for reef-related policy while accelerating implementation. States could address drivers of coral reef ecosystem degradation, including through assessments of national policies, identification of gaps, development of integrated plans and allocation of adequate resources.
  • Second, the report proposes revising the current policy framework to strengthen commitments and enhance mechanisms and incentives for implementing these commitments as well as strengthening the mandate of relevant international organizations. For example, States could encourage ratification of relevant binding policy instruments and amendments of regional seas conventions and action plans to strengthen coral reef-related policies.
  • Third, the report recommends that States consider introducing new international policy instruments and/or governance mechanisms, such as a new policy instruments focused on coral reefs that could potentially be nested under an existing or emerging agreement like the post-2020 biodiversity framework.
  • Fourth, the report observes that a small number of countries possess a significant proportion of the world’s coral reefs, and recommends focusing on helping these States.

Although these potential pathways are distinct, the report argues they are not mutually exclusive. The report stresses that addressing human and financial capacity challenges is critical, regardless of which policy pathway States pursue.

Among recommendations and suggested actions, the report proposes that member States consider establishing, through UNEA, a process for identifying and analyzing policy and governance options, such as through a working group composed of member States and major groups and other stakeholders. The working group could identify possible options and their feasibility and effectiveness as well as possible barriers.

The report further recommends, inter alia: development of a new financing mechanism specifically for coral reef ecosystems to accelerate progress towards international targets and commitments; and participation in the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network and application of indicators and best practices identified through that process, including monitoring coral reef status and tracking progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and preparation of a global report on the issues in 2020, with follow up reports in 2025 and 2030. Recommendations for action are also contained in the ‘Analysis of Global and Regional Policy Instruments and Governance Mechanisms Related to the Protection and Sustainable Management of Coral Reefs’ (UNEP/EA.4/INF.6).

UNEP prepared the report in cooperation with the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) and Duke University, US. An advisory committee composed of 23 experts nominated by 14 member States provided guidance and support during the report’s preparation.

UNEA-4 will convene under the theme, ‘Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production,’ from 11-15 March 2019, in Nairobi, Kenya. [Progress in the Implementation of Resolution 2/12 on Sustainable Coral Reefs Management] [Analysis of Global and Regional Policy Instruments and Governance Mechanisms Related to the Protection and Sustainable Management of Coral Reefs]


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