Tehran Convention COP5: a milestone in Caspian cooperation

Caspian States adopt Biodiversity Protocol and establish Convention Secretariat in the region

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan – 30 May 2014: From 28 to 30 May, ministers of environment and other high-level government officials of the five Caspian States met in Ashgabat for the fifth Conference of the Parties (COP5) to the Tehran Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea. They took major decisions towards ensuring a sustainable future for the Caspian Sea.

Countries unanimously adopted the Biodiversity Protocol, and two of them have already signed it. The Protocol is an international treaty that obliges the Parties to work together and guides them in the conservation and restoration of the unique Caspian habitats and species such as the celebrated sturgeon and the Caspian seal.

This is the third in a series of Protocols to the Convention. The first two were concluded and signed in 2011 and 2012: the “Aktau” Protocol on regional cooperation in addressing oil spills, and the “Moscow” Protocol on the protection of the Caspian Sea against land-based sources of pollution. The Protocols underline the countries’ commitment to cooperating and taking action against the environmental threats facing that Sea.

In recent decades, rapidly growing oil and gas activities, industrial and agricultural pollution, overexploitation of biological resources, and destruction of endemic species’ natural habitats have jeopardized the health and environmental balance of the Caspian Sea’s fragile ecosystem. The 2003 Tehran Convention—signed by Azerbaijan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan—was a historic breakthrough to halt environmental degradation in the Caspian Sea and to preserve one of the world’s most precious ecosystems.

As the first legally binding agreement between these five countries, this Convention illustrates how only through cooperating with each other can these countries effectively protect the marine environment and with it the livelihoods, health, and well-being of present and future generations.

At today’s COP5, the ministers also agreed to establish a permanent Secretariat of the Convention, under the administration of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The Secretariat, which since 2003 has been administered ad interim by the UNEP Regional Office for Europe in Geneva, will from 2015 operate in the Caspian Sea region, following a rotation system of the Parties. Azerbaijan will be the first host country, and the Secretariat will be based in the capital, Baku, where the sixth Conference of the Parties will also take place.

UNEP’s Executive Director Achim Steiner delivered a video message of support to this week’s Ashgabat meeting, thanking the Parties for placing their trust in UNEP to administer the Convention Secretariat. He ensured the continued commitment of the United Nations to international cooperation for a better and sustainable future of the Caspian Sea.

See online : UNEP News

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