27 Apr 2022 | Series | S+50

Q & A with MEAs: The Mediterranean Action Plan

To mark five decades of the environmental movement with the Stockholm+50 international meeting, we are celebrating global collaboration on environmental challenges through this Q&A series with representatives of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). Here, Tatjana Hema, Coordinator of the Mediterranean Action Plan/Barcelona Convention Secretariat, reflects on the Stockholm Conference and its legacy from a Mediterranean perspective.


What do you see as the greatest legacy of the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment?

It was in the aftermath of the Stockholm Conference that the UNEP Regional Seas Programme was established. The Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) was the pioneer of the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans (RSCAPs) that have sprung from the Programme.

Picture of Tatyana Hema speaking at a conference

The inception of MAP in 1975 paved the way for the adoption of the Barcelona Convention one year later. The Convention has catalyzed regional action and served as a unique, advanced multilateral legal framework for the protection of the marine and coastal environment and the sustainable use of resources in the Mediterranean, fostering cooperation and solidarity among its 22 Contracting Parties.

What we do at MAP is translating global endeavors, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), into regional strategies and action plans backed by a robust normative platform. The MAP-Barcelona Convention system has often gone the extra mile and raised the bar, opting for innovative approaches and adopting stricter environmental common standards in the Mediterranean.

The RSCAPs were a game-changer in addressing global environmental and development challenges at levels where effective action can be undertaken. The MAP and the RSCAPs have not only soaked up the global agenda but also shaped it. By serving as forums for the development of regionally appropriate norms and as laboratories for technical solutions and policy instruments, RSCAPs have advanced the thinking on environmental issues.

We at MAP are proud that the first regional, legally binding framework addressing marine litter management was adopted in 2013 and upgraded in 2021, covering plastic and microplastic pollution in the Mediterranean. With our Contracting Parties, we will strive to strengthen its implementation in interaction with the historic UNEA-5 resolution on plastics.

The slogan of the 1972 conference was Only One Earth. We are using the same words as the hashtag for the Stockholm+50 meeting. What do these words mean to you?

That is indeed a powerful slogan. What is remarkable is that in 50 years it has not lost one bit of its relevance.

The COVID-19 pandemic that has shaken our world to the core demonstrated the interconnectedness of human existence and our shared responsibility to address global challenges, including environmental protection. Whether it is making vaccines available to all or steering clear of dangerous runaway climate scenarios, recognizing that we have “Only One Earth” and that “no one is safe until everyone is safe” holds the key to a better future for all.

Within the UNEP/MAP-Barcelona Convention system, the Contracting Parties recognize that there is “Only One Mediterranean”.

This is not a formal slogan, but the idea that the future of the region depends on the health of the basin as a whole permeates the Convention, its Protocols and everything UNEP/MAP does, including our new Medium-Term Strategy (MTS 2022-2027). The Strategy aims to achieve transformational change and contribute to halting environmental degradation that homegrown science in the Mediterranean has uncovered. It will bolster sustainability and push for a green recovery, while addressing transboundary marine and coastal environment issues relating to pollution, biodiversity and climate change.

If you could have one wish, what should be the legacy of Stockholm+50?

My wish is that Stockholm+50 will give new impetus to multilateralism and solidarity, strengthen the implementation of commitments and galvanize multi-stakeholder cooperation to address the triple planetary crisis. We can no longer afford to work in silos or compete for resources. At the national level, we need everyone to contribute, including the private sector which must be at the forefront of the collective endeavor for sustainability and resilience. The environment becoming the subject of all-of-government and all-of-society action is the Stockholm+50 legacy I wish to see in the coming years. It is time for implementation on the ground to deliver on commitments.


The Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) was established in 1975 as a multilateral environmental agreement in the context of the Regional Seas Programme of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). We are a platform for regional cooperation in protecting and enhancing the marine and coastal environment while promoting sustainable development in the Mediterranean region.