GPA Online Dialogue

Our Expanding Urban Coast: A Threat to the Marine Environment and Human Health

Close to 50% of the world's population lives within 100 km of the coast; the trend towards coastal urbanization continues to grow. The health, well-being and, in some cases, very survival of coastal populations depends upon the health, and maintenance of coastal ecosystems. Yet, coastal urbanisation has a significant direct and indirect effect on the marine environment.


On 19-30 June, Stakeholder Forum, in collaboration with UNEP/GPA, hosted on online dialogue on the theme of Our Expanding Urban Coast: A Threat to the Marine Environment and Human Health. The online dialogue aimed to explore the links between the marine environment, coastal urbanization and Physical Alteration and Destruction of Habitat, Integrated Management Approaches, and Nutrients, with a view to developing recommendations on processes and policies to address these issues at the global, regional, and national level, the role of Global Programme of Action (GPA) in addressing these issues, and the potential role of various stakeholders.


Summary of Discussion

The outcomes of the dialogue will input into the Second Intergovernmental Review Meeting (IGR-2) of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA), to be held in Beijing, China, on 16-20 October 2006.

Background Information, including Key Questions for Discussion and Background Documents


Physical Alteration and Destruction of Habitats

With the rise of coastal urbanization, increasingly heavy demands will be placed on natural resources and habitats, which can result in the Physical Alteration and Destruction of Habitats. Unless corrective measures are taken, environmental degradation and over-exploitation will erode marine and coastal biological diversity, undermine productivity, and intensify conflicts over the increasingly scarce coastal resources.  Key Questions for discussion:


  • What policy instruments need to be put in place to ensure adequate safeguards against alterations and destruction of coastal resources and habitats?
  • Since many habitat modifications arise from initiatives lead by private sector institutions, such as ports and harbours, aquaculture and tourism, what role would there be for private sector to contribute to the safeguarding against alterations and destruction of coastal resources and habitats?

Background Paper on Physical Alteration and Destruction of Habitat


Integrated Management Approaches

Integrated Coastal Management approaches encourage the coordination of local and national strategic plans. The aim of planning is to guide decision makers in allocating resources amongst competing interests. Without planning, coastal areas, which have historically supported thriving populations, may no long be able to do so. Key questions for discussion:


  • What role is there for different stakeholders in supporting integrated management approaches?
  • What role can GPA play in enhancing integrated management approaches?
  • How can the mainstreaming of the GPA be furthered at the global, regional and national levels?
  • What best practice, regarding the integrated approach at the policy or project level, can be shared with delegates at IGR-2?

Background Paper on Integrated Management Approaches 



Throughout the world, excess nutrients from agricultural runoff and sewage over fertilize ocean and coastal areas, leading to the creation of numerous ‘dead zones’ where virtually no life can exist. The number of known ‘dead zones’ has doubled since 1990 and is increasing as a result of accelerating urbanization and intensified agricultural-related activities. The IGR-2 will explore the necessity of proposing action at the international, regional and national policy level to address Nutrients.  As a contribution to this discussion, participants to the online dialogue may wish to consider the following questions:


  • How could the Programme of Work for the GPA be strengthened to address a global policy framework for Nutrients?
  • Which global and regional organisations and mechanisms could be strengthened to address the problem of nutrients?
  • What types of international cooperation and partnerships could be established to address the problems of nutrients?

Background Paper on Nutrients