Monika Stankiewicz, HELCOM Executive Secretary, addressing the UNEA-4 assembly

HELCOM participated in the Fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) that took place in Nairobi, Kenya from 11 to 15 March 2019, where it particularly contributed in advancing the debate on marine litter, microplastics and ocean-literacy.

UNEA-4 saw the launch of the UN guidelines for monitoring marine litter and microplastics by GESAMP, a group of scientific experts that provides advice to the UN on marine environmental protection. Staff from the HELCOM Secretariat were involved in the development of the guidelines which contain several references to HELCOM work on marine litter.

At UNEA-4's Regional seas round table, HELCOM also shared its experiences on drafting and implementing the Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter. During the event, focus was also placed on single use plastic items, as well as the need to address, together with the fishing sector, the issue of lost, abandoned, discarded or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG).


Monika Stankiewicz, HELCOM Executive Secretary (1st from left) with Peter Thomson, UN Secretary General Special Envoy for the Ocean (3rd from left), Lisa Emelia Svensson, Global Director of Ocean at UN Environment (4th from left), Takehiro Nakamura from UN Environment (3rd from right), Marta Ruiz from HELCOM (1st from right) and other delegates attending UNEA-4.

UNEA is the world's highest-level environmental forum attended by Heads of State, environment ministers, CEOs of multinational companies, NGOs, environmental activists, and more, to discuss and make global commitments to environmental protection.

"HELCOM, like its [regional seas] sister organizations around the world, are a bridge between the global commitments and the national action in each of the regional seas we manage," said Monika Stankiewicz in her statement at UNEA-4. "Our cooperation under UN Environment and its Regional Seas Programme creates a unique opportunity to advance the implementation of the global commitments."

Indeed, HELCOM is currently updating its strategic programme for a healthy Baltic Sea, the Baltic Sea Action Plan, closely integrating the ocean and sea related SDGs, the Aichi targets on biodiversity, and the objectives of the European Union's directive on marine protection.

Under the twin theme of "Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production", UNEA-4 took a critical look at our consumption patterns.

"For all the progress inspired by the Global Goals, one barrier impedes them all: the choices we make in our everyday lives continue to fuel consumption and production habits that are increasingly extending beyond the limits of our planet," said H.E. Siim Kiisler, President of the 2019 UN Environment Assembly and current Minister of the Environment of Estonia. The country is a contracting party to the Helsinki Convention and HELCOM.

The sixth Global Environment Outlook, UN Environment's flagship report on the overall state of our environment and how it affects our social and economic status, was also presented to the public during UNEA-4.