The Regional Seas Programme was initiated in 1974 as a global programme implemented through regional components. Agenda 21, the UN General Assembly of the Governing Council of UNEP endorsed the Regional approach. The programme at present includes thirteen regions involving more than 140 coastal States and Territories.
The Regional Seas Programme is an action-oriented programme and focuses not only on the mitigation or elimination of the consequences but also on the causes of environmental degradation. It has a comprehensive, integrated, result oriented approach to combating environmental problems through the rational management of marine and coastal areas.
Each regional action plan is formulated according to the needs of the region as perceived by the Governments concerned. It is designed to link assessment of the quality of the marine environment and the causes of its deterioration with activities for the management and development of the marine and coastal environment. The action plans promote the parallel development of regional legal agreements and of action-oriented programme activities.
The programme is under the overall coordination of the Water Branch of UNEP but its success critically depends on the work of specialized organization and centers dealing with specific regions covered by the programme or with specific subjects common to most or all of the regions.