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The Role of CEP and SPAW

The role of the Caribbean Environment Programme and the Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW)

In 1981, the Governments of the Wider Caribbean region established the Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) to provide a mechanism whereby the diverse countries and territories of the region could collectively address the protection and development of their marine and coastal resources and it is intended to promote regional cooperation as one of 18 Regional Seas Programmes of the UN Environment. It is managed by the Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit (CAR/RCU) in Kingston, Jamaica, where the overall coordination of the Programme and implementation of the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (Cartagena Convention) occurs, as the CAR/RCU functions as its Secretariat.

The Cartagena Convention is a comprehensive, umbrella agreement and covers “the marine environment of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and the areas of the Atlantic Ocean adjacent thereto, south of 300 north latitude and within 200 nautical miles of the Atlantic coasts of the States” (Article 2). The WCR covered by the treaty comprises an area encompassing both island and continental countries and territories and therefore includes not only the states of the insular Caribbean but also most of Central America as well as the states of the northern coast of South America.

John Knowles, CLME+ Project

The marine and coastal environment of the WCR is a shared resource which contains some of the world’s most diverse and productive habitats, encompassing complex and unique ecosystems with endemic species. The ecological and oceanographic interconnectivity of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico is well documented; thus, cooperation and coordination among countries of the WCR are fundamental to the sustainable development of the region.

Aims of the SPAW Protocol
  • Significantly increase the number, and improve the management of protected areas in the Wider Caribbean region, including support to national and regional conservation management strategies and plans;
  • Support the conservation of threatened and endangered species and the sustainable use of natural resources to prevent them from becoming threatened or endangered;
  • Develop a strong regional capability for the coordination of information exchange, training and technical assistance, in support of national biodiversity conservation efforts; and
  • Coordinate activities with the relevant international biodiversity treaties and initiatives

The Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) is the only legally binding biodiversity treaty for the WCR, and the only region-wide environmental treaty that protects critical marine and coastal ecosystems, while promoting regional co-operation and sustainable development. The SPAW Protocol was designed and created by and for the governments of the WCR, and hence is relevant to regional issues and specific to local circumstances, particularly with regard to protected areas and wildlife as well as relevant global initiatives and multilateral environmental agreements.

As in the case of the other Protocols to the Cartagena Convention and following an institutional framework adopted within the Regional Seas Programmes, a Regional Activity Centre (RAC) provides day-to-day logistical and technical assistance to the SPAW Protocol and programme activities. The SPAW-RAC was established and operates in Guadeloupe since 2000, being generously funded by the Government of France. Expert advice is also provided from the Protocol’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) which meets regularly to assess, evaluate and guide Parties in achieving the goals of the Protocol. Other regional partner agencies, technical institutions and individuals provide further input, peer review, expertise and assistance to Contracting Parties as part of the Regional Activity Networks (RAN).