National Programmes of Action
The focus of the National Programme of Action (NPAs) is generally to address one or ore of the relevant source categories of sewage, persistent organic pollutants, radioactive substances, heavy metals, oils (hydrocarbons), nutrients, sediment mobilization, litter, and the physical alteration and destruction of habitat. By enabling short and long-term prioritisation together with reviewing and updating, a country’s NPA becomes a cyclical process that enables stakeholders to progressively identify and address threats and impacts to marine and coastal environments.
NPAs provide the framework to implement concrete projects or action that mobilise both stakeholders and resources through building on existing information and programmes. This in turn should feed into mainstreaming efforts targeting the relevant institutional, budgetary and policy frameworks. This is done by NPA actions highlighting economic returns and the contribution to livelihoods/social well being that an improved marine & coastal environment can offer. Identifying entry points into planning and policy processes and trying to then integrate measures that will enhance the policy/planning safeguards helps to ensure that marine/coastal resources contribute to environmental sustainability.
The NPA Framework
The selection of an appropriate approach for a NPA process must respond to specific national circumstances and priorities. Each country is advised to explore different options. It is recommended to use a logical framework when designing the NPA process so that activities are not undertaken in an ad hoc manner. This will facilitate a continued development of the programme over the medium and long term. Moreover, it makes a NPA process more transparent and accessible to the many and diverse stakeholders and end-users. The NPA Guide identifies basic elements and tools that can facilitate and strengthen procedures for action within a country. It does not attempt to detail the potential content of a NPA programme.
A logical framework provides an overall umbrella for the entire NPA process and a circle has been chosen to depict it graphically. Five interlinked steps are recommended, each involving specific tasks. A cyclical approach should best be followed, where steps are evaluated at regular intervals, and, if needed, adjusted. Such an iterative approach, building upon lessons learnt in earlier stages, will gradually improve a NPA process, and eventually the state of the coastal and marine environment.
Developing realistic NPA action
Step 1 - Initial preparations
Step 2 - Identification of problems, constraints & opportunities
Step 3 - Formulating of realistic strategies and action
Towards successful NPA implementation
Step 4 - Kick-off national measures and on the ground activities
Step 5 – Monitoring, evaluation and revision
As mentioned before, the needs and priorities of countries vary greatly, and the information provided here can be used in accordance with each country’s circumstances. Whichever a countries’ situation, it is important to realize up front that a NPA process should not try to re-invent the wheel, it should above all build upon existing programmes, assessments and research.
There are three possible paths for a NPA process: a short, an intermediate and a full NPA path: A flexible umbrella framework makes it easier for all stakeholders to determine the viability and sustainability of proposed or ongoing projects, measures, policies or initiatives;
The short NPA path
Care for the coastal and marine environment is fully integrated in ongoing strategies, programmes and activities to achieve sustainable development. For this reason no separate NPA process is started. The only specific action needed is to produce a short paper explaining the mechanisms through which NPA relevant activities are dealt with in the country, and to continue monitoring the situation to make sure coastal and marine environments remain part of the existing mechanisms. In this case the NPA cycle is very short, going from Step 2 directly to Step 5.
The intermediate NPA path
A country already has operational mechanisms through which it is trying to achieve more sustainable development, but the coastal and marine environment is not always sufficiently incorporated. Sometimes the capacity and speed at which activities take place ask for specific NPA action. Emphasis would in this case be on networking to ensure that existing mechanisms incorporate action to direct land-based activities towards protection of the coastal and marine environment. In this case a country would go through the entire NPA cycle, but focus on adding components and funds to existing mechanisms, following the intermediate NPA path.
The full NPA path
There are not enough mechanisms in operation to ensure that the coastal and marine environment is sufficiently protected from land-based activities. In this situation the country may wish to start a fully-fledged NPA process. It would go through the entire (periodically repeated) NPA cycle in all its detail, making sure that steps are taken in close cooperation with relevant existing institutions and processes. This is the path that is being followed by most countries.
Benefits of a flexible tailor-made umbrella framework:
- It is an effective tool for the development of a concrete, cost effective and targeted programme pipeline, strengthening the potential for mobilisation of donors and investors;
- A comprehensive structure makes it simpler to incorporate environmental considerations into sectoral, national and regional development plans;
- Linkages with other programmes and gaps are more readily identified, thus avoiding duplication or fragmentation of work;
- Management needs that are usually not prioritized, such as capacity-building, legislation, and institutional strengthening, can be identified;
- A “national programme pipeline” can be established, to which new projects can be added as impacts are progressively identified and characterized and corresponding projects designed;
- Priority setting of action can be facilitated when based on agreed financial plans for activities that are identified in such a programme pipeline
On-going projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Vietnam
With support from the Government of Belgium, in 2009, UNEP launched a project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and in Vietnam. These projects will help both countries to develop National Programmes of Action (NPAs) by identifying priority issues and problems; increasing awareness on the value of marine and coastal environments to economic growth and poverty reduction; mobilising resources and partners to address sources of land-based marine & coastal pollution; and enhancing environmental, financial, institutional, legislative and regulatory frameworks to better protect the marine and coastal environment from land-based activities.
More information and guidance on NPAs and mainstreaming:
Visit our handbook on developing National Programmes of Action: UNEP Handbook on the Development and Implementation of a National Programme of Action for the Protec
And see our publication on mainstreaming marine & coastal issues into development planning: Making Mainstreaming Work