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MEPIELAN Centre participates in the 21st Meeting of the MCSD Steering Committee Teleconference, 13-14 May 2020

MEPIELAN Centre, as a newly nominated member and represented by its Director, Professor Evangelos Raftopoulos, participated in the 21th Meeting of the MCSD Steering  Committee held held on 13-14 May 2020 through teleconference. This was the first meeting of the Committee after the 21st Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention (COP 21) (Naples, Italy, 2-5 December 2019) and all 40 members of the Committee were represented.

At the opening of the Meeting, Mr. Gaetano Leone, Coordinator, UNEP/MAP – Barcelona Convention Secretariat, stressed that “the Commission and its Steering Committee have a crucial role to play as we move, hopefully soon, to a post COVID-19 era with courage and innovation” and he “ invited the participants to brainstorm together, based on their strong experiences, partnerships and cooperation, on how the UNEP/MAP – Barcelona Convention system can help to respond to the huge environmental and socioeconomic challenges our Mediterranean region faces in that unpredictable context”.

Discussing the work of the MCSD and MSSD implementation and reviewing its progress, the Members of the MCSD Steering Committee provided comments and reported on their own activities that contributed to the implementation and follow-up of the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development (MSSD). In this context, MEPIELAN updated the meeting participants on its actions in four interrelated directions: 1. Participation in UNEP/MAP important events and meetings, and membership in several bodies such as the MCSD, its Steering Committee and the Compliance Committee through its Director; 2. Communication with a new website reflecting the work of the MCSD and the Barcelona Convention system; 3. Contribution to capacity building by developing the capacity to negotiate creatively for common interest and organize  stakeholder participatory dialogue at all levels, and by developing  the Public Trust Approach and innovative concepts to address legal gaps in sustainable governance , implementation and compliance, making reference to two specific flagship initiatives under the MSSD Objective 6 Governance; 4. Education on environmental law and governance for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea and coast through specific undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the Panteion University in Athens, Greece. The MCSD Steering Committee expressed its appreciation for the work done and its satisfaction for the efforts and results achieved.

Embarking on specific issues, the MCSD Steering Committee discussed the Mid-Term Evaluation of the MSSD and MEPIELAN recommended considering citizen science, participatory knowledge production, and transdisciplinary, putting all knowledge sources on an equal footing. The Committee expressed support to the participatory process of the MSSD mid-term evaluation and recommended to consult widely MCSD Members, UNEP/MAP Partners, UNEP/MAP Components, and other stakeholders remotely and, if possible, through face-to-face meetings, focusing in priority on the regional dimension. The Committee also expressed the need to engage stakeholders in the gap analysis through a well-structured process, supporting the participatory forms of knowledge production. 

Considering the four MSSD Flagship Initiatives, the MCSD Steering Committee discussed the Mediterranean Green Business Award stressing the importance of emphasizing the application of environmental and governance-effective criteria and of including one Member of the MCSD in the jury of the award.  The Committee supported the launching of the MSSD Flagship Initiative on Regional Assessments and Knowledge Exchanges of High- and Low-Tech Solutions Successfully Implemented to Achieve Waste Reduction, within the already agreed support to the UfM and the UNEP/MAP – Barcelona Convention, recommending the concentration of efforts on the preparation of a regional assessment report on the best available practices and their further uses on waste prevention and management in the Mediterranean. Welcoming the presentation provided by MIO-ECSDE and following the points raised by MEPIELAN,  the Committee further supported  the launching the MSSD Flagship Initiative on Environmental Governance to encourage the accession to and implementation of the Aarhus Convention in the Mediterranean countries, encouraged MIO-ECSDE and the Secretariat to proceed with the organization of a regional WES capacity building workshop in support of the MSSD Flagship Initiative, in close cooperation with the UNECE-Aarhus Convention Secretariat and MEPIELAN, and acknowledged that MIO-ECSDE and MEPIELAN will embark on the development, facilitated by the Secretariat, of the legal and governance dimensions of this MSSD Flagship Initiative. 

Regarding Assessment Studies, a consultation meeting was held on the First Mediterranean Assessment Report (MAR1) of Mediterranean Experts on Climate and Environmental Changes (MedECC), where MEPIELAN encouraged MedECC to mobilize stakeholders’ knowledge and citizen science and promote the experts navigating the science-policy-society interface requiring continuous consideration of how is the problem framed and what values are at stake. The MCSD Steering Committee, acknowledging the importance of Science – Policy – Society Interface, welcomed the inclusive process being undertaken to consult the scientific community, government representatives, policymakers and stakeholders on the findings of this important assessment study. It also recommended to further work for outreach and dissemination purposes, in a more communicative manner for both decision-makers and citizens, supporting awareness of the public and policy-making processes at regional, national and local levels. The Committee also underlined the importance of the 2019 Report on the State of the Environment and Development in the Mediterranean (SoED 2019), encouraged the Secretariat to implement it with all UNEP/MAP Components, involving MCSD Members and UNEP/MAP Partners and, following the points raised by MEPIELAN, invited the Secretariat to consider specific targets such as for instance the youth and student community; Parliamentarians; civil society organizations (including labor unions, faith-based organizations, and professional association

The MCSD Steering Committee encouraged the Secretariat to proceed with the Integration of Sustainable Consumption and Production Indicators into the Mediterranean Sustainability Dashboard and further explore data availability at the national level and to ensure continued alignment of the lists of indicators with international processes. Members of the Committee invited the Secretariat to engage in a reflection with them on how the dashboard respond to the COVID-19 crisis, to evaluate the inclusion of legal indicators and make a proposal for the consideration of the MCSD Steering Committee. MEPIELAN highlighted the need to include legal indicators on environmental regulations in the dashboard to better cover the MSSD Objective 6 Governance. The development of such legal indicators addressing both levels, national and international, and used together with non-legal indicators,   would allow to measure the gap between international obligations and actual implementation in the Mediterranean countries and assess  their effectiveness, thus  increasing the visibility and legitimacy of environmental law.

Finally, the MCSD Steering Committee, in a discussion guided by the Coordinator, expressed their initial consideration on the impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on the Sustainable Development of the Mediterranean Region and Possible Responses. MEPIELAN stated that three key words should steer the work of the Committee for contributing to preparation of the post-Coronavirus period: Interconnection, Stewardship, and Participation. Interconnection between health, environment and poverty considering the relevance of the ICZM and Biological Diversity Protocols in that regard. Stewardship to implement environmental obligations in a sustainable and equitable way for the current and future generations, operating as a fiduciary governance in an integrated manner and pointing out the relevance of the Public Trust Approach for dealing with sustainable development with more effective public participation. Participation to give more power to the public to engage in environmental governance,  informed by scientific evidence, considering as central the accountability of the State towards resilience, i.e. building back better by considering long terms environmental concerns for human well-being. The Committee considered the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs as guiding roadmaps for the regional cooperation and stressed the importance of considering in a balanced way the three components of sustainable development when addressing the impacts of and possible responses to the Coronavirus crisis in our Mediterranean region, and highlighted the fact that the current crisis should be considered as an opportunity and a challenge for recovering towards a green and circular economy, and moving towards more sustainable consumption and production patterns in the Mediterranean region. In that regard, “green renaissance” or “building back better”, as well as resilient behavioral changes, collective efforts and commitment, including the public trust approach, are of paramount importance to not going back on “business as usual”. 

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