ICZM Protocol

The ICZM Protocol was signed in Madrid, on 21 January 2008. This concluded a six-year endeavour of MAP, and in particular of PAP/RAC in that direction - an enormous task that will mark the following decades in the field of coastal zone management in the Mediterranean and on the globe. Besides, the signed Protocol opened a new page in the formal process of its ratification and activities for PAP/RAC as a responsible RAC to assist countries in the implementation of the Protocol's provisions.

Following the ratification by six countries, on 24 March 2011, the Protocol entered into force. To date, ten countries and the EU have ratified it.

On the occasion of the CoP 17, held in Paris from 8 to 10 February 2012, the Action Plan for the implementation of the Protocol 2012-2019 was adopted by the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention.

The CoP 18 (Istanbul, 3 to 6 December 2013) adopted the institutional and legal sections of the Reporting Format for the ICZM Protocol. The Parties are convinced that this Protocol represents a crucial step in the history of MAP. It will allow the countries to better manage their coastal zones, as well as to deal with the emerging coastal environmental challenges, such as the climate change.

As Marine Spatial Planning became increasingly recognized as the best tool to implement the ICZM Protocol in the marine part of the coastal zone,  the COP 20 adopted in Tirana in 2017 the "Conceptual Framework for Marine Spatial Planning". 

Finally, the COP 21, which was held in Naples on the 5th of December 2019, adopted the document entitled “Common Regional Framework for Integrated Coastal Zone Management” which is to be considered as the strategic instrument meant to facilitate the implementation of the ICZM Protocol from 2020 up to 2027.

Why this new legal instrument?

The significance of the coastal zones is widely recognised, as well as the need to reinforce their protection since pressures are becoming more and more intense: population growth, urban sprawl, concentration of economic activities including industrial development, expanding tourism and transportation infrastructure.

Since the revision of the Barcelona Convention (BC) in 1995, coastal zones are at the heart of the policies put forward by the Contracting Parties (CPs). These policies have been translated into many guidelines, recommendations, action plans, and white papers, which are in fact only “soft” laws, not binding for the States. At a certain point it became obvious that no real progress would be achieved in the field with ICZM recommendations or guidelines alone, since these would only be repetitions of what already exists, close to stagnation or regression, highlighting once again the lack of effectiveness and implementation of adopted documents. To that end, the only truly efficient step forward was the adoption of a legally binding regional instrument as an innovation in international law and a completely novel legal instrument for international cooperation carrying obvious political weight for the Mediterranean and serving as a model for other regional seas.

Milestones and the process in short

12th Ordinary Meeting of the CPs (COP 12, Monaco, November 2001) recognised the need to take further steps for a more effective management of coastal zones and recommended to prepare a Feasibility Study (FS) of a regional legal instrument on sustainable coastal management.

Feasibility Study: An expert group led by PAPRAC prepared in 2002-2003 the Feasibility Study. The FS demonstrated the need for a regional legally binding instrument that would be more efficient than a soft low, justified from both environmental and legal point of view, i.e. the alarming state of coastal areas and the drawbacks of status quo. Three options of the Protocol were considered: A - Option of a Protocol with general content; B - Option of a Protocol with detailed content; and C - Option of an Intermediate Protocol. Option C was proposed as a conclusion of the FS to CPs in 2003 i.e. a “combination” to be agreed by consensus through the consultation process.

13th Ordinary Meeting of the CPs (COP13, Catania, Italy, November 2003) recommended to prepare the Protocol and entrusted PAP/RAC with this task.

Consultation process:

  • Regional Forum in Cagliari, Italy, on 28-29 May 2004: guidelines agreed for the preparation of the text including the establishment of an Expert Working Group;
  • Three meetings of the Expert Working Group held: Split, Croatia, 1-2 October 2004; Athens, Greece, 4-5 January 2005; Paris, France, 17-18 February 2005;
  • Consultative workshop held in Oristano, Italy, on 24-25 June 2005;
  • Draft text presented to the MAP Focal Points (Athens, Greece, September 2005);
  • Draft Protocol with Commentary presented to CPs (Portoroz, Slovenia, November 2005).

14th Ordinary Meeting of the CPs (COP 14, Portoroz, Slovenia, 2005) decided to:

  • take note of the draft text of the Protocol on ICZM prepared by the Secretariat;
  • establish a Working Group (WG) of governmentally designated experts to develop a draft text of the Protocol on ICZM with a view to its consideration and possible approval by the 15th Meeting of the CPs in 2007 and to convene a diplomatic conference for its adoption to be held immediately after.

WG designated in April 2006 met five times:

  • First Meeting of the WG on ICZM Protocol (Split, Croatia, 27-29 April 2006);
  • Second Meeting of the WG on ICZM Protocol (Loutraki, Greece, 6-9 September 2006);
  • Third meeting of the WG on ICZM Protocol (Loutraki, Greece, 12-15 February 2007);
  • Fourth Meeting of the WG on ICZM Protocol (Split, Croatia, 13-16 June 2007);
  • Fifth Meeting of the WG on ICZM Protocol (Loutraki, Greece, 10-11 December 2007).

ICZM Protocol signed in Madrid…

At the Conference of the Plenipotentiaries on the ICZM Protocol that took place in Madrid, Spain, on 20-21 January 2008 under the presidency of the Minister of Environment of Spain, H.E. Ms. Cristina Narbona Ruiz, the ICZM Protocol was signed by fifteen CPs: Algeria, Croatia, European Union, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Slovenia, Spain, Syria and Tunisia. All the Parties were convinced that this Protocol was a crucial milestone in the history of MAP that would allow them to better manage their coastal zones, as well as to deal with the emerging coastal environmental challenges, such as the climate change.

The ICZM Protocol is a unique legal instrument in the entire international community and the Mediterranean countries are proud of this fact. They are willing to share these experiences with other coastal countries of the world.

…and entered into force!

Syria entered the history of the ICZM Protocol for being the sixth and "enter-into-force" country that ratified the ICZM Protocol. Namely, the President of the Syrian Arab Republic issued a Legislative Decree No. 85 dated 31 September 2010 for the ratification of the ICZM Protocol. On 24 March 2011, the Protocol entered into force, one month after Syria deposited the instrument of ratification to Spain in its role of the depositary country.

Action Plan for the implementation of the ICZM Protocol 2012-2019

The Action Plan (AP) for the implementation of the ICZM Protocol 2012-2019 was adopted on the occasion of the COP17, held in Paris, France, on 8-10 February 2012. The core purposes and objectives of this AP were to implement the Protocol based on country-based planning and regional co-ordination, namely:

- Support the effective implementation of the ICZM Protocol at regional, national and local levels including through a Common Regional Framework for ICZM;

- Strengthen the capacities of Contracting Parties to implement the Protocol and use in an effective manner ICZM policies, instruments, tools and processes; and

- Promote the ICZM Protocol and its implementation within the region, and promote it globally by developing synergies with relevant Conventions and Agreements.

Individual tasks included in the Action Plan have been structured according to the three objectives above. These reflected the nature and scope of the AP, which is not meant to be prescriptive but to respond to the needs of different administrative situations across the region.

Common regional framework for ICZM

The “Common Regional Framework (CRF) for ICZM” was adopted by  the COP 21 in Naples on the 5th of December 2019 by the decision IG.24/5. This document is to be considered as the strategic instrument meant to facilitate the implementation of the ICZM Protocol.

Its objectives are to:

a) Use the ecosystem-based management to ensure sustainable development and integrity of the coastal zone, its ecosystems and related services and landscapes;

b) Address natural hazards and the effects of natural disasters, in particular coastal erosion and climate change; and

c) Achieve good governance among actors involved in and/or related to coastal zones.

The CRF introduces Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) as the main tool/process for the implementation of ICZM in the marine part of the coastal zone, and specifically for its sustainable planning and management. The "Conceptual framework for the MSP" has already been adopted by the CPs at its COP 19 (Tirana, 17-20 December 2017) by the decision IG.23/7.

It includes an action plan (AP) from 2020 up to 2027, which has been designed to provide concrete support and guidance for joint implementation of the ICZM Protocol through the CRF. The AP defines the main outputs to be delivered, associated with estimated costs, key actors and corresponding progress indicators.

2008 Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Protocol
Contracting Parties
Entered into force
Bosnia and Herzegovina
European Union
29.11.2022/R 29.11.2022

Adhesion = AD
Approval = AP
Ratification = R

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