For more than four decades, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has fostered regional cooperation on behalf of the marine and coastal environment. It has accomplished the cooperation by stimulating the creation of 'Action Plans'- prescriptions for sound environmental management- for each region. Now, there are more than 140 countries participating in 13 Regional Seas Programme established under UNEP auspices.

The Action Plan for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Northwest Pacific Region (NOWPAP) is one of the 'Action Plans'. It was adopted at the First Intergovernmental Meeting (IGM) (Seoul, Republic of Korea, September 1994), attended by People's Republic of China, Japan, Republic of Korea and Russian Federation. The activities agreed upon as part of implementation of NOWPAP are financed principally by contributions from the NOWPAP member states to the NOWPAP Trust Fund.

The overall goal of the NOWPAP is "the wise use, development and management of the marine and coastal environment so as to obtain the utmost long-term benefits for the human populations of the region, while protecting human health, ecological integrity and the region's sustainability for future generations".

NOWPAP member states have been working to achieve the goals of NOWPAP under the establishment of four Regional Activity Centres (RACs). NOWPAP's Regional Coordinating Unit (RCU), co-hosted by Japan and the Republic of Korea, is in charge of the coordination of all activities undertaken by the RACs.

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