For more than three 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.  Five partner programmes are also members of the Regional Seas Programme.

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' which 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 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 hard to achieve the goals of NOWPAP under the establishment of four Regional Activity Centres (RACs). The role of each RAC increased following the decision by the Seventh IGM (Vladivostok, Russian Federation, March 2002), where the countries agreed that NOWPAP needs a structural evolution towards a RAC-based rather than an Activity-based structure. The RACs present their progresses on implementation of their designated activities to the IGM. The IGM reviews and approves workplans and budgets of each RAC.

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.

The activities agreed upon as part of implementation of NOWPAP are financed principally by contributions from the member states to the NOWPAP Trust Fund.

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