International cooperation on water resources and marine protection

Water resources protection

Finland’s International Water Strategy

Finnish Water Way - International Water Strategy, adopted in 2018, sets out the objectives of Finland’s international activities in water resources and marine management sectors to 2030. The mission of the strategy is to achieve responsible and equitable water security. The Ministry of the Environment implements the objectives of this cross-sectoral strategy in its own administrative branch. Read more about the Finnish Water Way strategy, including the annual Action Plans, on the website of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Cooperation on transboundary waters

The Water Convention of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) creates the framework for regional cooperation concerning transboundary waters. Today UN Members States that do not belong to the UNECE may also accede to the Convention.

The responsibility for the Protocol on Water and Health to the UNECE Water Convention rests with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is responsible for the UN Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses (New York Convention), which also lays down rules for cooperation on transboundary waters. The New York Convention and UNECE Water Convention complement each other.

Bilateral agreements

Finland shares several transboundary waters with Sweden, Norway and Russia. Cooperation on transboundary waters with the neighbouring countries is based on treaties between the states.

The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for the Agreement on the Finnish-Norwegian Transboundary Water Commission. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is responsible for the Finnish-Russian Agreement on the utilization of transboundary watercourses and the Agreement between Finland and Sweden Concerning Transboundary Rivers.

Water management cooperation in transboundary waters

Based on the EU Water Framework Directive, Finland has two international river basin management areas: the River Tornionjoki-River Muonionjoki watercourse with Sweden and watercourses discharging into the Arctic Ocean (Rivers Tenojoki, Näätämöjoki and Paatsjoki) with Norway.

Baltic Sea protection

The Baltic Sea Protection Commission HELCOM [K1] is a cooperation body that supervises the implementation of the Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area, signed by the Baltic Sea states and the EU. HELCOM is also tasked with managing the cooperation and coordination related to marine management in the Baltic Sea region. The international Secretariat of HELCOM is placed in Helsinki.

EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region

The aim of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region is that the EU legislation, policy programmes and funding would serve the development of the Baltic Sea region better than at present.

International cooperation on marine protection

UN cooperation on marine protection

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) creates the legal and regulatory framework for all operations targeting seas and oceans. In Finland the responsibility for the marine and maritime law rests with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Under the UNCLOS negotiations are currently under way concerning an implementation instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ).

Goal 14 of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development concerns the conservation and sustainable use of the marine environment. The UN organises conferences to promote this goal about every two years.

The main themes of the programme of work on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) include integrated marine and coastal area management, marine and coastal living resources, marine and coastal protected areas, mariculture, and alien species and genotypes.

To protect the biodiversity of marine ecosystems, criteria have been established under the CBD that enable to identify ecologically or biologically significant marine areas in both open-ocean waters and national marine areas.

The Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas was concluded under the auspices of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn Convention).

Arctic cooperation on marine protection

The Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Working Group (PAME) is a cooperation forum where the eight Member States of the Arctic Council and Permanent Representatives of Arctic indigenous groups work together to promote marine protection, shipping that takes the marine environment into account, sustainable use of natural resources, ecosystem approach, and preparation and implementation of a regional action plan on marine litter.

Under the Arctic Council, marine protection issues are also included in the joint discussions between the Senior Arctic Officials and experts in marine affairs. In Finland the work of the Senior Arctic Officials is led by the Ambassador for Arctic Affairs placed in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Other international cooperation on marine protection

Finland is active in the international cooperation under the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) on both political and expert level that aims to find solutions to the global problems caused by marine litter and microplastics. Solutions to the plastic problem are also sought through collaborative efforts in the Nordic Council of Ministers.

The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) is the cooperation forum for marine research. ICES gives recommendations concerning the sustainable use and management of marine natural resources.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is responsible for the global regulation of shipping.

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) is the key instrument that regulates environmental protection in shipping. In Finland the responsibility for environmental affairs in shipping rests with the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

The Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (London Convention) and its Protocol regulate dumping into the sea. As an exception to other IMO Conventions, the Ministry of the Environment is responsible for the work under the London Convention and its Protocol.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) implements the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling that aims at the conservation of whales and orderly development of the whaling industry.