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The UNEP/MAP - SPA/RAC and the Ministry of Environment and Energy Security of Italy (MASE) are launching the SPAMI Twinning Programme "Ensure effective management of Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMIs)" on June 8, 2023, in Rome, Italy, inception coinciding with the World Oceans Day.

This initiative aims to contribute to the objectives of the Barcelona Convention and its Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean, while aligning with regional and global conservation targets related to Marine Protected Areas and area-based conservation measures.

“The significance of this programme for our region cannot be overstated, it has the potential to make a significant contribution to the preservation of our marine and coastal biodiversity. More importantly, it signifies the strengthened spirit of collaboration among Mediterranean countries that share common objectives.” Said Tatjana Hema, MAP coordinator at the meeting opening.

Khalil ATTIA, SPA/RAC Director, emphasized the importance of the SPAMI Twinning Programme in promoting collaboration as well as knowledge exchange. "The twinning programs aim to foster networking, enhance the exchange of experiences, facilitate the sharing of best practices, standardize management approaches, build capacities, and actively engage civil society organizations," he stated.

Phase 1: Italian Collaboration and Achievements

The first phase of the SPAMI Twinning Programme was implemented through the Bilateral Cooperation Agreement between UNEP/MAP and the Italian Ministry of Environment in 2018-2020. The focus was on developing twinning programmes between Italian SPAMIs/MPAs and their counterparts from the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean shores.

The beneficiary MPAS and SPAMIs were Egadi Islands MPA (Italy) & Kneiss Islands (Tunisia), Tavolara Punta Coda Cavallo MPA (Italy) & Habibas Islands (Algeria), Torre del Cerrano MPA (Italy) & Landscape Park Strunjan (Slovenia), and Torre Guaceto MPA (Italy) & Karabarun-Sazan National Marine Park (Albania). Key outputs included exchange visits, on-the-job trainings on MPA management, improving governance through stakeholder participation, involvement of civil society organizations in sustainable socio-economic activities within the protected areas, and the establishment of the SPAMI collaborative platform.

Phase 2: European Collaboration and Expanding Horizons

Thanks to funding through the ENI CBC Med ENSERES project, the SPAMI Twinning Programme expanded to include additional countries such as France and Spain. The beneficiary SPAMIs were Parc Marin de la Côte Bleue (France), Kneiss Islands (Tunisia), Medes Islands (Spain), and Tyre Coast Nature Reserve (Lebanon). This phase aimed to reinforce ecosystem-based management and integrated coastal zone management (EBM/ICZM) implementation. Activities included management issues diagnosis reports, joint monitoring programmes, medium-term on-the-job training, peer-to-peer support, mentoring, and exchange visits.

Phase 3: Current Initiatives and Future Prospects

Thanks to the renewed collaboration between UNEP/MAP and the Italian Ministry of Environment and Energy Security, the third phase of the SPAMI Twinning Programme (2022-2023) is now starting. The beneficiary SPAMIs for this phase are Miramare MPA (Italy) & Palm Islands Nature Reserve (Lebanon), Porto Cesareo MPA (Italy) & Al Hoceima National Park (Morocco), Penisola del Sinis – Isola di Mal di Ventre MPA (Italy) & Zembra and Zembretta National Park (Tunisia). Planned activities include diagnosis of management and monitoring practices within the SPAMIs and support to the local management teams in designing new management solutions, on-the-job training, and involvement of the civil society organizations through small project proposals. At the end of the activities, a report will be prepared by each SPAMI, documenting the management issues addressed, stakeholder engagement, and outcomes of civil society involvement.

A closure event, coupled with the small projects exchange workshop, will be organized in December 2023 in Italy. This event aims to share the lessons learned from the SPAMI Twinning Programme.

The SPAMI Twinning Programme represents a renewed and remarkable collaboration between UNEP/MAP - SPA/RAC, the Italian Ministry of Environment and Energy Security, and various Mediterranean SPAMIs. By fostering partnerships, facilitating knowledge exchange, and promoting effective management practices, this initiative significantly contributes to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development of the Mediterranean region.

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