The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) is responsible for negotiating and agreeing of new international marine environmental protection measures, when deemed necessary. 

MEPC has been creating resolutions for marine environmental protection since 1961 when the first agreement was signed. 

These resolutions are called instruments, they are an agreement between MEPC members to abide by specified rules through which legal obligations are created.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) is composed of 24 representatives from the contracting governments who are either government officials or lawyers.

 They serve in their own individual capacity and represent the interests of their respective countries.

 MEPC has four working groups: the Implementation Group, which discusses, reviews and modifies resolutions; the Working Group on International Instruments, which creates new resolutions or amendments to old ones;the Working Group on Regional Seas, who are responsible for creating regional instruments; and the Working Group on Capacity Building in Large Scale Oil Spill Response, which develops training programs for spill response.

1. Submission of Resolutions

All countries are required to have submitted a resolution to MEPC at least once every decade. If a country hasn’t sent resolutions in over 10 years, new amendments will be created excluding them from voting. 

To keep from falling under this rule, countries submit at least one resolution per country, or the country can have more than one representative on the committee. 

The MEPC will then review the submissions and if all conditions are met for an amendment to be created, they will create and vote on the resolution. 

After there is a 20% majority support for the resolution regarding marine environmental protection, it will then go through three phases of revisions before being signed off as an international agreement.

2. International Agreements

When a resolution is ratified by 20% of the MEPC contracting governments, it is considered an international agreement, or an international instrument.

 International instruments are created to enforce new environmental regulations for the oceans and will take effect after 60 days from the date of signature. 

All MEPC members who have signed off on the international instrument have legally agreed to abide by its terms and conditions, however in case a country hasn’t met its obligations under the agreement, there are no sanctions.

 It is up to the individual country whether or not they will comply with the rules set forth in the instrument.

3. Regional Instruments

When international instruments are created that are for a regional area, MEPC members will then create a regional instrument. 

The regional instrument regulates the ocean and its resources for that area. MEPC members will decide on the overall policy but will not be directly responsible for enforcing the provisions of the resolution, this is left up to their respective countries. 

MEPC members can ask their governments to enforce the legislation by writing and signing letters of intent demanding each country’s compliance with international instruments.

4. National Instruments 

There have been numerous international agreements created through MEPC, but some of the more notable include:

Changes to regulations on oil spills have been made every 60 days since 2004 by MEPC resolutions

There have been 4 revisions within the last decade due to new and increasing challenges in the ocean.

5. Amendments

Amendments can be created to make alterations to an existing resolution, or they can be a new agreement all together. 

Changes are made by either removing conditions or adding new ones. Conditions are enforced by the MEPC, but not sanctions. 

New resolutions will become effective when there is a 20% majority support of the committee. 

The changes can be due to either a country’s request for assistance in enforcing the provisions of an instrument or that the country itself has violated its obligations under the agreement. 

When requests come into MEPC from a country, it is up to that country if they will comply with the terms and conditions of the specific instrument.

6. Monitoring

The MEPC can create new resolutions to monitor and increase accountability among MEPC members and national governments. 

They are allowed to do this because there is no international body that is responsible for enforcing the terms and conditions in international instruments or regional ones. 

Because of this lack of enforcement, it is up to the countries themselves to report their compliance with the instruments they have signed off on.

 The UN has created guidelines for each instrument which help countries to monitor their actions within their country and against other parties involved with regional or international instruments that are jointly enforced by both parties.

7. Resolution Sources .

These changes have come from various sources, including the UN and MEPC resolutions, regional instruments, and national instruments. 

The UN is a group of countries that are able to enforce the resolutions created by MEPC members. Each resolution will have its own unique number as well as a reference number, which will be given to every country that signs off on it. 

Regional instruments are created by MEPC members when they want to work towards protecting the resources in their region. 

They are monitored by the region they were created for and by the MEPC members that voted for them. 

National instruments are created because of violations or areas where there is a need for regulation initiative like environmental spill response training or individual support of enforcement or resources.

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