Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission


Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

HELCOM joins the UN 2023 Water Conference and pledges commitments for the Water Action Agenda

This week the UN 2023 Water Conference gathers stakeholders from all sectors in New York to create global momentum to accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: ensuring the sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.  

HELCOM takes part in a side event Source-to-sea collaboration: A game changer for the whole water cycle on Thursday 23 March at 17:00 EST (23:00 EET), when Lotta Ruokanen joins a panel discussion on Preparing the foundations for source-to-sea governance. The side event is livestreamed on UN Web TV.

The main outcome of the conference is the Water Action Agenda, which is a collection of water-related voluntary commitments undertaken by governments, the United Nations system, other intergovernmental organizations, NGOs and civil society organizations, and many other actors to accelerate progress in the second half of the Water Action Decade 2018-2028 and second half of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

HELCOM has pledged three commitments for the Water Action Agenda, including:  

You can browse all commitments here.

Thinking outside the box at the Baltic Stakeholder Conference 2023

This year’s Baltic Stakeholder Conference (BSC2023) was held last week on 9 March 2023, with the aim of harvesting ideas from stakeholders around the sea – and beyond – for accelerating the implementation of the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan.

More than 200 participants from the public, the private and nonprofit sectors all sharing an interest in achieving a healthy Baltic Sea registered for the online event.

The programme included presentations and discussions on awareness raising, municipal level implementation, private sector cooperation and financing, encouraging the participants to brainstorm outside-the-box solutions for both long-standing and emerging challenges.

The online event was hosted by Latvia, which currently holds the chairmanship of HELCOM.

All presentations given at the conference as well as the memo including the session summaries are available on the BSC2023 website.

FAQ: HELCOM and the “strategic pause” – what has been going on?

Almost a year ago, on 4 March 2022, a strategic pause of HELCOM was announced. What does that mean in practice?

On 4 March 2022, against the background of the still ongoing geopolitical crisis, the German Chairmanship of HELCOM issued a statement declaring that the European Union and the Contracting Parties to the Helsinki Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area that are Member States of the European Union (H 9) unanimously agreed that they could not currently engage in business as usual with the Russian Federation in the context of HELCOM.

Therefore, the Chairmanship, in agreement with the H 9, suspended all official meetings of HELCOM bodies and meetings of project groups with Russian involvement under the HELCOM umbrella with immediate effect. This concerned all HELCOM Working Groups, Expert Groups, and other subsidiary bodies of the Commission, as well as the HELCOM projects. The meetings were not cancelled, but rather postponed until further notice.

The suspension has been prolonged until further notice under the current Latvian Chairmanship of HELCOM. However, it does not imply that HELCOM as such has ceased operations.

Has HELCOM been doing anything since?

Since the declaration of the strategic pause in March of last year there have been no official meetings of HELCOM bodies, but HELCOM has remained operational and continues to work for the protection of the Baltic Sea environment. HELCOM activities, such as the implementation of the 2021 Baltic Sea Action Plan and the third Holistic Assessment of the Baltic Sea (HOLAS 3), are on track and envisioned timelines are being observed. There is neither an interruption nor a delay in HELCOM operations.

Is Russia still a part of HELCOM?

Yes, the Helsinki Convention remains in force and Russia is still a Contracting Party to the Convention.