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Comparing and Contrasting the OSPAR Convention and the Helsinki Convention of 1992 (Essay Sample)

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This essay draws a comparison between the OSPAR Convention and the Helsinki Convention of 1992. Both conventions have taken measures to curb water pollution, and both are international treaties involving the European Commission. In addition, the level of participation of the European Commission is similar in both conventions. However, there are some marked differences between the two conventions. These include their respective areas of jurisdiction with OSPAR Convention concerns itself with the areas around the North-East Atlantic Ocean while the Helsinki Convention caters for the areas surrounding the Baltic Sea.

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Comparing and Contrasting the OSPAR Convention and the Helsinki Convention of 1992
Most environmental problems have international repercussions. Many such problems occur on a global scope and; thus, individual countries may not fully address or mitigate them. Therefore, environmental concerns require the attention of global or international bodies in order to be fully addressed. Consequently, a number of international agreements, also known as conventions, have been formed to address international environmental problems. Two such agreements are the OSPAR Convention and the Helsinki Convention.[European Commission. Multilateral Environmental Agreements. European Commission. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/international_issues/agreements_en.htm]
The OSPAR Convention, officially recognized as the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, is a legislative tool for overseeing international cooperation on environmental concerns of the North-East Atlantic. It is also an update on the 1972 Oslo Convention that regulated the dumping of waste at sea. The OSPAR Convention is managed by 15 representatives of governments of the signatory nations, and the European Commission. The Helsinki Convention, on the other hand, is an international agreement concerning the prevention and elimination of pollution of the Baltic Sea. The two conventions, the OSPAR and the Helsinki Convention, have various similarities and differences.
Similarities between the OSPAR and Helsinki Conventions
First, both conventions take measures to prevent and eliminate water pollution. The OSPAR Convention watches and protects the North-East Atlantic Ocean from man-made pollution. It regulates the standards practiced by European nations on the marine biodiversity and the release of hazardous and radioactive materials into seas. The convention also monitors offshore oil and gas industries to ensure that these industries do not dispose their waste products into the ocean. The Helsinki Convention is similarly concerned with the protection of the maritime environment. The member states of the Helsinki Convention agreed to take administrative, legislative and other appropriate measures to eliminate and prevent pollution of the Baltic Sea. By so doing, they individually or jointly undertake to restore the ecological balance of the Baltic Sea and the preservation of its ecology. Therefore, both conventions deal with the protection and elimination of pollution in the maritime environment.[OSPAR Convention. Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic. /html_documents/ospar/html/ospar_convention_e_updated_text_2007.pdf] [Sadeleer, N. Implementing the Precautionary Principle: Approaches from the Nordic Countries, the EU and USA.(Earthscan, 2008)]
Secondly, both the OSPAR and the Helsinki Conventions are international agreements involving the European Commission. The member states of the OSPAR Conventions, in addition to the European Commission, include France, Germany, Ireland, the UK and the Netherlands, among others. The Helsinki Convention brings together countries such as Germany, Finland, Czechoslovakia and Sweden, among others. The European Commission is also a member of the Helsinki convention. The role of the European Commission in the two Conventions is significant. The European Commission binds the entire European Community into the agreements of both OSPAR and Helsinki Conventions. Consequently, even non-member countries are obliged to uphold measures on the protection of maritime environment.
Third, both the OSPAR and the Helsinki Conventions deal with the restoration of the marine areas that have been adversely affected by pollution or other environmentally harmful activities. The OSPAR Convention undertakes measures to restore marine areas around the North-East Atlantic Ocean and to ensure that such areas regain their ecological balance. This is important because ocean waters may receive pollution from various quarters, including inadvertent human activity. Consequently, some areas may be affected adversely from causes that are beyond man’s control. In such cases, the OSPAR Convention takes it as its responsibility to take remedial measures to environmentally heal such places. The Helsinki Convention, similarly, takes it upon itself to restore the biodiversity and ecological balance of the areas around the Baltic Sea that have already been adversely affected by agents of pollution. Therefore, both the OSPAR and the Helsinki Conventions take measures to restore the marine areas under their jurisdiction.[OSPAR Convention. Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic. /html_documents/ospar/html/ospar_convention_e_updated_text_2007.pdf] [Wouters, P. and Vinogradow, S. Analyzing the ECE Water Convention: What Lessons for the Regional Management of Transboundary Water Resources? Yearbook on International Cooperation on Environment, 2003, pp1-10.]
Fourth, the level of participation of the European Commission is similar in both the OSPAR and Helsinki Conventions. Generally, representatives from the European Commission attend meeting for both conventions but prioritize participation only at the level where decisions are made. This is attributed to constraints of resources allocated to the European Commission for such activities.
Differences between the OSPAR Convention and the Helsinki Convention
In spite of the similarities between the OSPAR and the Helsinki conventions, there exist various differences between them. The first difference exists in their areas of jurisdiction. The OSPAR Convention concerns itself with the areas around the North-East Atlantic Ocean while the Helsinki Convention caters for the areas surrounding the Baltic Sea. Therefore, whereas one Convention deals with the ocean, the other focuses its attention to the sea.
Another difference between the two conventions lies in the participation. This concerns the issue of competence which is less problematic under the Helsinki Convention than in the OSPAR Convention. This is because the final decisions in Helsinki Conventions are arrived at unanimously and each member state has a veto power. In the OSPAR Convention, the European Commission insists on exclusive competence for all substances monitored at the European Commission level. Member states in OSPAR are therefore not allowed to take decisions on matters concerning such substances. This runs contrary to the European’s Commission under the Helsinki Convention because under...
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