Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) are agreements between three or more states that assist with addressing specific environmental problems at national, regional and global levels. Examples include the pollution of rivers and seas that are part of several countries (e.g. the Mediterranean Sea or the Great Lakes in the United States and Canada), and air pollution dispersed from one or more countries over several other countries (e.g. sulphur dioxide and dust from power plants in Europe).

These kinds of environmental issues require multilateral action in order to be effective, and MEAs set out the rules describing what each country is expected to do.

The best known MEAs are those that deal with global problems, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Key features of MEAs include:

  • A primary objective, addressing one or more clearly defined environmental problems. An MEA may also have a secondary objective, such as poverty reduction or sustainable development.
  • They are expressed in written form in a document that is approved by each country’s parliament (or similar).
  • They are governed by international law.

FAO assists countries to meet the objectives of MEAs, by providing policy and technical support  and facilitating the sharing of experiences and best practices for mainstreaming and restoring biodiversity in agriculture. It also works on better management of pesticides and the reduction of pesticide risk to human health and the environment.