OSPAR is the mechanism by which fifteen Governments of the western coasts and catchments of Europe, together with the European Union, cooperate to protect the marine environment of the North-East Atlantic. It started in 1972 with the Oslo Convention against dumping. It was broadened to cover land-based sources and the offshore industry by the Paris Convention of 1974. These two conventions were unified, up-dated and extended by the 1992 OSPAR Convention. The new annex on biodiversity and ecosystems was adopted in 1998 to cover non-polluting human activities that can adversely affect the sea.
The fifteen Governments are Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom. Finland is not on the western coasts of Europe, but some of its rivers flow to the Barents Sea, and historically it was involved in the efforts to control the dumping of hazardous waste in the Atlantic and the North Sea. Luxembourg and Switzerland are Contracting Parties due to their location within the catchments of the River Rhine.
OSPAR is so named because of the original Oslo and Paris Conventions ("OS" for Oslo and "PAR" for Paris).