The concept of the Blue Flag was born in France. In 1985, French coastal municipalities were awarded with the Blue Flag for complying with sewage treatment and bathing water quality criteria.
In 1987, the "European Year of the Environment", the Foundation for Environmental Education in Europe (FEEE) presented the French concept to the Eurpoean Commission, and the Blue Flag Programme was launched as one of the year’s community activities.
In addition to sewage treatment and bathing water quality, criteria for obtaining a Blue Flag on a European level included other areas of environmental management, such as waste management and coastal planning and protection. Marinas were also made eligable for the award. n 1987 the Blue Flag was awarded to 244 beaches and 208 marinas in ten European countries.
In 2001 FEE became a global organisation and changed its name from FEEE to FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education). Since then, many organisations and authorities outside Europe wishing for cooperation on spreading the Blue Flag Programme have made applications to FEE. With the expansion of the program, the criteria has become more rigorous and unified. As of 2006 an international set of criteria is being used with some variation within to reflect the specific environmental conditions of certain regions.
In the UAE Emirates Wildlife Society in association with World Wide Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF) were awarded to be the official representative for FEE in the UAE and took the Blue Flag prject.
In 2009 EWS-WWF launched the Blue Flag program in the UAE with Abu Dhabi Corniche being its pilot
phase, which in 2010 became the first Blue Flag beach in the country. In 2011 Merdein Mina Siyahi and Westin complex became the first Blue Flag beach in Dubai, and 2012 will see more beaches and marinas awarded the Blue Flag.
Blue Flag in the UAE
Blue Flag was launched in the country in 2010 by EWS-WWF and after a successful pilot at Abu Dhabi Corniche Beach in 2009, the country began its journey to add many more flags to its coastlines. Since its launch, the initiative has peaked interest among beach and marina operators, as well as among hotels, tourists and UAE residents. By 2015, the programme had certified more than 25 coastal areas with its Blue Flag thanks to the dedication from the EWS-WWF team and beach and marina operators. The introduction of this eco-label to the shores of the UAE, positions the country as a leader in the Middle East for coastal excellence that meets international standards.
In 2015, the programme was handed over to Environmental Centre for Arab Towns (ECAT) to drive forward the momentum already achieved by EWS-WWF in the five years’ previous. Working towards a new strategic direction, EWS-WWF will focus its efforts more specifically on marine conservation moving forward. Environmental Centre for Arab Towns (ECAT) is now the official national operator of Blue Flag in the UAE.