Regular sessions of GESAMP are generally convened annually or biennially, and held in rotation at the offices of the Sponsoring Organizations. The hosting of these GESAMP sessions by interested regional organizations, Governments, or other institutions is also encouraged, as is the convening of sessions in conjunction with major events related to marine environmental protection. The primary purpose of the session is to review draft reports of the intersessional work of the GESAMP Working Groups and to approve their final reports. In addition the session agenda normally includes:
- A report of the Chair of the Executive Committee on the results of Committee meetings convened since the last session of GESAMP and on significant developments within the Sponsoring Organizations relevant to GESAMP's work;
- A report on budget and finance;
- A report of the Chair of GESAMP on intersessional activities and the status of ongoing work;
- All items which have been requested for inclusion by a sponsoring organization or partner organization;
- Proposals for future work, which may include basic and background material presented by sponsoring or partner organizations for further consideration, Reports to GESAMP, or draft project documents prepared by the Executive Committee;
- The GESAMP work plan.
The regular work of GESAMP revolves around five specific functions:
- Integrate and synthesise the results of regional and thematic assessments and scientific studies to support global assessments of the marine environment;
- Provide scientific and technical guidance on the design and execution of marine environmental assessments;
- Provide scientific reviews, analyses, and advice on specific topics relevant to the condition of the marine environment, its investigation, protection, and/or management.
- Provide an overview of the marine environmental monitoring, assessment, and related activities of UN agencies, and advise on how these activities might be improved and better integrated and coordinated.
- Identify new and emerging issues regarding the degradation of the marine environment that are of relevance to Governments and Sponsoring Organizations.
The first three functions are carried out by specific ad hoc Working Groups which meet intersessionally and perform the work through meetings and correspondence. The last two regular functions are performed by the members of GESAMP in conjunction with regular sessions of GESAMP, preferably prior to each session, and otherwise work through correspondence and at meetings of opportunity.