The role of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Ramsar Wetlands Convention, and the Barcelona Convention on the Mediterranean has grown increasingly important, in the context of conservation management, during the last decade as human impacts intensify and cross national boundaries more often. In resorting to MEAs it is important to maintain a clear focus on their opportunities and limitations. They are a means to resolve transboundary problems with neighbouring states and adopt harmonized approaches, they increasingly offer access to worldwide knowledge, tools and financial resources, and they can give conservation agencies a stronger mandate domestically. But they are specialized instruments focused on particular problems or sectors. The threats they address and the solutions they outline have to be evaluated in relation to overall environmental and socio-economic priorities. This entails linkages among different problems and sectors at various scales. Regional and ecosystem-level approaches are most appropriate for sorting out linkages and priorities. Extensive capacity building is needed at these levels to foster the requisite skills for integrated approaches. In addition, new mechanisms may be required at these levels to coordinate diverse specialized regimes. This does not require a monolithic, top-down approach but rather ongoing flexibility and responsiveness informed from the bottom up. We should take advantage of the new directions highlighted by the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, in 2002 and other recent international conferences to build these abilities into international governance. Conservation managers have an important role to play. By working nationally and internationally they can inform and influence the shift towards integrated and coordinated efforts, suggesting ways to accomplish this on a larger, international scale based on concrete experience in situ.