The Wise Use Resource Centre launched for World Wetlands Day


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Announcing the launch of the Wise Use Resource Centre

"Ramsar assistance for wetland managers"

All members of the "Ramsar family" are dedicated to the principles of "wise use", first outlined in Article 3.1 of the Convention (1971) and later defined as the sustainable utilization of wetland resources in such a way as to benefit the human community while maintaining their potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations – a concept that was at the time of the signing of the Convention a revolutionary concept in conservation thinking and is still vitally important to the future of our planet. In 1990 and 1993 the Contracting Parties articulated "guidelines" and "additional guidance" for the implementation of the wise use concept, but these are quite abstract and fairly general, and the need has long been felt for a body of more concrete materials to assist those who are charged actually to bring the concept to life in their planning and their daily management decisions. Thus the inauguration of Ramsar’s Wise Use Resource Centre.

This initiative from the Bureau of the Convention on Wetlands is designed to provide a place where wetland managers can come to seek advice, assistance, and guidance on wetland management issues. The term "wetland managers" is meant here in the broadest sense, ranging from hands-on practitioners to planners, policy makers and legislators, within government at all levels and in local communities.

The Bureau hopes that the Wise Use Resource Centre can become a focal point for people asking and receiving answers to the fundamental and complex questions which wetland managers all around the world are constantly faced with. However difficult your problem may be, the Ramsar Centre hopes to provide some sort of assistance, either with links to published materials or references or with contacts to wetland experts who may be able to help more directly, and failing that, we should be able to point you toward other networks of specialists in the relevant fields in order to locate someone with the knowledge you are seeking. This is a service to the wetlands community which the Bureau believes is much needed and which could contribute to the Convention’s progress in achieving its global mission.

A second and equally important purpose of the Ramsar Centre is to provide an avenue for the people managing wetlands to communicate with the research and technical professionals, and vice versa. Perhaps the least known part of the Ramsar Convention is Article 4.3 which states that "The Contracting Parties shall encourage research and the exchange of data and publications regarding wetlands and their flora and fauna." Here at the Bureau our book shelves are heavy with wetland management manuals, guidelines on various management questions, and other valuable resource materials. We are also aware of several countries where there are specific research programmes underway that are yielding important information and guidance which we hope the Ramsar Centre can assist to distribute further. More details are given below on how this will operate.

Initially the Wise Use Resource Centre will have four main components, which are briefly introduced below:

1. The Wetland Experts Database
2. The Bureau’s "Hot Topics"
3. The Wise Use Resource Library
4. The Catalog of Training Opportunities

It should be noted, however, that the Centre will continue to be "under construction", as over the coming months we add more and more elements, some of which are mentioned below.

More details

The Ramsar Centre is being launched on World Wetlands Day 1998 with the following elements:

1. The Wetland Experts Database

 us-fws.gif (5822 bytes)The Bureau has assembled this database of nearly 300 experts in different fields of wetlands management from around the world. Based on advice from our NGO Partner Organizations and other expert bodies, this database is designed to allow us to locate consultants with the expertise to solve your problem. Generously funded by the Fish and Wildlife Service of the United States, the Database will continue to grow as we identify gaps in the geographical and thematic coverage we have at present. We see our role as being to link you, the person with the management problem, with the person or persons whom our database suggests has the expertise you need.

The Database has carefully defined the experts in terms of their experience within six Climatic Regions, 20 Wetland Types (grouped under Marine & Coastal, Inland, and Human-made wetlands), and 41 Areas of Expertise (variously grouped, for example, under Community Involvement, Scientific Inventories, Training Schemes, Information Systems, etc.). In addition, we have information on the countries where each expert has worked and his/her language skills, which will help to more finely tune the search process.

To initiate a search for an expert all you have to do is write, fax or e-mail Sandra Hails, the Bureau’s consultant who created and is in charge of the Database. She will send you some information to help clearly define what kind of expert you require, so that an efficient search can be carried out. A detailed report will be sent back to you on the personal and professional details of each expert matching your request, allowing you to select a consultant and make the contact yourself. The Bureau has relied upon the informed recommendations of others in constructing the Database and thus cannot guarantee a successful conclusion to every problem, but hopefully we will be able to provide the starting place.

As said above, we intend to add more experts to the database through analyzing it for "gaps" and making approaches to suitable people through our network of contacts. The Ramsar Experts Database is not intended to be an address list of all the people working in wetland science or management, so please do not send your CVs and ask to be added.

2. The Bureau’s "Hot Topics" 

In our daily business we are confronted regularly by wetlands people asking our views on the advisability or otherwise of activities on, or in association with, wetlands. The idea of the "Hot Topics" part of the Ramsar Wise Use Centre is that we will identify a subject every three to four months which we think needs to have some science done to allow fundamental questions to be answered. We suspect that in many cases the science has already been done and, if so, we want to hear about it and make it known to others. The "Hot Topics" section will therefore be about profiling issues and seeking out information which will help us all to make informed decisions.

The first subject we are investigating under the "Hot Topics" banner is Canal Estates (or Marinas as they are variously referred to in different parts of the English-speaking world). Specifically, we are talking about those situations where artificial canal systems are constructed to accommodate housing estates, holiday resorts or similar developments. In many cases the areas chosen for these are wetlands, and the question we are asked is "what impact do these constructions have on the wetland system in the short, medium and long term?" It’s easy merely to say they are environmental disasters! But we want to locate those studies that have looked at the impacts of canal estates/marinas and which can help to form a better picture of the situation.

Globally there does seem to be a growing impression that the proliferation of these developments should be better controlled in the long-term interests of biodiversity conservation and the maintenance of ecosystems that are producing food and economic benefits for human populations. It also seems that the technology of designing artificial canal systems so that they flush more frequently, etc., is constantly advancing, and we are keen to know what these advances are. So is it true that the local economic return and other social benefits that these developments claim to have is justified in terms of the environmental impacts ?

In some parts of the world, governments have banned canal estate developments (the State Government of New South Wales in Australia is a case in point), and where this has occurred we would like to know how such a legislative approach was put in place and on what science such an action was based.

In summary, then, we are trying to locate any information which can help us all to understand where the truth lies on the canal estates/marinas question. Please note that we are not requesting statements of opinion or attitude towards canal estates/marinas. Our intention is to locate the science on the subject, not to conduct a global poll on what people think of them. Please direct any information you have on the "Hot Topics" segment to the Deputy Secretary General, Dr Bill Phillips here at the Ramsar Bureau (by e-mail, post, fax), and the question will also be proposed for feedback from the Ramsar Forum. We are very keen to obtain references to studies that have scientific rigour and have taken a dispassionate view of the "fors" and "againsts " of canal estates/marinas. When we think we have enough material to work from, a new topic will be advertised and a report will be produced on our findings about canal estates/marinas and subsequent hot topics.

3. The Wise Use Resource Library 

Under this part of the Ramsar Centre we are seeking to assemble a Web-based library of high quality publications which can assist wetland managers on the ground with implementation of the Convention’s Wise Use Guidelines and Additional Guidance on implementation of the wise use concept.

The Wise Use Resource Library is structured as closely as possible to the "Additional guidance for the implementation of the wise use concept" as adopted at the 5th Conference of the Contracting Parties in Kushiro, Japan; in 1993. That is, under the three broad headings of:

I. Establishment of National Wetland Policies,
II. Knowledge of Wetlands and Their Values and,
III. Action and Particular Wetland Sites.

Under each of these there is a range of sub-headings under which we will post relevant publications as quickly as we can identify them, gain their authors’ permission to reprint, and prepare them for reprinting on the Ramsar Web site. For very large publications, we may only post a summary with advice on how to obtain the full document.

We hope that over time the Wise Use Resource Library will become a place that wetland managers, planners and policy makers will look to for authoritative information, advice and case studies demonstrating the approaches others have taken to implementing the principles of "wise use". If you have, or know of, high quality reports and publications which provide guidelines or similar resources for "how to" manage wetlands wisely, please let us know about them. We will be contacting the authors of several suitable publications we already have here at the Bureau, but we are very interested to add to the library as appropriate materials are brought to our attention.

4. The Catalog of Training Opportunities

Ramsar Bureau personnel are presently engaged in trying to assemble lists of opportunities for wetland managers in all parts of the world to gain additional training in a broad range of policy and technical issues related to wetland management and wise use.  When they've got enough material together, we will publish regional lists on this Web site and, with your help, strive to keep them current.

The future of the Ramsar Wise Use Resource Centre

This depends a lot on you, the readers of and visitors to the Ramsar Web site. We need your involvement and support to make it effective. In the future the intention is to add further elements to the Ramsar Centre, such as case studies or reports on projects funded through the Ramsar Small Grants Fund.

The fundamental aim of the Ramsar Centre is to transfer information between the research/expert community and those who need advice to apply to on-the-ground wetland management and planning situations. We are striving to provide managers with usable and practical assistance, and we also hope that the practitioners will use this forum to tell the research communities where they should be directing their energies.

-- Dr Bill Phillips, Deputy Secretary General

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Convey me to the Wise Use Resource Centre without delay!

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