World Wetland Day -- It's Happening!

[Note: This article by Doug Hulyer is reprinted from Wetland Link International News, number 12 (July 1997), p. 9, with permission I hope. Wetland Link International is a programme of The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and Dr Jane Claricoates is the programme's Coordinator. -- Web Editor.]

World Wetland Day -- It's Happening!

From small beginnings, a potential worldwide event is growing into something big! At the 6th Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention, held in Brisbane in 1996, governments from almost 100 countries agreed that the concept of a World Wetland Day (WWD) would be developed - and that it should happen on the 2nd February each year. This day is highly significant: it is the date that the Ramsar Convention text was agreed, more than a quarter of a century ago, in 1971.

World Wetland Day gives everyone involved in education and public awareness for wetlands an opportunity to celebrate these wonderful ecosystems and their value to the whole of mankind.

This year almost thirty countries celebrated WWD in some form. Activities ranged from the designation of new Ramsar sites to mass media promotions, from Wetland Art Day to national conferences, from walks around sites to governmental pledges for funding of community participation programmes and the publication of National Wetland Policies.

In May of this year, representatives from Wetlands International, WWF, IUCN and BirdLife International joined with Delmar Blasco, Secretary General of the Ramsar Bureau, and other Ramsar staff in Gland, Switzerland, to explore the potential for WWD and to discuss ideas to develop it further. Given the enormous support already generated by Wetlands International - Asia Pacific and Ramsar teams, it was decided to really 'go for it!' in 1998. The meeting decided:

  • to develop an information pack for governments
  • to develop a more detailed 'ideas for doing it' guide for non--governmental organizations (NGOs) and others (if funding allowed)
  • the Ramsar Convention Bureau will develop WWD pages on its Web site as an easy means of information exchange.
  • each year will have a theme, in a three-year cycle.

The themes will not be too prescriptive, giving participants great latitude in their interpretation. For 1998 the theme will be 'Water', in 1999 'Wetlands and People' (the theme for the 7th Meeting of Contracting Parties to be held in Costa Rica), and in 2000 'Biodiversity'.

The details of the information packs have not been worked out as I write, but the hope is that they will be ready for distribution in September of this year. They will focus on ideas for action on World Wetland Day itself, provide background information on wetland values and functions, and report on past action taken by participants in WWD '97. It is not the intention to produce lots of glossy (and expensive) materials to support the programmes; these are most appropriately produced at national level. It will be the task of Contracting Parties and NGOs to decide whether to develop partnerships to celebrate WWD. Everyone realizes that time is short - as I write, it's just 8 months to WWD '98... but it's 20 months to WWD '99! If you have not yet participated in WWD, 1998 could be your starting point. All efforts will be worthwhile.

I guess you are thinking, 'where will I be able to get more information?' At this stage this has not been finally decided. For readers of WLI News I suggest that you write, fax or e-mail our WWT-WLI Coordinator, Dr Jane Claricoates, or myself, at WWT Slimbridge (address on back page). We can then pass on your interest to the body (or bodies) that will eventually distribute the information materials.

World Wetland Day can become a major force in the realization of our agreed aim of raising awareness of wetland values and functions throughout the world and at all levels. It gives us all a great opportunity to 'join hands around the world'; to realize our dream of all wetland educators working towards a common goal. So, friends, there's not long before 2nd February, 1998 … put 'thinking caps' on and let us make 1998 a significant year in worldwide education and public awareness for wetlands. Wetlands are the lifeblood of the planet... 1998 will be a year for 'pumping up the volume'!

The Ramsar Bureau's web site has information on WWD '97. Visit it at Or contact Dwight Peck at the Ramsar Convention Bureau, Rue Mauverney 28, CH-1196 Gland, Switzerland. Tel: +41 22 999 0170, Fax +41 22 999 0169, e-mail:

Doug Hulyer
Director of Education & Public Affairs
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust
Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, UK GU 78T
(Doug is also the Coordinator of the Wetlands International Education & Public Awareness Group.)

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