Reports and Presentations from the Ramsar Regional Meeting in Africa 2011

African Regional Preparatory Meeting
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso 3-8 October, 2011
October 9th, 2011

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>  An English version of this report, with additional photos, is available here. [PDF] 
>  Réunion Préparatoire CdP11 Rapport, Français ici. [PDF]
>  Meeting presentations are posted here.

As a prelude to a coherent and productive participation in COP11 of the Ramsar Convention to be held in Bucharest, Romania, 6-13 July 2012, the delegates of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Wetlands in the African region distributed in six sub-regions:

  • Central Africa;
  • East Africa;
  • West Africa;
  • North Africa;
  • Southern Africa; and
  • Island States of the Indian Ocean.

Representatives from the sub-regions met in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso from 3 - 8 October 2011 to assess progress in implementing the strategic objectives of the Ramsar Convention from 2009 - 2015, and future prospects.


The first day of the meeting was very instructive. Through the addresses of the Minister and Representative of the Mayor of the town of Ouagadougou, we noted that Burkina Faso was glad to hold this African meeting in Ouagadougou and made every effort to make it successful.

The address from Mr. Anada Tiéga, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention reminded delegates of the mission of the Convention and specified that the Ouagadougou meeting helped to mark by the 40th anniversary of the Ramsar Convention.

Ramsar Secretary General, Dr. Anada Tiéga

Following the opening ceremony, Dr. Paul Ouedraogo, Ramsar Senior Regional Advisor for Africa, introduced the objectives and the expected results of the meeting. Following his introduction, two presentations enabled participants to discover two new useful tools for monitoring and designation of Ramsar site.

The first presented by Dr. William Darwall on the theme of African Freshwater Biodiversity Assessment clearly shows the potential of African wetlands their parameters of abundance, distribution and biological diversity. Mr. Darwall encourages participants to take ownership of this new information tool which development required six years of study and collaboration of several scientists.

The second presentation by Dr. David Stroud was about the new format of the Ramsar Information Sheet. As such, participants mainly noted the need for practical exercises to better understand the use of this tool.

Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Professor Jean Koulidiati

Representative from Ouagadougou

The issues discussed in the afternoon at the sub-regional working groups have helped to assess the level of effectiveness of the implementation of the concept of wise use of wetlands in the states and sub-regions, constraints encountered effectiveness of international cooperation, the development of greater coordination of the activities with other global and regional conventions.

Globally, the relations of the countries have more or less revealed: 

  • Lack of national policies for wetland management in several countries;
  • The low level of private sector investment;
  • The low level of implementation of monitoring and evaluation, of sensitization and education resulting in a low public participation in the sustainable management of wetlands;
  • Modesty of legislation and policy and decision making in general in the management of wetlands;
  • Insufficient financial resources;
  • Pollution and threats posed by invasive species such as water hyacinth, in some wetlands;
  • A small number of designated Ramsar Sites, and those who have a management plan;
  • The inefficiency or lack of funding mechanisms;  
  • In most countries there is a lack of a national strategy.

The funding mechanism is a major concern, it is understood that this Ouagadougou meeting offers a framework for thinking about what to do to move towards solutions to this problem.

The first day was chaired by Dr. Georges Yaméogo, Director in Charge of Conventions at CONEDD Permanent Secretariat.

The second day of the meeting addressed the successes, challenges and opportunities facing the implementation of the Convention's Strategic Plan for 2009-2015.

After a speech by Mr. Anada Tiéga, Secretary General of the Convention which highlighted the vital importance of wetlands, from the standpoint of environmental safety (maintenance of diversity, water and ecosystem management), food security, social security and finally economic security (tourism), he invited participants to make commitments through a call to action to address the proposal of the Minister.

During discussions, several Contracting Parties have questioned the visibility of the Convention and the lack of political will of Contracting Party government leaders. The central question is: How to make them sensitive and exhibit the importance of the Ramsar Convention? To do this, it is essential to use focal points as well as Ramsar Advisory Missions. This debate also highlighted the importance of synergy between the various African focal points of the Convention. During this session of open and useful discussion, the question of the establishment a ministerial segment was also raised. The Contracting Parties have suggested making a recommendation to set up this segment. This effort may lead to financial resources.

Delegates also followed with interest the presentation of Mayor of the Municipality of Gaoua, Jean-Baptiste Kambou who noted the importance of the involvement of populations for better visibility and clearness of actions. He stressed that mobilising the public must be done in conjunction with their interests. To set an example, he personally agreed to provide the recommendations of the Ouagadougou meeting to all the Mayors of Burkina Faso.
After lunch, a panel of international journalists on the Network of African Journalists for Environment was established and chaired by Mr. Sidi El Moctar Cheiguer. The panel explained the importance of establishing a real communication strategy for the Convention. For this panel, it is essential that the communication units in the ministries in charge of wetlands make these wetlands a full subject. It is proposed that Contracting Parties shall develop a mechanism to associate the media with all the events concerning wetlands. It is important to raise awareness and to learn about wetlands, especially with knowledge of the economic value of the wetlands.

Following fruitful discussions, delegates closely followed several presentations including one by Professor Géladio Cissé, a researcher at the Swiss Tropical Institute. He discussed the methodologies for analysing ecosystem services of urban wetlands, health and local governance against poverty in Africa.

Mr.  Atigou Balde presented briefly the regional initiatives: NigerWet and WacoWet for which he said that their development is in progress. Mr. Paul Mafabi introduced the regional initiative RAMCEA through the work plan of the centre, the achievements and challenges.

In the afternoon, group work took place and was devoted to the priorities for the next triennium, 2013-2015. First, it was about deciding on the options proposed as part of administrative reform. With regard to this subject, 2 regions out of 6 have chosen UNEP to host the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention. The other four sub-regions have asked for more information and figures before deciding.

Mr. Balde confirmed the voting members to serve on the Standing Committee. North Africa and Central Africa have made the choice of Tunisia to represent them. Eastern Africa wishes, in turn, to be represented by Rwanda. For West Africa, the member that has been chosen is Guinea. With regard to Southern Africa and Indian Ocean archipelago of small islands, the choice was South Africa.

The second day was chaired by Mr. Joachim Ouédraogo, Director General of Nature Conservation of Burkina Faso.

The third day of the meeting was marked by the visit of Lake Bam under the competent responsibility of Mrs. Mama Christine Liehoune, Secretary General of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Burkina Faso, led the field visit on behalf of the Government.

Ramsar Sign at Lake Bam

View of Lake Bam

Several activities were held during this visit:

  • a summary presentation of the MASTER in Conservation and Sustainable use of wetlands  by Professor Prosper Zombre from the University of Ouagadougou;
  • the welcome speech of Mrs. High Commissioner;
  • a presentation on Lake Bam by Mr. Ambroise Ouedraogo followed by the presentation of Pictures by the Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention to Mrs. High Commissioner;
  • and the guided visit of the Lake.

At the end of the visit, Mrs. High Commissioner called for a twinning between Lake Bam and any other African wetland.

On the fourth day of the meeting began with a brief summary of the day 2 and day 3. The facilitator reported on the lack of a development plan for most of the Ramsar Sites in the continent, the need for commitment from decision makers, and the weak support of regional initiatives. He noted that the field trip of the day before was rich in lessons and that as a former director of the Lake Chad Authority; he saw Lake Bam as a small Lake Chad and appreciated the commitment and legitimate concern of local communities for the future of the Lake.

In the discussion that followed the brief summary, it appeared:

  • The need for African countries to settle definitively the administrative reform issue;
  • Some clarification on the operation of NigerWet and WacoWet;
  • The requirement that it should be allowed the West African region with 16 countries to have a second vote in  the Standing Committee; 
  • The need for appropriate financial mechanisms.

By way of clarification, the Secretary General of the Convention, Anada Tiéga, said that the issue of administrative reform has been raised since COP10 and since that time, nine meetings were held and apart from a few countries (Senegal and South Africa), African countries have remained timid on this issue. This question is still the responsibility of the Contracting Parties. Furthermore he pointed out that since members of IUCN are also States, it would be useful not to dwell on this issue so as to hide the real challenges which are the understanding of the Convention and making a proper use of the Convention for the benefit of development strategies.

He also noted that the issue of the number of votes in the regions is answered in the resolutions of the Convention that sets minimum number of 12 countries for one voice. And the West Africa should include at least 24 countries to qualify for two voices. If the number of African countries was 48, then the continent will win one more voice. After this brief summary and discussions that followed, several presentations were made.

The first presentation was that of Kathrin Weise from GlobWetland II on a global observation system. This tool has the advantage of being simple, effective and less expensive because it uses Landsat images that can be obtained free of charge. The project is ready to assist in training and capacity building for better monitoring of Ramsar sites using this tool.

The second presentation was that of Lawrence Narteh of FAO on water, agriculture and the shallows. This presentation showed the importance of shallow lands in food production especially rice.

The third presentation was that of Lucinda Fairhust from ICLEI on Wetlands and Urbanization. She showed essentially the need to integrate wetlands into urban development planning. In order to praise the presentation of Lucinda, the Secretary General of the Convention urged the delegates to work closely with local governments in local development planning.

The fourth presentation was the report of the workshop of journalists. The latter proposed to improve the visibility of the Convention through a communication strategy based on a partnership with ANEJ. Reflections on that will primarily take into account civil society and beneficiary populations.

The fifth presentation was done by Mr. Yves Bathelemy and Professor Serge Riazanoff on available data and their reception for the monitoring of wetlands. In the afternoon, participants attended a demonstration on the use of the Ramsar Information Sheet by David Stroud, before listening to a series of presentations by Stephen Flink, Evelyn Moloko and Chikomo Thandiwe about the use of remote sensing tools for monitoring birds in the wetlands.

The first day of this part of the meeting was chaired by Professor Aimé Joseph Nianogo, Regional Director of IUCN for West and Central Africa.

Professor Aimé Joseph Nianogo, Regional Director of IUCN for West and Central AfricaRepresentative, WWF 

The fifth day saw the presentation of challenges and threats to wetlands in Africa by Mr. Denis Landenbergue WWF's freshwater unit. Mr. Landenbergue drew particular attention to certain documents and draft resolutions for this issue important to COP11.

Some side events accompanied the Ouagadougou meeting. In this context, several institutions held stands: IUCN, WWF, University of Ouagadougou, ANCE Togo, BirdLife International, Wetlands International and GlobWetland II and ICLEI. A journalist’s workshop was also organised to support the elaboration of the Convention Plan of visibility.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the Convention, the Municipality of Ouagadougou, designated a Ramsar Convention Trail in within the Urban Park of Bangr Weogo.

Reported by:
Dr. Paul Ouedraogo
Ramsar Senior Advisor for Africa
Ouagadougou, October 7, 2011

>  An English version of this report, with additional photos, is available here. [PDF] 
>  Réunion Préparatoire CdP11 Rapport, Français ici. [PDF]
>  Meeting presentations are posted here.

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