The 6th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties
Technical Session C:
Interactions with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the World Bank (WB), and the Global Environment Facility (GEF)
Chair: Mme Monique Barbut, French Global Environment Facility (FFEM)
Vice Chair: Mr Swarn Singh Boparai (India)
Secretariat: Michael Smart (Ramsar Bureau)
"Issues of Common Concern to Ramsar and the Convention on Biological Diversity, and Mechanisms to Address Them," Dr Calestous Juma, Executive Secretary of the CBD
"Issues in Wetland Management: Bank-GEF Portfolio Experience," Mr Ken Newcombe, Chief, GEF Coordination Division, Environment Department, World Bank
Issues of Common Concern to Ramsar and the CBD
described the evolution of the CBD and its focus on specific ecosystems; the first is marine and coastal biodiversity, which in large part overlaps with Ramsar's purposes and offers opportunities for joint programming. The CBD's functions, as Ramsar's, are largely as guidance and it will not have its own programmes. It will work with other entities which do have programmes and intends to work closely with Ramsar on all matters concerning wetlands. There is an opportunity for the GEF to support Ramsar work through the CBD. This was the origin of the idea of signing the Memorandum of Understanding with the Ramsar Convention. There will be many future opportunities to harmonize, in order to avoid duplication and coordinate activities.
Discussion of Dr Juma's presentation
It was suggested that the first priority is exchange of information on activities concerning wetlands. It was argued that the CBD is bound to respect the other conventions and should not duplicate what is done by other biodiversity-related conventions. The chief function of the CBD is to coordinate the experience of the existing Conventions and to fill the gaps in the areas that they cover. It was noted that sustainable use of biodiversity will benefit greatly, particularly at national level, from Ramsar's 25 years of experience. The CBD was not intended to be an umbrella for other conventions that cover more restricted areas but have a role in the conservation of biological diversity.
Several speakers noted that Ramsar lacks a function for providing financial assistance for the conservation of wetlands, so efforts to establish links with the CBD, which does have access to financial resources, is a cause for hope for countries requiring financial assistance. The conventions can be complementary to one another, and the CBD can cover this part not covered by Ramsar.
It was observed that a Contracting Party could avoid duplication of efforts by using the same national institutions to coordinate its relations with both conventions. There should be a harmonization of reporting requirements for the two conventions in order to avoid more work for national officials. It was also suggested that there is a need for integrating national strategies and plans for wetlands into those for biodiversity, and for coordinating them with the fight against desertification and with the Framework Convention on Climate Change as well, given the impact of sea level rise on Ramsar's interest in coastal zones.
Projects involving the Ramsar Convention could benefit directly from GEF funding through the provisions covering international waters and the protection of biological diversity. Nonetheless, these projects must be presented directly by countries eligible for GEF assistance and not by the Convention itself. Moreover, they must be consistent with the Operational Strategy of the GEF, and the funding provided can only cover the incremental costs as defined by the Instrument of the GEF.
World Bank-GEF Portfolio Experience
observed that the World Bank finances projects which serve the purposes of all conventions. He described the structures of and relationships between the WB and the GEF and gave examples to show that the WB seeks a strong relationship with the Ramsar Convention. Though it is difficult to quantify the wetland projects benefiting from GEF assistance, assistance to wetlands is definitely growing as rapidly as to other biodiversity areas. He noted that many WB development projects can be controversial, with built-in conflicts. The WB assesses critical natural values (for example, Ramsar listing), but it may be that at times the overall goals of a project (e.g., development of infrastructure) require some wetland loss; in those instances, compensation will be established.
The GEF takes advantage of its contacts with the Ramsar Bureau to strengthen wetland components in projects targeted in other areas. Successful cases tend to include early consultation with stakeholders, a national biodiversity strategy which ensures national political commitment, and empowerment of local communities.
Discussion of Mr Newcombe's presentation
There was discussion of the mechanics of the GEF's approval and funding of proposals, and of how well are able to manage project funds. It was noted that the local population always has a say in project management, but this is not to say that GEF assistance is only for NGOs-some 95-97% of the projects go to the governments which will actually be organizing the work. Many projects include provisions for strengthening the management capacities of local communities, where this was seen as necessary.
Discussion of Draft Resolution 6.9
Several Parties were concerned that the draft text contained a suggestion that Ramsar is to be directed by another convention. The intention lies in the hope that the CBD's next COP will choose wetlands as the second ecosystem to focus upon and then invite Ramsar to contribute heavily. It was felt that the resolution should include wording to ensure that the STRP reports to the SC and the COP on the results of the cooperation being sought with CBD and GEF technical bodies. The intention of this recommendation is simply to encourage the exchange of information.
Discussion of Draft Resolution 6.10
It was suggested that the GEF should be encouraged to seek opportunities to address Ramsar values. Contracting Parties could be urged to include matters relating to wetlands as a priority in their national strategies developed under the CBD. They should also collaborate within the CBD to seek protection of wetlands as a priority issue within the CBD COP's guidance to the GEF.
Rapporteur: Dwight Peck