The Ramsar 25th Anniversary Statement

The Convention on Wetlands was adopted on 2 February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Twenty-five years later in Brisbane, Australia, the participants at the 6th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties -- representing 121 nations, intergovernmental institutions, and a large number of international and national non-governmental Organisations -- are taking this opportunity to review the achievements of the Convention in the field of conservation and wise use of wetlands, and to set out their vision for the future of the Convention.

During the last quarter of a century:

    There has been greatly increased awareness among governments, NGOs, the private sector and the public at large of the value of wetlands which, through their high productivity and natural functions, provide important goods and services which benefit human societies and sustain a rich biological diversity.

    The concept of "wise use" enshrined in the treaty has been developed substantially and is considered to be synonymous with "sustainable use". Many governments have begun to develop wetland conservation and wise use policies, and/or to include wetland issues in national development planning. The discussions at this 25th Anniversary Conference have revealed the encouraging progress made by countries in different regions and with differing degrees of economic development.

    Contracting Parties have designated for the Ramsar List of wetlands of international importance more than 800 sites covering over half a million square kilometers. In addition, the Convention has developed a considerable array of technical measures to assist Contracting Parties in maintaining the ecological character of listed sites and other wetlands within their territories.

    There have been many positive examples of cooperation concerning shared wetland systems and shared wetland species, including the concept of site twinning. The establishment of the Ramsar Small Grants Fund for Wetland Conservation and Wise Use has also contributed to increased international cooperation through the Convention.

Participants at the Brisbane Conference are aware that there is an urgent need to increase understanding and share knowledge about wetland functions, values and management practices, and therefore recommend the development of improved programmes for providing education, training, information materials and mechanisms to increase the level of awareness and capacity to implement wetland conservation and sustainable use.

This Conference is marking the 25th Anniversary of the Convention by adopting, for the first time, a Strategic Plan covering the years 1997-2002. The plan maintains the thrust of Ramsar's technical work, and aims at improved implementation of the existing mechanisms. It identifies a number of key issues for setting the Convention on course to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. These issues, which will be at the forefront of Ramsar's efforts in the next two triennia, include:

  • the need to ensure the sound management of all Ramsar sites, and where necessary the implementation of remedial actions under the framework of the Management Guidance Procedure;
  • the need to incorporate the concept of wise use and conservation in education programmes and to raise awareness of wetland functions and values throughout the world and at all levels;
  • the need to enhance the capacity of governments, non-governmental Organisations, local communities and the private sector to achieve conservation and wise use of wetlands;
  • the need to ensure the wise use of wetlands by fully integrating wetlands in the planning and decision-making process, emphasizing the empowerment of local communities and the involvement of all stakeholders from the outset, and recognizing that wetlands support multisectoral and sustainable development;
  • the importance of designating for the Ramsar List additional wetlands which meet the Convention's criteria, particularly currently under-represented wetland types, including coral reefs, mangroves, sea grass beds and peatlands;
  • the need to enhance international cooperation and to promote partnerships between conventions and agencies, both governmental and non-governmental, to support exchange of information and expertise, develop networks, flyway management agreements and conservation strategies, and to implement local projects for the conservation and wise use of wetlands;
  • strengthening the catalytic role of the Convention in securing funds for wetland work in developing countries and in states whose economies are in transition;
  • the involvement of all nations of the world in the advancement of the Convention's objectives.

The 25th Anniversary is a fitting time for the Convention to be ambitious and outward looking if it is to play a truly useful role in addressing the major environmental issues which face us now and in the future. Providing for water, and other resource needs of the world's growing human population, whilst at the same time maintaining the biological diversity of wetland ecosystems will be one of the great challenges for planners and decision-makers in the next 25 years and beyond. Decisions concerning wetlands will have impacts on wetland resources, including the availability and quality of water. It will be the task of the Convention on Wetlands to ensure that those decisions take account of the natural values and functions of wetlands, and of their rich productivity and biological diversity in order that water and other resource demands are met in an environmentally sustainable manner.

In order to chart an effective course for the future, we must learn from the past. The 25th and future anniversaries of the Convention provide excellent opportunities to assess its history, status and future needs. The success of wetland conservation, management and restoration actions and strategies should be monitored and fed back into a periodic review process.

The Convention must also increase the attention it devotes to those marine and coastal areas which fall within the broad Ramsar definition of wetlands. Considering the degradation of many of the world's coastal zones by human activities, the Convention must increase the attention it devotes to coral reefs, sea grass beds, and mangroves, which are important wetland types hitherto under-represented in the work of the Convention.

The Convention on Wetlands is ready to reinforce its working relationships with other Organisations concerned with wise use and conservation of wetlands, so that a wetland movement, charged with synergy is created. These bodies include primarily the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Framework Convention on Climatic Change, the Convention on Migratory Species and other environment-related treaties, and the already active links with key NGO partners: BirdLife International, IUCN - The World Conservation Union, Wetlands International and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), as well as collaborative efforts with other NGOs and conservation networks worldwide. Cooperation should occur at both policy and field levels, and at international, regional, national and local levels, so as to ensure a rational and effective use of available resources.

The Convention must continue to catalyze cooperation at all levels of society to prevent further loss and degradation of wetlands, and to ensure their wise use, in order to maintain, restore, and enhance where appropriate, wetland functions and biodiversity.

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Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

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