Report of the II Pan-American Regional Meeting - Guayaquil, 1-5 July 2002

25/07/2002

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II Pan-American Regional Meeting, Ramsar Convention - Guayaquil, Ecuador, 1-5 July 2002

II Pan-American Regional Meeting, Ramsar Convention
- Hilton Hotel, Guayaquil, Ecuador, 1-5 July 2002

Final Report

Day 1: 02.07.2002

Participants:

1. The meeting's participants included 90 Representatives of Ramsar Contracting Parties in the Neotropics and North America Regions, countries from the Neotropics which are not yet Parties, specially invited Parties from Ramsar's European Region, intergovernmental organisations, and national and international NGOs.

Objective of the meeting:

2. This was a preparatory meeting for the 8th Conference of the Parties to Ramsar, to be held in Valencia, Spain, from 18 - 26 November 2002.

OPENING OF THE MEETING

3. The meeting was opened by the Viceminister of Environment, Ing. Hector Ayón, on behalf of the Government of Ecuador, and Mr. Delmar Blasco, Secretary General of the Convention. During the opening session, the message from the Spanish General Secretary for Environment was read, and the regional representatives to the Standing Committee said some welcoming words. The Regional Representative of IUCN - South America conveyed his welcoming address on behalf of Ramsar's partner organisations. During the ceremony it was reiterated that the main objective of the meeting was to provide an opportunity for the participating Parties to agree on common positions in relation to important issues that will be discussed in Spain.

4. The Governments of Canada, Ecuador, Spain and the United States were thanked for their generous contributions to making the meeting possible.

4. 5. It was stated that COP8 represents a great opportunity to strengthen the Pan-American position and to reinforce collaborative links among the regions. The fact that the COP will take place immediately after the World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in Johannesburg (26 August - 4 September 2002) constitutes a significant factor. In this respect, the Ramsar Conference in Valencia will face the challenge of incorporating in the work of the Convention, and in the areas of its concern, the Johannesburg results.

6. It was stressed that for the Convention, the key issue will be the adoption of the Strategic Plan 2003-2008, a document that should define in a clear and efficient manner what the Convention will be doing in the next six years at the global, regional and national levels. In this sense, it is important to establish provisional national targets before 31 August 2002, benefiting as far as possible from the exchange of information and experiences.

REPORT FROM THE RAMSAR BUREAU AND PRELIMINARY ANALYSIS OF THE NATIONAL REPORTS SUBMITTED BY THE PARTIES FOR COP8

7. The report of the Ramsar Bureau reflected the following issues in relation to the Americas region:

- 27 American countries are Contracting Parties. At the global level, 133 countries have acceded to the treaty.
- 5 Parties have adopted national wetland policies and 14 are in the process of preparing them.
- 14 National Wetland Committees have been established.
- 2 subregional strategies are being developed.
- 160 Ramsar sites have been designated in the region (1178 at the global level).
- Ramsar sites in the Americas represent 40% of the total area covered by Ramsar sites at the global level.
- In relation to financing wetland work, countries in the region have been identifying new sources of funding, in particular in the private sector.
- The Wetlands for the Future Initiative and the Small Grants Fund constitute tools that have encouraged action by many countries in the region and the support provided by other organisations such as UNEP, IUCN, Ducks Unlimited and WWF was also acknowledged.
- 23 Parties have submitted their National Reports in preparation for COP8.

8. The Bureau reported that it is proceeding with a more sophisticated analysis of the national reports, including entering data into a database that will allow generating a series of reports about the status of implementation of the Convention at the global level and in each of the Ramsar regions.

9. This analysis will be used by the Bureau to prepare an evaluation of the progress made in the past three years, with a view to assisting in establishing priorities for implementation in the next three years, based upon the proposed draft Strategic Plan 2003-2008.

National Reports format

10. There was a discussion of the format that has been distributed for the preparation of the National Reports and there were questions about its ability to reflect partial achievements and its appropriateness for countries with a federal system of government. It was recommended that the format be redesigned.

11. The value of the National Report format as a planning tool for Parties to use at national level throughout a triennium was highlighted. Its value as a tool for monitoring the implementation of the commitments of Parties was also highlighted. It was stated that providing space for measurability in the report could enhance its effectiveness as a planning tool.

12. Periodicity of the reports and monitoring of commitments: it was recommended that consideration be given to extending the period for reporting, which now is of three years (in between two COPs), with the suggestion to use the period covered by the Strategic Plans, e.g. six years.

Synergies

13. The fact was highlighted that Ramsar is a Convention that was developed outside the UN system and that is not administered by the UN, a situation that has its advantages and disadvantages in relation to cooperation with other conventions which are part of the UN system.

14. Several countries in the region are promoting synergies in the application of the conventions at the national level, which is essential since synergies at the level of the secretariats of the conventions is not enough.

15. In addition, Parties should do more to push the conventions to establish effective synergies.

16. Reference was made to the new modalities of cooperation and to the clear tendency to coordinate more among donor countries and to work with a multilateral approach, including the international bodies that support these processes.

Ramsar Bureau contacts with the Parties and support to non-Parties to facilitate accession

17. A request was made to strengthen as far as possible the relationship between the Bureau and the Parties, in particular with those that need more support for developing their institutional capacities.

18. The need was noted for developing a strategy to support the non-Parties in their preparation for accession to the Convention, particularly in the Caribbean.

DRAFT RESOLUTIONS FOR COP8

19. It was noted that the draft resolutions that are available are those prepared by the Standing Committee, in most cases on the basis of proposals generated by the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP). Parties may submit additional draft resolutions up to 60 days before the opening of the COP, i.e., until 16 September 2002.

20. The introduction of the draft resolutions generated a useful discussion, during which the following observations and recommendations were made.

DR 1 - Guidelines for the allocation and management of water

21. Several delegations stated that wetlands are one more water user, but at the same time they are providers and users of the resource. Therefore, it was recommended to identify who should represent and defend wetlands as a water user.

22. There is a need to develop methodologies (i.e., environmental flows, economic valuations) to support the Parties in the implementation of this draft resolution. UICN stated that they have been making progress in economic valuation of environmental flows.

23. It was recommended to give priority to the work contemplated in the draft resolution in relation to aquifers.

24. The Bureau was requested to replace in all cases the words "precautionary principle" by "precautionary approach". The Bureau mentioned that these changes are not possible at this time as the documents for the COP have been finalised, but the amendments can be done during the COP.

DR 2 - The Report of the World Commission on Dams (WCD) and its importance for Ramsar

25. It was stated that dams affect wetlands but at the same time they are also a wetland type under the Conventions' classification system (some of them have been designated as Ramsar sites). It is necessary to take into account the negative and positive impacts of dams.

26. It was recommended that in future designations of Ramsar sites the issue of the formation of the wetland be taken into account.

27. It was recommended that paragraph 11 of draft resolution DR2, English version, be modified to add the following words "and based on domestic legislation and policies" after the words "Ramsar Convention" on the fifth line of the paragraph of the English version.

DR 3 - Climate change and wetlands: impacts, adaptation and mitigation

28. There is a need to reinforce the institutional capacity to establish the links between climate change and wetland-related issues.

29. The STRP has identified gaps in the information concerning the true impact of climate change on wetlands.

DR 5 - Synergies with other Conventions

30. The importance of synergies among conventions was highlighted once more, as well as Parties' support to the initiative. Additionally, emphasis was placed upon the need for Parties to put pressure in the various Multilateral Environmental Agreements secretariats to encourage synergies.

DR 6 - Framework for wetland inventory

31. It was suggested that once wetland inventories have been completed, a system of feedback and information updating be established.

32. The importance of the link between national wetland inventories and monitoring was highlighted.

33. It was recommended to highlight the usefulness of South-South cooperation in the preparation of inventories, for example through the Latin American Commission on Science and Technology.

34. It was suggested that, in Paragraph 13 of the Annex, the words "and objectives" be added after the word "purposes" in order to be consistent with the chapeau of the item, which is entitled "state the purpose and objective".

35. It was also recommended to delete letter (i) of the same paragraph, since the development of a network for the conservation and management of wetlands is a consequence, not an objective of an inventory of wetlands.

DR 9 - Convention on Biological Diversity guidelines on environmental impact assessment (EIA) and its application to wetlands

36. It was suggested that the words "the non-biodiversity interests, including" in the annex, in the box below the title, be deleted.

DR 11 - Additional guidance for the identification and designation of under-represented wetlands as Wetlands of International Importance

37. It was agreed that Argentina would lead a contact group to prepare a glossary of names and concepts used in the region in relation to peatlands. It was agreed that this contact group will work via electronic mail.

38. It was suggested that priority in the use of existing funds be given to projects related to wetland types that are under-represented in the Ramsar List.

39. It was noted that under the title IDENTIFICATION AND DESIGNATION OF MANGROVES, a reference should be included highlighting the vital importance of mangroves for local communities.

40. The importance of aquifers (wetland type Zk in the Ramsar Classification system) was highlighted. It was noted that in the framework for wetland inventory and in the systems of classification of wetland type, aquifers are not included, which may lead to a situation of under-representation in the Ramsar List.

41. The significance of glaciers as the original source for many wetlands was stressed.

42. The importance of mountain wetlands, in particular in the Andean countries, was also emphasized. It was recommended that interested countries establish contact with France and express an interest in participating in the preparation of the draft resolution on this matter.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

- The Dominican Republic expressed its satisfaction at having acceded to the Convention.
- The Central American countries will soon be launching their regional wetland policy.
- Chile announced the agreement of an operative plan between Chile and UNESCO for the establishment of a Centre for Water in the Arid and Semiarid Zones for Latin American and Caribbean in the IV Region of Chile.
- Guatemala presented its national wetland inventory.
- UNESCO has announced the adhesion of Burundi to the Convention as the 133rd Contracting Party.
- The Argentine Delegation presented the Regional South American Strategy, according to what was agreed at the Subregional meeting in Buenos Aires (September 2001) for discussion and contributions during the last day of the meeting.
- IUCN distributed an electronic version of the Report of the World Commission on Dams in English and Spanish. Additionally, it distributed:

Unión Mundial para the Naturaleza. ORMA. Area Temática de Wetlands and Zonas Costeras. Wetlands de Centroamérica: síntesis de veintisiete estudios e iniciativas sobre educación, investigación, manejo and conservación de wetlands and zonas costeras. San José, C.R.: UICN/ORMA, 2001. 99 p.

Taller Conservación and manejo de wetlands and zonas costeras en América Central: metodologías and prioridades como parte del Congreso de the Sociedad Mesoamericana para the Biología and the Conservación, 1999 jul. 05-08, Guatemala. Guatemala, CCAD, PROARCA Costas, UICN, 1999.

Young, Earl R.; Bilgre, Barbara; Pizarro, Francisco, ed. Hol Chan Marine Reserve management plan. San José, C.R.: UICN. Oficina Regional para Mesoamérica; Belice. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Cooperatives; BMZ, 2002.

Union Mundial para the Naturaleza. Oficina Regional para Mesoamérica. Seguimiento de las directrices de the Convención RAMSAR en the planificación de los wetlands de importancia internacional en Centroamérica. San José, C.R.: UICN. Oficina Regional para Mesoamérica, 2002.

Aguilar R., Grethel, comp. ; Córdoba Muñoz, Rocío, comp. Convenios internacionales relacionados con los wetlands and the medio marino de Mesoamérica. San José, C.R.: UICN/ORMA, 2002.

Day 2: 03.07.2002

RESOLUTIONS:

General Issues

Overload/Excess of Resolutions and Funding Requirements

43. It was stated that the capacity of the Parties to comply with the established agreements in Ramsar through the resolutions is limited, particularly regarding the commitment to carry out inventories and management plans, which must be added to other tasks that need institutional, human, and financial resources to prepare the Ramsar Information Sheets (RIS), for example. All this has an impact on the workload of the Parties and generates a need to define priorities, taking into account the available resources and the lack of capacity to accomplish everything. Additionally, it is important to review the needs regarding instruments support and alternatives to be able to deal in a better way with all their commitments, in a direct manner or in association with other bodies and international agreements.

44. It was recommended that the cost of the implementation of a resolution be taken into account when its draft is being prepared.

45. Better awareness of donors regarding wetland issues and a more aggressive effort to focus on sources such as the GEF is required. For this it was suggested that the national delegations to the GEF Council should be induced to influence the Council so that it gives priority to wetlands.

Discussion Resolution by Resolution

DR 13 - The Ramsar Sites Database and the Ramsar Information Sheet (RIS)

46. It was recommended that the RIS format be analysed by technical staff of every Party. It would be important to know the comments and observations, to modify and review them based on the reality of each country, their technical and financial capacity. It would be useful to receive these comments on the RIS before the COP.

47. It was recommended that account be taken of supplementary information about Ramsar sites, additional to the official information submitted by the Contracting Parties in the RIS, and it was suggested that the Bureau identify that supplementary information in a different part of the database.

48. Several delegations stressed their worry about the source of this supplementary information and the approval process previous to its official inclusion in the database. Additionally, it was mentioned that it was possible that some Parties will not want some of the information contained in the Ramsar Sites Database to be freely given to anyone who requests it.

49. One delegation thanked the Bureau for the support received for the implementation of a coral reef mapping project, which is an under-represented wetland.

DR 14 - Management Plan

50. It was noted that the majority of Ramsar sites do not have management plans and, based on this, Parties were urged to prepare and implement a management plan for each site, within the current financial and information limitations.

51. Several countries informed the meeting about their legislation, especially in protected areas, which already include guidelines on drafting management plans. Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua offered the Ramsar Bureau copies of these legal instruments and management plans.

52. It was reiterated that the management plans should be public.

53. Several delegations emphasized that to ensure the legitimacy of the involvement of the stakeholders in the management plan drafting, it is indispensable to carry out a capacity building process.

54. It was stated that the management plan has a double status, both technical and political. Considering that a management plan is a consensus process and many times adopted by law, the plan must be seen as a political instrument as well as a technical one.

55. The inclusion of the zoning issue in the new structure of the guidelines for management planning was applauded, and it was stated that the existing guidelines had been tested in several case studies where zoning was lacking.

56. It was considered that the management plans should be seen as long-term instruments focusing upon the administration of the social, environmental and economic issues, reflecting the problems and solutions for the sites. Regarding the issue of evaluation, it was suggested to include conflict identification.

57. It was recommended that the guidelines be more explicit regarding the fact that preparing a management plan is a training exercise, designed to promote the exchange of information between organisations and local communities.

58. Emphasis was placed upon the need for community participation so that the process of drafting and implementing the management plan will be a success. Although it could be expensive in the short term, in the long term it allows for better implementation of the actions included the action plan for the medium and long term and avoids the plan becoming just a bookshelf document.

59. It was clarified that the management plan is a sustainable development process and that it must be presented as such to the international community for development assistance.

60. It was recommended that because of the too scientific emphasis of the proposed evaluation of management plans, importance should be given to the identification of social processes.

61. It was proposed to establish a contact group to discuss amendments to the draft of resolution DR 14 to guarantee the participation of the Parties in the analysis of this resolution, and that this contact group prepare a concrete text of the specific amendments needed with sufficient time before the COP.

62. One delegation suggested that in paragraph 15 of the annex "holistic view" be modified to "holistic approach".

63. One delegation requested that "the precautionary principle" be replaced by "the precautionary approach" in paragraph 4.

64. One delegation suggested replacing in section IV the word "functions" for "purpose". In function VII about obtaining resources, it is considered important to include the agency or agencies in charge of the administration of the site.

65. Additionally it was stated that it is difficult to comply with function IX regarding demonstration of the plans' effectiveness and efficiency, owing to the length of the processes. It could be added that the plan would be efficient if it recommends solutions for the existing problems in the site.

66. In relation to the format of the Management Plan, section XI, it is considered that some of the sections could be more detailed, such as section b) regarding the description, making reference to the minimum parameters that should be included. Regarding the evaluation, it was suggested that issues concerning the confrontation of values and interests in the area, which are essential for the definition of the objectives, should be included.

67. It was suggested that the Action Plan (XVII) of the Draft Resolution "New Guidelines on management planning for Ramsar sites and other wetlands" should cover more precise and concrete aspects in relation to the more relevant issues that should be included in the plans, programs and projects, as well as the financial resources needed to implement them.

68. A delegation suggested modifying draft resolution DR 14, paragraph 16, after "full involvement of all stakeholders in all stages of the management planning process", to add "according to domestic policies and legislation" after the word "process"; and that Paragraph 17 - on the San José Record - should be deleted.

69. It was suggested that a new paragraph (19) could be added regarding capacity building of stakeholders, which could produce benefits in terms of environmental know-how to all those involved in the protection of wetlands.

DR 16 - Restoration of Wetlands

70. A glossary with definitions should be included. It was suggested that the STRP include in its definitions the difference between rehabilitation and restoration.

71. It was suggested that a program of rehabilitation of wetlands additional to the restoration be included.

72. It was recommended that a program and national priorities for restoration of wetlands based on the wetland inventory be established.

73. It was suggested that carrying out environmental impact assessments be considered before approving restoration projects because these may have serious impacts on wetlands.

74. It was noted that restoration or creation of wetlands cannot substitute for totally destroyed natural wetlands, which seems to be a contradiction with the application of the compensation concept.

DR 17 - Peatlands

75. It was suggested that special mention be made of highland wetlands, especially in reference to páramos in this resolution, taking into account that páramos include peatlands as a key element of their ecological structure.

76. The lack of integration of information processes about páramos at the regional level was pointed out, and it was stated that it is important to solve this problem in order to strengthen information on wetland ecosystems.

77. It was requested that it should be clarified who would be responsible for the monitoring.

78. It was suggested that only the first line of paragraph B.2 be maintained, and the rest deleted.

79. Additionally, it was requested that the Coordinating Committee of the Action Plan be geographically balanced and of Government nature.

80. A delegation suggested to delete paragraph 9 of the guidelines.

DR 18 - Invasive species

81. Information was provided regarding the decision of the Standing Committee to eliminate every reference to the guidelines adopted by the CBD regarding invasive species, in order to avoid the controversy generated during the discussions of that Convention on procedural issues (COP6, Hague, The Netherlands, April 2002).

82. The Ramsar Bureau and the STRP were urged to continue working on the preparation of guidelines for the management of invasive species that could represent a threat to wetlands and biological diversity.

83. The eradication concept was questioned regarding invasive species, as in the real world the costs of implementing that would be high. As an alternative, it is suggested to concentrate on sharing information and restricting new introductions of invasive species.

84. One delegation suggested replacing the term "major threat" for "serious threat" in paragraph 1 and "holistic manner" for "integrated manner" in paragraph 12 in the English version.

DR 19 - Cultural Values of Wetlands.

85. It was stressed that integrated management of wetlands requires the incorporation of cultural values.

86. There was a debate regarding the rationale of including one resolution about cultural values vis-à-vis the functions and objectives of the Convention. Some were concerned that such a resolution does not respond directly to, and therefore goes beyond the objectives of the Convention and the work overload of the Parties. Others on the contrary considered that cultural values are an intrinsic element of wetlands, and for this reason it is Ramsar's responsibility to consider this issue and implement actions even if they are implemented under other Conventions or instruments.

87. A delegation suggested deleting paragraphs 4 and 29 of the annex to the resolution as well as the boxes, in support to another Party's intervention regarding the "non involvement" of Ramsar on cultural issues.

88. As an alternative to the controversy, it was advised that the issue of cultural values be recognized as an issue of Ramsar competence and coordinate the implementation of actions with other competent organisations so as not to overload Ramsar.

89. The Secretary General recognised the aspects highlighted and urged participants to reflect on this issue, considering that in the next COP in Valencia cultural aspects are a main item in the agenda.

90. It was recommended that databases of traditional knowledge not be elaborated until countries have in place the legal framework to protect this knowledge adequately.

Participatory Management

91. A new draft of an unnumbered resolution, "Environmental Participatory Management" in wetlands, was submitted for consideration to the II Pan-American meeting; it was a result of an international meeting celebrated in Antigua, Guatemala, in May this year. Several delegations and non-governmental organisations stated their support to this resolution.

DR 23 - Incentives

92. Although little progress has been achieved since COP 7 in Costa Rica, the Secretary General called attention to the importance of this resolution, considering that incentives are useful for promoting commitments of the people for wetland conservation.

93. Due to the lack of information about incentives, it is important to strengthen the exchange of information and positive experiences between Parties.

94. One delegation urged the Bureau to continue working on guidelines for the use and application of incentives.

DR 24 - UNEP guidelines about multilateral agreements

95. UNEP adopted these guidelines after a long process of discussion of the issue. The guidelines were presented during UNEP's Governing Council meeting and the environment ministers forum held in Colombia last February. The intention of adopting this resolution is to promote assistance from UNEP to Ramsar's administrative authorities. As Ramsar is not part of the UN system, it is important to use every opportunity to get closer to the system.

DR 15 - San José Record

96. Some delegations considered that the proposed resolution is problematic, considering that the criterion for the inclusion of a wetland in the San José Record is based on draft resolution 14 which is not a legally binding instrument. Those sites which are not included in the record will face the risk of being less appreciated.

97. The question of the purpose of the San José Record was raised, as a site with a good management plan may not necessarily have the capacity to implement it. On the other hand, sites with weak management plans could be subject to good management.

98. The Bureau was requested to disseminate on the Web the list of sites where good management plans have been prepared, in order to have a multiplying effect of these approaches. This was suggested instead of the San José Record.

99. It was mentioned that the record will generate an overload of work for Administrative Authorities, STRP, and the Bureau, and additionally its maintenance would have some operating costs.

DRs 20, 21 and 22 - Urgent national interest and other resolutions

100. The Secretary General stated that from the Bureau's perspective it was a bit disappointing that these resolutions have lost some of their original strength for the important instrument that is the Ramsar Treaty, with the risk of bringing the Convention to a situation of a "lowest common denominator".

101. Some countries clarified that is not their intention to reduce Ramsar to a minimum common denominator but to defend their sovereign right and the autonomy of the Parties to take decisions in case of urgent national interest, which in no way affects the commitment of the Parties to the preservation of wetlands. It is precisely the flexibility of Ramsar which allows it to be implemented in many countries effectively, and limiting that flexibility would reduce its effectiveness in some countries, possibly creating weakness in the Convention.

102. One delegation suggested replacing in DR 20, English version, paragraph 5 of the annex, the words "all stakeholders" for "all relevant national stakeholders".

DR 28 - Modus Operandi of the STRP

103. The work of the STRP was recognised as a key tool for the implementation of the Convention, and the draft resolution was fully supported. The work of the two regional representatives was well acknowledged by several delegations.

Day 3: 04.07.2002

New draft resolution: High-Andean Wetlands

104. Various delegations strongly supported the idea of presenting a draft resolution referring specifically to High-Andean wetlands or neotropical wetlands of high mountains, including some specific types such as bofedales, paquisales, salares, salt and saline lagoons, high vegas, etc.

105. In number 9 of the same draft, reference was made only to páramos. It is proposed to include:

a) The efforts in the High-Andean wetlands carried out within the High-Andean Wetlands Program, which is being jointly implemented by Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Perú, and the Group for the Conservation of High-Andean Flamingos.
b) The project about assessment of High-Andean wetlands is being carried out with support from the private sector.
c) The "Vicuña Agreement" which includes bofedales and where Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Perú are taking part.

106. It was suggested that the draft resolution be modified to include wetlands of high mountains in the region, and to include the páramos wetlands of Costa Rica, integrating all the initiatives and actions which are being developed, such as in the páramos and the Puna. Additionally, it was considered important to include in the resolution similar types of wetlands found in Africa and Asia.

107. A contact group was formed with the aim of revising and improving the text of this proposed resolution before it is presented officially for consideration at COP8. The group is composed of various delegates of the Parties supported by Ramsar's partner organisations: WWF, Wetlands International, BirdLife and IUCN, plus the International Group of Páramos, and will be coordinated by IUCN.

DR 25 - Ramsar Strategic Plan 2003-2008

108. An introduction was made to the Strategic Plan and the document on setting provisional national targets, with the reminder that by 31 August of this year the targets should be sent to the Bureau.

109. It was recommended that while establishing national targets, consultation should be ample including all relevant organisations at the Government level, NGOs, focal points of STRP and CEPA (communication, education and public awareness), and other key people in the country.

110. The Uruguayan delegation was congratulated for being the first country to submit the provisional national targets document 2003-2005, during the meeting.

111. The difficulty in completing the section referring to the budget in the form for the national targets was stressed, considering that is not possible to forecast the priorities and the funding that will be allocated to environment.

112. It was stated that there is no focus regarding peatlands in the Plan and that the concept appears too general.

113. The participation of the private sector was recommended as well as the inclusion of local communities in the implementation of the Plan, and it was requested that the term "private sector" be clarified.

114. Various delegations stated that the document is of great assistance to generate a program for strengthening implementation of the Convention, represents a base for establishing national priorities, and would encourage the seeking of resources for priorities and for complying with set actions.

115. It was observed that the document has mistakes in its translation into Spanish and a revision was recommended.

116. The Bureau indicated that the Ramsar Convention has not managed yet to get an Observer status in the GEF Council and requested Parties' support to gain its acceptance.

117. It was suggested that the need to create links between Ramsar objectives and the human development objectives of the United Nations referring to the poverty issues, equity and sustainable development be taken into account.

118. Various delegations mentioned their opposition to the "Ecosystem Approach" included in the Plan and suggested changing it to "Integrated Approach".

119. There was generalised support for including a strong component on participatory management in the Plan, and the group that attended the Antigua meeting about this issue offered to send its concrete comments on the Strategic Plan to the Bureau.

120. The Colombian delegation provided an electronic version of its proposed amendments to the Strategic Plan, and the delegation of Ecuador provided a printed version of its proposal for amendments.

121. A high degree of satisfaction with the proposed Strategic Plan was indicated.

122. In relation to the general objective regarding accessions, it was recommended that the Bureau increase its efforts before the next Conference of the Parties, especially in the Caribbean region, to get several of the countries of the Region as part of a the Ramsar family.

123. Granada reported on the progress it has made in acceding to the Convention and mentioned its agreement to support the initiatives that will promote the accession before the next COP.

DR 29 - Evaluation of Ramsar Small Grants Fund for the conservation and wise use of wetlands (SGF) and the establishment of the Ramsar Endowment Fund

124. Various delegations considered that this a positive and functional initiative and recommended that funding agencies provide resources to this initiative. Nonetheless, one delegation stated that its legislation does not allow it to make donations to endowment funds.

125. A clarification of the meaning of an "endowment fund" was requested to avoid misunderstandings in future. The Secretary General explained that this is a fund where the capital is invested and the interest upon that capital used for financing projects. The capital may remain unchanged, or it may be increased by additional donations or by adding part of the interest into the capital.

126. Additionally, it was suggested that when the operational rules of the Fund are adopted, attention should be given to the creation of the group of experts that will administer the Fund, so that it does not have as one of its functions the approval of projects, such as was proposed for the Fiduciary Fund, but that its function is limited to the administration of the Fund, as is proposed in 13e) of the present draft resolution. The Standing Committee should be responsible for the approval of projects.

DR 27 - Budget

127. The meeting was informed that the Dutch Development Assistance Agency is very interested in wetland issues, and it is interested in supporting countries that wish to include wetlands in their poverty eradication strategies, rather than financing isolated projects about wetlands.

128. The Secretary General informed the meeting that other options have been reviewed to determine the level of contributions of each Party, but the conclusion has always been that the United Nations scale continues to be the best alternative.

129. Argentina reported that in the Standing Committee meeting it had made a statement in which it announced that due to the considerable deterioration of the economic situation of that country, its ability to make payments had been affected, and therefore it had started a process to reconsider its contributions to all international organisations. Regarding this, the General Assembly of the United Nations should agree, after it receives the recommendation from the Quotas Committee, a new percentage in the scale of contributions for the year 2003 for Argentina, and requested that in case this is approved, Ramsar should also apply it.

130. Brazil stated that in the scale of the United Nations its contribution was augmented by 50%, making it the 9th contributor to Ramsar and the largest contributor from the developing countries. The scale approved by the General Assembly of the UN is not applied automatically to all organisations in the system.

Selection of regional representatives in the Standing Committee and the STRP

Standing Committee

131. The meeting was reminded that according to Resolution VII.1 of COP7, for each 12 countries in a region 1 representative is assigned to the Standing Committee (at present North America: 1 representative, Oceania: 1 representative, Neotropics: 2 representatives, Europe: 4 representatives, Africa: 3 representatives, Asia: 2 representatives).

132. Mexico on behalf of the North American Region announced that according to the gentleman's agreement between the three member countries there is a rotational system for their representative in the Standing Committee and stated that the Canada would be representing them in the SC from COP8 onwards.

133. The Parties of the Neotropical Region decided that only at COP8 would they announce who their representatives would be, although some informal consultations took place during the Pan-American meeting.

134. Various delegations suggested the following principles:

· The convenience of applying a rotation system of Parties to give the possibility to countries that have not been able to be part of the Standing Committee before.

· It was proposed to design a methodology to improve the representation and look for better coordination between the Party that represents the region and the other Parties.

· If before the COP a new country accedes to the Convention in the Neotropical Region, taking the number of Parties in the Region from 24 to 25, the region will be able to have an additional representative.

135. The possibility of selecting the representatives by subregions was mentioned, but it was stated that this is a decision of the Parties and the meeting was informed that after COP7 a practical regionalization had been agreed upon by the regional representatives (i.e., Caribbean, Central America, and South America).

136. The Regional Representatives mentioned, as an important matter to resolve to be able to improve their work, the lack of response from the other Parties when they send issues for consultation. This is why communication and exchange is a matter of great importance.

137. It was suggested that a Ramsar Bureau official be based in the region, a motion which was supported by the Secretary General, provided that this should be done without moving the Regional Coordinator from the office in Switzerland, as this would affect the team work in the Bureau.

Progress on the Joint Programme of Work between Ramsar and the Man and Biosphere Programme of UNESCO

138. This initiative received support and it was stated that there is a possibility of obtaining financial assistance for sites that are both Ramsar sites and Biosphere Reserves.

139. Countries will benefit from this double designation, and that is why they are urged to consider this possibility.

140. Some countries mentioned their interest in the initiative as they have sites that are include in the Ramsar List as well as in the Biosphere Reserves List of UNESCO, or are considering designating them under both agreements. Examples are Colombia (Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta); Mexico, which is proposing to include two joint sites; Cuba, whose Ciénaga de Zapata is a Biosphere Reserve twinned with a Mexican site; and Dominican Republic, which has just submitted a proposal to make its only Ramsar site, Lago Enriquillo, a Biosphere Reserve.

Other Draft Resolutions and Recommendations for COP8

Proposal for a South American Strategy

141. Various delegations congratulated Argentina for the interesting initiative, and made some comments and suggestions with respect to the present document, considering that there is a need to receive more comments from other countries in the South American region, which will mean changes to the present proposal in a long-term process.

142. The link between the proposal and Ramsar's Strategic Plan was considered adequate.

143. It was suggested that although the situation is serious, it should be more focused on the specificity of the region. The item 4 of the Bases is looking for a biogeographic unit, but maybe it should be the opposite, as the large biodiversity is predominant.

144. One delegation suggested that with respect to the environmental status of wetlands in South America it is necessary to develop a base line that reflects the real regional situation and to complement and concretise this item with precise data.

145. Additionally, it was reiterated that the basis for a regional strategy should be the base line study or biotic and socio-economic diagnostic of the region, and from there, aspects such as implementation status of the Ramsar Convention should be identified and an analysis of the weaknesses and strengths with respect to its different objectives should be made. It was also noted that the Strategy should be formulated according to the priorities established by each Contracting Party.

146. In relation to the training issue, it was recommended that reference be made to the need to establish a specific strategy of education and training not just at the level of environmental authorities, but at the community level as well. It was also noted that there are other initiatives that are being developed in the region and that have already been approved by the Contracting Parties, such as the Training Centre in Panama, which require strengthening from the financial and technical point of view. Therefore, it is advisable to focus the efforts on a single initiative, especially considering the difficulty in securing financial resources.

147. Various delegations considered that Objective 5 is a bit dangerous and that they have problems with certification. It was suggested to talk about sustainable use and not about trade, and emphasis was placed on the fact that due to national security reasons it is difficult to work on transboundary wetlands.

148. Attention was called to the fact that there is no mention of inventory and monitoring methodologies, and it was not considered appropriate to include shrimp ponds as artificial wetlands.

149. It was recommended that Wetlands International take into account this Strategy in their own regional strategy.

150. One delegation requested that additional to local communities the "maroons" should also be included. It was therefore suggested that the term be modified to tribal and indigenous communities.

Management Plan for Galapagos

151. A presentation was made on the status of development of this Plan.

Ecuadorian Wetlands Strategy

152. A presentation was made on the status of development of this Strategy.

Biotrade Initiative in Ecuador

153. A presentation was made on the projects that are being implemented in Ecuador within the framework of the Biotrade Initiative of the United Nations Conference about Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

154. The Secretary General noted that the document entitled "The Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, 1971): An Active Player in the Fight Against Poverty", which was distributed at the meeting, makes mention of the work the Ramsar Bureau is carrying out with the Biotrade Initiative of UNCTAD.

Approval of the report

155. The report of the first two days was presented and approved, subject to the amendments proposed by the participants. The Bureau committed itself to send a complete version in the next two weeks.

Closure

156. Various delegations thanked the Government of Ecuador for its hospitality and the good organisation of the meeting, and congratulated the Americas Regional Coordinator in the Ramsar Bureau, Ms. Margarita Astrálaga, for the excellent work and support given to the Governments of the Region, especially to the Administrative Authorities.

157. The meeting was closed at 18:00 by the Sub-Secretary of Environment, Ing. Héctor Ayón, on behalf of the Government of Ecuador, and Mr. Delmar Blasco, Secretary General of the Convention.

Ramsar/ECU02/Doc. 29/eng

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