Report of the Oceania Regional Meeting, May 2002
Ramsar Oceania Regional Meeting
Apia, Samoa, 6-8 May 2002
Report of the
Second Oceania Regional Meeting of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
held in Apia, Samoa, 6-8 May 2002
A preparatory meeting for the 8th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Wetlands, Valencia, Spain, November 2002
The second Ramsar Oceania Regional Meeting was held at the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) training centre in Apia, Western Samoa, on 6-8 May 2002. Participants came from American Samoa, Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Guam, Kingdom of Tonga, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Northern Mariana Islands, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. There were also representatives from the Australian National University, BirdLife International, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the South Pacific Regional Environment Program, Wetlands International, World Wide Fund for Nature, United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO); and the University of the South Pacific.
This report conveys key outcomes of the meeting and is provided for the information of interested organisations and stakeholders including the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Wetlands (COP).
The meeting built on good progress that has been made in the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands, and in the implementation of the Ramsar Convention in the region since the first Oceania Regional Meeting in Hamilton, New Zealand, in December 1998.
This progress includes: the incorporation into decisions of the 7th Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention of recommendations from the Hamilton meeting; the development of a Memorandum of Cooperation between the South Pacific Regional Environment Program and the Ramsar Convention Bureau; progress by Fiji, Solomon Islands and Palau towards accession to the Convention; and the implementation of capacity building initiatives such as the Asia Pacific Wetland Managers Training Program funded by Australia, the appointment of a Regional Wetlands Management Officer in SPREP, and of a Ramsar support position in the Department of Environment and Conservation in Papua New Guinea.
The meeting identified a number of key challenges for the sustainability of wetland resources of the region. These include:
- degradation, loss and rehabilitation of particular wetland types such as mangroves, coral reefs and coastal systems generally
- sustainable use of wetlands to meet the needs and aspirations of the Pacific island countries and territories
- the impacts of climate change and invasive species
- human pressures, especially those driven by the significant economic and social transformations occurring across the region, including pollution and development pressure
- awareness at all levels of governments in the region to improve the attitude of people towards wetlands (eg perception that wetlands are wastelands)
- threats to endangered species caused by wetlands habitat loss
The meeting agreed that in addressing these challenges it is essential to recognise the interdependence of people, their cultures and their livelihoods with the wetlands of the region.
In particular the effective planning and management of wetlands needs to recognise customary and other relevant land tenure systems.
This planning and management of wetlands also needs to be integrated with actions to ensure the sustainability of all natural resources.
Other priorities for the more effective conservation and sustainable use of wetlands identified by the meeting include:
- enhanced technical expertise and training
- continuous improvement in legislative and policy frameworks
- obtaining high level support and recognition for wetlands issues, including across all sectors of government
- the use of integrated approaches to natural resource management generally
- the need to change attitudes through enhanced understanding and communication to the public of wetlands values
- increased cooperation between countries and territories of the region, including the development of linkages between wetland projects
- access to funding and resources for capacity building
- strengthening existing local initiatives by NGOs, community based organisations (CBOs), resource owners (e.g., in managing Wildlife Management Areas), individual volunteers and other stakeholders
- addressing poverty alleviation in the context of environmentally sustainable use and management of wetlands
Regional and International Cooperation
New steps were taken at the meeting towards regional cooperation for wetlands conservation and sustainable use.
A Memorandum of Cooperation between the South Pacific Regional Environment Program and the Ramsar Convention Bureau was signed by Tamari'i Tutangata, Director of SPREP, and Dr Nick Davidson, Deputy Secretary General of the Ramsar Bureau. The Memorandum of Cooperation provides the basis for increased support by SPREP and the Ramsar Bureau to the countries and territories of the region. This support will focus on promoting the sustainable use of wetlands, the recognition and management of wetlands of international importance, promoting international and regional cooperation, assistance with resourcing for capacity building and, where appropriate, promoting accession to the Ramsar Convention.
The meeting also contributed to the development of a Joint Work Plan to give early and practical effect to the Memorandum of Cooperation. The meeting provided input into the Ramsar Convention's draft Strategic Plan for the period 2003-2008.
Presentations were given by representatives of Palau and Fiji about their progress towards accession to the Ramsar Convention. Countries and territories of the Oceania region agreed that in moving towards accession and in the associated listing of sites under the Ramsar Convention, careful attention should be given to:
- fully effective engagement with relevant communities and other stakeholders in the identification of possible sites for listing
- clear communication to the community of the consequences of listing
- the importance of adequate resourcing for the accession process and listing of a site
- securing and maintaining the broad high level support needed for these processes
- the ongoing communication, management and other actions necessary for long-term sustainability of a listed site
The meeting agreed that priority shall be given by the Ramsar Bureau to the provision to countries considering accession of a single information toolkit to assist them through this process.
In view of the small size and limited resources of many Pacific islands and territories, the meeting emphasised the critical importance of simplifying and harmonising the activities and requirements of the Ramsar Convention and all other environment related international instruments such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the Convention on Migratory Species, the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme and the World Heritage Convention and the need to continue to actively seek to harmonise their activities. The Ramsar Bureau's efforts in this direction were welcomed.
The key role of non-government organisations in supporting international, regional and country or territory level actions to address wetlands issues was specifically identified by the meeting as a key success factor.
Participants welcomed a statement by Samoa that it will be seeking to accede to the Ramsar Convention in advance of the November 2002 COP.
The meeting urged Australia to give careful consideration to the provision of continued funding to support the Asia Pacific Wetland Managers Training Program, and for it to include appropriate training activities with increased participation from the Pacific to support the Ramsar-SPREP Memorandum of Cooperation. It also agreed that priority should be given to the identification as well as the maintenance of existing resourcing mechanisms that are capable of attracting funds from a range of potential donors in order to address, in particular, the capacity building needs of the region.
The Ramsar Bureau and SPREP will move quickly to finalise the Joint Work Plan and to commence its implementation in collaboration with the countries and territories of the region.
The Contracting Parties to the Convention from Oceania, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and hopefully Palau and Samoa, will, in concert with the Ramsar Bureau, carry forward to the Ramsar Convention Conference of Parties in November 2002 the key issues of priority identified by Oceania parties as well as non-parties. Consultation will occur between Oceania Contracting Parties as to how this will occur, including consideration of a resolution to the COP. The aim will be to see the priorities identified by the meeting reflected in the outcomes of the COP so as to further support the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands in Oceania.
The meeting expressed its warm appreciation for the hosting and financial support of the meeting made possible by SPREP and Australia respectively and for the contribution made by the United States of America to assist delegates from its territories to attend the meeting.
Apia, May 2002
Meeting report by Environment Australia / Photos by Bill Phillips, Mainstream Environmental Consulting
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