Report of the West Africa Subregional Meeting, June 2002


[French to follow]

Ramsar West Africa, Madagascar & Comoros Subregional Meeting
Cotonou, Benin, 5-7 June 2002
Photos of the meeting

Conclusions of the Ramsar West Africa, Madagascar and Comoros Subregional meeting (Cotonou, Benin, 5-7 June 2001)

Key Issues, Challenges and Actions for the implementation of the Convention

The West Africa, Madascar and the Comoros Ramsar Subregional Meeting (Cotonou, Benin 5-7 June 2002) was attended by 63 representatives of: Contracting Parties (Benin, Burkina Faso, Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo), International Organisation Partners (BirdLife International, IUCN - The World Conservation Union, Wetlands International and the Worldwide Fund for Nature - WWF), and regional and international organisations (LCBC - Lake Chad Basin Commission, NBA - Niger Basin Authority, NESDA - Nework for Environment and Sustainable Development, Nigerian Conservation Foundation and Parc W/ECOPAS).

The participants at the meeting expressed their gratitude to the Agence Beninoise de l'Environnement for hosting the meeting, to the governments of Norway, Sweden and Switzerland for their financial support for the meeting, and the Ramsar Bureau for facilitating the work of the meeting.

The participants in the meeting identified the following 12 key issues for the implementation of the Ramsar Convention in the region, specified the challenges they face in addressing these key issues, and identified actions designed to address these challenges so as to progress their implementation.

For each Action identified below, those bodies of the Convention responsible for implementing the Action and other organisations who should be involved in its implementation are identified in square brackets: […]. Abbreviations are: CPs - Contracting Parties in the region; IOPs - International Organisation Patners of the Convention (BirdLife International, IUCN, Wetlands International, WWF); STRP - the Convention's Scientific and Technical Review Panel; MEAs - multilateral environmental conventions.

1. COP8

A. The voice and priorities of Contracting Parties from the regions should be fully heard in the COP8 debates and reflected in the COP8 decisions


1.1 West Africa, Madagascar and Comoros issues and priorities, notably those identified in the sections below and including those specific to the subregion including island states, should be fully presented and taken into account in the debates and decisions of COP8.


i) Negotiate during COP8 so as to ensure that the issues and priorities of Contracting Parties of the subregion, as reflected in these conclusions of the West Africa, Madagascar and Comoros Subregional meeting, are fully addressed in the final text of the Convention's Strategic Plan 2003-2008, including the inclusion of additional Actions as appropriate, in its Implementation Plan, and in specific Resolutions. [CPs]

ii) Organise a subregional side event at COP8 to explain and promote innovative experience and approaches to implementing the Convention, notably in transboundary river basin management and Ramsar site designations for sustainable use being developed in West Africa with the support of the Ramsar Bureau and WWF, including those through the Lake Chad Basin Commission and Niger Basin Authority. [CPs, WWF, river basin organisations, Bureau]

iii) Strongly support the continuation of the Ramsar Small Grants Fund, including through the establishment of a Ramsar Endowment Fund, as a vital implementation tool of the Convention for developing countries. [CPs]

iv) Support the draft Resolution proposed by the North Africa Subregional meeting (Algiers, March 2002) to be introduced to COP8 by Algeria which will urge Contracting Parties to support the global WWF target of the designation of 250 million ha of Ramsar Sites by 2010. [CPs]

v) At COP8 and subsequent COPs announce minimum Ramsar site "designation pledges" for the triennum that follows, with a special focus on under-represented wetland types, and particularly including "wetlands in drylands" in North Africa, West Africa and Soudano-Sahelian zone. [CPs]

2. The wise use of all wetlands

A. Better recognition - at all levels - of the high importance of wetlands (including Ramsar sites) in arid and semi-arid environments


2.1 Improving knowledge of wetlands in drylands, through inventory and assessment of the status and trends, notably of their hydrological importance, their support to biodiversity, and support to economic development.

2.2 Aquiring in-depth knowledge on the major factors affecting the conservation status of wetlands in drylands, including drought and desertification


i) Strengthen national and regional links with the UN Convention to Combat Desertification so as to identify joint actions for 'wetlands in drylands', including raising awareness of the critical values and functions of wetlands in the region's arid and semi-arid areas. [CPs, UNCCD secretariat and national focal points, NESDA]

ii) Work with counterpart focal points for UNCCD and others, with the assistance of the Bureau, to identify and report on critical wetlands (including wetlands at risk), and their status and trends, in arid and semi-arid lands, along with the drivers (root causes) of their degradation. [CPs, UNCCD focal points, Bureau]

ii) In implementing Action i) above, explore opportunities for using remote sensing analyses to identify and assess critical wetlands in drylands, and to utilise and further develop the results and methods developed by the European Space Agency's (ESA) TESEO projects on wetlands and on desertification. [CPs, UNCCD focal points, ESA, World Resources Institute]

B. Reinforcement of institutional partnerships at national level between Governmental entities responsible for wetlands ("the water producers") and those responsible for water resources ("the water product"); and between other sectors of government and 'non-state actors' (including intergovermental organisations, NGOs) concerned with sustainable use of wetlands


2.3 Establishing of National Wetland Committees where they do not yet exist.

2.4 Involving of all relevant national institutions, especially those responsible for the water sector, and including governments entities, NGOs and other non-State actors, into existing National Wetland Committees, and ensuring such multi-sectoral membership in newly established national Wetland Committees.


i) Strengthen existing cooperation between Ramsar Administrative Authorities and water resources managers at national level, by involving them in the work of National Wetland Committees. [CPs]

ii) Increase awareness amongst water resource institutions and managers of the importance of wetlands to sustainable water resource menagement, and the Convention's guidance (including that being considered at COP8) relevant to the issue. [CPs]

C. Invasive species


2.5 Developing and implementing comprehensive invasive species management strategies in the subregion, including through legislation (where necessary), public awareness, education, and exchange of experience and expertise, so as to prevent new invasions and control already established invasive species.


i) Through the Convention's processes, including COP8, as a high priority provide additional assistance to Contracting Parties at the earliest opportunity, including additional scientific and technical guidance on prevention, control and eradication of aquatic invasive species. [CPs, Bureau, STRP]

ii) Utilise existing guidelines and strategies for addressing invasive species' issues (including those prepared by IUCN and GISP - the Global Invasive Species Programme)to prepare national and regional strategies, in collaboration with focal points of other biodiversity-related conventions (CBD, CITES, CMS etc.). [CPs, national focal points of other MEAs]

iii) Establish new partnerships or reinforce of existing ones - including with international basin organisations - as a priority for the development and dissemination of further guidance on prevention, eradication and control of invasive species, including through further development of the IUCN/Ramsar Bureau awareness programme for wetland managers in Africa. [CPs, IOPs, international basin organisations, other MEAs]

D. Private sector involvement


2.6 Reinforcing public awareness as a means of reaching the private sector (companies, foundations, etc.), building on existing experience in the subregion.


i) Promote, by all possible means, awareness of the importance and value of sustainable wetland conservation and management, and seek opportunities for engaging private sector involvement and support, building on successful initiatives in the subregion. [CPs, IOPs]

ii) Seek opportunities through the media for raising public awareness of the importance of wetland conservation and wise use. [CPs, IOPs]

E. Mobilising funding resources


2.7 Making use of the best possible use of existing donor mechanisms, including from multilateral and bilateral donors, and those available through the Convention, through focusing on the role of wetlands as an asset for sustainable development


i) Ensure that projects for wetland conservation and wise use focus, as appropriate, on the key role of wetlands in poverty alleviation, including through their provision of goods and services to the most vunerable sectors of society, food and water security and human well-being. [CPs]

ii) Utilise Ramsar site designation as a mechanism for indicting priority areas for project development for the maintenance of globally significant biodiversity. [CPs]

iii) Seek to ensure that the Ramsar Small Grants Fund continues to be able to support Contracting Parties through project funding to address their priorities for wetland conservation and wise use, including through the establishment at COP8 of a Ramsar Endowment Fund as a high priority, and encourage donor countries and the private sector to contribute to the Fund, once established (see also 1. above). [CPs, Bureau]

iv) Ensure that the Bureau's guide to wetland project proposal preparation is fully available to all Administrative Authority focal points in the region. [Bureau]

v) Request the Bureau to establish, maintain and regularly update, on the Ramsar WebSite, a database indicating for each CP, on a country-by-country basis, existing and planned/priority involvements of bilateral and multilateral donors in activities/projects related to wetlands (including wetlands and poverty alleviation, agriculture, forestry, etc.), seek at COP8 to include an Action (under Operation Objective 15.1) in the Convention's Strategic Plan 2003-2008 to develop such a service, and encourage donors to contribute to the establishment of the service. [CPs, Bureau]

vi) Promote the formulation of transboundary multinational projects for wetland conservation and wise use. [CPs, IOPs]

3. Designation and management of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar sites)

A. Establishment of a coherent national and regional network of Ramsar sites, including at the the river basin scale, as the basis for their sustainable management


3.1 Fully implementing the Strategic Framework and guidelines for the future development of the List of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Wise Use Handbook 7) so as to fully reflect the importance, diversity and distribution of wetlands in the region, as a basis for their sustanable management.

3.2 Improving assessment of the conservation status of existing Ramsar Sites and identifying and implementing actions to improve their status.

3.3 Establishment of management planning processes for all Ramsar sites in the region, including the restoration/rehabilitation of degraded sites, with a particular focus on the use of the Montreux Record as a tool for seeking assistance for sites under threat.


i) Become fully familiar with how to apply existing tools and mechanisms, including the Strategic Framework for Ramsar Site designation adopted by COP7 (Resolution VII.11 - Ramsar Wise Use Handbook 7), the guidance on the compilation of Information Sheets on Ramsar Wetlands (RIS), and the reporting of change in ecological character under Article 3.2 of the Convention, and the use and purpose of the Montreux Record. [CPs]

ii) Seek the continued assistance of the Convention's International Organisation Partner's, and notably the WWF's Living Waters Programme in the identification and designation of further Ramsar sites in the region. [CPs, IOPs]

iii) Ensure that the Ramsar Information Sheet for each designated Ramsar Site is regularly updated so as to reflect any changes to the ecological character and status of the site, and provide such updates to the Bureau at least every six years. [CPs]

iv) Use existing national planning processes to develop and implement management plans for all existing Ramsar Sites, using the Convention's guidance on management planning for Ramsar sites and other wetlands. [CPs]

4. International cooperation

A. Transboundary management of shared water systems


4.1 Undertaking joint initiatives on assessment of common challenges and taking action on common solutions at a transboundary scale in the region.

4.2 Promoting transboundary wetland management initiatives at all levels, particularly with potential international donors.

4.3 Seeking recognition of the novel and innovative approaches to transboundary wetland and river basin management in the subregion, involving partnerships between conventions, regional organisations, governments and NGOs, as models for global transferability.


i) Use the Convention's mechanisms for Ramsar Site designation and management to promote transboundary cooperation in shared wetlands and river basins. [CPs]

ii) In River Niger basin countries, implement Decision No. 6 of the 7th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Niger Baisn Authority (Abuja, Nigeria, 16 February 2002) concerning the designation of an additional network of Wetlands of International Importance in the River Niger basin, including those with the highest value in terms of their biological diversity and importance for local communities. [Niger Basin CPs, IOPs, Niger Basin Authority]

iii) For shared river basins in the region other than the River Niger basin, promote and implement equivalent decisions of basin mangement authorities, and between countries, so as to establish coherent networks of Ramsar sites throughout the region's river basins. [CPs, IOPs, basin management authorities]

B. Integrated coastal zone management


4.4 Initiating or reinforcing collaborative transboundary actions for the integrated management of the subregion's coastal zones.


i) Encourage the ongoing joint initiative between the FIBA (Fondation Internationale pour le Banc d'Arguin), IUCN and WWF for the development of ICZM in Mauritania, Senegal and Guinea Bissau , and seek to apply its esperience to the development of ICZM initiatives on other coastal areas in the region. [CPs, FIBA, IUCN, WWF]

C. Island developing countries


4.5 Ensuring that the specificity of issues of wetland conservation and wise use for island developing countries in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans are recognised and fully addressed by the Convention, including at COP8, alongside those of continental countries.


i) Make available the report of the Oceania Ramsar Regional meeting (Apia, Samoa, May 2002, concerning priority issues of Pacific Island countries, is made available to island state Contracting Parties and non-parties in the Africa region. [Bureau]

ii) Consider establishing a Island Developing Countries (IDS) dialogue at COP8 so as to enhance opportunity to ensure sure that their issues are fully incorporated into the COP8 decisions, including in the Strategic Plan 2003-2008 (see also 1. Above) [Bureau, IDS CPs]

5. Implementation capacity

A. Training and capacity-building


5.1 Ensuring improved opportunities for training in wetland conservation and wise use, and the implementation of the Convention, in the subregion.


i) The Bureau, through the Regional Coordinator for Africa, should work closely with those responsible for developing the proposed wetland management diploma course at Ouagadougou University, and training courses developed by the Centre for African Wetlands (CAW, Accra,Ghana), so as to ensure that they fully address the needs of countries in the region to implement the requirements of the Convention, and its Strategic Plan, including through training in the use of the Ramsar Toolkit. [Bureau, IUCN, Ouagadougou University, CAW]

ii) Identify training opportunities for economic valuation methods, so as to facilitate promotion and wide recognition of wetland values and functions in the region. [CPs, IOPs, Bureau]

iii) Seek the assistance of the Ramsar Training Service, once established by Wetlands International, in the identification of training opportunities and exchange programmes for the region. [CPs, Wetlands International]

B. Financial issues


5.2 Resolving difficulties faced by some countries in finding the resources to pay their annual contributions to the Convenion


i) Discuss with the Bureau the most appropriate mechanism for ensuring their regular payments. [CPs, Bureau]

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