The 9th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties


"Wetlands and water: supporting life, sustaining livelihoods"
9th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties
to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)
Kampala, Uganda, 8-15 November 2005
Agenda item XV
Ramsar COP9 DR 11

Use of the term "Ramsar Secretariat"

Explanatory Note by the Secretariat

1. In his report to the Standing Committee meeting in January 2004 (DOC. SC30-2), the Secretary General proposed that the name of the Ramsar "Bureau" to describe the treaty secretariat, which has been used traditionally from the time of its use in the text of the Convention in 1971, should be changed to the "Secretariat" in order to bring it into line with the practice of more recent environmental conventions.

2. At the request of the Standing Committee, the advice of IUCN's Environmental Law Centre (ELC) was sought on the matter. The ELC's June 2004 opinion (provided for information in COP9 DOC. 19) concluded that "there is nothing in the Convention itself that prohibits the use of the term 'Ramsar Secretariat' to describe the unit created within IUCN for carrying out the 'continuing bureau duties' under the Convention. The 'Bureau' as defined in the Convention is IUCN." However, since the term "Ramsar Bureau" has been used widely to refer to the unit created to carry out the "continuing bureau duties" under the Convention, the ELC recommended that a draft Resolution be submitted to COP9 to formalize this change.

3. The attached draft Resolution (COP9 DR11) was approved by the Standing Committee for COP9's consideration in Decision SC31-18.

4. In addition, the IUCN-ELC's advice (COP9 DOC. 19) identified that for the purposes of clarity it would be appropriate to amend Rule 27 of the COP Rules of Procedure: "The "Rules of Procedure for the Meetings of the Conference of Contracting Parties" refer to secretariat functions and define both "Bureau" and "Secretariat". These definitions taken in isolation support the move towards using the nomenclature of the 'Ramsar Secretariat' for the unit within IUCN carrying out the continuing bureau functions, and "the Bureau" for IUCN. However, when read with Rule 27, these definitions could make the Director General of IUCN the Secretary General of the COP, which is clearly not the intention of the Parties. An amendment to the Rules is highly desirable to resolve this confusion."

5. An amendment to Rule 27.1 to resolve this has been incorporated into the Rules of Procedure to be considered for adoption under COP9 Agenda item IV.

Use of the term "Ramsar Secretariat"

1. RECALLING Article 10bis paragraph 3 of the Convention which refers to "the Bureau" as an administrative unit performing the Convention's secretariat functions;

2. NOTING the legal opinion of the IUCN Centre for Environmental Law (COP9 DOC. 19) that, in line with modern practice, the term "Bureau" is not satisfactory;

3. RECOGNISING that, for the Secretariat in its external relations, the term "Bureau" is not satisfactory;

4. ALSO RECOGNISING the need to allow the Secretariat to use a more suitable descriptor in such relations; and

5. AFFIRMING that this Resolution does not intend to amend the Convention text or to change the functions and status of the Bureau as established in the Convention text and in related decisions and Resolutions of the Convention bodies;


6. DECIDES that in its external relations the Ramsar Bureau may use the descriptor "the Ramsar Secretariat" in its official statements and documents when such a descriptor is considered to be more suitable; and

7. REAFFIRMS that this use of the descriptor "Secretariat" shall not affect the Bureau's functions or status as provided for in the Convention text and in related decisions and Resolutions of the Convention bodies.

For reasons of economy, this document is printed in a limited number, and will not be distributed at the meeting. Delegates are requested to bring their copies to the meeting and not to request additional copies.

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