Africa Regional Meeting on Ramsar COP9, Arusha, 4-8 April 2005


armenia Africa Regional Meeting in preparation for Ramsar COP9
Arusha, Tanzania, 4-8 April 2005




Report of the Africa Regional Preparatory Meeting on the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) for COP9

Subregional Working Group Session - 4 April 2005

1. The Africa Regional Preparatory Meeting on the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) for COP9 was held at the Arusha International Conference Centre, Arusha, Tanzania from 4 to 8 April 2005 with the kind support of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and IUCN-The World Conservation Union. The meeting was convened as part of the groundwork relating to the 9th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP9) to be held in Kampala, Uganda, in November 2005, and more specifically as a direct response to a decision of the Ramsar Convention Standing Committee which recommended that a series of meetings should be held in 2004 and 2005 in the six Ramsar regions (Africa, Asia, Europe, the Neotropics, North America, and Oceania) to review the current implementation of the Convention and prepare for COP9. The Arusha meeting brought together more than 150 delegates from African countries and representatives from national and international organizations to review the problems of implementing the Convention in the region and articulate their positions on the issues that will be considered at COP9. A list of participants to the meeting is attached to this report as Annex X.

2. The first day of the meeting was devoted to subregional working group discussions to carry out in-depth reviews and analysis of a range of issues concerning the implementation and expansion of the Convention in the various subregions. The plenary session of the day, which was held in the Mbayuwayu Conference Hall (Ngorongoro Block), started with welcome remarks, delivered by Mr. Emmanuel Severre, Director Wildlife, Wildlife Division, Government of the United Republic of Tanzania. In his capacity as Master of Ceremonies for the Session, Mr. E.M. Tarimo, Principal Game Officer in the Wildlife Division, Tanzania, briefed the delegates on procedural matters and logistical arrangements related to various aspects of the meeting. Mr. Abou Bamba, Senior Regional Advisor for Africa, Ramsar Convention Bureau, made a presentation outlining the objectives and expected outputs of the Session. In particular, Mr. Bamba reiterated the need for the working group sessions to focus their deliberations on major issues and concerns that characterize the expansion of the Convention in the subregions; the status and pace of progress with the current Convention Work and Strategic Plans; and also to articulated a set of recommendations required to solve the identified problems as well as an indication of the possible needs for the future work of the Convention in the region. He further pointed out that the discussions of the subregional working groups should take into consideration the relevant outcome of COP8 or the so-called Valencia (COP8) legacy, the Millennium Development Goals and the overall NEPAD objective of poverty alleviation and wetlands management.

3. Following this briefing, Mr. Bamba then provided a detailed presentation on the Terms of Reference to guide the discussions in each of the six subregional Working Groups, representing the following subregions: Central Africa (Congo Basin); East Africa; Northern Africa; Southern Africa; West Africa; and the Indian Ocean Island States. He emphasized the need for the working groups to focus their deliberations on the Ramsar strategic objectives as identified in the strategic plan 2003-2008, namely: (i) the wise use of wetlands; (ii) Wetlands of International Importance, (iii) international cooperation; (iv) implementation capacity; and (v) membership. He called on the groups to take due consideration of a number of relevant cross-cutting issues in their respective discussions, including NEPAD and wetlands, links to poverty eradication, as well as knowledge sharing and access to information. With regard to procedural approaches to be employed by the working groups, Mr. Bamba provided additional clarification on the set of questions that each working group would use as a basis for articulating their respective positions and recommendations on each of the above five strategic objectives. He concluded his presentation with a description of the composition of each subregional working group and called on the groups to appoint from amongst the groups a chairperson to facilitate the discussions. A rapporteur was provided to each working group.

4. Following this presentation, the delegate from Cote d'Ivoire sought clarification from the Ramsar Secretariat on whether or not there were plans to constitute an additional and separate subregional group comprising the Small Islands States (SIDS) in view of the unique characteristics and problems of these states. This query received additional support from representatives of Madagascar, Mauritius and Togo with the Chairperson ruling that the issue should be discussed further in the subregional working groups and calling on the groups to provide recommendations for its consideration by the plenary sessions scheduled to officially commence on Wednesday 6 April 2005.

5. The plenary session adjourned at 11.15 am to allow the working groups to convene in their respective conference halls and devote the rest of the day to responding to the series of questions set forth in the Terms of Reference for the subregional working group sessions. These sessions ended at 17h00 when the groups reconvened in plenary to be briefed on the logistical arrangements for the field trip to Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Parks schedule for Tuesday, 5 April 2005. The briefing and the session adjourned at 17h45.

Opening Ceremony - 6 April 2005

6. The official opening ceremony for the meeting was held in the Simba Plenary Hall in the Arusha International Conference Centre on 6 April 2005. The opening session commenced at 10h00 with songs on wetlands performed by the local youth from the Malagarasi-Muyovozi Ramsar Site, which was designated as the country's first wetland of international importance in August 2000. This performance was followed by welcome remarks from Mr. Emmanuel Severre, Director Wildlife, Wildlife Division, Government of the United Republic of Tanzania. He reiterated the objectives of the Africa regional preparatory meeting, mentioning in particular the need to review the role of wisely managed wetlands in alleviating poverty and promoting human well-being. He went on to highlight the rich wetland resources of Tanzania; the major achievements accomplished since the country acceded to the Convention in 2000, most notably the listing of four Ramsar sites; the review of the national wildlife policy that will lead to the formulation of a national wetlands strategy; the establishment of national wetlands coordination committees; and enhanced public awareness efforts as part of the overall wetlands management in the country. Mr. Severre noted that despite these achievements, there are many challenges that lie ahead in the management of the country's wetland resources, and he cited the continued drainage of urban wetlands as well as resource use conflicts in wetland areas as the most daunting. He concluded his remarks with a call to the meeting delegates to take time off and visit the country's rich natural heritage represented by the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

7. Following these remarks, the West Africa subregion representative on the Standing Committee of the Convention, Mr. B. Y. Ofori-Frimpong, provided an update on the activities of the Standing Committee with a focus on the discussions and outcomes of the 29th and 30th meetings of the Standing Committee, which were held in February 2003 and January 2004 respectively. The meeting heard that Ghana, Morocco and Botswana were nominated to represent the Africa region on the Convention's Standing Committee and these were duly incorporated into a number of subgroups that had been set up to address issues of finance, the hosting of COP9 by Uganda, and participation in the selection panel for the new Secretary General of the Convention. With regard to the discussions and outcomes of the 29th meeting of the Standing Committee, Mr. Ofori-Frimpong's briefed the delegates on the Committee's recommendation to add economic valuation of wetlands to the programme of the STRP and the suggestion that the next meeting of the Standing Committee should enable members to apprise themselves of the preparatory progress for COP9. He further remarked that while the Standing Committee meeting was duly concerned that activities to support the Convention's work in Africa do not suffer unduly due to budgetary constraints, representatives of the developed countries were nonetheless particularly insistent that there should not be any increase in the existing budgets. In addition, as the Standing Committee meeting failed to reach a consensus on the proposed Ramsar Endowment Fund (REF), this issue was duly referred to the Finance subgroup and the meeting suggested that the Secretariat should continue to explore other avenues to support and supplement the Ramsar Small Grant Fund (SGF).

8. With regard to the outcomes of the 30th meeting of the Standing Committee, the meeting heard that the Committee called for more attention to be paid to cultural aspects of wetlands and their relevance to the needs of Africans; promotion of cooperation with the African Union; support for increased African participation in COP meetings; formation of an African Support Group for Uganda as the hosts of COP9; increased capacity building efforts and matching funding support; as well as an appeal for re-consideration of the Ramsar Endowment Fund with a proposal that such a fund could be established in a majority decision.

9. In his remarks during the opening session, the representative of the African Union, Mr. Ibrahima Diallo, recalled the AU summit held in Libya in 2004 and the resulting Syrte Declaration concerning integrated and sustainable development in agriculture and water resources in Africa as engines of socio-economic development on the continent. Mr. Diallo noted that the mandate given by this Declaration to the African Union Commission with respect to the need to strengthen existing institutions and organizations in river basin management is a key component of the list of priority activities for 2005 for the Department of Rural Economic and Agricultural Development of the Commission. In addition, he drew the attention of the delegates to the plan of action under the desertification convention which now serves as an excellent example of international cooperation in natural resources management; the Algiers Convention of 1968 as the first African convention, whose revised version was adopted at the AU summit held in Maputo in July 2003 and is now ready for signature and ratification; the environmental component of NEPAD; and the role of AU in harmonizing development policies and strategies and the mobilization of the necessary efforts and resources to support coordinated actions in these initiatives. Mr. Diallo reaffirmed the commitment of the African Commission to strengthening the capacities of the regional economic groupings, which act as the pillars of regional integration, the ultimate objective of the Union.

10. Mr. Peter Bridgewater, Secretary General of Ramsar, delivered the keynote address of the meeting. He started with a call to delegates to keep in mind that the success of COP9 was not just the responsibility of the Ramsar Secretariat alone but a combined effort involving governments, the NGO community and others active in wetland management at national and international level. He then welcomed new Parties to the Convention since the last COP meeting in Valencia in 2002 and provided a briefing on what he termed "The Road to Kampala", comprising some headline issues related to the preparation and process for COP9 as well as other global processes of significance. He further underscored the role of Ramsar and the global water agenda, citing specifically the International Water Resources Management meeting which was held in Tokyo in December 2004; the 2005 - 2015 UN International Decade of Water; the water policy discussions at the upcoming 13th session of the CSD in New York in April 2005; the ninth meeting of the Ramsar COP; and the fourth World Water Forum to be held in Mexico in 2006.

11. Mr. Bridgewater then provided more detailed information on preparations for COP9, particularly with regard to a series of relevant meetings that have been or will soon be held as part of the overall preparatory processes for hosting COP9. Some of these include the MedWet meeting held in December 2004; the 12th meeting of the STRP; the 31st Standing Committee meeting scheduled for June 2005, as well as regional preparatory meetings for the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. He also outlined a number of logistical and related arrangements for COP9 specifically focusing on on-line registration; web-based meeting documentation; the need to keep to a minimum the volume of information papers with most of the STRP papers planned for publication in the Ramsar Technical Report Series; and the possibility of staging a limited number of side events due to limitations of space and facilities at the COP9 venue in Kampala. Mr. Bridgewater also enumerated the inputs and guidance provided by the STRP for COP9 including:

  • the framework for delivery of wise use of wetlands for human well-being;
  • the integrated framework for Ramsar's water-related guidance;
  • the guidance on groundwater, environmental flows, economic valuation;
  • the integrated framework for inventory, assessment and monitoring;
  • the updated COP7 Strategic Framework for Ramsar site designation; and
  • the ecological indicators to measure the effectiveness of the Convention.

12. The meeting also received a detailed briefing from Mr. Bridgewater on technical resolutions for consideration at COP9, regional initiatives and COP9, national reporting and reports for consideration at the COP; the name of the "Secretariat" for endorsement by the Standing Committee and further consideration and adoption by the COP; and the budget for the period 2006-2008. He concluded his address with some remarks about outreach efforts related to COP9 and cited two specific events of interest, namely the EcoFilms Festival 2005 and the World Wetlands Day 2005. He ended with an appeal to the delegates to note that there is a lot to do and less than half year in which to do it.

13. The Senior Permanent Secretary in the Vice President's Office, Mr. Raphael Mollel, also delivered some words of welcome and officially introduced the guest of honour, the representative of the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism.

14. In a speech read on her behalf by Mr. Mohammedi Babu, the Regional Commissioner for Arusha region, the Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Honourable Zakia Meghji, extended words of welcome to the meeting delegates and recognized the meeting as an opportunity for the region to review progress made in the implementation of the Convention in Africa, build consensus on issues of priority concern to wetlands management, and formulate a clear road map for the region for articulation at COP9. The Minister reiterated the commitment of Tanzania to conserve and properly manage the country's natural resources for the benefit of the people of Tanzania and cited pertinent figures related to land set aside for forestry, wildlife conservation, and wetlands designated as Ramsar sites as a demonstration of this commitment.

15. The Minister further made reference to the linkage between poverty and environmental degradation and noted that the theme for COP9 is particularly relevant for the Africa region and appealed to the delegates to articulate practical positions that could contribute to the implementation of Africa's development agenda. The Minister issued a challenge to the delegates to come up with draft resolutions that go beyond the five strategic objectives of the Convention, and include those that address efficient and effective institutional mechanisms, increased membership, proper implementation approaches, the application of strategic environmental assessments, introduction of better land-use planning and appropriate production technologies, integration of environment into production sectors, as well as innovative ways to secure adequate funding support from outside and from within. The Minister concluded with a call to delegates to increase public awareness about the value and importance of wetlands and reaffirmed the country's commitment to implement the Ramsar Convention. The Minister then declared the meeting officially open.

Organization of work

16. Tanzania, as the host country, was elected chair of the meeting with Namibia and Nigeria to act as co-chairs for the day's sessions. Seychelles and Morocco were elected as rapporteurs for these sessions.

Adoption of the draft programme

17. The draft programme of the meeting was then adopted after minor amendments were introduced by a representative of the Ramsar Convention Secretariat. The final version of the programme as adopted by the meeting is attached to this report as Annex I.

Session II: Problems and challenges that face the implementation of the Convention in Africa

18. Session II started with a presentation by the Ramsar Senior Advisor for Africa, Mr. Abou Bamba, to set the scene for the series of follow-up presentations for this session with a focus on problems and challenges that face the implementation of the Convention in Africa. In his presentation, Mr. Bamba highlighted a number of problems related to institutional and administrative issues and cited some of the more pertinent obstacles to implementation including; conflicting mandates, staff mobility, inadequate staffing levels and budgetary resources, competing priorities as well as lack of clarification on inter-linkages between relevant government agencies designated to address water resources.

19. Mr. Bamba also enumerated problems that are compounded by lack of human, financial and technical capacities including;

  • lack of a comprehensive training programme for Focal Points and other staff involved in the implementation of the Convention;
  • lack of basic equipment and infrastructure to facilitate communication between the Secretariat and the Country Parties;
  • there is no global funding mechanism for the implementation of the Convention. (existing funding support comes from some donors whilst the GEF International Waters component provides support to transboundary wetlands projects); and
  • most of the national budgets for environmental management do not make provisions for wetlands activities

20. With regard to problems that are of a political nature, Mr. Bamba made reference to the absence of a National Wetlands Policy in the majority of African countries, although he noted that some are now in the process of preparing their respective policy frameworks. He also underscored the slow pace of progress in the implementation of the wetlands component of the NEPAD Environmental Action Plan despite the commitment of the Heads of State to the NEPAD initiative; the inability of most Country Parties to pay their assessed contributions to the Convention; and the lack of effective institutional frameworks for the implementation of the Convention such as the ones to be found in Uganda, which has an operational institutional mechanism with a Commissioner for Wetlands Inspection, and in Lesotho where a Wetlands Coordination Unit has been established, to cite a few examples.

21. Mr. Bamba's presentation listed a number of challenges that require additional efforts at various levels of implementation. Some of the more noteworthy challenges cited include the evolution in the role and mandate of the Convention from a "Waterbird Convention" to a central player in the water debate; collaboration and synergies with other Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) with similar objectives (World Heritage, CMS, CBD, CITES, UNFCC, etc.); a shift in implementation from priority focus on "sites designation" to a more global approach in development and implementation of "policies and strategies" including promotion of the "wise use" concept; demonstrated commitment and action with respect to the implementation of the wetlands component of the NEPAD Environmental Action; and the development of subregional initiatives in support of the implementation of NEPAD and the COP resolution on transboundary sites.

22. This was followed by a presentation on CEPA by the Ramsar CEPA Programme Officer, Ms. Sandra Hails, also with a focus on problems and challenges in implementation. The presentation considered Ramsar's CEPA programme, as defined by Resolution VIII.31 and its annexed guidelines, presenting some of the key actions called for by the three general objectives within the guidelines:

  • General Objective 1: Gain acceptance of the value and effectiveness of wetland-related CEPA processes at all levels throughout the Convention.
  • General Objective 2: Provide support and tools for the effective national and local implementation of wetland-related CEPA activities.
  • General Objective 3: Mainstream the wise use of wetlands within society and enable people to act.

23. The value of CEPA tools in wetland management at the site level was highlighted, particularly to support participatory management involving local communities, but also more broadly in raising awareness of wetland values and functions. CEPA activities at Lake Jipe, a Tanzanian Ramsar Site, were used as an example, emphasizing the value of the initial capacity building of local stakeholders through an awareness strategy so that they are better able to take part in developing and implementing a site management plan. Overall, this example showed the importance of CEPA tools at all steps leading to implementing a management plan.

24. The need for CEPA tools at the national level was also emphasized, and Contracting Parties were encouraged to consider developing national CEPA action plans. The advantages of such an approach are that: it brings together a wide range of wetland actors, benefiting from their experiences as well as their perspectives; it potentially brings greater funding opportunities; and it undoubtedly produces a more strategic approach to building CEPA tools into wetland management within a country.

25. The presentation considered what was being done at the Convention level to ensure that CEPA tools are being effectively built into new Ramsar guidance, describing the role of the STRP CEPA Working Group in this task. The presentation concluded with the reminder that CEPA is not an add-on: it's an integral part of wetland management and needs to be built into management planning and training.

26. Mr. Ofori-Frimpong, the West Africa subregional representative on the Standing Committee of the Convention, made a presentation on the same theme for the session but from the perspective of Ghana. The presentation highlighted problems that are of an internal nature as well as problems that originate from external sources, but nonetheless cited difficulties with the national reporting process, lack of adequate human, material and financial resources, and issues of capacity development as some of the more common obstacles that have hampered effective implementation of the Convention in Ghana in the last triennium.

27. With regard to implementation problems that are internal in form and scope, the presentation listed specific examples of such problems, including among others long bureaucratic approval procedures and clearance processes for designating Ramsar sites; lack of political will amongst the top political leadership and the associated poor interagency coordination; inadequate resources; conflicting legislation and policies; lack of coordination of policies and strategies amongst the biodiversity-related conventions; low priority accorded to environmental conservation issues and, in particular, repeated shifts of interest and emphasis away from wetlands which often result in marginalization and thus limited impacts of the conservation efforts; lack of appreciation of the linkages between wetlands degradation on the one hand, and water supply and use on the other, due to the absence of adequate and sustained public awareness of the importance and value of wetlands; poverty as a source and consequence of environmental degradation; and lack of adequate wetlands data and information for effective planning and programme development.

28. The presentation also highlighted external problems such as the impacts of political strife on national resources in general and on conservation efforts in particular and the diversion of funds and resources from wetland issues to the more visible problems of poverty, ignorance and diseases such as HIV/AIDS. In addition, the focus of interest of donors and other bilateral funding bodes on the more pressing socio-economic issues such as health, education and infrastructure development serve to compound the problem of resource allocation to wetlands management. Despite these challenges, Ghana has registered considerable achievements including the incorporation of wetlands issues in the National Land Policy, increased public awareness about wetlands and the associated increased coverage of wetlands by the environmental media, demonstrated government responsiveness to most issues raised on wetlands, and accurate reflection of the views and concerns of Ghana and Africa in the deliberations of the Standing Committee including calls for increased funding support for Ramsar activities in Africa

29. This presentation was then followed by presentations summarizing the discussions of the subregional working groups, which met on Monday, 4 April 2005, specifically to debate problems and challenges facing the implementation of the Convention in the various subregions. On the basis of the terms of reference provided by the Ramsar Secretariat, the subregions articulated their respective positions, which they presented to the plenary session beginning with a presentation from West Africa, followed by Central Africa, Southern Africa, Indian Ocean and Island States, Northern Africa with last presentation from Eastern Africa. While the format of these presentations varied from group to group, the content nonetheless covered the same broad categories of implementation issues including problems, challenges, constraints and proposed recommendations to overcome the identified obstacles in the five clusters that comprise the strategic objectives of the Convention, namely:

  • Wise use of wetlands
  • Wetlands of International Importance
  • International cooperation
  • Implementation capacity, and
  • Membership

30. Details of the subregional presentations and summaries of the respective group discussions and recommendations are contained in the reports of the subregional working groups which are attached to this report as Annexes III to VIII. The Terms of Reference which served to guide the subregional working group discussions are also attached to the report as Annex II.

31. These were then followed by three related presentations from Tanzania, Algeria and Madagascar highlighting their respective experiences in the implementation of the Convention. The first of the presentations was made by Mr. Mzamilu Kaita, Game Officer in the Wildlife Division in the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania. The focus of the presentation was on the implementation of the Convention's work plan for the period 2003 - 2005 and the resolutions adopted by COP8, but with a particular focus on the achievements accomplished; challenges that continue to impact the implementation process, and some suggestions for the way forward. The presentation started with an overview of the various types and scope of coverage of Tanzania's wetlands resources. It also provided details of the achievements realized with respect to the process of preparing the National Action Plan for the implementation of the Ramsar Strategic Plan for 2003 - 2008. The presentation revealed that 29 operational objectives of the Ramsar Strategic Plan relevant to national policies were adopted, out of which 96 targets were formulated. In addition, the presentation made reference to the following principles which served as a basis for the overall planning process:

  • convergence of the objectives of the relevant key stakeholder institutions with those of the Ramsar Strategic Plan;
  • availability of relevant tools and instruments concerning resource allocation;
  • recognition of the variable timeframes for the work of the various key stakeholder institutions vis-à-vis that of the Ramsar Strategic Plan;
  • opportunity for concurrent implementation of some of COP8 Resolutions and the objectives of the Strategic Plan. A joint plan based on this approach was developed accordingly;
  • coordination of implementation of the plan through Thematic Committees within the ambit of the National Wetlands Working Group (NWWG)

32. Other achievements highlighted by the presentation included the establishment of an Informal Wetlands Working Group (IWWG) comprising 11 members from government, NGOs, research and academic institutions and the private sector; the establishment of National Wetlands Steering Committee (NAWESCO) with a membership of eight permanent secretaries; the listing of wetlands of international importance based on a consultative and participatory approach and comprehensive assessments by multi-disciplinary teams; and the development of the National Wetlands Strategy which is currently underway is guided by a review of the adequacy of relevant sectoral policies, including the revision of the Wildlife Policy that is likely to serve as a basis for the development of the national wetlands strategy. International cooperation, particularly the active participation in the SADC wetlands project, the Eastern Africa wetlands project and the Lake Victoria Environment Management Project, were also cited as examples of success worthy of mention.

33. Despite these achievements, Tanzania continues to face serious implementation challenges, including the need to strike a balance between implementing national development policies on the one hand and the wise use of wetlands on the other; limited capacities and resources to manage the country's wetlands; limited understanding and appreciation of the cause-effect relationship of actions on wetlands and associated catchments (including poverty and resource utilisation); and the sustainability of an effective coordination mechanism given the cross-cutting nature of wetlands. The presentation concluded with some suggestions for the "way forward". These include effective collaboration and cooperation amongst institutions at all levels; integrating wetlands into land use planning at district and village levels; preparation of integrated management plans for selected wetlands and enforcement; creation of awareness on wetland values at the grass-roots level; and provision of support for environmental friendly investments in wetlands and their catchments as well as wetland management at the lowest appropriate administrative or implementing level.

34. The second presentation in the series was made by Mr. Ammar Boumezbeur of Algeria, and it highlighted his country's experience in the implementation of the Strategic Plan of the Convention with a special focus on four general objectives of the plan namely:

  • wise use of wetlands
  • Wetlands of International Importance
  • international cooperation and
  • implementation capacity

35. Under the general objective on wise use of wetlands, the presentation considered the promotion and provision of assistance to the Contracting Parties in the formulation, adoption and implementation of the necessary measures for the wise use of wetlands; the provision of inputs in the establishment of a North African Wetlands Network; the implementation of Maghreb Wetlands Project, whose key components could serve as models for other subregions; assessment of the capacity requirements for the implementation of the Convention and the need to strengthen sectoral and inter-sectoral coordination; synergy development between the relevant conventions as well as the importance of cultural issues and wetlands, including the provision of inputs in the preparation of a book on the wetlands of the Mediterranean region for launch at COP9.

36. With regard to the general objective concerning Wetlands of International Importance, the presentation made reference to the provision of assistance to the Contracting Parties to implement the Strategic Plan and guidelines to orient the listing of Wetlands of International Importance, including the management of designated sites as a contribution to sustainable development. It also mentioned the number of sites already listed by June 2003 and additional sites that will be designated by December 2005, which will bring the total number of sites to 42 with a surface cover of 3 million hectares, thereby placing this achievement in 3rd and 8th positions in Africa and the world respectively. It also called attention to efforts to publish, by December 2005, the 4th edition of the Atlas of Wetlands of International Importance incorporating 16 new wetlands sites, and to the presidential decree conferring additional status as nature reserves to three wetlands that were designated as Ramsar sites between 2001 and 2003.

37. Under the general objective on international cooperation, and in the context of projects supported by external funding sources, the presentation underscored the promotion of active implementation of guidelines for international cooperation within the Ramsar Convention framework and, in particular, the mobilization of financial and additional technical support for effective conservation and wise use of wetlands. The presentation concluded with a summary of key components of a training programme in the context of efforts to achieve the general objective on Implementation Capacity, specifically in the generation of capacities and resources required to achieve the mission of the Convention.

38. Mrs. Rabesihanaka S. Sahondra, Ministry of Environment, Government of Madagascar, delivered the third presentation very much along the lines of the Algerian presentation, basically focusing on the experience of Madagascar in addressing the same four general objectives of the Strategic Plan. The presentation started with a broad overview of the evolution of the implementation process since Madagascar acceded to the Convention in September 1998. It provided details on some priority activities under consideration within the context of general objective on wise use of wetland. The formulation of a management plan for Ramsar sites and the development of a National Strategy for the sustainable management of wetlands in the country are two achievements cited under this objective. However, the presentation cautioned that more efforts are required, particularly with respect to the promotion of wetlands conservation and their sustainable use whilst protecting their functions and their contribution to the country's socio-economic development; ensuring ecosystem integrity; provisioning of goods and services; alleviating poverty; increasing awareness about wetlands; and promoting the integration of wetland issues in articulation of national priorities for biodiversity, environment and development.

39. With regard to the general objective on wetlands of international importance, the presentation drew attention to specific wetlands that had been designated as Ramsar sites and mentioning in particular the areas covered by each of the sites The presentation also listed a number of organizations with which Madagascar has developed cooperative arrangements in the context of meeting the provisions of the general objective on International Cooperation. Some of these include the World Bank, Birdlife International, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, WWF International and the Government of France. Under the general objective on Implementation Capacity, the presentation highlighted the creation of a consortium to address the designation of Ramsar sites as well as the need for additional support from national and international NGOs. It concluded with reference to the lack of adequate human and financial resources as well as the lack of appreciation of the value and importance of wetlands among the general public as two key problem areas that merit further attention and appropriate remedial action.

40. During the general discussion before the end of the session, several delegates (Guinea, Togo, Kenya, Cote d'Ivoire, Tunisia, Tanzania, Uganda, Botswana, Liberia, Algeria, Ghana and the Centre for African Wetlands) made contributions and raised a number of wide ranging questions, specifically seeking clarification on the issues outline below:

41. Capacity development and training continue to be a daunting challenge for many of the countries of the region. The Secretariat was therefore requested to provide clarification on the status of plans to establish a wetlands training centre in Dakar, Senegal, very much along the lines of the centre in Burundi, as proposed in Valencia during COP8. In addition, it was pointed out that whilst the on-going training initiative in Burkina Faso has served to fill a major gap, there was still a need to extend this type of training to technical personnel at lower levels of national wetland management processes. The response of the Secretariat indicated that lack of adequate capacity and, in particular, limited staffing levels is also a problem within the Secretariat and cited the example of the one Secretariat staff person expected to coordinate the implementation of the global scope of the CEPA programme whose effectiveness is largely dependent on national level actions.

42. CEPA - public awareness is still major obstacle to the implementation of the Convention and it would appear that the Secretariat could do a lot more in terms of extending the CEPA programme to more country parties as well as mobilizing additional funding from the Small Grants Fund specifically to support public awareness activities especially at the local level.

43. Financial support - lack of adequate financial resources continues to be a major obstacle in the overall implementation process. Although there exists political will and commitment to implement the various provisions of the Convention, the reality of the situation is that lack of budgetary allocations to many of these activities will preclude the achievement of any significant gains in the implementation process in many of the countries of the region. It was further pointed out that the issue of financial resources is compounded by the considerable investments expected of many of the Contracting Parties in the implementation of activities of other related MEAs to which they are also parties. It was suggested that one way of overcoming this obstacle is to apply economies of scale in the implementation of common activities and objectives that cut across many of the MEAs. In addition, a further suggestion was advanced concerning potential opportunities to secure funding support for relevant wetland projects and activities at national level from the GEF portfolio on ecosystem management.

44. The intervention of the Secretariat on the issue of financial support pointed out that, although the Secretariat has been successful in attracting donor support for the Small Grants Fund, any efforts to incorporate additional activities to be supported by the fund will jeopardize the ability to continue attracting this type of support. The Secretariat further pointed out that they have set themselves the task of catalyzing additional funding from multilateral bodies to help support the Secretariat in managing the programmes of work and projected outcomes. In addition, there are new approaches on the horizon that call for innovativeness in order to tap into the funding opportunities represented by these approaches. The GEF International Waters focal area was cited as a potential source of financial support that would require Country Parties to be more innovative in attracting support for specific aspects of wetland management projects.

45. Related to the above issue of financial support, the Ramsar Secretariat was requested to explore the possibility of providing support to increased African participation in the Convention process, especially in maintaining regular dialogue amongst the Parties in-between COP sessions in addition to the holding of regional preparatory meetings for COPs. The requested support could also be extended to the regular meetings and dialogue involving the Africa members of the Ramsar Standing Committee. In response to this request, the Secretariat drew the attention of the delegates to the regular briefings the Secretariat provides to the missions of the Contracting Parties based in Geneva. However, on the issue of direct support to the African members of the Standing Committee, the Secretariat remarked that the COP does not provide any funding to the Secretariat to enable it to fund such requests.

46. The designation of new sites, as a key component of the Convention process, should be undertaken in a strategic manner to ensure that the follow-up management processes for the new sites result in effective realisation of the objectives of the Convention. It was further suggested that in view of the limited capacities and the lack of adequate resources that continue to hamper the implementation of the Convention, sites which are not going to be well managed should not be accorded the appropriate designation status. However, another suggestion was advanced to the effect that this particular issue calls for the intervention of the international community, including using the power of the Convention to provide direct contributions to the management of such sites since they are designated as Wetlands of International Importance.

47. The Secretariat made reference to the fact that support for site designation from the Small Grants Fund and other funding sources is meant to ensure that the designated sites are going to be sustainably managed with sound wetland management plans. In this regard, cooperation is crucial in determining the most important sites that stand a better chance of attracting the necessary support for their designation and management. The Secretariat cited the Montreux Record as a particularly effective tool for drawing attention to the problems of a site and thus a means to attracting support for the site.

48. The Ramsar Secretariat was also requested to consider the establishment of regional wetland networks, similar to the North African Wetlands Network, particularly from the perspective of attracting donor support for regional wetland projects and initiatives. The sub-Saharan region is home to major river basins that could very well support the establishment of such networks in the various subregions.

49. The meeting heard that the development of synergies with other MEAs requires open and full cooperation of all the key players. The success of such efforts will to a great extent depend on the commitment and direct involvement of the national agencies in the Contracting Parties given that the need for such synergies is particularly critical at national and local levels. At the international level, the Ramsar Secretariat drew the attention of the delegates to the establishment of a Joint Biodiversity Liaison Group comprising the secretariats of the biodiversity-related conventions as a direct response to a decision of the 7th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). A key issue to be addressed by the joint liaison group concerns the harmonization and streamlining of national reporting processes under the five biodiversity-related conventions. In addition, the achievement of the global 2010 biodiversity target constitutes another key agenda item for the consideration of the joint liaison group. These are two practical examples that clearly demonstrate the relevance and necessity of the application of synergies in the implementation of these two initiatives.

50. The representative of the African Union drew the attention of the delegates to the provisions of the revised Algiers Convention adopted at the 2003 AU summit in Maputo, Mozambique, which also calls for the development of synergies to facilitate parties in meeting their obligations to the many MEAs that they have ratified and acceded to. He further pointed out that the Africa Union could play a significant supporting role in ongoing and proposed efforts aimed at developing synergies, and in particular in mobilizing resources and the harmonization of relevant strategies.

51. The issue of joint management of transboundary wetlands elicited considerable attention from the delegates, with some advocating applying a cautious approach in view of the apparent differences in the levels of commitment of the Parties to such initiatives, while others called for increased efforts in the development of joint programmes to address transboundary wetland conservation and wise use. A request was posed for the attention of the Secretariat to provide clarification on whether or not relevant components of the Strategic Plan for 2003 - 2008 provide specific guidelines for addressing this particular issue. In a rejoinder to the request, the Secretariat pointed out the issue of transboundary wetlands has not been adequately addressed in the life of the Convention and added that the next meeting of the Standing Committee will forward a draft Resolution on this particular issue for the consideration of COP9.

52. The Secretariat was also requested to provide clarification on the potential for the Contracting Parties in Africa to provide inputs in the 2006-2008 work plan. In response, the Secretariat remarked that the reports of the subregional working groups represent one step in the process of compiling the workplan and added that this is by no means the only input expected from the region.

53. The chairperson adjourned the session at 6.00 pm.

Session III: COP8 Resolution on NEPAD and proposed COP9 High Level Ministerial Segment meeting

54. The focus of Session III of the meeting was on COP8 Resolution on NEPAD and proposed COP9 High Level Ministerial Segment meeting. The session, which was chaired by Mr. Severre with Ms. Susan Matindi (WWF Kenya) and Mr. Samuel Gitae, National Environment Management Authority, Kenya, serving as rapporteurs. The sessions started with a presentation on "NEPAD Collaboration with IUCN-ROSA on conserving Africa's Wetlands". Ms. Tabeth Chiuta, Regional Programme Coordinator, IUCN Regional Office for Southern Africa (IUCN-ROSA) delivered the presentation. The specific focus of the presentation was on the NEPAD/IUCN Wetlands Initiative and, in particular, the goals and objectives of the initiative, institutional framework, the current status of implementation, achievements, and key lessons and experiences. The presentation started with a broad overview of the SADC Regional Programme of Action on Wetlands as a mechanism for the delivery of the SADC Wetlands Agenda, and placed this in the context of the NEPAD's Wetlands Strategy and Action Plan as a key component of the environmental initiative of NEPAD. As an addition to the context for the NEPAD/IUCN initiative, the overview also provided some details on NEPAD's implementation arrangements in Southern Africa specifically with SADC and also within the 14 member states.

55. The presentation called attention to the evolution and key components of the SADC Regional Programme of Action on Wetlands, and also highlighted the IUCN Wetlands record, both of which formed the basis for the collaborative partnership on the NEPAD/IUCN Wetlands Initiative, currently supported by the Norwegian Trust Fund with additional funding from the World Bank and the Development Bank of Southern Africa. The overall goal of the initiative is to initiate the delivery of the NEPAD wetlands agenda in Southern Africa and its purpose is to contribute towards the achievement of the objectives of the NEPAD Environment Action Plan, in particular the Wetlands Strategy and Action Plan.

56. The presentation spelled out the main objectives of the initiative, namely to: identify, compile and consolidate best practices for conducting wetlands inventories assessments/appraisals, monitoring and research; reinforce capacity building for the application of the best practices; improve the involvement of the civil society in national and regional environmental initiatives as well as collaboration on the NEPAD Environment Initiative. The presentation also highlighted a number of achievements realized by the initiative particularly with respect to activities undertaken and outputs generated, specifically in the development and promotion of methodologies for wetland inventories in the SADC region; capacity building for national wetland inventories focused on the provision of appropriate training for 115 people from five countries in the subregion with plans to extend this support to other countries; strengthening SADC and environment civil society organizations (CSOs) relationships and in particular raising the level of awareness about the NEPAD Wetlands Agenda; increased civil society engagement in national environmental events and, in particular, increased interaction between SADC National Wetlands Focal Points and National Civil Society Organization, as well as the broadening of National Wetlands Committees/Working Groups in some countries to include more civil society organizations and professionals from other disciplines.

57. The presentation sketched the proposed subregional structure for improved civil society engagement in the NEPAD/IUCN Wetlands Initiative with clear lines of coordination and liaison between all the key players at subregional, national and local levels. It concluded with a summary of the lessons learned and suggestions of how these could strengthen proposed actions in the overall implementation process for the initiative. Some of the lessons and experiences that merit mention include; Civil Society and NEPAD partnerships as being critical in delivering the NEPAD Wetlands Agenda; clearly articulated subregional wetlands agendas; shared values and interests; building on existing initiatives; and the need to address civil society misconceptions about NEPAD.

58. Mr. Lota Melamari of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania made the next presentation on "Recommendations relating to Financing estimates necessary for protected areas in Africa" on behalf of BirdLife International. The presentation outlined the mission of BirdLife International and specifically underscored efforts to conserve birds, their habitats and global diversity, as well as working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources. It also cited the membership of Birdlife African Partnership including partner designates and affiliates; the number of important bird areas identified globally and in Africa; Ramsar sites that also serve as important bird areas and those that could potentially be designated as Ramsar sites; and the contribution of Birdlife to the conservation of these sites through conservation action and advocacy for national and international designation as protected areas.

59. The presentation called attention to the outcomes of an international workshop on "Financing Protected Areas in Africa" which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in February 2005. The focus of the workshop was, among others, to put a precise figure on the funding shortfalls African governments face with regard to effective protected area management and also to articulate recommendations on strategies to mobilize substantial additional financial resources for protected areas in Africa. The workshop discussions were conducted around two group themes, namely funding and funding research and getting political commitment. The presentation revealed that the discussions under the theme of funding and funding research attempted to respond to questions related to funding requirements and corresponding shortfalls for financing protected areas, matching costs and expected benefits, as well as possible recommendations for follow-up by African countries. The discussions also touched on the issue of financial costing of protected areas, economic benefits and sustainable financing with respect to the issue of viability of trust funds, scaling up revenue through ecotourism initiatives and tapping into private sources of financing.

60. A key finding of the discussions revealed that US$300 million per year is the estimated cost of managing and protecting Africa's 1,200-plus existing Protected Areas including wetlands. In addition, the discussions concluded that significant gaps currently exist in Africa's protected area systems and substantial levels of additional funding amounting to US$800 million would be required to develop a comprehensive Protected Area system in the region. On this basis, the group discussions proposed a number of recommendations for increased financing and funding research, including the need for an ongoing system of tracking protected area spending; country studies on costs and benefits of protected area systems; the need to rationalize protected area systems to improve coverage of threatened species and their habitats; development of cost estimates for marine protected area systems; and increased commitment from national governments and international level stakeholders to address financial shortfalls within the protected area systems in Africa. The presentation stressed the need to develop costs estimates for managing wetland protected areas in Africa in view of the fact that current data fail to depict such estimates. Birdlife therefore requested the COP9 preparatory meeting to adopt a recommendation calling for studies to determine cost estimates for managing wetland protected areas in Africa and implement appropriate measures to offset any shortfalls where they exist.

61. With regard to the workshop group discussions on "getting political commitment", the presentation proposed a number of approaches for securing the commitment required to meet the funding shortfalls. At the national level, the presentation proposed the need to carefully balance persuasion vis-à-vis coercion approaches; identify and engage potential champions to take up the national PA agenda; build stronger links between government strategic plans and their natural resource base; and also build strategic alliances with finance ministries with a view to demonstrating the value and importance of biodiversity to national economies. At the regional level, the proposed approaches cited by the presentation include documentation of the global value of African biodiversity to help strengthen the regional case and work to influence the agendas of regional groupings and thus help elicit regional level commitments. At the international level, the presentation cited the need to explore innovative ways of making a political case for biodiversity; demonstration of all the benefits of protected area systems; the mobilization of additional funding support from environmental agencies in developed countries; the use of existing protocols and conventions more efficiently; the development of systems of transparency, accountability and fairness for funds and resources at all levels; and attempts to showcase examples of good governance together with the promotion of Africa's own commitment to the global community. The presentation concluded with a call to the meeting delegates to endorse these recommendations with a specific focus on wetlands protected areas in the region.

62. The third presentation in the series was on "NEPAD and Ramsar Cooperation on the Implementation of the Environment Initiative" and was made by Mr. Anderson Koyo, Wetlands Coordinator, Kenya Wildlife Services. Mr Koyo started his presentation by explaining the linkage between the overall purpose of NEPAD which is aimed at improving environmental conditions in order to enhance economic growth and poverty alleviation on the one hand, and the commitment of the Ramsar Convention to wetlands conservation in order to enhance and maintain their ecological integrity and thus their contribution to the improvement of the welfare and livelihood of people, on the other. This linkage serves as a basis for the cooperation between NEPAD and the Convention. The presentation provided highlights of resource mobilization efforts for NEPAD and made reference to specific commitments made by international partners at a Partners Conference, which was held in Algiers in 2003. In particular, the presentation listed the financial pledges made by Denmark, Zambia, the Islamic Development Bank, France, Canada, the European Union and other bilateral and multilateral development partners who also pledged their support in diverse ways. In view of the importance that Ramsar attaches to resource mobilization efforts, particularly with respect to supporting developing countries to implement their commitments to the Convention, the presentation noted that there is considerable potential for joint resource mobilization by NEPAD and the Convention to implement the wetlands programme within the framework of the NEPAD environment initiative.

63. The presentation further provided a briefing on progress that has been achieved to date and in particular, the NEPAD Capacity Building programme under which subregional environment action plans have been developed within the framework of the existing subregional economic groupings. The issue of human and institutional capacity building was also highlighted as a key component that has received considerable attention in view of the role it is expected to play in the overall implementation of the NEPAD environment initiative. Two other issues under this programme which were also highlighted concern the synergistic implementation of Multilateral Environment Agreements and the environmental data and information capacity building pilot efforts in 13 countries which are expected to generate national level datasets that will feed into the production of the second edition of the Africa Environment Outlook report, currently in preparation.

64. The presentation drew the attention of the delegates to the status of country level implementation of the Action Plan and cited a specific funding proposal that has been developed to catalyse donor support to initiate some activities in five pilot countries. It called on the Convention and its partner organizations to provide technical guidance and support to the national pilot projects and to replicate their results in other countries. With regard to the component on wetlands in the NEPAD Environment Action Plan, the presentation introduced the following thematic issues as the key areas of focus for implementation activities that are either ongoing or will soon be implemented:

  • PA1- Combating land degradation, drought and degradation
  • PA2- Conserving Africa's wetlands
  • PA3- Prevention, control and management of invasive alien species
  • PA4 - Conservation and sustainable use of marine, coastal and freshwater resources
  • PA5 - Combating climate change in Africa
  • PA6 - Transboundary conservation or management of natural resources
  • PA7 - Cross cutting issues

65. The presentation concluded by outlining a number of challenges that continue to stand in the way of effective implementation of the Convention. These include the need for AU member states to periodically submit the country reports to NEPAD and the Convention; increased sensitization efforts about NEPAD to help create a sense of ownership of prioritized projects; provision of political guidance and budgetary allocations by sectoral agencies in support of national and subregional level implementation of the NEPAD programmes; enhanced institutional capacities for effective coordination and implementation of national and subregional action plans; establishment and operationalisation of a well-structured framework to promote formal collaboration and synergy between Ramsar, NEPAD, AMCEN and AMCOW on the implementation of the NEPAD environment initiative. The presentation ended with an appeal to the Ramsar Convention and the wetlands fraternity to take advantage of the window of opportunity offered by NEPAD to mobilize the necessary resources.

66. Following this presentation, Mr. Bamba, Senior Advisor for Africa, Ramsar Secretariat, introduced a draft memorandum of collaboration (MoC) to serve as a basis for formal cooperation between the interim secretariat of the NEPAD environment initiative and the Ramsar Convention Secretariat, and more specifically the conservation and wise use of wetlands as a means of achieving sustainable development. He called on the delegates to review the draft MoC, in particular the draft articles of the memorandum concerning proposed institutional and administrative arrangements as well as specific practical activities for joint implementation within the framework of the wetlands component of the environment initiative of NEPAD. He further requested the delegates to provide substantive comments and suggestions on the proposed obligations of each of the parties including the identification of additional priority issues that could realistically be addressed by the provisions of the memorandum. Hard copies of the draft memorandum were then circulated to the delegates for more detailed review.

67. This briefing was followed by a general discussion in which delegates raised a number of questions and issues of clarification. Not surprisingly the first three presentations elicited several interventions seeking further clarification on technical and administrative issues related to NEPAD and its environment initiative particularly with respect to project funding. In response to a question raised by Uganda concerning the status of implementation of NEPAD, Mr. Koyo explained that the NEPAD process has been decentralized for ease of implementation. He further noted that NEPAD falls under the framework of the African Union, but its headquarters is located in Pretoria, South Africa, for the time being. The environment initiative has a coordination office in Dakar, Senegal, but the actual implementation process is conducted under the umbrella of AMCEN with the UNEP Regional Office for Africa, as the seat of the AMCEN Secretariat taking the lead in providing technical and expertise inputs in the overall implementation process. The response further explained that specific thematic areas have lead countries and cited the example of the wetlands component for which Zambia has been designated as the focal point. The AU representative pointed out that plans are indeed under way to move the NEPAD Secretariat to Addis Ababa in due course.

68. As a further contribution to the discussion on NEPAD, the representative of the Centre for African Wetlands (CAW) noted that NEPAD offered many unique opportunities to bridge the gap between development and conservation and it would be prudent to use such a mechanism to adopt a regional approach to fundraising efforts for wetland initiatives. He further proposed that an additional approach would be to embed wetlands in other sectors that traditionally attract substantial budgetary allocations from central governments. He also drew attention to the launch of a regional project jointly run by CAW, WWF and Ramsar that could serve as a basis for sharing experiences, particularly in education and awareness, noting that these two issues had been cited as recurring problems and obstacles in the implementation of the various wetland projects in the region. In their intervention in discussions related to NEPAD, Wetlands International pointed out that they have participated in regional and subregional NEPAD meetings in which a number of funding mechanisms have been explored, noting further that there are success stories recorded by various institutions in Africa and that these need to be replicated in order to support NEPAD and enrich its funding systems. Zambia raised a point of clarification specifically to reconfirm their commitment to the NEPAD process and more specifically to continue as the chair for the wetlands component of the NEPAD environment initiative.

69. With regard to the presentation by Birdlife International on financing protected areas in Africa, Tanzania sought clarification on the type and level of participation and consultations employed in the studies mentioned by the presentation. In response, Birdlife International explained that the studies highlighted by the presentation were conducted by a group of five consultants who made extensive consultations with various levels of stakeholders in 1200 protected areas systems in the region. Tanzania further sought further details from IUCN-ROSA about the methodologies applied in the inventories carried out as part of the NEPAD/IUCN ROSA Wetlands Initiative. The clarification provided by IUCN-ROSA drew attention to a draft report highlighting the inventories carried out in six SADC member states, including the methodologies used, and noted that the report will be disseminated widely after it has been reviewed and published. In addition, Mr. Bamba pointed out the Secretariat has developed guidelines for wetland inventories which have been posted on the Ramsar Web site and are also available in CD-ROM format.

70. The interventions of Tanzania and WWF Tanzania expressed a level of disappointment with the session presentations because they felt that these presentations did not go far enough in highlighting the existing internal opportunities and mechanisms that could be utilized to strengthen many of the ongoing and planned wetland conservation initiatives in the region. They cited the funding shortfall in the presentation by Birdlife International on Protected Areas in Africa and wondered whether or not the identified gaps in existing funding arrangements were due to internal or external shortfalls, thereby making it difficult to determine where to focus efforts aimed at offsetting the shortfalls. In a rejoinder, WWF Tanzania commented on the big gaps between the available funding and the required funding levels and stressed the need for better collaboration and synergies to tap into available internal resources such as the PRSP processes in the first instance. In a rejoinder, BirdLife International proposed a recommendation concerning financing of protected areas with the following text: "Studies on the cost estimates for managing wetland protected areas in Africa and any shortfalls therein be urgently pursued. The PA system in Africa should be reviewed and rationalized to improve coverage of threatened species and their habitats".

71. In responding to a query concerning the role of national structures in the proposed MoC between the interim secretariat of NEPAD environment component and the Ramsar Secretariat, Mr. Bamba suggested that those countries that did not have the opportunity to provide inputs in the formulation of the NEPAD wetland programme should now make use of the review process for the draft MoC to identify specific projects for funding within the framework of the MoC.

72. Mr. Sebastia Semene Guitart, Convention Development Officer, Ramsar Secretariat, presented a briefing on the status of the national reporting process for COP9, mentioning in particular key milestones and timeframes for the preparation, submission, review and analysis that will ultimately feed into the documentation for consideration by COP9. Some of the key process issues that were highlighted by the presentation include the finalisation of work on the database which is now ready for use; securing agreement with the regional teams on the timeframe for the overall process, including the establishment of firm deadline of 28 February 2005 as the cut-off date for the submission of completed national reports; provision of training to relevant Secretariat staff in entering country data in the database in early March 2005; the completion of data entry by 30 June 2005; and the generation of the regional and global analyses for COP9 review by August 2005.

73. The presentation revealed that a total of 33 reports had been received by the end of March 2005 and that the reporting process is still fraught with problems particularly with the database, the format of the report, which is still perceived as complex and not particularly user-friendly by several countries, and the actual reporting process in some of the member states. The presentation also alluded to the ongoing discussions with the other biodiversity-related conventions to harmonise and streamline reporting processes of the MEAs to reduce the reporting burden imposed on the parties by the MEAs. Mr. Guitart ended his presentation with a request to the delegates to submit their respective full reports and, to the extent possible, to include the full set of indicators in these reports. The report for COP9, which will have a simpler format, will be based on the full country reports.

74. In his presentation on the "State of Readiness for COP9", Mr. Paul Mafabi, Assistant Commissioner, Wetlands Inspection Division, Government of Uganda, who is also National Coordinator for COP9, provided a brief overview of the geographical scope, value and key functions of Uganda's wetland resources. The presentation recalled the evolution of wetland management in the country from 1969, when the Public Lands Act came into being, through the ratification of the Convention by Uganda in 1988, the establishment of the National Wetlands Programme a year later, and its incorporation in several policy frameworks from national to local governments in subsequent years, to the development and launch of the 10-year Wetlands Sector Strategic Plan in 2001. The overview concluded with a summary of proposed activities for the next 10 years with a focus on achieving the eight strategic objectives and 37 key actions of the national Wetlands Sector Strategic Plan (WSSP). It also underscored the Uganda/Ramsar Convention relationship, noting in particular the achievements accomplished at the national and local level as well as the contribution that the Uganda wetland management experience has brought to the work of the Convention process especially at the international level, which culminated in the offer and honour to host COP9. This will be the first Ramsar COP to be held in Africa.

75. The presentation then provided a detailed briefing on the arrangements for the hosting of COP9 in Kampala in November 2005. The conference will bring together over 1000 delegates from around the world and will be conducted over a period of eight days. The briefing also addressed such issues as the theme for the meeting (Wetlands and water - supporting life, sustaining livelihoods), conference dates (8 - 15 November 2005) and potential venues (Kampala and Entebbe), the high-level ministerial segment which would be the first ever to be held back to back with a Ramsar COP, the range of main events including plenary sessions, technical sessions, side events, exhibitions, mid-conference excursions to selected wetlands, as well as pre- and post-COP tours. The ministerial segment is expected to attract at least 30 ministers from Africa, Europe, the Americas, Asia and Oceania as well as representatives from the private sector. Additional details on the state of preparations for COP9 included membership and work of a subgroup established to coordinate COP9 arrangements (which comprises Uganda, USA, Canada, Ghana, Japan, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea and Spain); the national organizing committee which is made up of 16 government agencies and representation from the NGO community, as well as 11 subcommittees that have been designated to oversee specific logistical arrangements for the COP. The presentation also pointed out that the projected budget for the conference amounting to US$1.2 million has a shortfall of US$400,000

76. With regard to the expected outputs and outcomes, the presentation noted that the adoption of additional guidelines for wetland conservation and wise use would be one of the significant outputs expected to emerge from the discussions. In addition, an Action Plan to assist with the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals as well as a Kampala Declaration would also be outputs of strategic significance to be generated from COP9. The presentation elaborated on the key components of the proposed Kampala Declaration mentioning in particular four key themes that will form the bulk of the declaration, namely people and wetlands; funding and wetlands; policy issues; and African issues. It also provided further details on the specific areas to be addressed under each theme.

77. With regard to the theme of people and wetlands, the declaration is expected to articulate the following for the consideration of the delegates and country Parties: the role of wetlands in people's livelihoods and the involvement of the local communities; the role of wetlands in biodiversity conservation and a clear strategy to address the global 2010 biodiversity target; the role of wetlands in mitigating the impacts of climate change; and the rehabilitation and restoration of wetlands especially coastal systems. Under the funding and wetlands thematic area, the proposed declaration is expected to call for better coordinated donor funding for wetlands to promote and sustain the wise use concept; private sector involvement; and adding value to wetlands products as well as issues of marketing. The policy issues theme will cover the harmonization of policies at all levels, international to national, and water to biodiversity; better outreach to demonstrate the importance of wetlands; and the management of transboundary wetlands. The Africa issues theme in the proposed declaration will raise the need for a coordinated approach to wetland initiatives under AMCEN, NEPAD and AMCOW, as well as the issue of invasive species and their impacts on African wetlands.

78. The presentation on the state of preparations for the conference concluded with a briefing on specific logistical arrangements concerning visa, flights, accommodation, exhibition details, excursions and tours, and a reminder that visits to attractions such as the mountain gorillas require advanced booking preferably.

79. This presentation was followed by brief discussions in which delegates raised questions seeking further clarification on some aspects of the state of preparation for COP9. In particular, some delegates wanted to know how Uganda plans to offset the shortfall in the meeting budget and whether or not they plan to increase African participation in the meeting as well as send out appeals for the involvement of the Africa contact group. There were also appeals from many participants to support Uganda and do Africa proud. In response, Uganda clarified that fundraising for the conference is an ongoing process and that a number of donor organizations have already been approached to secure their interest and commitment for additional funding support for COP9. With respect to the issue of increased African participation in COP9, Uganda explained that attendance of COP9 is by invitation and added that many representatives from the NGO community would be expected to attend, especially in the exhibition sessions.

80. The Ramsar Secretary General added that the Secretariat was also engaged in fundraising efforts to secure the funding required to meet some of the shortfalls. He also explained that the intention was to fund the costs of at least two participants from each country party but that should the available resources preclude this, the approach would then be to fund one participant from the Parties that are not able to cover their costs. He also took the opportunity to provide further clarification on the High Level Ministerial Segment, which will be hosted by the Government of Uganda and is expected to focus on environment and development issues and the financing of the Ramsar Programme. With regard to the issue of involvement of the Africa Contact group, the Secretary General confirmed that letters of invitation had been sent to the Parties' missions as was the normal practice, although the process of contacting some of the missions had encountered some problems and alternative approaches will be sought to ensure that the letters do reach the intended recipients. He also mentioned that he expected the IOPs based in Africa to play an active role in the work of the contact group.

Session IV: The role of wisely managed wetlands in alleviating poverty and promoting human well-being

81. Session IV on the role of wisely managed wetlands in alleviating poverty and promoting human well-being, which was held on the afternoon of Thursday, 7 April 2005, was chaired by Mr. Benson Kibonde, Chief Warden, Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania, on behalf of Mr. Charles Nyamurunda, Deputy Permanent Secretary Ministry of Water and Livestock Development, Government of the United Republic of Tanzania.

82. The first presentation of the session was on Wetlands and Poverty Alleviation and was made by Ms. Kemi Awoyinka, Wetlands International, Netherlands. She highlighted the role and approach of Wetlands International in management of wetlands and linkages to poverty alleviation and went into a fair amount of detail in outlining some of the achievements realized over the last three years. The following documents were singled out as materials that could be of use to ongoing wetland programmes and projects in the region: a publication on the socio-economic of wetlands; partners for wise use of wetlands; inner Niger Delta evaluation; wetlands and poverty reduction programme; and wetlands and livelihoods working group. The presentation drew attention to what was termed the five faces of poverty, namely: financial, physical, natural, human and social. The presentation also provided a briefing on a specific project addressing water management problems in the upper Niger basin, in particular, issues related to the impacts of large dams on the Niger river, biodiversity and human activities, including fisheries, cattle herding, rice production and transportation. Other key issues highlighted by the presentation concern contribution to the achievement of the following goals of the Millennium Development Goals; ensuring environmental sustainability; access to primary education; and gender equality and empowerment.

83. The Wetlands and Poverty Reduction Project was presented as one of the key initiatives coordinated by Wetlands International in terms of influencing action at the national level specifically to address poverty reduction problems in wetland areas. The project, which is financed by the European Commission to the tune of Euro 6.2 million, will be implemented over a three-year period (2005 -2008) with a focus on the following key themes: policy and strategy development; capacity building for policy development and implementation; demonstration projects; communication and awareness raising on issues of environment and poverty in wetlands; development of strategic partnerships; and mainstreaming wetlands in sectoral development policies and processes. In addition, the project will also address issues of sustainable financing mechanisms for wetlands management and poverty reduction; integrating gender equality in wetland management strategies; and the incorporation of wise use of wetlands into wetland and integrated water management strategies wherever possible.

84. The presentation concluded with a number of pertinent observations about poverty and wetland degradation and mentioned, in particular, the application of the ecosystem approach as the most appropriate framework to position people and their livelihoods at the centre of the debate on wetlands conservation efforts from local to international levels. It ended with a Nigerian saying that merits special mention here - "words are good but they can never take the place of food".

85. Following this presentation, Mr. Moses Mnzava, Tanzania, delivered a presentation on the experience of Tanzania under the session theme (the role of wisely managed wetlands in alleviating poverty and promoting human well-being). The presentation started with an overview of Tanzania's wetlands resources and placed these in the context of the existing water resources management policies and other related policies, starting with the national agricultural policy and its linkage to wetlands, which was then followed by a briefing on the national water policy with respect to the management of wetlands and covered issues of water availability, utilization and role in the socio-economic development of the country. The presentation further highlighted the inter-linkages between wetlands and the country's land area, irrigation potential, and community participation and cited the findings and lessons learned from four case studies conducted in Mara River, Kilombero Valley and Bahai Wetlands.

86. The presentation also gave highlights of the River Basin Management and Smallholder Irrigation Improvement Project (RBMSIIP), in particular the institutional mechanism for the project; the achievements to date including policy, legal and institutional issues; data and information management practices; water management practices; irrigation schemes and crop yields; and other socio-economic benefits, to name but a few examples. The presentation concluded with a number of challenges and proposals for the way forward, particularly with regard to sustainability of wetlands, increased agricultural and water productivity, water harvesting storage mechanisms and runoff management practices, as well as the formulation of national wetlands utilisation and management plans.

87. In his presentation on "Addressing poverty and human well-being through wise use of Kafue Flats Wetlands", Mr. Jonathan Chisaka, Environmental Education Officer, WWF Zambia Coordination Office, started with a briefing on the key characteristics of the Kafue Flats as a riverine flood plain ecosystem which is formed by the seasonal flooding as the Kafue river meanders over a 200km stretch of plains, creating a system of oxbow lakes and lagoons. The presentation listed the ecological significance of the Kafue Flats wetlands and mentioned in particular their role as a freshwater reservoir; high biodiversity storehouse; breeding grounds for migratory birds, and host to endangered bird species; as well as a highly productive system. The presentation also enumerated the socio-economic significance of the wetlands as well as their contribution of the rich resource base to poverty alleviation and improved human well-being.

88. With regard to threats to the Kafue Flats wetlands due to human activities, the presentation cited the impacts of some specific examples of such practices, including disturbance of the flooding pattern by the construction of dams for power generation; depletion of fish stocks due to over-fishing and use of inappropriate fishing methods; poaching and its potential impact on the tourism industry; the impacts of large scale irrigation undertakings on the integrity of freshwater ecosystems, including pollution and water depletion; and inappropriate land use planning that takes away valuable habitat for wildlife and other important elements of a functional wetland. The presentation further highlighted a number of interventions that have been put in place to address the observed threats and their negative impacts, expected results, and planned research activities concerning the role of the Kafue Flats fisheries in the national and local economies, including the livelihoods of the local people, as well as changes in fisheries productivity since the adoption of ITT operating rules.

89. Mr. Achilles Byaruhanga, Uganda, Chair, Council for the Birdlife Africa Partnership, made a presentation on "Poverty alleviation and support for wetland important bird areas: Birdlife International community-based projects". He reiterated the aims of Birdlife International and drew attention to the empowerment and development of Site Support Groups (SSGs), capacity development at all levels, the integration of conservation with development and poverty alleviation as priority areas of focus for Birdlife International for the next five years. He further elaborated on the concept of SSGs as a key tool for engaging local communities in conservation, provided a detailed definition of the term SSG and their status in Africa, ongoing and potential functions, and briefed the meeting on the objectives, activities and achievements of a case study of a community-based wetland management initiative with a focus on sustainable livelihoods and biodiversity conservation in Ethiopia. Some of the achievements cited by the presentation include habitat management through moblisation by members; new ideas/technologies and expansion to the rest of the community; impact of compost making and use on livelihoods; indigenous and exotic tree nurseries; biogas introduction soil and water conservation practices; and moblisation for community development. The presentation also briefed the meeting on the key elements of the Berga Project, another community-based initiative, which links farming with conservation. The presentation concluded with a positive message for others who may want adopt a similar approach in engaging local communities in wetlands conservation initiatives.

90. Following this presentation, Dr. Geoffrey Howard, Regional Programme Coordinator, IUCN Regional Office for Eastern Africa (IUCN-EARO), made a presentation on the experiences of IUCN in the context of the role of wisely managed wetlands in alleviating poverty and promoting human well-being. The presentation provided a background to the evolution of IUCN's involvement with and support to the Ramsar Convention process since 1973, noting in particular the shift in focus and scope of work from waterfowl conservation to more integrated approaches that included people and their socio-economic activities in the overall management of wetlands. The background also alluded to IUCN's efforts in initiating wetland conservation and development projects in Africa in 1985 that led to the establishment of regional wetland programme nodes in Southern, Eastern and Western Africa to address "people issues" in wetlands. Another key milestone generated by IUCN's involvement in the Convention process include the 1990 IUCN publication - Wetland Conservation: A Review of Current Issues and Required Action, which articulated in detail a review of the importance of wetlands, an examination of the reasons for wetland loss, and an identification of ways and means to improve wetland management.

91. The presentation further elaborated on the key concepts that help guide overall wetlands management: Wetland Conservation, Wise Use and Multiple Wetland Use, and drew attention to IUCN's achievements in terms of developing and promoting wide application of these concepts in many field projects over the past 20 years. It also cited, with illustrative details, a specific example of a field project that provides a clear demonstration of the concept of multiple use of wetlands in Southwest Ethiopia. The presentation noted though that the successful application of these concepts is contingent upon the corresponding application of helpful policies, effective wetland management planning, consultation and stakeholder involvement. This was therefore the basis for IUCN's support for national and regional wetland programmes that enhance the conservation of wetland goods and services and so help to alleviate poverty and support human well-being.

92. With regard to the range of substantive issues to be discussed at COP9, the IUCN-EARO presentation proposed that the Conference discussions devote some attention to additional issues such as promoting more Ramsar sites that are multi-purpose and so have multiple uses; marine wetlands; and invasive species. The presentation concluded with a briefing on recent IUCN work on valuation of wetland goods and services and their role in providing for people and governments, and most recently, work related to the issue of environmental flows in the context of the continued provision of goods and services to people, their livelihoods and biodiversity.

93. The last presentation of the day was on the work of the International Commission for the Congo-Oubangiui-Sangha Basin (CICOS), which was delivered by Mr. Charles Tanania Kabobo, Principle Expert in the Commission. The presentation provided an overview of the legal mandate which established CICOS and its broad mission, key areas of operation in the basin, the structure of CICOS' institutional framework, and key characteristics of the basin. It also highlighted the financial mechanisms for CICOS and its role in initiatives related to poverty alleviation and human well-being. The presentation further made reference to the current mismanagement practices in the basin's river systems and associated catchments, which affect the hydrological flow of water systems in the basin and hence impact water quality and quantity. This in turn affects the navigability of the waterways and thus causes further impacts on the existing transport systems, trade and other socio-economic activities of the communities living in the basin. The presentation concluded with a brief mention of additional issues and problems addressed by CICOS as well as linkages to the AU, the Lagos Plan of Action in the context of promoting integrated management of the basin's natural resources.

94. The presentations were followed by a general discussion session in which delegates raised questions of clarification or made additional contributions to supplement the key issues that were highlighted by the various presentations. The interventions made by Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Birdlife International, Centre for African Wetlands, IUCN Western Africa Regional Office, Nature Uganda, Wetlands International and WWF Tanzania were centered around the following broad issues:

  • Pollution in wetlands and measures to prevent sedimentation;
  • Sustainability of irrigation programmes and ownership by local communities;
  • Dams and their impacts on poverty alleviation initiatives;
  • Monitoring systems for sites that fall outside protected areas which often have well established monitoring systems;
  • Relationship between the Ramsar Secretariat and the African Ministerial Council on Water (AMCOW);
  • Use of natural products by local communities to minimize the impacts agricultural chemicals;
  • Involvement of local communities and other stakeholders to reduce conflict of multiple user groups;
  • Water harvesting and sustainability;
  • Modification of water flow and its impact on downstream users;
  • Development and enforcement of a user code of conduct in a multiple use system

95. The session also deliberated on two key issues that merit special mention. The outcomes of the meeting in relation to COP9 discussions received considerable attention in this session with a number delegates requesting clarification from the Secretariat on how they perceived the outputs of the meeting feeding into COP9 discussions. In particular, it was felt that a more structured approach should have been employed by the meeting to help generate common positions on concrete issues for discussion at COP9. The meeting, the purpose of which was to prepare the region for COP9 did not appear to be leading to the articulation of draft resolutions on some the more pressing problems that are of priority concern to Africa, such as wetlands and poverty alleviation. There seemed to be general agreement that poverty alleviation is certainly an issue that deserves a specific draft resolution, with one delegate pointing out that poverty alleviation is not about money but also about resource productivity, and therefore the context in which the international community tends to view this poverty from a narrow perspective needs to be accurately reflected and COP9 represents an ideal opportunity to address this issue from the viewpoint of wetlands conservation and management.

96. Other delegations expressed the need for the meeting to agree on the specifics of the draft resolutions so that African delegates can go to Kampala with a common position on the contents and recommendations of the draft resolutions. They felt that the other Ramsar regions have mechanisms for articulating common positions before the meetings of COP and that the Africa region should also be accorded the same opportunities. One of the delegates however sounded a word of caution, noting that more time was needed to have a broad understanding and thus reach consensus on the possible contents of draft resolutions. The approach of convening additional meetings to review and agree on draft resolutions was thought to be unrealistic in view of the limitations of raising the required financial resources for such meetings, and the use of electronic discussion forum could be an alternative approach worth pursuing. An additional approach worth considering would be to request the Standing Committee to review the draft resolutions and identify delegates who would act as champions of Africa's proposed resolutions.

97. In response to most of the interventions on the issue of draft resolutions, the Ramsar Secretary General indicated that if indeed some delegates or subregional working groups had already prepared some draft resolutions, these should be brought to the attention of the meeting. He concurred with the views expressed on the possibility of drawing up a draft resolution on wetlands and poverty alleviation and suggested that this could be addressed further at the 31st meeting of the Standing Committee in June 2005 very much along the lines of how this Standing Committee meeting would address a draft resolution on natural disasters. He further pointed out that COP9 will have technical sessions devoted solely to discussion of technical issues and would be conducted in two parallel sessions. These would appear to present additional opportunities for further discussion of some of the key issues that will emerge from this meeting in the event that these issues do not get transformed into draft resolutions before COP9. The Standing Committee meeting of June 2005 could also serve as an additional forum for more detailed discussion of these issues as indicated in the preceding paragraph above.

98. The proposal by Uganda to consider the "Kampala Declaration" as a major outcome of COP9 was also discussed in the context of producing a draft for the review of the meeting delegates before tabling it for the consideration of COP9. The intention of the Uganda proposal was to help generate consensus on the content of the document in the hope that it could also serve as a blueprint for Africa in its efforts to implement the provisions of the Convention but also in terms of overall wetlands management as part of the social and economic development practices in the region. In his response to this proposal, the Ramsar Secretary General noted that while the proposed Kampala Declaration seemed like a good approach and a common focus for Africa's efforts in implementing the Convention, the Secretariat needed more time to understand how COP9 would handle the declaration because such a declaration would be a new departure for Ramsar COPs. He suggested that one approach that the Secretariat could consider as they prepare for COP9 is to review the draft declaration in each of the four technical sessions of the Conference and have it adopted by acclamation. He further suggested that the draft should be circulated to the meeting delegates for review and further discussion in the sessions scheduled for Friday, 8 April 2005.

99. The meeting was adjourned at 18h00

Session IV: The role of wisely managed wetlands in alleviating poverty and promoting human well-being at the river basin level (Contd.)

100. Session IV started with a presentation by Portia Segomelo (Project coordinator, Okavango Development Management Plan Project) on "The role of wisely managed wetlands in alleviating poverty and promoting human well-being: the Okavango Delta Management Plan". The presentation provided an overview of the Okavango Delta Management Plan, noting in particular the overall budget of the plan (US$6.9 million), which covers an initial period of 39 months (May 1003 - October 2006), the various contributing partners, and the sources of livelihood for the people of the delta. The presentation also provided detailed reviews of the weaknesses of existing instruments, socio-economic activities as well as other obstacles and impediments that impact on the livelihoods and human well-being in the delta. The issues highlighted by the presentation were grouped under the following broad categories: policy issues, economic valuation, land use practices, tourism, veld products, wildlife, fisheries, community based natural resources management plans, traditional rights, as well as HIV/AIDS and gender issues.

101. The presentation then provided details of how the Management Plan for the delta has been structured to address the identified weaknesses and obstacles set forth in the above broad categories and specifically cited a number of interventions in the plan that have already been or will soon be implemented, with emphasis on alleviating poverty and thereby improving the livelihoods of the communities in the delta. The presentation concluded with some pertinent issues concerning pilot activities to test the management options, collaboration with basin states (Namibia and Angola), training and capacity building, and the need to ensure that the overall planning process is integrated, interactive and dynamic.

102. This was followed by a presentation on the same theme but with a focus on "Establishing governance and management systems for Lake Tanganyika", a 10-year GEF-funded institutional support initiative. The presentation, which was delivered by Dr. Alan Rogers (UNDP-GEF), highlighted the unique characteristics of Lake Tanganyika as a vast freshwater reservoir and also as a Ramsar site, including its high endemism particularly with regards to fish, molluscs, Albertine Rift Forest, swamps and flood plains, and also as a unique example of natural wetland type, in particular the support it provides to vulnerable and endangered species, significant biodiversity, over 20,000 water birds and a significant proportion of indigenous fish taxa. It also enumerated the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in the catchment of the lake, namely in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Zambia.

103. The presentation also provided an overview of key elements of the GEF-supported Strategic Action Plan and its implementation in terms of addressing the four main problems identified by a transboundary diagnostic analysis (over-fishing, pollution, sedimentation, and protection of biodiversity, especially protected areas and breeding areas). The presentation also covered the ongoing interventions to address the identified problems including reducing waste water pollution, sedimentation, regulating fishing, increasing incomes, capacity building, and the need for relevant regional agreements for the lake. In addition, it was explained that the process for delivering these interventions would include aspects related to regional standards as well as regional monitoring and evaluation activities in order to provide important feedback to the overall management process. The presentation concluded with some highlights on potential additional support for the initiative with some indicative figures or positive responses from GEF, European Union, the African Development Bank (fisheries), the Nordic countries and IUCN, amongst others.

104. The third presentation of the morning also addressed the same theme of wetlands and poverty alleviation but with a special focus on the Lake Chad Basin. The presentation, which was delivered by Tam Lambert, Assistant Executive Secretary, Lake Chad Basin Commission, cited the key characteristics of Lake Chad as a transboundary fresh water source shared by over 30 million people from five basin countries (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria), its important wetlands and floodplains covering close to 1 million km2, the considerable variation of the lake surface depending on the amount of annual rainfall received, and the shrinking of the lake surface from 25,000 km2 to 3000 km2 over the last 20 years. The meeting was further informed that Lake Chad and its associated wetlands exist in a dry land setting and thus form a unique and fragile ecosystem constituting one of the major wetlands of the Sahel zone, with the lake biome playing a very distinct and significant role in the ecology, hydrology and economy of the Lake Chad basin

105. The presentation also provided an overview of the structure, membership and functions of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, noting in particular that the promotion of regional cooperation, the coordination of national programmes with transboundary implications, and the equitable and efficient use of water resources for sustainable development in the basin constitute some of the most important areas of focus for the Commission. It also highlighted the problems of the basin due to climatic changes over several decades, such as successive periods of severe droughts, environmental degradation, high winds, and excessive evapotranspiration, as well as the impacts of these problems on the socio-economic well-being of the people of the region. The presentation provided details of the key elements of the Strategic Action Plan for sustainable development of the basin and specifically expounded on the three objectives of the Plan, focusing on broad areas of harmonised national policy issues, best-knowledge management and concrete actions, people-centered approaches for the sustainable utilization of the shared resources of the basin. It also alluded to the Common 2025 Vision for the basin with emphasis on maintenance of the basin's common heritage, including wetlands at sustainable levels; recognition and acceptance by national authorities of the need for collective responsibility for judicious use and conservation of the basin's freshwater ecosystem and biodiversity; and equitable access of the basin countries to adequate water resources to meet their needs.

106. The presentation alluded to a resolution declaring Lake Chad a wetland of international importance in July 2000 and the subsequent establishment of the CHADWET initiative in July 2004 very much along the lines of MEDWET. It concluded with a briefing on the implementation of several of the ongoing and proposed projects, including the five GEF-supported pilot projects to be implemented in existing and planned Ramsar sites in the basin. It singled out for special mention the proposed Inter-Basin Water Transfer project with the overall aim of transferring water from the waters of the Congo Basin into Lake Chad specifically to raise the water level of Lake Chad and the associated wetlands in the basin and thus ensure continued support for sustainable development initiatives in activities in the region; socio-economic development programmes; promotion of regional economic integration, cooperation and security; poverty alleviation through increased food production, provision of portable water and employment opportunities; and drought mitigation as well as control of desertification and erosion.

107. This was followed by a presentation delivered by Mr. Abdalla Said Shah (NPC Tanzania) on the Nile Basin Initiative. The main focus of the presentation, which was entitled "Efforts in conserving the Nile: Sharing Responsibilities and Benefits", was on the Nile Basin Transboundary Environmental Action Project (NBTEAP) specifically set up to promote cooperation among the Nile Basin countries in protecting and managing the environment and the Nile River Basin ecosystem. The presentation gave a brief account of the key characteristics of the Nile Basin as an important transboundary resource supporting the livelihoods of over 160 million people in the 10 basin countries. The basin is characterised by the world's longest river (6700km), varied ecosystems ranging from tropical forest through wetlands (Victoria, Sudd and the river Nile) to dry arid lands. The presentation also enumerated several challenges faced by the communities of the basin, namely poverty, instability (wars and civil strife), rapid population growth, environmental degradation, and management problems of transboundary resources. With regard to the range of opportunities that could provide substantial benefits to the people of the region, the presentation cited potential for increased food production, energy supply, support to industrial development, and as a catalyst for regional cooperation and integration.

108. The presentation also narrated a number of initiatives including projects and programmes, institutional frameworks, conferences, action plans that have been implemented in the basin states spanning a period of three decades with the overall purpose of fostering regional cooperation in the management of the transboundary resources of the Nile basin. The latest in the series of initiatives is the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), which is a transitional mechanism for regional cooperation that is expected to culminate in a more permanent framework for the Nile Basin. The focus of the mission and primary objectives of the NBI is on achieving sustainable socio-economic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources and more specifically through efficient water management, cooperation and joint action, poverty eradication, economic integration and more action planning. The Initiative has a Strategic Action Programme with two major components, namely, a shared vision programme to create an enabling environment for cooperative action and a subsidiary action programme to plan and implement investments on the ground down to the lowest appropriate level.

109. The presentation provided details of the Shared Vision Programme, which comprises a portfolio of seven projects that address the major water-related sectors as well as the cross-cutting themes in an integrated and comprehensive approach. One of these projects which is of direct relevance to the work of the Convention is the Nile Basin Transboundary Environmental Action Plan (NBTEAP) project, whose objective is to provide a strategic environmental framework for the management of transboundary waters and related environmental challenges in the Nile Basin. The presentation concluded with a briefing on the key components of this project in which wetlands and biodiversity conservation are addressed as a key component, implementation approach, the associated costs, sources of funding for the ongoing project activities, and a summary of the current status of implementation of the overall project.

110. The final presentation on the theme of Session IV (wetlands and poverty alleviation) was on the "Every River Has Its People (ERP)" project, which is based in the wetlands of the Okavango Basin. Mr. Montshiwa M. Montshiwa, Regional Project Manager (ERP), started the presentation with a brief overview of the partnership, implementation framework, funding mechanism and principles of the project as a unique initiative of shared river basin management approach. The deliberate positioning of the needs and livelihoods of the people of the basin at the centre of the ongoing project activities, taken together with the integrated approach to the problems of the basin and the recognition of the ecological diversity and uses of the resources, comprises the key fundamental percepts of the initiative. In narrating the historical background and evolution of the project, the presentation described the key characteristics of the basin including the over 600,000 people who live there making a livelihood in fisheries, farming and various types of crafts; the various environmental problems confronting the management of the basin; and policy and institutional issues that needed to be addressed.

111. The presentation further elaborated on the objectives and specific areas addressed by the project and in particular capacity building efforts with emphasis on increased participation in decision-making processes, stocktaking and monitoring of the status of resources of the basin, the generation of marketable accomplishments for economic development; and "best practices" for adoption wherever necessary and appropriate. Details were also provided on the contribution of the project to poverty alleviation in terms of maintenance of the integrity of the wetland, empowering communities in decision-making processes that affect their livelihoods, as well as engagement in relevant community-based natural resource management programmes and initiatives. The presentation also offered a number of recommendations specifically related to the need to strike a balance between issues of ownership, custodianship and management of the wetland by different categories of resource managers.

General discussion session - comments and questions on the presentations

112. The above presentations were followed by a general discussion session in which several delegates raised a number of concerns and questions seeking further clarification on some of the presentations, while others provided comments and suggestions on specific issues related to the theme of the session and its associated presentations. The key concerns and issues which emerged from the general discussion session were centered around the following:

113. Interbasin transfer particularly in the case of the Congo and Lake Chad basins. The presentation on the Lake Chad Basin elicited a query on the plight of Lake Chad as a Ramsar site from a representative of UNECA specifically directed at the Ramsar Convention Secretariat and also at IUCN. In particular, UNECA sought clarification on what happens when a Ramsar site such as Lake Chad dries up, in view of the alarming rate at which the surface of the lake continues to decrease every year. UNECA further pointed out that this issue has been discussed with the Secretariat on several occasions without getting a satisfactory response. The lake is still a Ramsar site, but the main issue goes beyond that and touches on the environmental flows concept. It would appear that one of the main causes of the problem in the Lake Chad basin is that many of the development projects undertaken in the basin in the past did not take into account the environmental flow requirements, with the result that water continues to be simply released downstream whenever it is needed. UNECA was therefore keen to find out if interbasin water transfer to Lake Chad from the Congo Basin (i.e., supply side management) is of interest to IUCN and their research programs?

114. The response of IUCN Regional Office for Eastern Africa (IUCN-EARO) with respect to the issue of out-of-basin transfer to Lake Chad pointed out that this is indeed a delicate issue that would be better addressed within the domain of international water management and that the principles which guide such management approaches emphasize the necessity to conduct senior policy-level consultations, discussions and consensus-building prior to the movement of even small quantities of water from one basin to another. Although the Oubangi river in the Congo Basin has been identified as a potential source from which to carry out the proposed interbasin water transfer to Lake Chad, it would appear that there has been no study to assess whether or not the Oubangi river water that flows into the ocean is simply wasted nor of the potential impacts on the important fishery at the mouth of the river as it flows into the ocean, in the event that its waters are diverted as part of the interbasin transfer to Lake Chad. The IUCN response further noted that there have been similar proposals in the past 40 years to move water to other basins, but each of these proposals has had to contend with the necessity of carrying out detailed discussions that would need to accommodate a range of diverse views from both the source and sink of the intended transfers. In the present case, though, the umbrella framework of NEPAD represents a potential opportunity to help conduct such discussions and consultations in view of the interest that NEPAD itself has in hydro-power generation across the continent. The recommendation of IUCN-EARO was to use the subregional and regional political mechanisms to seek a workable solution based on an agreement on the ecological, social and economical consequences of proposed transfers.

115. In reply, the Lake Chad Commission noted that the proposed interbasin transfer is one of the potential options currently under consideration to address the concerns of the region about the apparent drying up of Lake Chad and added that further consideration of this option will need to be supported by a comprehensive feasibility study as well as wide-ranging consultations and consensus building efforts involving several layers of stakeholders in the countries of the basin. The Commission drew attention to the fact that the documentation presented to the Secretariat contains more information on the status of the proposed interbasin transfer, including an agreement in principle about this issue at the political level. What was presented to the meeting was intended to underscore the magnitude of the problems of Lake Chad and thus the concern of the countries of the region.

116. In response to the query raised by UNECA concerning the drying up of a Ramsar site, the Secretary General pointed out that this is not necessarily a reason for discontinuing a site as a Ramsar site and that the Convention has existing mechanisms to determine the potential change of status of sites which go through drastic hydrological changes, and he cited the instrument of the Montreux Record as one such mechanism. However, the aim should be to restore the original hydrological processes so that a wetland can resume providing the services that it provided initially. He further noted that this is the responsibility of the concerned Contracting Party primarily, but possibly also of other Contracting Parties if the water supply or drainage of the system is in another country or countries. However, in cases where it becomes impossible to reverse the process due to adverse climatic change, some Ramsar sites may stop being Ramsar sites. With regard to the issue of the proposed interbasin transfer, the Secretary General remarked that it is generally better not to disrupt the natural hydrological processes and ecological character of a system, adding that taking water from other well-functioning systems does not always perform according to expectations and solving the identified problem, such as that of Lake Chad, cannot be guaranteed. Experience from other systems shows that it is better to try and improve the hydrological regime of the problem system itself instead of attempting interbasin transfers.

117. In a comment on the overall presentation on the Lake Chad Basin, Nigeria expressed support for the idea of replicating in the Niger Basin the approaches adopted by the LaKe Chad Basin Commission in addressing the problems of Lake Chad. The Secretary General did not have any objection to this proposal and encourage Nigeria to pursue the issue with the relevant authorities from the region.

118. Traditional peoples and wetlands management, particularly in the context of indigenous and marginalised communities, also generated a number of comments from delegates, with Tanzania pointing out that, whilst poverty alleviation has received considerable attention in the recent past, there has been a tendency to approach this issue in a generic way, adding that these approaches have not gone far enough in incorporating the specific needs of indigenous and marginalised communities. He cited a general example in which alternative land uses to enhance income generation in a number of wetland areas also tend to further marginalize the traditional hunters and gatherers, whose interest and means of livelihood need to be addressed as part of the overall management approaches for these areas. Tanzania proposed that the Ramsar Convention should begin to take the lead in ensuring that attention paid to the poverty alleviation needs of indigenous and marginalised communities goes beyond the deliberations of COPs and related meeting and instead gets transformed into practical actions on the ground. Burundi expressed support for the views voiced by Tanzania on this issue, noting that indigenous people are not accorded any priority in many of the wetland management programmes and projects.

119. In response to these concerns, Botswana drew attention to the fact that the Okavango Delta Management Plan (ODMP) does indeed address the issue of indigenous and marginalised communities (Baswa) who are actively involved in the planning and management of the ODMP at various stages. Botswana further pointed out that the country has always recognized the role and contributions of these communities and supported a number of traditional structures and mechanisms through which the Baswa expressed their views on many issues affecting their livelihoods. The formulation and subsequent implementation of the ODMP incorporated the existing traditional consultation processes and structures of these communities and thereby ensured that opportunities to use and build on the traditional knowledge of indigenous communities were also duly built into the ODMP process. Botswana cautioned, however, that attempts to address the needs of indigenous groups should not ignore the needs of other communities who live side by side with the indigenous communities and further stressed the importance of applying a CBRM approach in addressing poverty-alleviation issues of the various communities at the local level and, in particular, in raising the level of awareness by employing a number of outreach tools and efforts that are meaningful, relevant and responsive to the unique circumstances of these communities.

120. As a follow-up to the proposal by Botswana to refrain from referring to these communities as indigenous but instead as traditional, Wetlands International expressed support for this view and further noted that interventions to address their plight should not stress the issue of ethnicity of the people but should instead focus on people who live in close contact with natural resources.

121. The general discussion session touched on the issue of development benefits and equity, with WWF Tanzania emphasizing the importance of sharing responsibilities and benefits in reaction to the presentations on the ODMP and the Nile Basin Initiative and cited a general example in which revenues generated from tourism activities do not necessarily trickle back to the resource users. WWF Tanzania further noted that the application of community-based resource management approaches do indeed achieve positive results and should therefore be actively promoted. In response to this observation, Botswana pointed out that imbalances in community participation vis-à-vis development benefits and equity continue to pose a challenge to the ODMP, but an attempt to address this problem will be a key component of the upcoming review of the ongoing CBRM efforts with a focus on aspects concerning the improvement of livelihoods of the affected communities and their use of natural resources. With regard to the issue of shared benefits and responsibilities, and therefore the extent to which local communities are engaged in the tourism sector, Botswana further pointed out that the operation of the industry has hitherto been the domain of foreign investors, often with long-term leases. The issue of community participation and, in particular, potential options for local people to assume more responsible positions within the sector will also be addressed as part of the CBRM review process

122. With regard to the presentation on the Nile Basin Initiative, WWF Tanzania sought clarification on how problems of transboundary wetlands are addressed, especially interventions concerning poverty alleviation at the local level, in view of the apparent disagreements between some of the member states in the basin. In responding to this query, the Nile Basin Initiative reiterated the position that the Nile Basin Initiative is still a transitional framework and efforts aimed at resolving the existing disagreements are part of the ongoing discussions within this framework. In this regard, the Initiative will continue to experience reservations about policy and institutional levels of integration in the region until such a time when the transitional framework eventually culminates in more permanent arrangements. However, under the existing framework, the steering committee of the Initiative comprises representatives of ministries of environment of the member states and transboundary activities are thus handled by this committee to ensure that any areas of disagreement are adequately addressed.

123. Demographic/overpopulation pressures and wetlands management. In their intervention during the general discussion session, Tunisia made the observation that the impacts of rapid population growth and related demographic pressures on wetland sites were not adequately articulated in the presentations that provided detailed briefings on national efforts to address poverty alleviation as part of the management plans for wetlands. Tunisia proposed that the recommendations of the meeting should incorporate other important social-economic issues of wetland management such as demography, education and health. In response to the observation on the need to address the impacts of demographic pressures, Botswana agreed with the views expressed by Tunisia and noted that in the case of Botswana, a district settlement strategy is currently under development in which an ongoing pilot project is expected to generate important lessons and insights that will guide the development of appropriate approaches to address demographic issues and their impacts, especially in areas that are particularly vulnerable and sensitive to such pressures.

124. Culture and wetlands. In responding to a request for clarification on the issue of culture and wetlands, the Ramsar Convention Secretary General remarked that this is a particularly complex one because it draws in several other equally complex issues such as indigenous people and traditional knowledge, not to mention "western science" and how they all relate to wetland management. He further explained that discussions of culture and wetlands are still ongoing within the STRP and the timing for COP9 might therefore be too early to adopt another resolution on this issue, adding that the current thinking is to use one of the four themes of the technical sessions of COP9 to devote more time to culture and wetlands and arrive at elements of a draft resolution for consideration and adoption at COP10. The Secretary General suggested that the report of this meeting should certainly make a statement about this issue at COP9, but not in the form of a resolution since there are many relevant aspects that have yet to be resolved in the ongoing discussions within the STRP. With regard to Benin's request for an update on the ongoing discussions of the STRP, the Secretary General reiterated the need for granting more time to further discussions on this issue to avoid producing a watered-down or compromised resolution that would fail to build confidence and comfort among the countries that are nervous about the present formulation on culture and wetland management

125. Registration of sites before COP9 and communication between the Secretariat and the focal points in the Contracting Parties. Speaking on behalf of the countries of northern Africa, Morocco stated that the region is in agreement with the resolution calling in parties to register a certain number of sites and added that a WWF-funded regional program led to the identification of 50-60 sites that need to be registered in conformity with the provisions of this resolution. Morocco proposed that given that correspondence on this particular issue between the focal points of the region and the Secretariat has not yielded any tangible outcomes, the Secretariat should accord priority consideration to this issue, decide on a deadline for the registration of these sites, and use the occasion of COP9 to announce that the sites have indeed been registered. Morocco further proposed that the meeting should generate a resolution on this issue stipulating that the country parties of the region should be granted a deadline of six months for registration of the identified sites. With regard to the issue of communication between the focal points and the Secretariat, Morocco proposed that the interaction between the two should be enhanced in terms fostering faster response time and increased regularity of the interaction.

126. Other issues. In response to a concern raised by WWF Tanzania about the potential degradation of natural resources due to commercialization of subsistence products, Botswana drew attention to an ongoing inventory of resource use conflicts which is expected to result in the formulation of a management plan for vegetation resources and which could therefore serve to address potential risks and impacts of commercialization of subsistence crops and related products.

127. Botswana called on Zambia as the Chair of the wetlands component of the NEPAD Environment Initiative to follow up with the implementation of this component and more specifically to set a date for the conclusion of the relevant Memorandum of Understanding governing this component.

128. Ghana noted that the Secretariat requested the preparatory meeting for COP9 to provide suggestions for strengthening the Secretariat budget but did not advance any guidance to the delegates on how to respond to this request. The Secretary General alluded to the possibility of submitting for COP9 consideration some of the key issues expected to emerge from the meeting, including the outcomes of the subregional working group, discussions as part of the review of the draft budget at COP9. He cited the example of an earlier request by Botswana for the Secretariat to consider supporting regular travel and meetings in the region for the African members of the Standing Committee as one such issue that could be discussed during the review of the draft budget at COP9.

129. Morocco raised additional comments and suggestions on behalf of the northern Africa countries represented in the meeting. These were:

  • The issue of poverty alleviation as articulated in the presentations was very general and consideration should therefore be given to the formulation and implementation of more concrete actions for the affected communities.
  • The impacts of population pressure on natural resources should be reduced and the livelihoods of the people improved.
  • Management plans for wetlands must be developed for each Ramsar site on the List in collaboration with the communities, and country parties should be requested to implement the plans and the Secretariat to identify the necessary funds for their implementation.
  • National inventories should be included in the wetland management policies and the Secretariat should provide support for this process.
  • With regard to the accession of Sudan, the procedure is ongoing and there is hope that with the support of the Secretariat, COP9 would be an opportune time to announce that 100 % of the North Africa countries are party to the convention.

131. Lessons from presentations for COP9. Namibia applauded all the presenters and the quality of their work as presented to the meeting and proposed that as a follow-up to an earlier suggestion raised by the Centre for African Wetlands issues of significance emerging from the meeting, including good examples of ongoing projects with a focus on poverty alleviation, should be championed and presented at COP9. Specifically, the committee looking into the formulation of draft resolutions for consideration at COP9 should include these issues and examples in their deliberations and should also identify potential champions to articulate these at COP9. In response, the session Chairperson requested Namibia to contact the Secretariat and explore options for follow-up with the proposal.

Draft Arusha Declaration and Resolution for COP9

130. The review of the draft text of the proposed Arusha Declaration as a major outcome of the meeting generated a lengthy discussion, specifically on the substantive content, format and language of the draft document and procedural issues for its presentation and discussion at COP9. Delegates devoted considerable time reviewing the entire text of the draft and provided detailed suggestions on the improvement of the substance and language of the draft document, with the following issues emerging as key common features that should be the focus of the declaration: poverty alleviation, capacity building, funding, CEPA, NEPAD, invasive alien species, as well as linkages with other organizations. The meeting resolved that the document should have another title, be much shorter but without diluting the significance of its content, avoid overlaps and competition with the proposed Kampala Declaration, and that the revised version should be reviewed by the Standing Committee scheduled to meet in June 2005 before it is submitted for the consideration of COP9 in November 2005. The final version of the document was eventually renamed The Arusha Call for African Wetlands and is attached as Annex IX to this report.

Other draft documents for COP9

131. The session also considered a draft resolution on wetlands and poverty alleviation as another major outcome of the meeting, which should be submitted for the considerable of COP9. The meeting resolved that a revised version of the draft resolution, in the standard format for Ramsar resolutions, should be submitted for review by the Standing Committee meeting of June 2005 and thereafter for the consideration of COP9.

132. Discussions concerning a draft statement from the West Africa group indicated that there was considerable overlap between this document and the content of the proposed Arusha Declaration and the draft resolution on wetlands and poverty alleviation. It was therefore felt that there was no need to submit the West Africa draft statement as another major outcome of the meeting.

133. The meeting devoted considerable time discussing a proposal by Uganda for the Convention to consider establishing a Ramsar Centre for Africa specifically to deal with issues of coordination efforts in the implementation of the Convention in the Africa region. Several delegates expressed reservations about the need for such an institution and cited problems of language, funding support and potential for duplication and competition with the mandates and functions of existing institutions in the region. Other delegates supported the establishment of the Centre, however, particularly from the standpoint of addressing problems of coordination and follow-up by the focal points in their efforts to implement the provisions of the Convention. The meeting resolved that Uganda should undertake a revision of the proposal, including its translation into French, and that COP9 should then give due consideration to this proposal.

Closure of the session and meeting

134. The closing session was addressed by the Secretary General, who expressed his appreciation to the delegates for their enthusiasm and dedication in making the meeting extremely productive and in providing substantive inputs for the consideration of the Standing Committee and COP9 meetings. The Secretary General also extended words of gratitude to the Chairs of the various sessions and in particular Mr. Emmanuel Severre for his support and that of his colleagues from Tanzania, as well as the interpreters and all the other technical personnel involved in the running of the meeting.

135. In his closing remarks, Mr. Severre in his capacity as the Chairperson of the session, and also as the ranking official representative of the Government of Tanzania, commended the delegates and the conference support staff for the devotion and tireless efforts that they all put into the conference, adding that the tasks accomplished constitute important agenda items for the consideration of COP9. He drew attention to what he perceived as some of the key issues on which the delegates sought concrete action and resolutions, namely: agriculture and the impacts of sedimentation and use of agrochemicals; involvement of local communities and other stakeholders to minimize resource use conflicts; impacts of water harvesting and abstraction practices; and relevance of developing multiple use guidelines and code of conduct. He further noted that despite the many achievements that were highlighted by the presentations and discussions, there is still a lot to do in terms of addressing challenges and problems that continue to hamper the implementation of the Convention in Africa.

136. Turning to the issue of transboundary wetlands, Mr. Severre pointed out that many of the presentations on this particular issue clearly demonstrated that international cooperation amongst the Contracting Parties is necessary to underpin the collective responsibilities of managing shared wetlands. He called on the delegates to view the draft Arusha Declaration as a major output of the meeting and therefore a reflection of the commitment of the delegates to work towards a common approach for voicing the concerns of the region at COP9. The draft declaration and the strong sentiments expressed about wetlands and poverty alleviation are important achievements for which the delegates merit commendation. He also paid tribute to the efforts of some international organizations in supporting the work of the Contracting Parties in the implementation of the Convention especially at the national level. He singled out IUCN, WWF, Wetlands International, Birdlife International and NEPAD as deserving of this commendation.

137. He also issued a challenge to countries which have not acceded to Convention to do so expeditiously, as their continued non-membership tends to undermine the collective efforts of the region to effectively implement the Convention. He concluded his remarks by re-emphasising the need to transform the commitment demonstrated during the conference deliberations into actions on the ground in order to realize the values of wetlands implied therein.

138. With these remarks, Mr. Severre officially closed the Africa Regional Preparatory Meeting for COP9 at 15h35.

I Provisional programme
II Terms of reference for the Subregional Working Groups
Reports of Working Group Sessions: Problems and challenges problems facing the implementation of the Convention in the Africa subregions / Comptes rendus de la Séance I: Problèmes et défis lies a la mise en oeuvre de la Convention dans les sous régions d’Afrique
III – Afrique de l’Ouest
IV – Groupe Afrique Centrale
V - Southern Africa Subregional Working Group
VI - Indian Ocean Island States
VII - Afrique du Nord
VIII - East African Subregion
IX The Arusha Call for African Wetlands / L'Appel d'Arusha sur les zones humides d'Afrique
X List of Participants
. Photographs

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