Agreement between Ramsar and the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit

17/01/2007


Interface Procedures Between

The Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
(Ramsar Secretariat)

and

The Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit of the

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)


A. Introduction

The following document is intended to identify areas of potential mutual assistance and possible actions related to the notification and reporting, mobilisation of resources and response to environmental emergencies and natural disasters with major environmental impacts affecting or involving wetlands.

For the purposes of the following document, the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands will be henceforth referred to as the "Ramsar Secretariat". Correspondingly, the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs will be henceforth referred to as the "Joint Unit".

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (henceforth "Convention") provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. The Convention stipulates "the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local, regional and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world".

In 2002, the Contracting Parties to the Convention adopted Resolution VIII.35 on "the impact of natural disasters, particularly drought, on wetland ecosystems", requesting monitoring and assessment of the impact of drought and other natural disasters on the ecological character of wetlands and on the livelihoods of local communities.

In 2005, the Contracting Parties to the Convention adopted Resolution IX.9 on "the role of the Ramsar Convention in the prevention and mitigation of impacts associated with natural phenomena, including those induced or exacerbated by human activities" (annexed). In line with this Resolution, the Ramsar Convention Secretariat will cooperate with the Joint Unit as described below under B. and C., especially regarding guidance on pre-disaster measures, impact prevention and minimization and on responses to be initiated immediately following the onset of an environmental emergency or natural disaster affecting or likely to affect wetlands.

The Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit (Joint Unit) is the United Nations mechanism to mobilize and coordinate the international response to environmental emergencies and natural disasters with major environmental impacts.

B. Notification & Reporting

Responsibilities of the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit

When the Joint Unit becomes aware of an environmental emergency or natural disaster with major environmental impacts affecting or involving wetlands, or any other significant incident involving wetlands, the Joint Unit agrees to inform the Ramsar Secretariat of the event as soon as possible and to share any new information received over the course of the incident.

During regular working hours the preferred manner of contacting the Ramsar Secretariat is by facsimile, although telephone or other means of communication, as given below, may be used as appropriate. The contact information for communicating with the Ramsar Secretariat is as follows:

Facsimile +41 22 999 0169
Telephone+41 22 999 0180
Office mobile +41 79 290 2621
E-mail pbwater@ramsar.org

Outside regular working hours Ramsar Secretariat staff, if available, should be notified via their private telephone numbers, provided below:

Dr Peter Bridgewater
Home: +41 22 xxx xxxx
Mobile: +41 79 xxx xxxx
Dr Nick Davidson
Home: +41 22 xxx xxxx
Mobile: +41 79 xxx xxxx

Responsibilities of the Ramsar Secretariat

When the Ramsar Secretariat becomes aware of an environmental emergency or natural disaster with major environmental impacts affecting or involving wetlands, or any other significant environmental emergency, the Ramsar Secretariat agrees to notify the Joint Unit of the event as soon as possible and agrees to share any additional information that the Ramsar Secretariat may receive over the course of the incident.

During regular working hours, the preferred manner of notifying the Joint Unit is by facsimile or eMail, although telephone or other means of communication, as given below, may be used as appropriate. The contact information for communicating with the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit is as follows:

Joint UnitSecretariatochagva@un.orgFax: +41 22 917 02 57
Vladimir SakharovChiefSakharov@un.orgTel xxx xxx xxxx
Roy BrookeHumanitarian Affairs Officerbrooker@un.orgTel xxx xxx xxxx
René NijenhuisProgramme Officernijenhuis@un.orgTel xxx xxx xxxx


Outside regular working hours the preferred manner of notification is by the emergency telephone number, although other means of communication, as given above, may be used as appropriate.

Telephone - in case of EMERGENCY ONLY - to be used after regular office hours Tel: +41 22 917 20 10
Fax - in case of EMERGENCY ONLY - to be used after regular office hours Fax: +41 22 917 00 23
Switchboard OCHA Geneva Tel: +41 22 917 12 34

C. Provisions for Mutual Assistance

Responsibilities of the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit

  • Whenever the Joint Unit is notified of an environmental emergency or natural disaster with major environmental impacts affecting or involving wetlands, or of any other related incident, the Joint Unit agrees to promptly inform the Ramsar Secretariat and to share all relevant information related to the incident.
  • The Joint Unit will routinely supply the Ramsar Secretariat with all relevant information and situation reports related to an environmental emergency or natural disaster with major environmental impacts affecting or involving wetlands, or to any other related incident, which the Ramsar Secretariat may be dealing with.
  • The Ramsar Secretariat may request the Joint Unit to provide advice and/or assistance to the Ramsar Secretariat with regard to an environmental emergency or natural disaster with major environmental impacts affecting or involving wetlands, or to any other related incident. The Joint Unit agrees to provide such advice or assistance to the Ramsar Secretariat as appropriate.
  • Whenever the Joint Unit receives a request for assistance related to an environmental emergency or natural disaster with major environmental impacts affecting or involving wetlands, or to any other related incident, the Joint Unit will promptly consult with the Ramsar Secretariat in order to coordinate possible actions and avoid duplication of efforts. In particular, the Ramsar Secretariat and the Joint Unit will collectively consider the need for and possible deployment of an expert assessment mission.
  • If the Ramsar Secretariat and the Joint Unit agree that an expert assessment mission is required, and if the appropriate OCHA management authorization is received, the Joint Unit will coordinate the rapid dispatch of an expert / team of experts for an assessment of the situation and implement the necessary emergency intervention measures.


Responsibilities of the Ramsar Secretariat

  • Whenever the Ramsar Secretariat is notified of an environmental emergency or natural disaster with major environmental impacts affecting or involving wetlands, or of any other related incident, the Ramsar Secretariat agrees to inform the Joint Unit as soon as possible of all relevant information related to the incident.
  • Correspondingly, the Ramsar Secretariat will inform the Joint Unit of any action taken within the framework of the Ramsar Convention in accordance with Resolution IX.9 on "the role of the Ramsar Convention in the prevention and mitigation of impacts associated with natural phenomena, including those induced or exacerbated by human activities"(annexed).
  • In the event that a request for assistance related to an environmental emergency or natural disaster with major environmental impacts affecting or involving wetlands, or to any other related incident, is received by the Ramsar Secretariat, it will immediately notify the Joint Unit of that request. The Ramsar Secretariat and the Joint Unit will then collectively consider the need and possible deployment of an expert assessment mission as required.
  • The Joint Unit may request the Ramsar Secretariat to provide advice pertaining to the implementation of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and on any assistance provided within the framework of this Convention. The Ramsar Secretariat agrees to provide such advice and assistance to the Joint Unit as appropriate.
  • At the end of any mission involving the deployment of an expert or team of experts resulting from a formal request by the Ramsar Secretariat, the Secretariat agrees to reimburse the expenses incurred by the Joint Unit in connection with such a mission.


D. Obligation, Review and Termination

This Interface Procedure constitutes an expression of a shared objective and vision. However, each party's actions will be considered to be that party's sole and separate action, for all purposes, and neither party shall claim to be acting on behalf of, or as agent for the other party to this Interface Procedure.

The extent to which the activities outlined in this Interface Procedures are implemented will be subject to the availability of resources. Financial implications of activities for the Ramsar Secretariat are subject to approval by the Secretary General and/or the Chair of the Ramsar Standing Committee, as appropriate.

The term for this Interface Procedure is six years. The agreement may be reviewed at the request of either party, and may be terminated by either party subject to six months notice in writing.

The Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands agree to all conditions and commitments as identified in these Interface Procedures.

For the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention:

Dr Peter Bridgewater
Secretary General
Ramsar Convention Secretariat Date

For the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit:

Mr. Vladimir Sakharov,
Chief, Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit
Emergency Services Branch
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Date

 


Annex: Resolution IX.9 on impacts of natural phenomena, 2005

The 2005 Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

Resolution IX.9

The role of the Ramsar Convention in the prevention and mitigation of impacts associated with natural phenomena, including those induced or exacerbated by human activities

1. RECALLING that at COP8 the Contracting Parties adopted Resolution VIII.35 on The impact of natural disasters, particularly drought, on wetland ecosystems, but RECOGNIZING that the spectrum of natural disasters is much wider than was covered in that document, as witnessed by continuing extreme climatic and other events and especially the devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004;

2. AWARE that the joint United Nations Environment Programme / UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Environment Unit (UNEP/OCHA) is the UN coordinating body mandated to mobilize international assistance in case of environmental emergencies and natural disasters with environmental impacts;

3. RECALLING that the World Conference on Disaster Reduction (Kobe, Japan, 2005) has adopted the Hyogo Framework for Action, the scope of which encompasses disasters caused by hazards of natural origin and related environmental and technological hazards and risks, which thus reflects a holistic and multi-hazard approach to disaster risk management and the relationships between the various hazards which can have a significant impact on social, economic, cultural and environmental systems;

4. RECOGNIZING the important role that the Ramsar Convention can play as one of the international actors potentially involved in disaster avoidance and mitigation and in post-disaster restoration;

5. ALSO RECOGNIZING that floods are natural phenomena that play an essential role in ensuring ecosystem functioning and the provision of their benefits/services to society;

6. ACKNOWLEDGING that conservation of natural wetland ecosystems such as mangroves, as well as wise use of such wetlands in the coastal zone, contributes to natural flood and tidal surge mitigation, and that protection and rehabilitation of peatlands and other catchment or floodplain wetlands contribute to natural flood prevention;

7. AWARE that a number of regions in the world have been seriously affected by severe fires in wetlands, especially peatlands, and that such fires and associated smoke-haze affect the lives of millions of people and cause major environmental, social, and economic impacts; and ALSO AWARE that negative impacts associated with natural phenomena may be exacerbated by different human activities such as drainage;

8. RECALLING that through Resolution VIII.1 Contracting Parties have emphasized the critical importance of maintaining water allocations to ensure that wetlands can continue to deliver their many benefits/services, including, inter alia, water retention and purification, groundwater recharge, and the provision of water, food and fiber for people and for the maintenance of global biological diversity, and that this need is particularly high in a post-disaster phase;

9. RECOGNIZING the significance of synergies with other multilateral environmental agreements and agencies with a particular focus on the impacts of natural disasters, especially the joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit and including the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), the World Health Organization (WHO), The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Global Plan of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (UNEP), the Program for the Mitigation of Natural Disasters (World Bank), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the International Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, and ALSO RECOGNIZING the role that can be played in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster by governmental, non-governmental (NGOs), and civil organizations, especially the Ramsar Tsunami Group comprising the Convention's International Organization Partners (IOPs) together with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the Global Environment Centre (GEC); and

10. BEARING IN MIND the importance of Decision 17 of the Forum of Environment Ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean, held in Caracas, Venezuela, from 31 October to 4 November 2005, and RECOGNIZING the importance of the impacts on wetlands of recurring extreme climatic events in the countries of the Wider Caribbean Area and other regions affected by such phenomena, as well as the need for financial resources to assist in prevention, early warning, rehabilitation, monitoring and other activities which may help to ensure that these wetlands continue to fulfill ecological functions;

THE CONFERENCE OF THE CONTRACTING PARTIES

11. UNDERLINES the devastating impacts of natural disasters on the delivery of ecosystem benefits/services, and thus on the maintenance of the ecological character of Wetlands of International Importance and other wetlands in affected countries;

12. URGES Contracting Parties to maintain or restore Ramsar sites, other wetlands, and associated ecosystems to reduce their vulnerability to natural disasters in accordance with their natural hydrological regimes, bearing in mind the Convention's guidance to assist with restoration of ecological systems affected by natural disasters, in order to ensure that they can continue to deliver their full range of ecosystem benefits/services for people and for biological diversity, as called for in Resolution VIII.1;

13. SUPPORTS the expansion of measures being undertaken in different regions of the world to protect and rehabilitate peatlands to reduce the risk of fires and to provide water supply in times of drought;

14. ENCOURAGES Contracting Parties and River Basin Authorities to ensure that wetland ecosystems are managed and restored, as part of contingency planning, in order to mitigate the impacts of natural phenomena such as floods, provide resilience against drought in arid and semi-arid areas, and contribute to wider strategies aimed at mitigating climate change and desertification and thus reduce the incidence or magnitude of natural phenomena induced or enhanced by such change;

15. REQUESTS the Ramsar Secretariat in collaboration with Contracting Parties and other partners to develop and act on decision-support tools for all affected ecological zones, so as to ensure integrated and socially equitable management of wetland ecosystems to prevent, mitigate and adapt to flooding and tidal surges, drought, invasive alien species, and other forms of natural disasters;

16. REQUESTS affected Contracting Parties to monitor and assess the impacts of natural disasters on the ecological character of Ramsar sites and other wetlands and on the livelihoods of affected people dependent upon these wetlands and, for designated Ramsar sites, to report this information to the Ramsar Secretariat so that it can be made available to the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) to assist in its reporting to subsequent COPs on the status and trends in the ecological character of sites in the Ramsar List and other wetlands, as called for in Resolution VIII.8;

17. ENCOURAGES Contracting Parties to establish multi-hazard analyses that define areas suitable for development and appropriate contingency planning that recognizes pre-disaster measures for impact prevention and minimization involving wise wetland management;

18. CALLS upon Contracting Parties and others to work together urgently to promote and to actively support the recovery of coastal wetlands and associated community livelihoods in countries affected by the Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004 as well as the reduction of the vulnerabilities of coastal communities and wetlands through

  • assistance with reduction of the impact of natural disasters, ensuring the implementation of ecologically sustainable management and redevelopment approaches and enhanced integrated coastal zone management throughout the region, in order to assist with the mitigation of impacts of any future tsunami and storm damage,
  • establishment or maintenance of coastal greenbelts of mangroves and other appropriate species,
  • mitigation of impacts of future tsunami and storm damage,
  • strengthening of regional initiatives and other existing regional fora to share experience and expertise and support collective efforts in natural disaster prevention, mitigation and rehabilitation of coastal wetland ecosystems; and
  • assistance with monitoring of long-term ecological impacts of disasters on Ramsar sites and other wetlands;


19. REQUESTS the Convention Secretariat and international donors to recognize the need for prioritization in the search for funds, resource mobilization and international cooperation in the context of the agreements to be established with each country in order to contribute with those governments to satisfying the needs derived from the implementation of actions aimed at mitigating, restoring, rehabilitating, and monitoring the impacts of these extreme climatic events on the wetlands of the countries of the Wider Caribbean Area and other regions affected by similar events, with a view to maintaining the ecological benefits/services provided by wetlands;

20. INSTRUCTS the STRP, working with relevant agencies and IOPs, to develop for Contracting Parties a set of restoration guidelines that may be implemented following natural disasters in general, including drawing on existing and new guidance relating to the role of wetlands in ICZM in implementing responses to ecosystem rehabilitation and vulnerability, and updating existing guidelines which emphasize the role of wetland ecosystems in mitigating against the effects of natural disasters, as appropriate;

21. INSTRUCTS the Secretariat, through the Convention's CEPA Programme, to develop materials, resources permitting, that highlight lessons learned from around the globe with regard to appropriate pre-disaster measures for impact prevention and minimization through contingency planning involving wise wetland management. These materials should exemplify successful approaches to disaster impact abatement and serve to raise societal awareness and capacity with regard to the role of wetlands as buffers; and

22. INSTRUCTS the Secretariat, working with relevant international organizations and agencies, especially the joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit and including inter alia ISDR, WMO and UNEP, as well as, where appropriate, the IOPs, to develop guidance on a set of responses which can be initiated by governments and others immediately following the onset of a natural disaster affecting or likely to affect wetlands, especially sites in the Ramsar List.

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