New Secretary General selected for Ramsar

Ramsar's new Secretary General to take up the reins in August 2003

The Ramsar Bureau is delighted to announce that yesterday, at its 29th meeting, the Standing Committee selected Dr Peter Bridgewater to become the new Secretary General, to replace Mr Delmar Blasco, who will be stepping down at the end of July 2003 after eight years of distinguished service for the Convention on Wetlands. Chosen by the SC in closed session from amongst a short-list of very strong candidates, Dr Bridgewater's selection was greeted by enthusiastic approval when it was announced before Contracting Party Observer States, International Organization Partners, and the Bureau's staff, and Mr Blasco, indicating that he was extremely pleased to be turning the secretariat over to such able hands, pledged to work closely with the new appointee over the next five months to ensure a seamless transition.

Peter Bridgewater addressing Ramsar COP8 on behalf of the Global Biodiversity Forum (Photo: Earth Negotiations Bulletin).

A citizen of both Australia and the United Kingdom, Dr Bridgewater earned his Ph.D. from the University of Durham in the UK and has been a member of the teaching and administrative faculties at Monash and Murdoch Universities in Australia, as well as a special lecturer at many other institutions - he has been the author or co-author of some 170 publications on nature conservation, vegetation science, biodiversity issues, and environmental policy. His administrative experience is deep and broad, for he has served, first, as Director of the Australian Bureau of Flora and Fauna and as Chief Scientist with the UK Nature Conservancy Council in the 1980s, then as Chief Executive of the Australia Nature Conservation Agency / Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service for most of the 1990s, and subsequently as Chief Science Adviser for ANCA's successor, Environment Australia, and Supervising Scientist for the Alligator Rivers Region, including Kakadu. It should be added that, during this time, he made many friends in the Ramsar family in his role as President of the 6th Meeting of our Conference of the Contracting Parties when it met in Brisbane in 1996.

Since 1999, Dr Bridgewater has served in his present position as Secretary of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme in Paris, during which time, amongst many other achievements, he has been instrumental in bringing the MAB Programme to ever closer involvement with the Ramsar Convention, with a productive Joint Programme of Work signed in 2002 (http://ramsar.org/moc/key_mab_pjw1.htm) and a joint Web site (http://www.unesco.org/mab/ramsarmab.htm) which focuses attention upon wetlands that are both Ramsar sites and Biosphere Reserves.

Photo: Entlebuch Biosphärenreservat, Schweiz

Throughout his career thus far, Dr Bridgewater has also made extraordinary contributions to a large number of international environmental fora, including Vice-Chair and then Chair of the Standing Committee of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), Vice-Chair and then Chair of the International Whaling Commission, member of the Science and Technology Advisory Panel to the Global Environment Facility (GEF), among too many others to mention here, and he is presently a member of the Board of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. He also has wide experience with serving on and chairing various specialized panels, more than 100 so far, in connection with a range of MEAs and their scientific and subsidiary bodies, including the CBD and its SBSTTA.

Of particular interest to the Convention's interests, his work has brought him a great deal of sympathetic experience with a number of issues that have been very high on the Ramsar agenda, such as (during his Australian work with National Parks in Northern Territory and New South Wales) the participatory management of protected areas by indigenous people, the role of cultural aspects in environmental management, and the importance of synergies among MEAs and other international environmental processes.

Dr Bridgewater's ideas about the future directions of the Ramsar Convention, and its evolving role amongst the UN and non-UN environment conventions, have been described as bold, forward-thinking, and very well thought out. His appreciation of the unique role that non-governmental organizations, particularly the Convention's four International Organization Partners (BirdLife International, IUCN-The World Conservation Union, Wetlands International, and WWF International), have played and continue to play in promoting and realizing the Ramsar Convention's values throughout the world, both in international fora and in conservation work on the ground, indicates that he will fit in very well with the special character of the Ramsar family. And, finally, his belief that an essential role of the List of Wetlands of International Importance can be, not only as a network of flagship sites, but also as "exemplars of wise use and conservation for wetlands - and indeed other ecosystems - everywhere", places Dr Bridgewater firmly in sympathy with the Strategic Framework and "Vision for the List".

The present Secretary General, Delmar Blasco, and the Chair of the Standing Committee, Dr Gordana Beltram of Slovenia, join the Standing Committee members and observers and the staff of the Ramsar Bureau in welcoming Dr Bridgewater to the Ramsar community.


Addressing Ramsar COP8, 2002 (Photo: D. Peck)

President of Ramsar COP6, 1996, far right

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Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
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2,181 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,545,658

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