6th Ramsar European Regional Meeting, Stockholm, May 2008 -- Secretary General's opening address
Stockholm, Sweden, 3-7 May 2008
Address of Mr Anada Tiega
Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention
Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends and Colleagues
It's my pleasure to take the floor today here in Sweden in my capacity as Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on the occasion of the European preparatory meeting for the Convention's 10th Conference of the Parties.
There are several reasons that can explain my satisfaction at being here:
First of all, Sweden is one of the Ramsar Contracting Parties that provides the strongest support to the overall implementation of the Convention. Thanks to the voluntary financial contributions of SIDA, in addition to the regular annual contribution to the core budget, we are able to facilitate the participation of developing countries in the global debates on wetland conservation and wise use, including the meetings of the Conference of the Parties. We are extremely grateful to Sweden for that, and I seize this opportunity to express our appreciation and satisfaction.
It's the occasion to congratulate all of those who have made this meeting possible and encourage them to continue their tireless efforts for the implementation of a convention which is so important for the country, the region and the whole world.
Secondly, it's the first time I have visited Sweden and I am looking forward to other opportunities, including the World Water Week, to be able to have further discussions on our joint efforts to enhance the conservation and wise use of wetlands as a contribution to sustainable development all over the world.
As I said to other Ramsar regions at their meetings, my aim is to create a partnership culture and I am passionate about working with and through people; therefore, I will continue spending my time in six priority areas:
- Fund raising
The best help you can give is to provide updated information and continued support to help me identify what to do and where to go because:
- The wrong action at the wrong time can lead to disaster
- The wrong action at the right time is a mistake
- The right action at the wrong time brings resistance.
Only the right action at the right time results in success
Timing is everything: let us work together to identify and undertake the right actions at the right time.
Our Convention can be as big or as little as we wish it to be. The image of the Ramsar Convention, the way we see it, will determine how wetland conservation and wise use will be. The choice is ours!
Distinguished participants, Ladies and Gentlemen
The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty, currently bringing together 158 Contracting Parties, including 45 European countries, to provide the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
Currently the Ramsar Secretariat is providing services to manage 901 Ramsar sites in Europe.
I am happy to convey our gratitude to the European Region for the pioneer role played by Europe in the implementation of the Convention since 1971.
The Convention uses a broad definition of types of wetlands covered in its mission, including all lakes and rivers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands and peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas, tidal flats, etc.
In addition to the fundamental ecological services that they provide, the wetlands in Europe and other parts of the world have cultural and socio-economic values as communities depend on them for their survival in terms of fish stocks, construction material, medicines, flood protection, water filtration, grazing and much more.
I am pleased to note that Europe is making substantial achievements in the implementation of the Convention through the EU Policy and the actions of Contracting Parties at national level, but also specific actions at international level. For instance, it is worth noting the financial and technical assistance of
- the Nordic Council and SIDA, Norway
- the substantial support to MedWet by Greece, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal
- the Swiss Grant for Africa
- the financial and technical support of RSPB to the Ramsar Advisory Missions
- the Ramsar Advisory Board on Capacity Building led by the Netherlands.
And I am happy to note the active participation of
- the Ramsar International Organizations, especially Wetlands International through the personal involvement of the CEO, Jane Madgwick
- UNESCO Regional Center for Eco-hydrology
- Stockholm International Institute
- Living Lakes
- Common Wadden Sea
- Wageningen International
- The Nordic-Baltic Wetland Initiative
Although we are yet to receive all National Reports from Europe, allow me already to highlight some achievements by Sweden:
Key steps taken to implement the Convention:
In Sweden, the environmental quality objectives apply to all sectors of society and set the framework for conservation and sustainable use of wetlands, in particular the objectives 'Thriving wetlands' and 'Flourishing Lakes and Streams'. Every four years, an in-depth evaluation is made of the progress towards achieving the environmental quality objectives, and the results are presented to the Government and Parliament as a basis for Sweden's environmental policy in the years to come. The second evaluation was conducted in 2007 and new interim targets to strenghten wise use and conservation were proposed.
The authorities most closely concerned adopted a joint strategy for Thriving Wetlands in 2005, the Mire Protection Plan was revised in 2007, and strategies for protection and restoration of valuable watercourses were established in 2007. Progress is being made concerning Natura 2000 and the EU Habitats and Birds Directives, the EU Water Framework Directive and the Ordinance on Water Quality Management and action pro-grammes for threatened wetland species.
The most successful actions
Through the environmental quality objectives, and their focus on conservation, sustainable use and restoration, the Convention is satisfyingly implemented. There is ongoing work to protect wetlands and improving environmental consideration in different sectors of the society. Additionally, Sweden has designated 51 Ramsar sites to date.
Proposals for future implmentation
The Swedish EPA and the concerned county administrative boards are currently working to identify potential new Ramsar sites in northern Sweden, aiming to present the proposals to the Swedish government during 2008. Outstanding updates of Ramsar Information Sheets will also be completed.
Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am listing these activities because it's an example to follow and I am therefore urging and encouraging all Contracting Parties to continue their efforts like Sweden and make the implementation of the Convention in their countries a real priority.
I would like once again to congratulate the government of Sweden and the European Region for the results achieved and reiterate our support for the coming activities.
I wish you all a productive meeting with important steps to take to conserve and sustain "Healthy Wetlands for Healthy People".