Ramsar Address to the 5th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity

17/05/2000

Convention on Biological Diversity

Fifth Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties

Nairobi, Kenya, 15-26 May 2000

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Intervention to the Plenary Session, 15 May 2000
by Delmar Blasco, Secretary General,
Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour to address once again the opening session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in my capacity as Secretary General of the Convention on Wetlands, the Ramsar Convention.

I am very pleased to report that we are making real progress towards creating a true synergy between CBD and the Convention on Wetlands. Through a number of mechanisms we are also making good progress in our cooperation and coordination with other environment-related conventions. The great challenge continues to be, in my view, to translate this cooperation at the international level into concrete and demonstrated actions at the field level, where it really matters.

Let me refer briefly to the evolution of the synergy between the Convention on Wetlands and CBD. In 1996, by decision III/21, your COP3 endorsed the Memorandum of Cooperation that had been signed by the two Secretariats and invited Ramsar "to cooperate as a lead partner in the implementation of activities under the Convention [on Biological Diversity] related to wetlands".

Subsequently, your COP4 in Bratislava endorsed the first Joint Work Plan (JWP) between CBD and Ramsar for the period 1998-1999, which in turn was endorsed by our COP7 in May last year. Progress in the implementation of the first JWP was reported to the SBSTTA4 meeting in June 1999.

With the expiration of the first Joint Work Plan, a draft Joint Work Plan for 2000-2001 has been developed in consultation with the CBD Secretariat and the chairpersons of SBSTTA and Ramsar’s Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP). The new draft JWP contains several innovations intended to make it an even more effective instrument than the first JWP. First, the actions are presented under the various ecosystem themes of the CBD, and in particular those work programmes for inland water and marine and coastal ecosystems. The new JWP also considers cooperation and joint actions with respect to the many cross-cutting issues which both the CBD and the Ramsar Convention have under consideration. The final section looks at mechanisms for further strengthening institutional cooperation in the areas of linkages between the subsidiary scientific bodies, the national focal points of both conventions, and in national reporting. An important further addition in the new JWP is the recognition of several areas of opportunity for this JWP between the Ramsar Convention and CBD to include joint actions with other environment-related conventions as well.

The draft of this new JWP was considered by SBSTTA5 in Montreal, at the beginning of this year. SBSTTA welcomed the growing and evolving partnership and cooperation with the Ramsar Convention and recommended that this COP endorses the Joint Work Plan 2000-2001. This recommendation is reflected in section 16.1 of the document entitled "Draft decisions for the Fifth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties", and I very much hope it will receive the support of all delegations. In the draft decisions, the Joint Work Plan is included in the section dealing with inland waters biodiversity. I would like to encourage you to add references to the Joint Work Plan in the decisions related to other areas of work, such as marine/coastal and forest biodiversity, as well as the cross-cutting theme of alien invasive species, since the Joint Work Plan covers all these areas.

The proposed Joint Work Plan 2000-2001 was distributed at SBSTTA5 as information document No. 12. If delegates should need copies of this document in English, French or Spanish, please approach the Ramsar Convention representatives, either at our seating place in this plenary or at the Ramsar exhibition, which we invite you to visit. Also at our exhibition I invite you to view a sample copy of the new "Ramsar toolkit" of nine handbooks produced to assist Contracting Parties to implement the Ramsar Convention, and by implication the Convention on Biological Diversity as well.

At SBSTTA5 some delegations were concerned by the fact that they may be disadvantaged by the JWP because they were not signatories of the Convention on Wetlands. Of course, we would very much welcome the solution to this concern that would consist in their joining the other 121 countries which are already Contracting Parties to Ramsar. But even those countries or institutions, like the European Commission, that cannot or don't wish to join Ramsar can be assured that this does not threaten their interests in any way; in fact, the JWP will go on delivering 'products' for all CBD Parties without discrimination. The good news is that since SBSTTA5 in February three new countries have adhered to Ramsar, namely Benin, Libya and Tanzania, and about other 20 countries are presently somewhere along the road to joining the Convention.

I am also very pleased to see that according to section 18.7 of the document with the draft decisions, this COP is invited to adopt a new format for National Reports under the CBD which is very similar to that employed by Ramsar for its COP7 in 1999 and which will be used, with further improvements, for Ramsar COP8 in 2002. If this draft decision is accepted, it should assist with efforts to harmonize national reporting in the future, a concern shared by many Contacting Parties.

Another area of Ramsar cooperation with the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification is the planned Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a very exciting initiative which I very much hope this COP will warmly endorse.

Let me close my remarks by repeating what I said at the opening of your COP4 in Bratislava. Sometimes it appears that there are too many treaties and instruments in force and that the world could do better with fewer of them. Yet, all of them have a history and a raison-d’être behind them. Rather than enter into the painful exercise of trying to rationalize the number of instruments, with the risk of never-ending disputes about which are more or less relevant than the others, I think a more constructive approach consists in making them mutually supportive. Perhaps, by truly doing so, the time will come when some mergers will occur naturally, as is happening today so often in the business world!

Mr. Chairman, I would like to wish you and the Contracting Parties to CBD a very successful COP5. On my part I want to restate once more the absolute commitment of the Ramsar Secretariat to continue to seek synergy with all environment and sustainable resource use-related conventions. By doing so, we will be providing a great service to our Contracting Parties and to the cause which these international agreements have been created to serve: to ensure the environmental health of this, so far, the only living planet we have.

Thank you.

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