Ramsar address to the 4th COP of the Convention to Combat Desertification


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Fourth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention to Combat Desertification, Bonn, Germany, 11-22 December 2000

 Statement by the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)

delivered 20 December 2000 on behalf of the Ramsar Convention by
David Pritchard, RSPB and BirdLife International, and member of the Ramsar STRP

Mr President, excellencies and distinguished delegates,

Thank you for the opportunity to briefly highlight for you some developments of mutual interest to the Parties to our conventions; progress in the practical implementation of our 1998 Memorandum of Cooperation between the Desertification and Ramsar Conventions.

Our cooperation takes place within two global contexts:

  • First, developing closer inter-linkages between all the environment-related conventions, so as to assist countries who are party to many conventions in harmonising and simplifying delivering these multiple commitments.

The second Joint Work Plan between the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and the developing joint work programme between your convention and the CBD, are witness to the importance afforded by our Parties to these developments. The further challenge is now to link these bilateral efforts through joint actions between multiple conventions.

  • Second, and more specifically, is developing action on the major common ground between our two conventions: desertification and wetlands. Desertification and wetlands are intricately linked. Desertification threatens the functioning of many wetlands and their role in providing the vital "life-blood" of water. Maintaining, and where possible rehabilitating, these wetlands - and particularly those in drylands - can contribute much to ameliorating the impacts of desertification and the increasing demands for scarce water resources.

Working together our Conventions are developing cooperation under a range of themes, of which I will highlight four.

First: raising awareness.

We recognised the importance of raising awareness of the significance of wetlands – rivers, lakes, marshes and many others - for the UNCCD. Through the Ramsar Convention’s Outreach Programme we are preparing information materials for our common constituencies. For our annual World Wetlands Day next February, when the Ramsar Convention celebrates its 30th anniversary, we have this week published an information pack describing the many different "Wetland values and functions ". We will be pleased to make this pack available to you. We are now exploring joint production of a video on the roles of wetlands in drylands.

Our second theme is: scientific and technical cooperation.

The information on wetland values and functions supplements Ramsar’s extensive guidance on the sustainable use of wetlands, published as nine integrated Handbooks in English, French and Spanish earlier this year, as the Ramsar "Toolkit". Much of this guidance, notably that on national laws and institutions, and on local community participation, could be of assistance to you in developing and implementing your programmes of national action. This "Toolkit" is at your disposal.

Further guidance being prepared by Ramsar’s Scientific and Technical Review Panel (the STRP) is relevant to your work. This includes the important issues of:

  • climate change - including early warning systems and the adaptive management of wetlands in mitigation of climate change impacts;
  • inventory, rapid assessment, indicators and monitoring; and
  • wetlands and economics - including impact assessment, valuation, incentives and financing mechanisms.

The important work of your CST, notably on early warning systems, indicators and traditional knowledge, is likewise of great relevance to the Parties to the Ramsar Convention, and will contribute to this work of our scientific panel.

The third theme is: improving access to information and guidance.

To assist in working together we are improving access by our Parties and focal points to all this information and expertise, through enhancing links between our respective Web sites, and through other dissemination tools. To facilitate national links we are also completing compilation of a listing of the national focal points of all global environment-related conventions, which will be available through our Web sites.

Our fourth, and very important, theme is: assisting national and local actions.

If national desertification and wetland strategies and plans are to be developed and implemented effectively, national level interlinkages between the focal points of our (and other) conventions, and with the many ministries with different responsibilities that affect the environment, are vital. Resources to establish and maintain such collaboration are, however, often scarce.

To support such national collaboration, we are now developing a programme designed to support national consultative forums involving our conventions, focusing in the first instance on Africa.

Identifying important wetlands is a key to developing their sustainable management, in the context of the integrated management of river basins and water resources. Wetlands in drylands are, however, as yet under-represented in Ramsar’s List of designated wetlands of international importance.

To help countries recognise key wetlands in their national desertification planning, we are now compiling a directory of significant wetlands in arid and semi-arid areas, with an initial focus on Africa. Under the joint Ramsar/CBD River Basin Initiative we are also planning analysis of the distribution of key wetlands in the world’s major river basins. We anticipate that these listings will assist also in your development of the "Network for the Integrated Management of International River, Lake and Hydrogeological Basins in Africa".

We are pleased to report also that wetlands in drylands are a priority in the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Living Waters Campaign, which is supporting countries in their further designation of Ramsar sites. Designation of further important wetlands in dryland areas, notably in Algeria and the Lake Chad and Niger River basins, is progressing well, in cooperation with the relevant River Basin Commissions.

Finally, returning to the theme of harmonising joint action between all environment-related conventions, we are working to identify an appropriate major wetland system, possibly in southern Africa, in which to develop an ‘on-the-ground’ management demonstration of the delivery of national commitments to all environment-related conventions.

The Ramsar Convention is strongly committed to assisting you in your important work in addressing desertification issues and welcomes the development of these joint practical activities between our conventions as a contribution to this effort. We look forward to fruitful progress in the coming year.

Thank you.

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