Ramsar at SBSTTA 3
(2 September 1997)
The following is the text of the opening address presented by Michael Smart, the Bureau's Senior Policy Advisor, to the 3rd meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity's Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) in Montreal on 1 September 1997.
SBSTTA 3, Montreal, September 1997
RAMSAR CONVENTION ON WETLANDS
Mr Executive Secretary
Colleagues and fellow strivers towards the difficult aim of achieving both conservation of biological diversity and sustainable development.
May I, on behalf of the Ramsar Convention and its Secretary General, Mr. Delmar Blasco, thank you for the invitation to take part in this meeting of SBSTTA, and to address you in this opening session. May I endorse, on behalf of a Convention that has just celebrated its 25th anniversary, the wise words of my colleague Mr Topkov of CITES, on the need for collaboration between secretariats and for coordination at national level in application of conventions.
You will be aware that the CBD and Ramsar secretariats have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote closer cooperation. Even more important, Decision III/21 of CBD COP3 noted the Ramsar Strategic Plan 1997-2002 and invited the Convention on Wetlands to act as "a lead partner" of CBD on wetlands and inland water ecosystems. I would like, in the few minutes available, to suggest some ways in which our two Conventions could put Decision III/21 into effect.
But first, some background information:
- 102 states are at present Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention.
- They have designated nearly 900 wetlands for the Ramsar "List of wetlands of international importance", covering over 628,000 square kilometres (more than the total surface area of Zimbabwe, so a considerable area of wetland).
- The very broad definition of "wetland" included in the Ramsar text covers not only swamps, marshes and wet land, but also large lakes, rivers, inland saltlakes, estuaries and shallow coastal waters. So when Ramsar talks about "wetlands", it is talking about the same ecosystems that CBD calls "inland water ecosystems".
- The important Ramsar concept of "wise use of wetlands" applies to all wetlands in the territory of a Contracting Party, and may be assimilated to the concept of "sustainable" use.
In the first 25 years, the Ramsar Contracting Parties have adopted and implemented a number of technical guidelines. Some refer to conservation of Ramsar sites or particular wetlands. Others refer to implementation of the "wise use" concept, which calls for wetlands to be incorporated into national land and water use planning. We feel that Ramsar's concept of national wetland policies could make a useful contribution to CBD's National Biodiversity Strategies.
The Ramsar Strategic Plan incorporates a number of new orientations for conservation and wise (or sustainable) use of wetlands. The Ramsar Contracting Parties are already beginning to implement them. I suggest that implementation of the Ramsar Strategic Plan will contribute to conservation of the biological diversity of inland water ecosystems. In the coming week, therefore, I would invite you to consider whether some of the actions in the Strategic Plan might be incorporated into the programme of work on inland water ecosystems which SBSTTA is to propose to CBD's COP4 in Bratislava.
Already, the Ramsar Bureau, in collaboration with IUCN and Wetlands International, has contributed to discussions on the possible content of this work programme. The Bureau has sent to all SBSTTA focal points the English version of the report of the Workshop on Biodiversity of Inland Water Ecosystems, held in Wageningen, Netherlands, in July 1997 (with the support of the Government of the Netherlands). This document is available here in English as information document 26, and I have with me versions of the text in French and Spanish. Tomorrow, in Working Group 1 on Inland Water Ecosystems, Prof. Edward Maltby of IUCN's Commission on Ecosystem Management, will present this document, together with the results of discussions on this theme at Global Biodiversity Forum 8, held over the last three days in Montreal, the results of which have already been mentioned in the report on GBF 8.
I look forward to a stimulating week of discussion, and to increased cooperation between our two conventions. I wish you every success in your deliberations and am at your disposal for any further information on how the Ramsar Strategic Plan might feed into the CBD work programme on inland water ecosystems.
1 September 1997
Senior Policy Advisor