Ramsar presentation on wetlands and livelihoods, CBD COP8 side event, March 2006


Convention on Biological Diversity

The Ramsar Convention: wetlands and livelihoods

Text of presentation by Dr Nick Davidson, Deputy Secretary General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

CBD COP8 side event on Wetlands, water & livelihoods
Curitiba, Brazil, 23 March 2006

The Ramsar Convention acts as the lead implementation partner for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for wetlands, both inland and coastal systems. This presentation summarises the implications for human livelihoods of the findings about wetlands of the Millennium Ecosystem assessment (MA); describes the Ramsar 'toolikit' of guidance (Wise Use handbooks) and recent Ramsar Resolutions relevant to livelihoods; and recognises the role of Ramsar's International Organisation Partners (IOPs) in supporting implementation on wetlands and livelihoods.

A. Key messages from the MA

The MA's synthesis report to the Ramsar Convention "Ecosystems & Human Well-being: Wetlands & Water" provides important insights into the key challenges faced by the world in maintaining wetland ecosystem services for biodiversity and people. From these findings, Ramsar's Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) identified 14 key messages for wetlands, including:

  • The degradation and loss of wetlands is more rapid than that for other ecosystems, and wetland-dependent biodiversity in many parts of the world is in continuing and accelerating decline;
  • Losses tend to be more rapid where populations are increasing most and where demands for increased economic development are greatest;
  • Wetlands deliver a wide range of critical and important services vital for human well-being - e.g. fish and fiber, water supply, water purification, coastal protection, recreational opportunities, and increasingly, tourism;
  • Maintaining the natural functioning of wetlands will enable them to continue to deliver these services;
  • The continuing loss and degradation of wetlands are leading to reduction in the delivery of wetland ecosystem services, yet at the same time demand for these same services is projected to increase;
  • Current use of two wetland ecosystem services - freshwater and capture fisheries dependent on natural reproduction - in some regions is now in excess of levels that can be sustained even at current demands, much less future ones;
  • The projected continued loss and degradation of wetlands will result in further reduction in human well-being, especially for poorer people in less developed countries where technological solutions are not as readily available;
  • Progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals depends on maintaining or enhancing wetland ecosystem services;
  • Management of wetlands and water resources is most successfully addressed through integrated management at the river (or lake or aquifer) basin scale that is linked to coastal zone management for coastal and near-shore wetlands and that takes into account water allocations for the ecosystems; and
  • A cross-sectoral focus is urgently needed from policy- and decision-makers that emphasizes securing wetland ecosystems and their services in the context of achieving sustainable development and improving human well-being.

The Ramsar Wise Use 'Toolkit' and COP9 Resolutions

Over the years Ramsar Contracting Parties have adopted large suite of implementation guidance, compiled as the Ramsar 'toolikit' of 14 Wise Use Handbooks (2nd edition, 2003). A 3rd edition of 17 Handbooks, incorporating additional guidance adopted at Ramsar COP9 in November 2005. These include guidance on wetlands and Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM); wetlands and water (including IRBM, Environmental water requirements for ecosystems, and Wetlands and groundwater management); and local community/indigenous peoples participatory management of wetlands.

In addition, a number of Resolutions adopted at COP9 are directly relevant to the issue of wetlands, water and livelihoods. Several directly concern aspects of wetlands and human well-being, including:

  • "Taking into account the cultural values of wetlands" (Resolution IX.21);
  • "The role of the Ramsar Convention in the prevention and mitigation of impacts associated with natural phenomena, including those induced or exacerbated by human activities" (i.e. natural disasters) (Resolution IX.9);
  • Impacts of avian influenza on wetlands and waterbirds (Resolution IX.23); and
  • "Wetlands and poverty reduction" (Resolution Res IX.14).

In addition, COP9 agreed that a priority aspect of the STRP's work for 2006-2008 should be on "wetlands and human health" (IX.2, Annex 1)

The COP9 Resolution on "Wetlands and poverty reduction" provides an ambitious starting point for action, but also provides major challenge for its implementation. Key actions called for include:

  • all Contracting Parties and other governments to take action to contribute to poverty reduction, especially in: human life and safety; access to resources; ecological sustainability ; governance; and economies
  • all Contracting Parties to take or support action to:

- raise awareness of the self-perpetuating cycles that result from the relationship between wetland degradation and poverty;
- give priority or support to conservation and wise use of water and wetlands in national poverty reduction strategy papers, IWRM and other policies;
- create new partnerships between local communities, developers and conservationists to ensure that:
- local perspectives are included and
- existing sustainable livelihood strategies are respected.

  • review and improvement of existing financing mechanisms for wetland management to help address poverty reduction, and
  • development of new ideas such as local agreements with wetland communities to enable the maintenance of ecosystem services.
  • ensuring that gender equality and sensitivity to local communities are taken into account in sustainable wetland management strategies.
  • Contracting Parties in Africa are urged to implement the wetland component of the Environment Initiative of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), drawing links between implementation of NEPAD and poverty reduction
  • Parties should work with UNEP, UNDP, the UN Department of Social and Economic Affairs, the Ramsar International Organization Partners, national and international NGOs and others on:

- assessments of the economic, social, cultural and livelihood values of wetlands and wetlands and their services, so as to enhance sustainable livelihoods utilizing a wise use approach
- building capacity within communities to sustainably use wetlands and their resources, so as to improve livelihoods through activities designed to increase food security, diversify economies, and add value to wetland products; and
- encourage these institutions to undertake a wider consultation to define programmes and possibilities for support for poverty reduction.

  • STRP to develop guidelines for the implementation of the Resolution.

Finally the Resolution stresses value of linking wetland restoration to poverty reduction, by

  • incorporating the provision of work, skills and opportunities into restoration projects and
  • focusing on the restoration of ecosystem services upon which communities depend.

C. Ramsar's International Organisation Partners (IOPs)

Five international NGOs (Wetlands International, BirdLife, IUCN, WWF & the International Water Management Institute - IWMI) have been formally recognised by the Convention as International Organisation Partners (IOPs). The organisations are committed to long-term Convention implementation support for global scientific and policy issues, and on-the-ground implementation support to Ramsar Parties.

The IOPs can provide major support to implementing Resolution IX.14, through both their current activities and development of further support and guidance. The Wetlands and Livelihoods Working Group, convened by Wetlands International will play an important role in guiding and developing this support.

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