25th Meeting of the Ramsar Standing Committee

28/09/2000
25th Meeting of the Ramsar Standing Committee
Gland, Switzerland, 23 - 27 October 2000
Agenda item 12

DOC. SC25-8

Analysis and recommendations of IUCN’s Environmental Law Centre (Decision SC24-10) on Revisions to Ramsar sites boundaries, interpretation of Articles 2.5 and 4.2 (Resolution VII.23, paragraphs 9, 10, 11 & 13)

Action requested: The Standing Committee is requested to consider the advice provided by IUCN Environmental Law Centre and take a decision on the way forward to bring recommendations on this issue to COP8, in particular in relation to the draft guidelines suggested in section IV of the attached paper.

1. The Standing Committee discussed the matter of Articles 2.5 and 4.2 at its previous meeting and adopted the following decision: "The Standing Committee requested the Bureau to explore with IUCN’s Environmental Law Centre how the ELC might initially take the lead in developing legal advice for the SC on the issues raised in Resolutions VII.23 and VII.24, so that the Committee can then decide how to move forward" (Decision SC24-10).

2. Resolution VII.23 from COP7 is the relevant reference for this agenda item and in particular paragraphs 9 – 13 inclusive, as follows:

9. REQUESTS the Standing Committee to develop and propose to the 8th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP8) a procedure for the review of Ramsar site boundaries for reasons other than urgent national interest, without prejudice to other international obligations;

10. RECOGNIZES that Australia will prepare two case studies (as referred to in Resolution VII.12) for the development of a more generalized approach to the revision of Ramsar site boundaries in cases other than the urgent national interest, and will provide the outcomes of these case studies in time for consideration at COP8;

11. REQUESTS the Standing Committee, with support from the Bureau, and in consultation with the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP), experts familiar with the Habitats Directive of the European Union, appropriate legal and other experts, and interested Contracting Parties, to develop for consideration and possible adoption at COP8 guidance for the Contracting Parties in interpreting Articles 2.5 and 4.2, if resources allow;

12. CALLS UPON any Contracting Parties that consider the deletion or restriction of the boundaries of a Ramsar site in the urgent national interest prior to COP8, to exercise the highest levels of environmental, economic and social impact assessment which take into consideration the full range of functions, services and benefits offered by the wetland; and

13. URGES those Contracting Parties or organizations with experience in issues of urgent national interest or similar determinations and habitat compensation and mitigation issues to provide any relevant information and materials to the Ramsar Bureau for consideration by the Standing Committee by no later than 30 September 1999.

3. Also relevant is Resolution VII.24 concerning compensation for lost wetland areas, particularly paragraph 13: The COP "INVITES the Standing Committee to define, in cooperation with the Scientific and Technical Review Panel and the Ramsar Bureau, and in consultation with the International Organization Partners, criteria and guidelines for the compensation of wetland habitats in the case of unavoidable losses and to submit these for the approval of COP8".

4. It should be recalled that all Contracting Parties were invited through Diplomatic Notification 1999/6 to provide to the Bureau by 30 September 1999 any pertinent information on these related issues. Replies to this request were from Australia and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which were transmitted to the Standing Committee at its last meeting.

5. Following the SC Decision, the Bureau contracted IUCN’s Environmental Law Centre to prepare advice on this matter. The analysis prepared by the ELC is attached.

6. The Conclusion in the attached document is that: "As noted at the outset, there is limited express guidance within the Ramsar Convention for determining ‘urgent national interest’. Nonetheless, there is sufficient guidance that can be derived from the Convention and related instruments, to devise a method for developing a set of guidelines to assist with the determination of both urgent national interest, and the adequacy of the approach toward compensation in those cases where wetlands are taken for reasons of national interest." The Standing Committee may wish to consider agreeing to the development of the set of guidelines suggested by the ELC for consideration at its next meeting.


 IUCN – The World Conservation Union
Environmental Law Centre

 THE RAMSAR CONVENTION ON WETLANDS: THE ROLE OF ‘URGENT NATIONAL INTERESTS’ AND ‘COMPENSATION’ IN WETLAND PROTECTION

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