30th Meeting of the Ramsar Standing Committee -- Agenda paper SC30-3

03/12/2003
30th Meeting of the Ramsar Standing Committee
Gland, Switzerland, 13-16 January 2004
Agenda item 5

DOC. SC30-3

Draft Ramsar Secretariat Work Plan 2004

Action requested: The Standing Committee is requested to review the attached draft Secretariat Work Plan 2004, make amendments as appropriate, and approve it for implementation.

1. This Work Plan is presented in three sections: Section I contains the Secretariat's Global and Regional Policy and Technical Work Plan, which identifies key issues and priorities proposed for these Secretariat activities during 2004. Section II contains the General Administration Work Plan. The Annex to the Work Plan provides a detailed listing of proposed Secretariat activities to respond to the actions concerning the Secretariat called for in the Ramsar Strategic Plan 2003-2008 (Resolution VIII.25) and other CoP8 Resolutions. This is presented as a tabular list of Secretariat activities under each of the relevant Operational Objectives of the Strategic Plan 2003-2008.

2. This Annex also provides an achievement report for the work of the Secretariat during 2003, in the form of a note on progress against each of the activities listed. Further information on key areas of 2003 achievements are highlighted in the Report of the Secretary General (DOC. SC30-2).

3. A major part of the Secretariat's work during 2004 will be focused on both substantive and logistical preparations for CoP9, and this will be a high priority for all Secretariat staff. In addition, attention will be paid to securing ways and means of increasing the capacity of the Secretariat to deliver the full range of areas of the work expected of it. Many of the other activities in the Work Plan are ongoing, although it is recognized that the extent to which some can be implemented in 2004 will be limited owing to the focus on CoP9 preparatory work.

4. The Standing Committee is invited to comment on the usefulness of this document and any possible changes for a future reporting format.


Draft Ramsar Secretariat Work Plan 2004

SECTION I. GLOBAL AND REGIONAL POLICY AND TECHNICAL WORK PLAN

GLOBAL ACTIONS

1. The global actions described below are to be undertaken by the Secretary General, the Deputy Secretary General, the Senior Trade & Development Advisor, and the Communications team, in consultation with the Senior Regional Advisors, the MedWet Coordination Unit, and other staff as appropriate. The delivery of some actions will be achieved by regionally-consistent implementation support to Contracting Parties by the Secretariat's Regional Advisory Teams.

2. The global actions also include much of the work of the Communications Team.

3. Global actions in 2004 will concentrate mainly on the following priorities:

a) the preparations for CoP9 (Uganda, 2005);

b) the completion and dissemination of a 2nd edition of the Ramsar "Toolkit" of Wise Use Handbooks, comprising 14 Handbooks and a revised and updated 3rd edition of the "Ramsar Convention Manual";

c) encouragement to Parties for their completion of the CoP9 National Planning Tool component of the National Report Format and its submission to the Secretariat;

d) continuing development of synergies with other multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and organizations in order to avoid duplication of work at the international and national levels and to establish effective coordination and cooperation among the related MEAs. Synergies may include, where appropriate and in consultation with the Standing Committee, further development and implementation of joint work plans and actions between Ramsar and other MEAs, with contributions to their CoPs and other meetings. This should facilitate the work of the institutions directly responsible for implementation in each country, and at the same time generate the involvement of other key institutions that so far have not been working with the Convention, such as those responsible for water resources management and land use planning;

e) continuing engagement in a more wide-ranging dialogue with the development assistance community, so as to generate more funds for wetland-related projects in developing countries and countries in transition, and the provision of support to Parties in their development and fund-raising of wetland projects, including, when possible, through conservation finance mechanisms like carbon projects, bio-rights, debt swaps, fiscal instruments and environmental funds;

f) further development of work strengthening the Convention's capacity to respond to socio-economic issues, including through the promotion of environmentally sound trade in wetland-derived plant and animal products as a way to conserve wetlands and alleviate poverty, wetland incentives and disincentives for wetland conservation and sustainable use, and economic valuation of wetlands;

g) implementation of the Convention's Programme on Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA), adopted by Resolution VIII.31, through the provision of materials and information networks for the use of Contracting Parties (in particular the CEPA Focal Points), including the continuing maintenance and development of the Convention's CEPA Web pages and CEPA e-lists, and support to the Wetlands International CEPA Specialist Group as well as the Wetland Link International network of wetland education centres;

h) further development of the celebration of World Wetlands Day 2004 as a tool to expand the outreach work of the Secretariat and to increase the awareness of the role of wetlands in the hydrological cycle and water security. The World Wetlands Day 2004 theme "From the mountains to the sea: wetlands at work for us" profiles the diverse roles of different types of wetlands throughout hydrological basins;

i) preparation and dissemination of materials for World Wetlands Day 2005, on a theme related to cultural and biological diversity, and, as an extension to this, development of a wetland education kit on the same theme;

j) maintenance and further development of the Convention's Web site as a key communication and information dissemination tool and the MedWet Web site as a regional tool for the same purposes;

k) support for the work of the STRP in its implementation of tasks in the STRP Work Plan 2003-2005 under its modus operandi established by Resolution VIII.28, including through the operations of the STRP Support Service and through mid-term expert Working Group workshops proposed for mid-2004, as appropriate; and

Article 3.2: "Each Contracting Party shall arrange to be informed at the earliest possible time if the ecological character of any wetland in its territory and included in the List has changed, is changing or is likely to change as the result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference. Information on such changes shall be passed without delay to the organization or government responsible for the continuing bureau duties specified in Article 8."

l) assistance to the Regional Advisory teams and the MedWet Coordination Unit in their efforts to encourage and support Contracting Parties, in particular in relation to:

i) implementation of actions called for in CoP8 Resolutions;
ii) fulfillment of their pledges at CoP8 regarding Ramsar site designations and other aspects of the implementation of the Convention;
iii) application of the Strategic Framework for the development of the Ramsar List, including issues related to the updating of the holdings of the Ramsar Sites Database; and
iv) implementation of Article 3.2 of the Convention and the assessment and reporting of the status and trends of wetland ecosystems.

AFRICA REGION

4. These actions of the Work Plan are to be undertaken mostly by the Senior Advisor for Africa and the Assistant Advisor for Africa, in consultation with the Administrative Authorities and other staff as appropriate. [Note: this Africa Work Plan has been drafted prior to the new Senior Advisor for Africa, Mr Abou Bamba, taking up his post in the Secretariat in December 2003, and any proposed amendments will be tabled for Standing Committee consideration.]

Background and progress

5. The Africa region includes the mainland continent and the island states of Cape Verde, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Sao Tome & Principe, and Seychelles, a total of 53 countries.

6. As of November 2003 there are 38 Contracting Parties in Africa: Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, and Zambia.

7. Fifteen African countries have yet to join the Convention: Angola, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sao Tome, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Zimbabwe.

8. The Secretariat continues to work effectively with the International Organization Partners, the Contracting Parties, and other players to facilitate the accession of additional countries to the Ramsar Convention. As a result, Benin, Burundi, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and the United Republic of Tanzania joined the Convention during the last triennium. Since CoP8, three countries have acceded to the Convention: Djbouti, Equatorial Guinea, and Liberia.

9. Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Rwanda, Seychelles, and Sudan are taking steps for accession. The Secretariat understands that Mozambique has completed its accession papers.

10. Since CoP 8, 19 new Ramsar Sites have been designated and a further 38 Ramsar Information Sheets have been received by the Secretariat and are under review for completion of their Listing.

Issues and priorities

a) General

11. The important role of wetlands in sustainable development needs to be underscored and communicated to policy makers and economic planners in Africa, so that their values and functions are more fully recognized and taken into consideration. It must also be acknowledged that for Ramsar to be effective in Africa it must work in partnership with the major political and institutional frameworks, especially the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

12. In the framework of NEPAD, there has been an agreement among African Ministers to develop Africa-wide environmental action plans for selected thematic areas, one of which is wetlands. This provides a major opportunity to support Contracting Parties in their delivery of commitments to the Convention, and therefore assisting NEPAD's development and implementation will be a major priority during 2003. A significant area of work for the Africa Regional Advisory Team will be to work with countries, donors and partner organizations to progress the implementation of the NEPAD wetlands action plan, and those concerning transboundary cooperation and invasive species.

13. The hosting by Uganda of CoP9 in 2005, the first time a Ramsar CoP has been held in Africa, provides a major opportunity to raise the profile and understanding of the importance of the sustainable use of Africa's wetlands for biodiversity and poverty alleviation. Work by the Africa Regional Advisory Team during 2004 will also focus on supporting the preparations for CoP9, including through NEPAD wetland strategy implementation.

14. The challenge for Africa is to make the best use of all existing frameworks and emerging opportunities for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and their resources through the adoption and implementation of coherent national action plans for wetlands. Secretariat support will focus on assisting Parties to address the following issues and challenges, through the application of the Ramsar tools and guidelines adopted by CoP8.

b) Knowledge & Capacity-Building (inventories and valuations)

15. Wetland inventories are a priority in Africa. Until national inventories have been established, it is difficult to select and take long-term actions on wetland management initiatives. In this regard, promoting economic valuation of the goods and services that wetlands provide will help us in convincing decision makers of the importance of wetlands. Environmental evaluations, as well as inventories and assessments, are important tools in wetland management.

c) Links to Poverty Eradication

16. Poverty underlies most problems in the wetlands sector and if our efforts are to be successful, we must link our activities to poverty alleviation and find solutions to these root problems. To this end, wetland and water resource management must be integrated with national livelihood policies.

17. Agriculture is important to livelihoods and food security and is one of the primary target activities in poverty reduction strategies. The NEPAD Wetland Strategy should promote livelihoods and food security through sound irrigation schemes, fisheries management, and range-land management including wetlands, protected areas, and agro-forestry in wetland ecosystems. Coordination and consultation among the relevant sectors and proper legal frameworks are crucial for success.

d) Ecosystem Management & Regional Cooperation

18. River lake basins are suitable frameworks for ecosystem management: NEPAD highlights transboundary wetlands as an urgent priority because a number of the problems to be addressed (e.g., eradication of alien species, management of coastal zones, and technology transfer) require regional planning and action.

19. In developing the links between NEPAD and Ramsar, there is a need to expand integrated land and water use plans which would serve as the basis for national and regional cooperation.

20. The development of land-use policies must be integrated with water resources management, and countries will be encouraged to adopt uniform water quality standards at the national and subregional levels.

21. Inland waters and coastal areas should be managed together through integrated water resource management and integrated coastal zones management.

e) Funding

22. Funding for wetland conservation and wise use continues to be severely limited in the region, and there is an urgent need for better flow of resources for a range of implementation activities including inventory, assessment, monitoring of water resources, training, capacity-building, education and public awareness.

23. Funding is also required for the preparation and implementation of wetland management plans for water supply, biodiversity conservation, agriculture, fisheries, range-lands, forestry, and tourism development.

The way forward

24. Resolution VIII.44 concerning the role of the Convention in NEPAD provides a strong framework for future actions to secure wetland conservation and wise use in Africa, and during 2004 significant work will focus on supporting and encouraging Parties to implement the terms of this Resolution and supporting development of the NEPAD wetlands component. Notably the Resolution:

a) urges Contracting Parties to provide support for the implementation of actions undertaken through the Environment Initiative of NEPAD;

b) urges Contracting Parties in the African region to use NEPAD, AMCEN (African Ministerial Conference on Environment) and AMCOW (African Ministerial Conference on Water) to advance the objectives of the Convention, mindful of the need to adopt a multi-sectoral approach to the conservation and wise use of wetlands;

c) urges Contracting Parties to pay specific attention to the development and implementation of initiatives with transboundary elements, particularly where these refer to shared river and lake basins, shared wetlands, migratory species and technology transfer;

d) calls upon the NEPAD development partners to provide support to African Contracting Parties in the implementation of the Ramsar Strategic Plan, including communication, education and public awareness (CEPA), which is considered an important tool for realising the goals of the programme; and

e) directs the Ramsar Secretariat to develop synergies between the implementation of the Convention and NEPAD in Africa.

25. A number of other CoP8 Resolutions and their guidelines for Contracting Parties cover implementation topics which are highly relevant to the priority issues in Africa, including for supporting implementation of the NEPAD initiative, and these will be a focus for Secretariat work in encouraging national implementation of the Convention, in particular, concerning water allocation and management.

26. Resolution VIII.1 will assist Parties in gaining recognition of the vital contribution made by wetlands in Africa to ensure the allocation of water required for human well-being, including food and water security, and in flood control and poverty alleviation, given the increasing demands being placed upon freshwater resources and the threat this poses for maintaining wetland ecosystem functions and their biodiversity in Africa.

27. There is an urgent need for all African Contracting Parties to bring these guidelines to the attention of their national ministries and/or agencies (at different levels of territorial organizations) responsible for water resource management, to encourage these bodies to apply the guidance in order to ensure appropriate allocation and management of water for maintaining the ecological functions of wetlands in their territory, and to ensure that the principals contained in the Ramsar Guidelines are incorporated into their national policies on water and on wetlands.

28. Parties with wetlands lying in shared river basins will also be encouraged to work cooperatively to apply the Guidelines for allocation and management of water for maintaining the ecological functions of wetlands within the context of the management of water allocations in transboundary basins, making use of the Ramsar Guidelines for international cooperation under the Convention (ResolutionVII. 19).

29. The Ramsar Secretariat will work with African Contracting Parties and other interested organizations to develop projects and other activities that promote and demonstrate good practice in water allocation and management for maintaining the ecological functions of wetlands, to make such good practice examples available to others through the information exchange mechanisms of the Ramsar/CBD River Basin Initiative, and to report to CoP9 on the success achieved and lessons learned from these activities. The approach of South Africa's National Water Act can provide a powerful model which could be transferred to elsewhere in the region.

30. A further major challenge concerning water management is for the Secretariat to seek appropriate ways for increasing dialogue and understanding of the importance of dam management, considering the facts that dams can also affect wetland hydrology, influencing both water quality and quantity, and that diversion of water may be a source of conflicts between users of wetland goods and services in urban and agricultural communities. This sensitive issue should be discussed more and more openly with decision makers and introduced into the NEPAD process. However, currently the focus in NEPAD on water management issues is on infrastructure development, which poses a difficulty. One way of strengthening understanding could be through increasing Ramsar participation in the UNEP Dams and Development Project in order to promote dialogue on improving decision making, planning and management of dams in Africa.

31. The Africa Regional Advisory unit will also continue to:

i) follow up ongoing SGF and Swiss Grant for Africa projects to ensure their timely implementation and reporting;

ii) encourage Parties to pay their pending dues to the convention;

iii) encourage Parties to designate and update their National STRP and CEPA focal points;

iv) support Parties in the further designation of wetlands as Ramsar sites and the development of management planning processes for Ramsar sites; and

v) follow up on the request sent to Parties in September 2002 to update the Ramsar Information Sheets for their Ramsar sites.

AMERICAS REGION

32. These actions of the Work Plan are to be undertaken mostly by the Senior Advisor for the Americas and the Assistant Advisor for that Americas, in consultation with the Administrative Authorities and other staff as appropriate.

Background

33. The "Americas" includes two of the Ramsar regions (the Neotropics and North America), with the following twenty-seven Contracting Parties: Argentina, Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, St. Lucia, Suriname, The Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

34. In addition, there are in the region a number of dependent territories of France (French Guiana, Guadeloupe and Martinique), the Netherlands (Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles Federation), the UK (Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos), and the USA (Virgin Islands), which require involving those Contracting Parties.

35. There are a further eight mainland and Caribbean Island States which are not yet Parties to the Convention: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The Secretariat has been informed that Antigua & Barbuda has submitted its accession papers to UNESCO, which is waiting to receive from that country the information on the Ramsar site designation to complete the accession process.

Issues and priorities

36. Overall, Canada and the USA are well advanced in their implementation of the Convention, while in general the developing nations in the region still require substantial assistance and advice for the effective implementation of the treaty. Capacity building is a priority, in particular for the newest Parties to the Convention, such as Belize, Cuba, El Salvador, St. Lucia, and the Dominican Republic.

37. Eight of the Caribbean Island States have not yet joined the Ramsar Convention despite the efforts made by the Ramsar Secretariat during 2003. There are complex reasons for this, but essentially they come down to capacity and financial implications. It is encouraging that Antigua & Barbuda is about to become a full member and Barbados is working seriously towards accession.

38. As the region hosts 39% of the total area of Ramsar sites worldwide, careful attention and technical and financial support will be given to supporting full implementation of the actions described in Operational Objective 11 of the Strategic Plan 2003-2008: "Management Planning and Monitoring of Ramsar sites".

39. Other key priorities related to the Americas are securing the funding and technical assistance to undertake national inventories and assessment of wetlands, drafting of policy and legislation, and identification and restoration and rehabilitation of wetlands.

40. Countries of the region will continue to be encouraged and to receive technical support for the establishment of National Wetland Committees as well as Ramsar site management committees.

41. The Wetlands for the Future Fund will continue to be used as a vital tool for training and capacity building for developing countries in the region. The guidelines were updated in October 2003 and the new five-year agreement will have to be discussed with the United States in the near future.

42. The Secretariat will assist the Panama Centre in its initiation of activities to support training and capacity building on wetland-related issues, and donors and Parties of the region will be asked to provide financial and technical assistance.

43. The Secretariat and the countries of the region will have to contribute actively in the preparation of the Western Hemisphere Strategy for conservation of migratory species and collaboration on wildlife conservation issues, coordinating with other regional initiatives.

44. The Secretariat will continue to encourage Parties to work towards the removal of sites from the Montreux Record.

45. The Secretariat will encourage and provide assistance for new designations, to increase the geographical coverage of wetlands as well as increase the number of under-represented types.

46. The Americas Regional Advisory team will also continue to:

i) follow up ongoing SGF and WFF projects to ensure their timely implementation and reporting;

ii) encourage Parties to pay their pending dues to the convention;

iii) encourage Parties to designate and update their National STRP and CEPA focal points;

iv) follow up on the request sent to Parties in September 2003 to update the Ramsar Information Sheets for their Ramsar sites; and

v) follow up and advise on the implementation of regional strategies (Mesoamerican and South American), as well as on the High Andean Wetland Workgroup, the Participatory Management Group, and initiatives underway related to paramos, mangroves, and peatlands in the region.

ASIA-PACIFIC REGION

47. These actions of the Work Plan are to be undertaken mostly by the Senior Advisor for the Asia-Pacific and the Assistant Advisor for the Asia-Pacific, in consultation with the Administrative Authorities and other appropriate staff members.

Background & progress

48. The Asia-Pacific covers two Ramsar regions (Asia and Oceania). As of October 2003, and in line with Resolution VIII.42, the Senior Advisor for Asia has assumed the duties also for the Oceania Ramsar region.

49. The Asia-Pacific Region has 29 Contracting Parties (25 in Asia and 4 in Oceania). Contracting Parties in Asia are: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Thailand, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. Contracting Parties in Oceania are: Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Palau.

50. There are still 17 countries in the Asia region which have yet to accede to the Convention: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Several countries, e.g., Brunei, Lao PDR and Oman, have expressed their interest in joining, but the progress has been generally slow and requires a continuing concerted effort by the Secretariat, particularly in central Asia and the Middle East.

51. Similarly, in the Oceania Region, the Pacific Small Island Developing States remain one of the major gaps in the global membership of the Convention, but several are now progressing towards accession, in large part owing to the efforts of the former Deputy Secretary General (with funding support from Environment Australia and WWF). These include Samoa (intended accession announced at CoP8), Fiji, the Marshall Islands, and Vanuatu.

52. Limitations to such progress in the Oceania region are complex, but they relate particularly to the need for capacity building and financial implications. Many of these countries have few professionals dealing full time with environmental management, and they have already made important commitments to other Multilateral Environmental Agreements. Joint Work Plans and joint actions with other global conventions, such as that with CBD, are considered to help encourage developing the links with Ramsar.

53. The signing in 2002 of a Memorandum of Cooperation with the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and finalization of a Ramsar/SPREP joint work plan provides a valuable advance in Ramsar cooperation in the region and significant opportunities for strengthening Ramsar and wetland conservation and sustainable use there, but current Secretariat capacity to fully support this work remains a limitation.

54. CoP8 has requested that the Secretariat seek to allocate a member of staff to act as Regional Coordinator for Oceania and seek resources for an Oceania intern post. As of October 2003, the Senior Advisor for Asia-Pacific has also assumed that role for Oceania, supported by the Assistant Advisor for Asia-Pacific. However, if, as is anticipated, there is a significant increase in the number of Contracting Parties in the Oceania region, secretariat capacity to fully support the Parties in the region will be limited.

55. CoP8 also requested that the option be explored of funding and establishing a regionally-based Ramsar support officer post for the Pacific Island States, and this will continue to be pursued as a priority during 2004.

56. In the Asia region, most of the Contracting Parties are developing countries, which together in Asia host 60% of the world population, all heavily dependent on water resources for agriculture. With such heavy pressure, maintenance of the functions of wetlands is crucial for Asia but a major and increasing challenge.

57. The Himalaya mountains, the roof of the world, support some of the most important global wetland ecosystems and are the origin of the seven major rivers in Asia, which flow through 11 countries in the region, so that their sustainable management provides a key to securing water and food security for a major part of the region.

58. The issue of drought and unsustainable water resource use in the Central Asian region and countries in the Middle East is placing heavy and increasing pressure on many wetlands, and this has been recognized by CoP8 as amongst the most pressing issues to address in the region.

59. Coastal and marine wetlands are a particularly important feature of countries in East and Southeast Asia, with coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds being particularly important for the maintenance of global biodiversity. Today these areas are experiencing the apparent consequences of the climate change phenomenon such as floods and increased erosion as well as increasing pressure from aquaculture developments.

60. The number of Ramsar sites designated in the Asia-Pacific region is relatively small in comparison with other regions, and a number of countries have designated only one or two sites. However, progress in 2003 is encouraging, with 11 new sites in Asia and two in Oceania already designated, covering 1.1 million hectares, and a further 17 sites (including 12 in India and 5 in Mongolia) expected to be designated by the end of the year; 14 high mountain wetlands sites in China and the Kyrgyz Republic are being prepared for designation as well, as are 10 mangrove sites in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

61. The development of regional cooperation initiatives, building upon CoP8 Resolutions, has been a feature of 2003 progress in the region. There has been further progress in the development of a Himalayan Initiative, jointly organized by WWF International, the Ramsar Secretariat, and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), with a September 2003 workshop establishing specific targets for the Initiative. Opportunities for establishing an Asia Mangrove Network, following an October 2003 workshop in Brunei Darussalam, will be further explored in 2004. The implementation of the Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy, with input from the Ramsar Secretariat, is continuing.

Issues and priorities

62. In the search for economic prosperity, many wetlands' ecological character continues to be put into jeopardy. The Regional Advisory Unit will continue to urge Parties in the region to secure better recognition by civil society and decision-makers of the many values and functions of wetlands, so that the importance of mainstreaming conservation and wise use of wetlands into national policies and decision-making is better delivered.

63. Capacity for Convention implementation in many Administrative Authorities is weak and the Regional Advisory Unit will encourage Parties to find ways of enhancing capacity.

64. In many countries only one or two Ramsar sites have so far been designated, and there is a lack of strategic approaches to designating a coherent network of sites so as to secure their conservation and sustainable use. However, the progress in this respect has begun to show and many countries have expressed their intention to take a more strategic approach in wetland identification and designation, particularly under the Himalayan Regional Initiative and with the help of the WWF Living Waters Programme. Further support for strengthening regional and transboundary cooperation among CPs will be sought.

65. The importance of international cooperation has been recognized in the region. In addition to the Himalayan Initiative, the Asia/Pacific Migratory Water Bird Conservation Strategy, and the Asia Mangrove Conservation Network under discussion, there are initiatives to set up an Asian Wetland Training Center in Indonesia, a High Mountain Wetland Resource Center in ICIMOD, Nepal, and a Ramsar Center in Iran. However, all these initiatives will require substantial financial and technical support from donor countries if their potential is to be realised.

66. For Oceania, Secretariat work in 2004 will focus on continuing cooperation with SPREP to implement priority areas of activity in the Ramsar/SPREP joint work plan, including assisting in the completion of accessions by Pacific Island States, and seeking ways and means of establishing a regionally-based support post for this work for raising Ramsar awareness in the region.

67. Activities in 2004 by the Asia-Pacific Regional Advisory Unit to support and encourage implementation of the Convention, including the Resolutions adopted by CoP8, will seek to cover:

a) Communication, Education, and Public Awareness

i) Encouraging Parties to develop communication programmes, especially through World Wetlands Day, and encouraging National Ramsar Committees to consolidate their actions on the national CEPA action/policies;

ii) Encouraging the development of education materials that attractively illustrate the functions of wetlands;

iii) Supporting the organization of public awareness campaigns, including extending the experience of WWF China's Wetland Ambassador Action to the whole Mekong River basin, in cooperation with WWF, Mekong River Commission, and Administrative Authorities in the river basin (Cambodia, China, Thailand and Vietnam), with the support from Evian-Danone Ramsar Fund, WWF, and the Mekong River Commission.

b) Ecosystem management & regional cooperation

68. Activities will focus on promoting management of river basins and large shared water bodies, including:

i) Raising awareness amongst Administrative Authorities of the links between wetland ecosystem services and regional sustainable development, especially water resources, fisheries, etc., and addressing the issues of drought;

ii) Supporting the Himalayan Initiative and Asian Mangrove Network, as well as Asia/Pacific Migratory Water Basin Conservation Strategy;

iii) Encouraging the application of a strategic approach to further Ramsar site designations, and improved monitoring and reporting mechanisms for Ramsar sites in relation to Article 3.2 reporting.

c) Institutional Development and Capacity Building

i) Promoting the establishment of national, regional, and site-specific Ramsar Committees where these do not yet exist;

ii) Supporting the improvement of training facilities in the region, including:
- Mai Po training centre in Hong Kong;
- Ramsar Center for West and Central Asia in Iran;
- the initiative by the Indonesia government for the development of an Asian Wetlands Training Center; and
- High Mountain Wetlands Resource Center in ICIMOD, Nepal;

iii) Seeking opportunities for establishing a Wetland Research and Monitoring Network in Asia, involving national wetland research centers and wetland research laboratories in Asian universities, and for using this network to carry out standardized wetland inventory, monitoring, and information sharing, to facilitate reporting under the Convention.

d) Engaging more countries in wetland conservation and sustainable development

69. The Regional Advisory Unit will continue to work closely with Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Pacific Island countries on their accession to the Convention.

70. The Asia-Pacific Regional Advisory unit will also continue to:

i) follow up ongoing SGF projects so as to ensure their timely implementation and reporting;

ii) encourage Parties to pay any pending dues to the convention;

iii) encourage Parties to designate and update their National STRP and CEPA focal points;

iv) support Parties in the further designation of wetlands as Ramsar sites and the development of management planning processes for Ramsar sites;

v) follow up on the request sent to Parties in September 2002 to update Ramsar Information Sheets for their Ramsar sites;

vi) continue to raise matters concerning Article 3.2 of the Convention on change in the ecological character of Ramsar sites when these are brought to its attention; and

vi) urge Parties to complete their CoP9 National Planning Tool with national priorities, targets and actions, and submit these to the Secretariat.

EUROPE

71. These actions of the Work Plan are to be supported mostly by the Regional Advisor for Europe and the Assistant Advisor for Europe, in consultation with the Administrative Authorities and other appropriate staff members.

72. European countries often experience great wetland management problems due to high population densities and intensive land-use pressures in their catchment basins. Given the high number of countries and individual Ramsar sites, and the increasing pressures on European wetlands, this region is arguably also the most complex and demanding region to be served by the Ramsar Secretariat.

73. It is therefore of high importance and value that Contracting Parties with more advanced national wetland policies, management structures, and financial capacities increase their efforts to share their experience with countries in economic transition and those in urgent need for external financial support.

Issues and priorities

74. The wise use of all wetlands is a long-standing theme in Europe. Despite remarkable achievements, much still needs to be done in many countries to cover adequately the major issues addressed in Ramsar Handbook 1. CoP8 provided Ramsar with a framework for wetland inventory (Resolution VIII.6) and a renewed programme on communication, education and public awareness (CEPA) (Resolution VIII.31). Linking agriculture, water resource management and wetlands (Resolution VIII.34) is a European priority, as well as making groundwater management compatible with wetland conservation (Resolution VIII.40).

75. Wetlands of International Importance are by far more numerous in Europe (though not by surface area) than in any other Ramsar region. To date (October 2003) the European parties have declared 781 Ramsar sites, out of which 25 figure on the Montreux Record and many more are threatened by possible or ongoing ecological change (152 documented cases in the triennium leading to CoP8, many new ones since). Europe has many problems with the conservation of its Ramsar sites, and appropriate management and monitoring needs to be improved for many of them. The implementation of the Strategic Framework for the development of the Ramsar List (Handbook 7) needs to continue (Resolution VIII.10). Progress with the establishment of management and monitoring procedures for an increasing number of sites is anticipated, as well as progress with the designation of new Ramsar sites of under-represented wetland types. Furthermore, a great potential for wetland restoration (Resolution VIII.16) exists in Europe, notably concerning river floodplain wetlands where many local initiatives are already under way. Ramsar site designation of restored sites should subsequently be considered.

76. International cooperation is a particular priority (and is essential) for Europe where so many countries exist in a relatively small area. Individual Contracting Parties are encouraged to progress with the management of shared sites, shared water catchments, and species. The Ramsar guidelines for international cooperation (Handbook 9) provide the tools for increased collaboration between Ramsar and other global, regional and subregional environmental agreements, as well as for technical support to those countries lacking sufficient resources.

77. Implementation capacity to achieve the Convention's mission is reasonably developed in many European countries, albeit often too narrowly focused on traditional species conservation aspects only. Developing inter-ministerial cooperation and the involvement of different stakeholders, already at the planning and policy stage, at national and sub-national levels, is a particular challenge for many Contracting Parties. To strengthen existing institutions, precise training needs and target audiences should be identified. Existing training opportunities should be developed and supported and new initiatives started where they are missing.

78. Membership of the Convention is nearly complete in the European region, with 44 Contracting Parties out of a total of 47 states. Andorra is actively preparing its accession, leaving only the micro-states Holy See and San Marino as non-Parties. In addition, during CoP8, Azerbaijan noted its wish to participate in the activities of the European region during the triennium 2003-2005.

79. The European Regional Advisory Unit will also continue to:

i) encourage and provide assistance for new Ramsar site designations, to increase the geographical coverage of wetlands as well as increase the number of under-represented types;

ii) encourage and support Parties in working towards the removal of sites from the Montreux Record;

iii) follow up on SGF projects to ensure their timely implementation and reporting;

iv) encourage Parties to pay any pending dues to the convention;

v) encourage Parties to designate and update their National STRP and CEPA focal points; and

vi) follow up on the requests sent to Parties in September 2002 to update the Ramsar Information Sheets, as necessary, for their Ramsar sites.

THE MEDITERRANEAN BASIN

80. These activities and projects of the Work Plan are related to the Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative (MedWet) and are the responsibility of the outposted MedWet Coordination Unit, established in Athens in mid-2001 with financial support from the Government of Greece, including the MedWet Coordinator, a Policy Advisor (part time), a Communications Officer, a Programme Development Officer, and an Administrative Assistant. It is also supported by the Senior Advisor on Mediterranean Wetlands on a project basis.

Background

81. Following the adoption of Resolution VIII.30 at CoP8, the MedWet Coordination Unit continues its operation for 2003-2005 based in Athens, hosted by the Greek Government and with financial support by the host country, all the Mediterranean CPs, and the Ramsar Convention.

82. The work of the MedWet Unit is supported by four wetland centres:

i) Greek Biotope/Wetland Centre (EKBY), Thessaloniki (Greece);
ii) Sede para el Estudio de los Humedales Mediterráneos (SEHUMED), University of Valencia (Spain), supported financially by the Spanish Government and the Generalitat Valenciana;
iii) Station Biologique de la Tour du Valat, Le Sambuc, Arles (France), assisted financially by the French Government; and
iv) Centro de Zonas Humidas, Lisbon, Portugal, supported by the Portuguese Ministry of Environment (Nature Conservation Institute)

83. In addition, the newly established North African Wetlands Network (NAWN), with Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia already fully participating, and preparing for the launch of the new EU LIFE 3rd countries MedWet project, form an integral part of the MedWet network. The NAWN is to be extended to include Egypt and Libya.

84. The Mediterranean, an area with characteristic ecological, historical and cultural unity, includes 25 countries belonging officially to three Ramsar regions (Africa, Asia and Europe). Participation in the Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative (MedWet), and in the Mediterranean Wetlands Committee (MedWet/Com) which guides it, is broader than that of Ramsar Contracting Parties.

85. MedWet/Com, formally recognized by Resolution VII.22 "as a forum for collaboration on wetland issues in the Mediterranean and as an advisor to the Convention in this region", is composed of all 25 Ramsar Contracting Parties in the region and the Palestinian Authority, four intergovernmental bodies (European Commission, UNDP, Barcelona and Bern Conventions), and eight non-governmental organizations and wetland centres.

86. The modus operandi of MedWet is complementary to that of the Regional Advisory Units of the Ramsar Secretariat. It focuses more on specific activities and projects, which it initiates and develops and for which, in many cases, it manages implementation. This is in addition to MedWet's catalytic role in encouraging joint action, sharing of knowledge and expertise, and assisting with training and capacity development for policy and management of wetlands.

Issues and priorities

87. In the Mediterranean, a number of social, economic and political issues result in excessive pressures on wetlands and lead to their degradation or destruction. Thus wetland loss in the region during the 20th century is estimated to average 50%. The major issues for the region are: poverty in the south and east of the region with great inequalities throughout, explosive population growth in the poorest countries of the region, increasing and persistent drought especially in the east of the region, strong economic migration trends, and increasing transient population pressure on the coastal zones due to tourism.

88. The resulting major problems include:

i) demand for space, especially in the coastal zones, often to the detriment of wetlands;
ii) water scarcity due to increased demand for irrigated agriculture and tourism, affecting wetlands;
iii) serious water pollution from industrial, domestic, and agricultural sources; and
iv) unsustainable exploitation of wetland resources, especially fish and game.

89. To confront these problems, the MedWet Initiative has focused on actions at three levels:

i) at the international level, promoting collaboration, financial and technical assistance, and sharing of experience and know-how;
ii) at the national level, encouraging the preparation of national wetland policies, improving legislation, and strengthening the capacity of services concerned with, or having an impact on, wetlands; and
iii) on the site level, focusing on catalyzing management actions, with the full involvement of stakeholders.

90. Most of this work is done through methods and tools designed for the Mediterranean context, and through the establishment and strengthening of active partnerships in the region.

91. In order to develop its pivotal role, the MedWet Coordination Unit will take all necessary steps to evolve and maintain its dynamic character during the 2003-2005 triennium and beyond. This encompasses a number of matters of high importance, including:

i) identifying the key issues that are of direct relevance to the needs and priorities of the MedWet countries, and establishing and implementing activities and projects at a national or regional level;
ii) identifying the strengths and weaknesses in its own capacity, including that of the Coordination Unit, the Technical Network, and all Partners;
iii) strengthening the MedWet network by developing its composition and activities; and
iv) further developing the MedWet technical tools.

92. It is important for not only MedWet to be a network for the transfer of technical expertise on conservation and management, but also to play a catalytic role for the sustainable use of wetland areas and their resources in the Mediterranean region in order to contribute to the achievement of:

i) conservation of habitats and biodiversity;
ii) wise use of resources;
iii) reinforcement of national capacities;
iv) sustainable development (also at a local and regional level); and
v) poverty eradication through sustainable economic development.

93. Issues that are of high importance for the attainment of this goal, and which in 2004 will continue to be the focus of the future work of the MedWet Coordination Unit, are to:

i) establish a system for the collection and dissemination of complete and up-to-date information on the distribution, status, importance and conservation state (ecological, socio-economic, cultural) of wetlands of the whole Mediterranean region, by enhancing and applying the MedWet Inventory methodology throughout the region;

ii) reinforce this methodology with new components, through the integration of Environmental Remote Sensing tools, thus offering an up-to date tool for the efficient monitoring of the status of Mediterranean wetlands and the human uses in and around them;

iii) identify the needs and priorities of all MedWet countries for sustainable development in wetlands, and match them to the capacities of the MedWet network; address those needs by further developing regional or subregional activities, including transboundary collaboration;

iv) enhance the active participation of those Partners of the MedWet network that have so far been less active, and promote the active collaboration of NGOs and research institutions; in this sense reinforce and further expand the work and geographical coverage of subregional networks, such as the North African wetlands network, and of thematic networks such as the MedWet/NGOs network and the MedWet/Regions network;

v) develop further methodologies and technical tools for the social and economic assessment of the wetlands values and functions, and refine the use of specific tools, including incentives (economic, social, cultural) and environmentally sound trade in wetland-derived plant and animal products;

vi) develop tools and methods for supporting integrated water resources management; special attention is to be paid to the use of water in agriculture and the effects on wetlands, and in particular to developing a regional activity for assisting the countries in developing and implementing sustainable policies and practices;

vii) continue to put into practice existing (Barcelona Convention, GWP-Med), and initiate new, collaborations with other global or regional conventions, initiatives and expert institutions on issues of mutual interest;

viii) enlarge the circle of contacts within the MedWet countries with new partners, including in the sectors of water resources management, agriculture, fisheries, development planning and economy, tourism, etc., including building on the outcomes of discussion at MedWet/Com5 in 2003; and

ix) broaden the contacts and collaboration within regional or national institutions to include important actors for designing or implementing activities (national EU delegations, UNEP and UNDP national offices, bilateral or multi-lateral donor organizations).


SECTION II. GENERAL ADMINISTRATION WORK PLAN

94. The actions described in this Section are mostly to be undertaken by the Administration & Human Resources Team, Communications Team, Budget Team, and the Project Administrator in the Resource Generation Team.

95. General administration work of the Secretariat covers six main areas of activity:

1. General office administration
2. Core financial administration
3. Project management and reporting
4. Documentation and information services
5. Personnel management
6. Meeting preparations and logistics

1. General office administration

Ensure an efficient functioning of the office concerning use of space, office supplies and equipment, publications and documents storage and distribution, archives and files maintenance, mail reception and dispatching, etc.

2. Core financial administration

In addition to day-to-day management, monitoring and reporting of the core budget, the following actions will be required for 2004 and beyond.

a) Preparing financial reports, including audited accounts for 2003 and the 2004 budget (as approved by CoP8) for consideration by the Standing Committee;
b) Sending reminders of unpaid invoices twice yearly;
c) Invoicing Parties for 2004 dues.

Monthly:
- Petty Cash
- Long distance telephone calls
- Annual contributions - to date (acknowledge each with a Diplomatic Note)
- Investment of surplus funds

Year-end statements for:
- Core Budget
- Annual Contributions

Standing Committee statements:
- Core Budget
- Annual Contributions
- Secretariat budget for 2005 (following CoP8 approval of budget for 2003-2005)

CoP9
- Preparing budgets for CoP9, working with the host country, including Secretariat costs, delegate support costs and in-country costs;
- Seeking funds through pledges of voluntary contributions from donor countries and other sources to meet the costs of preparing and holding CoP9.

3. Project management and reporting

- Projects - Monthly Income and Expenditures report
- Year-end statements for projects with earmarked contributions
- Standing Committee statements for projects with earmarked contributions.

Small Grants Fund (activities in conjunction with Regional Advisory Teams)
Implement the SGF in accordance with the Operational Guidelines 2003-2005 and the internal system for the SGF projects administration established in early 2000.

Wetlands for the Future, Swiss Grant for Africa, and Evian Projects
During 2004, continue to administer funds provided by the USA for the Wetlands for the Future Initiative and by Switzerland for projects in Africa, as well as the Secretariat's corporate sector partnership with the Danone Group - the Evian project.

Other projects supported or administered by the Secretariat
As required, administer projects supported by either core or external funds, including funds for the MedWet Initiative, for example.

Reporting to donors
Continue the reporting to donors and generally build on the good relations with donors that the Secretariat currently enjoys.

Support the Senior Trade & Development Advisor in relation to his efforts to secure increased funding for the operations and implementation of the Convention.

4. Documentation and information services, ongoing

Preparing agenda papers for meetings
Edit for language & content and format documentation for official Ramsar meetings and, as appropriate, for other meetings with Ramsar participation, in English or in English, French, and Spanish as appropriate.

Reporting on the results of meetings
Edit for language & content and format documents conveying the reports and other results of Ramsar meetings, distribute them to the participants and the Parties and make them available as appropriate to the public.

Informing the public of the Convention's work
Prepare a continuous stream of press materials informing the public and environmental press of the work of the Convention and its partners, and distribute these via the Ramsar Web site, e-mail lists, and other means.

Responding to inquiries from the public
Continue to respond as appropriate to inquiries from officials, academics, journalists, and citizens about background information, documentation, and news of the Convention.

Responding to requests from related agencies
Prepare responses to requests for reports, questionnaire surveys, and other official interaction with other MEA secretariats, academic institutions, research bodies, reference publications, etc.

5. Personnel management

As required, provide general support to the senior managers of the Secretariat with respect to all aspects of staff recruitment and termination of services.

Support necessary personnel management activities as instructed by the Secretary General. This is includes but is not limited to:
- maintaining staff files (on current staff, past staff, applicants, and general directives);
- liaising with IUCN's Human Resources Management Division on Ramsar staff issues, including the drawing up of staff contracts as required;
- preparing draft position vacancies;
- preparing letters for staff who have successfully completed their probation period;
- preparing or drafting letters of reference;
- recruiting and interviewing for administrative support positions within the Secretariat;
- writing appointment and rejection letters.

Finalize Secretariat Procedures Manual.

The Internship Programme (4 interns for a period of 12 to 18 months each)
- responding to inquiries;
- receiving and acknowledging applications;
- processing rejection, short list, and final rejection letters;
- assisting interns with their arrival, settling in, and departure arrangements;
- managing the four apartments rented by the Secretariat in Gland to provide accommodation to the interns.

6. Meeting preparations and logistics and general office administration

Preparations for the 30th and 31th meetings of the Standing Committee
Provide organizational and logistical support for the 30th meeting of the Standing Committee, to be held in January 2004, and for the 31th meeting, proposed to be held in January 2005. This will include all general meeting arrangements (travel, accommodation, venue arrangements) as well as the distribution of papers, etc.

CoP9 logistics
Initiate organizational and logistical preparations for CoP9.

Annex to DOC. SC30-3

Specific policy and technical Secretariat activities to deliver Strategic Plan and CoP8 Resolution actions (PDF)

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