36th Meeting of the Ramsar

23/01/2008
CONVENTION ON WETLANDS (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)
36th Meeting of the Standing Committee
Gland, Switzerland, 25-29 February 2008
Agenda item 7
DOC. SC36-5

Report of the Culture Working Group

Action requested: The Standing Committee is invited to comment on the text of the guidance prepared by the Culture Working Group, thank the Working Group for its work, and endorse the Secretary General's proposal for how this matter could be taken forwards.

1. The Standing Committee will recall that at its 35th meeting in 2007, the participants reviewed a report from the Culture Working Group established by the Secretary General, including its development of further guidance on the cultural values of wetlands, and decided the following:

"Decision SC35-1: The Standing Committee urged the Culture Working Group to continue its work on a draft Resolution and guidance on the cultural values of wetlands, taking account of the comments made in this meeting, and to propose new drafts of both documents in time for consultation at the regional meetings. The drafts will be circulated to the SC if possible but presented at SC36 at the latest."

2. Following SC35, the Culture Working Group has undertaken further work to develop this guidance, and the latest draft is attached to this note. The Secretariat thanks Mr Thymio Papayannis and other members of the Working Group for their efforts in developing this guidance.

3. Following further discussions with members of the Culture Working Group, the Secretary General now recommends that:

i) a draft Resolution should not be developed for COP10 consideration; and
ii) the guidance prepared by the Cultural Working Group should be made available through the Convention's Web site as a technical resource material to use by Parties and others as appropriate.

4. The Standing Committee may wish to consider whether it would be appropriate to consult the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) concerning the guidance prepared by the Culture Working Group, in order to seek the STRP's view about issuing the guidance in the form of a Ramsar Technical Report (RTR). The Committee will recall that all such Ramsar Technical Reports are required to undergo a peer-review process by the STRP before their approval and finalization, and that all RTRs are published through the Ramsar Web site in downloadable PDF format.


Annex

Incorporating cultural aspects in the management of wetlands
Guidance document

Third draft, 20.01.2008

Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, 1971)
Culture Working Group

Table of contents
Preface
by Peter Bridgewater and Anada Tiega
0. Introduction
0.1 Ramsar Resolutions VIII.19 and IX.21
0.2 The Ramsar Culture Working Group
0.3 Recent guidance from the Ramsar Standing Committee
1. General considerations
1.1 The broader framework
1.2 Culture in the multilateral environmental agreements
1.3 Cultural landscapes and wetlands
1.4 Rationale for concern for cultural aspects
2. Main policy guidance for Ramsar Contracting Parties
2.1 General, conservation and management objectives
2.2 Guidance on the general objectives
2.3 Guidance on the conservation and management objectives
2.4 Proposed actions at strategic level
3. Practical activities for wetlands and related cultural values
3.1 A possible typology of activities and values
3.2 Cultural aspects of wetland-related activities
4. Technical guidance on objectives related to the practical activities
4.1 Habitation
4.2 Primary use of wetland resources
4.3 Secondary use of wetland resources
4.4 Knowledge, belief systems and social practices
Bibliography

Appendices
I: Ramsar COP8 Resolution VIII.19
II: Ramsar COP9 Resolution IX.21
III: Ramsar Cultural Values Matrix
[TP: Need of index; to be prepared during the final editing phase, before COP10.]

Acronyms

CBD Convention on Biological Diversity
CEPA Communications, Education and Public Awareness
CITES Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
COP Conference of the Parties
CPs Contracting Parties
CWG Ramsar Culture Working Group
DRIP Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
EIA Environmental Impact Assessment
ICAHM International Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management
ICOM International Council of Museums
ICOMOS International Council on Monuments and Sites
ICRW International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling
IOPs International Organisation Partners
IWC International Whaling Commission
MAB Man and Biosphere Programme, UNESCO
Med-INA Mediterranean Institute on Nature and Anthropos
MedWet Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative
RIS Ramsar Information Sheets
SEA Strategic Environmental Assessment
SEHUMED Sede para el estudio de los humedales mediterráneos, Valencia, Spain
STRP Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel
UNCCD Convention to Combat Desertification
UNEP United Nations Environment Programme
UNESCO United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
WARP Wetlands Archaeological Research Project
WHC World Heritage Convention
WSSD World Summit on Sustainable Development

Preface
[TP: The preface should be completed or re-written by the new Secretary General.]

This document has been prepared by the Ramsar Culture Working Group (CWG), established in accordance with paragraph 16 of Resolution IX.21 (2005), which states:

'[The Conference of the Contracting Parties] INSTRUCTS the Ramsar Secretariat to complete, through a broad participatory process, the work prescribed in paragraph 17 of Resolution VIII.19 concerning the guidance to be provided on cultural values.'

The paragraph 17 mentioned above includes the following:

'[The Conference of the Contracting Parties] REQUESTS that the Ramsar Bureau seek inputs from Contracting Parties, experts and practitioners, and local communities and indigenous peoples from around the world to enhance the information paper on cultural aspects of wetlands (COP8 DOC. 15) and the detailed guidance prepared for consideration by this meeting of the Conference of the Parties, with a view to publishing it as a background document, and to inform COP9 of the progress made.'

Such guidance as is introduced in this document will evolve with time, as greater experience is gained in the incorporation of cultural values in the work of the Convention. The present document is thus a simple early step in a long-term process of developing and disseminating guidance on this sensitive and difficult issue.

The work of the CWG should be seen as a continuing process to help inform the operations of Contracting Parties in implementing the Convention, and in helping the STRP focus on issues which require a cultural perspective and understanding.

I should like to acknowledge the work of all members of the CWG, especially Thymio Papayannis and Dave Pritchard, who have consistently and successfully emphasised the need for cultural perspectives on wetland management to be understood and considered alongside, and supportive of, scientific and technical issues.

Peter Bridgewater
Gland, July 2007


Navigation note

To facilitate the use of the Guidance document, some notes are provided here as to the contents of its chapters.

In the Introduction, the document provides the reader with an overview of the concept of incorporating cultural aspects in the work of the Ramsar Convention, and in particular in the management of wetlands, through the approval of Resolutions VIII.19 and IX.21 and the work of the CWG towards the development of guidance.

The incorporation of cultural aspects in the management strategies for wetlands is not an isolated initiative. Besides Ramsar, several other bodies worldwide have officially recognised the links between biological and cultural diversity. Thus, in the Chapter 1, the work done on the interface of nature and culture by the main multi-lateral environmental agreements is presented and commented upon.

In Chapter 2, general, management and conservation responsibilities for the Ramsar Contracting Parties are presented, derived from Resolutions VIII.19 and IX.21; they are complemented by actions suggested for their implementation.

Chapter 3 proposes an outline of the main wetland-related human activities, focussing mainly on habitation, the primary and secondary use of resources and the development of social and spiritual events and beliefs. These activities are then correlated with their most characteristic cultural aspects, in an attempt to provide a much deeper understanding of their role to each site and their possible impact on biodiversity. For many of these activities, objectives are suggested for achieving an integrated approach to both natural and the cultural heritage.

For a number of the objectives suggested, Chapter 4 provides a more detailed guidance including proposed actions for their implementation. This is viewed as 'work-in-progress' to be further developed and completed through the experience gained in implementation, the contribution of the CPs and the further work of the Ramsar CWG.

It is indeed hoped that this document will become the basis for future discourse on the development of the best management practices of environmentally and culturally sensitive areas such as most wetlands.

Acknowledgements

This guidance document has been based on the related preparatory work for COP8. It has been further developed by the Ramsar Culture Working Group, with important contributions by Peter Bridgewater, Sergio Lasso, Maman-Sani Issa, Thymio Papayannis and David Pritchard. The matrix included in Appendix 3 was proposed by Med-INA.

Comments voiced during the recent Ramsar regional meetings were also taken into account.

Editing of the document was carried out by Thymio Papayannis, with the assistance of Irini Lyratzaki and Aphrodite Sorotou (Med-INA).


0. Introduction

The Convention on Wetlands was signed in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar, as a multilateral agreement focusing on the biodiversity of wetlands and especially of the waterbirds associated with them. However, the inspired individuals who catalysed its establishment included in the Preamble of the Convention text a clear reference to broader aspects of wetlands and in particular to their cultural values. The text states:

"…Being convinced that wetlands constitute a resource of great economic, cultural, scientific and recreational value, the loss of which would be irreparable……"

During the three decades that followed, aspects of wetlands discussed within the Convention have broadened considerably (for example including the role of other wetland species and aspects such as water management). In the beginning of the current decade, a movement appeared within the Mediterranean region for a stronger consideration of the cultural aspects of wetlands. This was decisively supported by the MedWet Initiative (and particularly by Spain), as well as some of the Convention's International Organisation Partners, or IOPs (see also Section 1.2). The movement was recognised by the Ramsar Secretariat, which launched in 2001 the preparatory work that led to the official recognition of cultural values by both COP8 and COP9 in 2002 and 2005 respectively.

0.1 Ramsar Resolutions VIII.19 and IX.21

Two COP Resolutions were approved on the incorporation of cultural values in the management of wetlands. Both contain some common elements, such as:

  • the rationale for incorporating cultural values;
  • the need for a broad effort of collaboration with organisations and sectors specialising in the conservation and management of the cultural heritage;
  • the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.

The two Resolutions included also a number of action points. The main ones are:

  • encouraging the Contracting Parties to identify and analyse case studies of successful incorporation of cultural values in the management of their wetlands and to make known the results;
  • developing further and disseminating the guidance presented during COP8 on the objectives attached to Resolution VIII.19.

In addition, Resolution IX.21 included a specific decision on the establishment of a Working Group on culture under the leadership of the Secretary General. In addition, a proviso was added clarifying that the approval of Resolution IX.21 was to be understood as respecting all other commitments of the CPs under other international agreements.

In both Resolutions the issue of including a criterion on culture for the designation of sites was dealt in a general manner, by advising Contracting Parties to consider cultural values as well as ecological values in the process of site designation. It was clear from the discussions during COP8 and COP9 that the large majority of the CPs were not in agreement with a stand-alone cultural criterion, which might lead to the designation of sites solely on their cultural aspects.

It should be noted here that -although the two Resolutions were approved unanimously- heated and lengthy discussions were required to reach agreement among the CPs. The main areas of contention can be summarised as follows:

  • remaining doubts as to whether culture is in the remit of the Convention;
  • strong disagreement on using a cultural criterion as a stand-alone factor in site designation;
  • fears that cultural considerations might be used to protect economic activities in ways which might frustrate objectives of free trade.

It is clear that these views must be taken into account in building consensus within the Convention on cultural aspects. (See also Section 0.3 below).

0.2 The Ramsar Culture Working Group

Resolution IX.21 prescribed in its paragraph 17 the following action for the Secretariat:

'[The Conference of the Contracting Parties] REQUESTS the Ramsar Secretariat to establish a multi-disciplinary working group on the cultural values of wetlands, with a balanced geographic representation, under the supervision of Standing Committee, with appropriate input from the STRP, to coordinate the activities described above.'

Such a working group (named the 'Ramsar Culture Working Group' or CWG) was convened by the Secretary General in the summer of 2006. It consisted of the following members:

- Convenor: Peter Bridgewater, Ramsar Secretary-General
- Secretary: Thymio Papayannis
- Africa: Maman-Sani Issa, Benin
- (Mediteranean): Ammar Boumezbeur, Algeria (resigned)
- Europe: María-José Viñals, Spain, (resigned)
- Asia: Sansanee Choowaew, Thailand
- Oceania: Pati Liu, Samoa (resigned)
- Neotropics: Sergio Lasso, Ecuador
- North America: Ernesto Enkerlin, Mexico
- Ramsar IOPs: Dave Pritchard, BirdLife International (also resource person for the Group),
- UNESCO - International Hydrological Programme:
Khin Ni Ni Thein, Alexander Otte, Working Group on Water and Culture

0.3 Recent guidance from the Ramsar Standing Committee

An information document (DOC. SC35-5) - prepared by the CWG - was submitted to the Ramsar Standing Committee for consideration at its 35th Meeting (Gland, Switzerland, 14-16 February 2007). It contained briefing on the work of the CWG, a proposal for the structure of the Guidance document, plus a draft Resolution on cultural values for possible consideration by COP10. This new Resolution would integrate the contents of past Resolutions VIII.19 and IX.21, taking into account recent developments.

After an extensive discussion, the following decision was taken by the Standing Committee:

'Decision SC35-1: The Standing Committee urged the Culture Working Group to continue its work on a draft Resolution and guidance on the cultural values of wetlands, taking account of the comments made in this meeting, and to propose new drafts of both documents in time for consultation at the regional meetings. The drafts will be circulated to the SC if possible but presented at SC36 at the latest.'

[TP: Guidance from the next meetings of the Standing Committee should be included here before COP10.]


1. General considerations

1.1 The broader framework

The planet is a cultural and biological kaleidoscope: In the last twenty years significant advances have been made in the management of global biodiversity, but while environmental problems have become globalised, their potential management solutions have become more localised.

A growing body of evidence supports the recognition of links between biological and cultural diversity and continued exploration of the interface between these and other forms of diversity. The role of indigenous peoples, both as custodians of biodiversity and proponents of cultural diversity, is crucial in understanding the interconnectedness of these issues. Conservation of nature is at the heart of the cultures and values of many indigenous peoples. For more than 300 million indigenous people, the Earth offers not only life, but also is the basis of their cultural and spiritual identities. Because their world-view holds that the Earth and its resources are inherited from the ancestors, the Earth and its resources are a sacred heritage.

Global environmental Conventions, from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) through the Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) and even the World Heritage Convention (WHC), among others, have tended to create a 'lowest common denominator' approach to resource management, which often ignores -or even militates against- aspects of cultural diversity.

In many of the current discussions about environmental issues at national and international level, people are not often treated or regarded as part of the biosphere and certainly not as part of 'biodiversity'. Not surprisingly, conservation biologists and wildlife managers tend to focus on biological issues when addressing conservation of 'natural areas', but the achievement of conservation outcomes requires an understanding of people and their aspirations and an awareness of the political and social climate .

Scale and diversity

One of the significant challenges in any discussion of ecosystem management and conservation is to maintain awareness of scale, and of the coexistence of more than one scale. Scale issues interact with diversity issues, especially the three basic and interactive elements of diversity: cultural, biological and spatial. The importance of all three elements should not be minimised, nor should one be allowed to dominate. Prevailing values derived from the current beliefs of society can be influenced and shaped over time by information that is scientifically gathered, but at any given moment those values and beliefs may be more important in the shaping of public policy than the results of the latest scientific research. Cultural heritage also includes religious heritage, and spirituality can have effects beyond simply appreciating nature, through, inter alia, sacred forests and sacred groves .

UN approaches - UNEP and UNESCO

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD, 2002), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and the UN Environment Programme (respectively, UNESCO and UNEP) convened a high-level round table on Cultural Diversity and Biodiversity for Sustainable Development. At the round table, topics including 'diversity and sustainable development', 'diversity in nature and culture' and 'towards a culture of sustainable diversity' were discussed .

The degree of uncertainty surrounding the relationship between biological and cultural diversity, and the level of interest by participants in the round table, convinced UNESCO and UNEP to pursue joint work in this area. A 2003 UNEP Governing Council Resolution on environment and cultural diversity referred to the importance of further examining this issue in cooperation with UNESCO, with particular attention to the implications for human well-being. Relevant bodies within UNESCO also decided on furthering work, including cooperation with UNEP, in this topic area, in the context of the UNESCO World Report on Cultural Diversity (expected to be published in 2007) and biodiversity-related activities in UNESCO.

Within UNESCO's normative work, the interplay between cultural diversity and nature is well reflected in many of its Conventions, while the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity specifically mentions the relationship with biological diversity .

The recently adopted Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP) , the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005) and the Convention on Biological Diversity are most significant in exploring the interface between cultural and biological diversity. DRIP provides an insight into issues of relevance to indigenous peoples concerning cultural and biological diversity. Also, the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was the first legal instrument the international community adopted to raise cultural diversity to the rank of "common heritage of humankind" in an analogous way to biological diversity's being a 'common concern of humankind'.

The United Nations Millennium Declaration refers to the diversity of nature and the diversity of humans as important values and principles that are essential in international relations in the twenty-first century, from the perspective of achieving development in the new Millennium. Hence, in support of the Millennium Declaration, UNESCO has positioned itself as a key player in this new area, which is likely to bring important insights to the development agenda and also to other peaceful dialogues between governments.

Physical expressions of cultural and biological diversity include sites recognized as biosphere reserves or World Heritage sites UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme and World Heritage Convention (1972) ..

1.2 Culture in the multilateral environmental agreements

Approaches taken by multilateral environmental agreements to linking cultural and biological diversity are as different as the agreements themselves, and the following short summary illustrates aspects of these approaches.

World Heritage Convention

In 1992, the World Heritage Convention opened its list of sites to encompass 'cultural landscapes' in addition to 'cultural sites' and 'natural sites'. In the case of certain sites, the cultural aspects of their uniqueness are privileged, where landscapes have inspired and shaped specific cultural expression of unique value/nature; in others, it is the way cultures have shaped the physical environment that has been utilized as a criterion to inscribe those sites on the World Heritage list.

However, one important issue to consider is that of the limitations associated with the 'outstanding universal value' approach adopted and applied in the context of the World Heritage Convention. In fact, experiences have demonstrated that even sites that are culturally less deserving than others (because they are less aesthetically beautiful or less "indigenous") nonetheless provide ecological benefits that are crucial to the populations inhabiting them. Conversely, sites that are ecologically simplified due to human agency may nonetheless hold values that are higher than would be judged according to World Heritage criteria .

What is certain is that the introduction of these 'mixed sites' and the related guidelines (WHC Management Guidelines for Cultural Landscapes) represents a welcome evolution of the World Heritage concept/approach and one that helps overcome the artificial barrier between culture and nature introduced by the conventional categories for World Heritage sites (ie 'natural' and 'cultural').

UNESCO Man & the Biosphere programme (MAB)

MAB, UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere programme, launched in 1971, was the first international programme to espouse the concept that people and nature are inextricably linked; a concept which was later adopted by several multilateral environmental agreements. It operated as a research platform at the interface between people and nature.

Theoretical work was complemented by place-based action. The World Network of Biosphere Reserves today has 482 sites in 102 countries These sites are entire pieces of landscapes or seascapes, with their set of issues, problems and opportunities both in ecological and in socio-cultural terms. These sites offer ideal potential to serve as learning and research laboratories.

After 35 years of existence, MAB has developed a relatively complex bureaucratic process, typical of large institutions made up of national committees, programmes, advisory bodies, expert committees, etc. Its main message has been mainstreamed into the global development agenda, but with some recent exceptions, the Programme's scientific capacity to elucidate further the relationship between culture and nature appears to have waned.

CBD

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is one of the major intergovernmental processes on the environment, which recognizes both the dependency of indigenous and local communities on biological diversity and the unique role of indigenous and local communities in conserving life on Earth. This recognition is enshrined in both the preamble of the Convention text, as well as in its key provisions.

The conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of the benefits that nature provides - the three objectives of the CBD - are also the cornerstones of indigenous societies. The CBD, the Convention on Cultural Expressions and its preceding Declaration on Cultural Diversity share a similar value basis and theoretical foundation on which a deeper understanding of cultural and biological diversity rests and should be further strengthened.

The work of the CBD on, inter alia, protected areas and sacred sites, and on indicators towards achieving the 2010 biodiversity target (specifically the indicator concerning the status and trends of linguistic diversity and numbers of speakers of indigenous languages) offers clear indications of the co-dependence of different forms of diversity .

Indeed, in a similar way to the extinction crisis of the planet's species and genetic variety, the world's cultural diversity, principally the variety and wealth of languages and associated cultural traits is exhibiting accelerated extinctions. Beyond their intrinsic value, plants, animals and ecosystems, in their variety and distinctiveness, contribute specific emotional and physical benefits to our lives and play an integral part in culture. Their loss, which equates to the loss of diversity within and among human civilizations, impoverishes us beyond repair. The promotion and protection jointly of biological and of cultural diversity is thus a vital area of opportunity for cooperation.

CITES

CITES, while a convention rooted in conservation of biodiversity, is also one dealing extensively with trade issues, and has not been a significant focus for debates on the specific issue of culture . Decision-making in the Convention has usually focussed on scientific and conservation concerns, based on advice from strong science-based committees. On the other hand, the process of trade itself is one which has cultural origins and cultural dimensions, so these issues might be expected to have some resonance in discussions in the Convention.

The decision at CITES COP13 to allow non-commercial trade in individually marked and certified ekipas incorporated in finished jewellery for non-commercial purposes from Namibia is a recent one where cultural considerations played a role. Much of Namibia's cultural heritage has been lost through the export of such pieces, and it is evident that the supply of antique ekipas has become severely limited. Ekipas are unique cultural objects only found in northern Namibia and southern Angola, and have become highly sought-after because of their aesthetic quality and cultural-historic value, and as elements in modern jewellery. Many ekipas have been exported as pre-Convention specimens. The COP, in agreeing to allow this trade, essentially allowed the Convention to operate exceptionally in the pursuit of cultural objectives.

International Whaling Commission

Among the many legal regimes that deal in various ways with whaling, the most significant is the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) , for which the governing body is the International Whaling Commission (IWC). The ICRW is at some variance with current norms of ecological concern and knowledge, and now stands in an uneasy relationship to the diverse cultural contexts within which whaling - as tradition to be preserved, abomination to be outlawed, or environmental challenge to be managed - is set.

In addition to the legal regimes that are needed to ensure adequate and appropriate conservation and management of whales, there is a matrix of cultural values which form people's worldviews about whales and their relationship with people. The close links between the question of sustainable use of wildlife, the rights of indigenous peoples and the issue of genetic resources have long been the subject of discussion in the literature . Whaling is a classic example of an issue that brings into play scales from the most local to global.

The IWC moratorium on whaling from 1986 onwards has always accommodated aboriginal whaling operations, which -whatever their cultural and economic significance may be- use hunting techniques similar to those of 'commercial' whaling. At the heart of debates on international regulation of whaling therefore lies a clash of cultural views concerning the responsible use of the resource.

UNCCD - cultural aspects of combating desertification

The UNCCD has acknowledged the important role of cultural values and cultural diversity in combating desertification. It has embraced traditional knowledge, as part of the complex of cultural diversity, as a way of assisting local communities to respond to the global problem of desertification.
A tenet of the UNCCD is that "desertification is a global problem with local solutions" . From its inception, the UNCCD strategy was to build upon traditional technology, know-how and cultural practices with the aim of increasing the ability of both governments and stakeholders to control agricultural and other risks by improving techniques and restoring degraded lands. Each cultural practice is not an isolated solution for a single problem, but is part of a sophisticated and often multipurpose system and an integral approach (society, culture and economy) linked to the careful management of local resources.

Ramsar

The original parties negotiating the Ramsar Convention in 1971 recognised culture as one of the imperatives to be taken into account, but it received scant attention until the seventh Conference of the Parties in 1999, which had the theme People and Wetlands: The Vital Link.

The 26th meeting of the Standing Committee in 2001 discussed a range of issues concerning the role of cultural and socio-economic issues in the Convention, and how to enhance that role (including the question of a new site selection criterion), and requested the preparation of a discussion document to facilitate debate on this matter at COP8 in 2002.

"Decision SC26-14: The Standing Committee determined to have a broad-ranging discussion on the role of cultural and socio-economic issues in the Convention, and on how to enhance that role, and requested the preparation of a discussion document to facilitate talks at COP8. Uganda was invited to work with the Bureau, the Chair of STRP and any other Party and IOP interested to contribute, in the preparation of the discussion paper."

It should also be noted that a paper prepared by the CBD and Ramsar Secretariats concerning their approaches to criteria and classification of inland water ecosystems was considered by CBD COP6 (April 2002). This paper noted that the CBD's indicative list of the components of biodiversity includes some components (notably concerning wild relatives of domesticated species; species, communities, or genes of social, scientific, or cultural importance; and importance for research) that were not covered by Ramsar's site selection criteria.

This formed part of the context for the eighth Ramsar COP, which had the theme: Wetlands: water, life, and culture. The COP itself was the source of a book on culture and wetlands , as well as an exhibition. Resolution VIII.19 dealt with the issue of taking into account cultural values, and in its operative part it "TAKES NOTE WITH INTEREST of the list of Guiding Principles included in the Annex to this Resolution" and listed 27 such principles.

The ninth COP in 2005 had the theme Wetlands and water: supporting life, sustaining livelihoods. What emerged from the discussions was continuing discomfort with the idea of using culture as a primary reason for identification of wetlands of international importance. However Parties agreed to a new Resolution, which inter alia established a working group on the issue, from which the present guidance has developed.

Further consideration by Ramsar COP10 of a potential updated Resolution on the cultural values of wetlands should constitute the launch platform for sustained efforts by the Convention in this field, needing both a medium-term (6 years) and a long-term (20+ years) horizon.

1.3 Cultural landscapes and wetlands

Defining cultural landscapes is important for illustrating the potential of biodiversity and cultural diversity interactions for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and the resilience of cultures and societies. In principle there is a strong nexus with the thinking developed under the World Heritage Convention; however there is an important difference between UNESCO's interpretation of a 'cultural landscape' concept and that defined by others. One example is the Council of Europe's European Landscapes Convention, which reflects a principle that landscapes are always cultural. The scope of this (the entire surface of Europe rather than individual sites) may however dilute the usefulness of the concept, given the impossibility of everywhere reconciling major economic forces with the landscape protection, management and planning.

Humanity's relationship to the natural environment has so far been seen predominantly in biophysical terms; but there is now a growing recognition that societies themselves have created elaborate processes for protecting and managing their resources. Most landscapes are, or have been, subject to cultural influences, and as such, maintenance of ecosystem services and conservation of biological diversity is achievable only when cultural diversity is maintained. Our management of biodiversity thus becomes a cultural expression, and, in turn, biodiversity shapes human culture .

The intimate link between science, culture, socio-economic concerns and sustainable development must be thus strengthened . A strong scientific base is essential for all of today's major development and resource-based concerns, because science not only provides an explanation of how environmental processes work, but also its technological application offers solutions to some of the critical problems. For wetland issues, identification of their cultural elements, or the cultural elements of the landscape in which they are found, is an important step in ensuring that agreed policies under the Ramsar Convention can be implemented effectively and efficiently.

Wetlands have provided valuable resources and refuges for human populations and many other life forms since the very beginning of human life on Earth. Major civilisations have been established in association with them and in dependence on their resources, especially water. Settlements, including major cities such as Amsterdam, Bangkok, Tunis, Guayaquil (with more than two million people) and Venice, have been built in or in the immediate vicinity of wetlands.

Box 1: The Nile in Ancient Egypt

Nowhere is the intricate relationship between water, wetlands and human survival better illustrated than in the case of the Nile River and ancient Egypt. The cyclical ebb and flow of the river waters determined the fortunes and fate of the powerful civilization that grew in the area and left its weighty marks.

During Akhet, the season of inundation, the Nile flooded kmt, "the black land", which included most of the flat plains along its banks. This allowed planting of wheat and barley in September, during the season of Peret, and these were harvested in March or April. Shemu, the summer season of drought followed, and the life-sustaining cycle was repeated. During the Old Kingdom, in the 3rd millennium B.C., it was the kings who were supposed to maintain Ma'at, the cosmic order, and guarantee the continuity of the Nile cycle.

Climatic oscillations, however, led to the dramatic decrease of the Nile flow at certain periods [Fagan 1999]. As a result, only small parts of cultivated lands were flooded and the impact was dramatic, with large scale famine unavoidable. This eroded the power of the kings and led to massive political unrest. Thus the Old Kingdom collapsed after 2160 B.C. against a background of extended hunger and political turmoil in Southern Egypt. This phenomenon has been often been repeated in Egyptian history in more recent times.

Malaria in many parts of the world has historically been a negative factor driving human populations away from wetlands. It was also one of the main reasons for the drainage of wetlands, until the discovery of quinine in South America provided an effective remedy to the onslaught of Anopheles anopheles¸ the vector for the disease. The conquest of the plains and their use for agriculture entailed a heavy health cost for the people concerned.

A wide range of other diseases and afflictions are borne by water and wetland ecosystems. Yet often the impact of these diseases is accentuated by poor management at the human scale, and they should not be seen as simply an inherently negative factor of wetland systems.

Human activities of some sort and to some degree of intensity have existed in almost all wetlands. The abandonment of traditional activities of the primary resource use sector during much of the 20th century reduced the perceived importance of some wetlands as a direct resource base for human survival. On the other hand, many of their other values to people have begun to be better understood and appreciated. These include a regulatory role in the water cycle, flood abatement, aquifer recharge, retention of nutrients and pollutants, shore protection, traditional food provision, educational and recreational opportunities.

Box 2: Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia

During the rainy season, Tonle Sap, or Great Lake, fed by the overflowing waters of the Mekong River, grows to six times its normal size, to more than 16,000 square kilometres, thus absorbing floods and releasing the water gradually. One of the largest freshwater bodies in Southeast Asia, Tonle Sap has been the home of a fisher population living in traditional wooden houses on stilts (as in the village of Chhnok Trou), with extensive use of reeds and very characteristic fishing and transport boats and artefacts.

In recent times, however, the situation has been changing rapidly and radically. Internal migration and explosive population growth have increased the pressures on the lake, and have almost completely destroyed local architecture. Pollution of the lake is increasing, both from domestic sources and from cultivation; forest logging is increasing the inflow of silt, while shallow areas, necessary for fish spawning, are being drained. In addition, dam construction has decreased freshwater flow into the lake. Overfishing and illegal practices are quite common. The result is a dramatic reduction in fish catches, which used to supply more than 60% of the protein consumption in Cambodia. In parallel, the rich local culture of the fisher communities is rapidly eroding.

The Cambodian government has started a new initiative to face effectively the problems at Tonle Sap, but strong and sustained efforts will be necessary to reverse the current negative trends.

From the very beginning, water - along with air and food - has been understood as an absolute necessity for survival. After the gradual shift from hunter / gatherer clans to agricultural societies, water became an essential prerequisite for food production. Places where it was abundantly available became the seats of great civilisations, as in the case of the Nile for the Egyptians, the Euphrates and Tigris for the Mesopotamians and the Mekong for the Khmer Empire. Its scarcity in periods of drought brought down the same powerful societies. It is only natural, therefore, that water has been venerated in many religions and the 'blessing of the waters' has been a common ritual. Wetlands in turn, as a major source of water, have been similarly respected in these traditions. Thus the values of the wetlands, and especially their cultural values, have been inextricably linked with human survival. In a contemporary framework, water is often associated with an idea of flow, while wetlands are associated with an idea of static water. However this distinction is simplistic, as water in aquifers can remain static, while coastal lagoons can experience a very dynamic water regime during different times of the year. In any case, rivers are included in the Ramsar definition of wetlands, and their floodplains experience dynamic water movement in times of floods.

Yet, in spite of all conservation and 'wise use' efforts, wetland destruction has continued in many parts of the world, in developed and developing countries alike. At the same time, the appreciation of wetland values has led to significant projects for the restoration of lost or heavily degraded wetlands, at great cost. The experience from these projects has shown how very difficult it is to restore to some degree the values and ecological functions of destroyed or degraded wetlands. It has also demonstrated that it is practically impossible to restore, once lost, their cultural and historical values. These values are often associated with inanimate objects, such as buildings and other structures, as well as sacred species of fauna . However, a large part of them are borne by local societies, woven into their social fabric, constituting an integral part of their identity, and hence they are lost in a few generations after wetlands are destroyed. It should be stressed therefore that the loss of wetlands does not only remove important resources, but also causes profound social damage to human communities.

Wetlands and culture coexist. Wetland-related cultures and their diversity can support sustainable livelihoods and society's well-being. Experience in many countries (e.g. in the Mekong River Basin) indicates that lack of awareness, weaknesses and gaps in identifying, valuing and preserving the cultural values of wetlands as well as the wetland ecosystems themselves, have caused loss or diminishment of various traditional cultures during the past century. Loss of wetland-related culture is a threatening sign of wetland loss, and loss of wetlands is a threatening sign of non-sustainable livelihoods.

Box 3: The case of Lake Carla

In the centre of Greece, the fertile region of Thessaly depended for water until the beginning of the 20th century on seven lakes. None exist today. Lake Carla, the last and largest, a major Mediterranean wetland known for its fisheries and the large populations of migratory birds it hosted, was drained in the early 1960s to provide agricultural land. As a result, the local society that depended on lake fisheries was destroyed, taking with it the traditions associated with this important activity. Many inhabitants moved to the cities, while some attempted to cultivate the land that resulted from the draining.

The results soon proved disastrous. For irrigation, the water of the lake was replaced by intense pumping. This caused a dramatic drop in the level of aquifers (today down to 300 meters in certain places) and the beginning of intrusion of salt water, although the sea was several kilometres away. The fields soon became salinated and as a result cultivation became more and more difficult and less productive, while large parts of the former lake bottom area were abandoned. Pollution from agricultural and industrial run-off, initially filtered by the wetland, was fed untreated into the Pagasiticos Bay, causing severe algal blooms and other eutrophication problems.

At present, a large government project is under way with funding from the European Union to restore a considerable part of the lake. It is hoped that, if successful, it will re-establish some of the lake's functions and values. The rich cultural heritage of the Carla fisheries, however, cannot be recreated, but perhaps some of its remnants (boats and tools) will be preserved in a local museum which is to be established.

1.4 Rationale for concern for cultural aspects

The Ramsar Secretariat has been developing links with the European Archaeological Council and other groups of social scientists concerning the key importance of wetlands for archaeological and cultural landscape heritage conservation.

Box 4: A positive concern for the cultural values of wetlands

The Ramsar Contracting Parties from Central and Western Asia, gathered at a regional meeting hosted in Tehran by the Islamic Republic of Iran on 3-5 February 2002, issued the Tehran Communiqué, which included the following statement:

"Recognizing the vital role of wetland ecosystems for biodiversity conservation and for the well-being of human communities; and welcoming the theme for World Wetlands Day 2002 and the 8th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP8), on 'Wetlands: Water, Life, and Culture' which explores the cultural values of wetlands as a tool for their conservation, and emphasises the importance of people's engagement in conservation efforts, we undertake to explore cultural issues in our national and local contexts and seek to make our public more aware of the cultural, as well as the natural, values of wetlands."

At the Asian Wetland Symposium 2005, 6-9 February 2005 in Bhubaneswar, India, 400 participants from 32 countries met and called for action to ensure: "…that innovative ecosystem-based approaches be adopted to promote wetland conservation and management to support sustainable livelihoods with emphasis on - documentation and sharing of cultural heritage and values to provide a platform for conservation and management" (The Chilika Statement).

The theme of this 3rd Asian Wetland Symposium was 'Innovative Approaches to Sustainable Livelihood' and its Technical Session III was on 'Cultural Values of Wetlands as Engine for Sustainable Livelihood'. See Asian Wetland Symposium (2005)

Since through the ages many human settlements have been located close to wetlands, significant archaeological remains are found today within them or in their vicinity. Beyond isolated structures, these may include entire ancient cities, such as Nicopolis, in the Amvrakikos Gulf of Western Greece, some of them inhabited even today, as in the case of Empúrias, in Catalonia, Spain. Another example is the Ancient hospital of Neak Pean in Cambodia.

However, the particular interest of wetlands from the archaeological point of view is that they carry and preserve records of human activities through the ages, which are not so well preserved in other environments. Peatlands especially, due to their anoxic and waterlogged conditions, preserve organic matter well, such as wood, leather and textiles, as well as pollen, insects, plants and other materials that in drier conditions degrade rapidly. Recent archaeological excavations in wetlands, carried out mainly in the United Kingdom, have unearthed a treasure of objects that permit a much better understanding of their historical period.

Wooden remains from prehistoric settlements have been found preserved in the muddy bottom of the Black Sea, informing us of the structure of those settlements. Well-preserved ships have been discovered in Venice and in Marseille. Ancient buildings have been discovered underwater in Titicaca Lake. Thus wetlands, even if degraded or reduced, can retain a high degree of archaeological importance.

Box 5: Sunken ships in the Venice Lagoon

In the autumn of 2001, a 1-hectare area of the Venice lagoon was temporarily drained at the site of a lost island, which included the 11th century Augustinian monastery of San Marco in Boccalama. The monastery was abandoned in 1347, the island was turned into a cemetery for plague victims, and it disappeared into the water in the 16th century, due to land subsidence.

The ensuing archaeological research not only found the traces of the monastery, but also discovered in good condition two large ships, a galley (38 m. long by 5 m. wide) and a transport vessel (24 m. by 6 m.), which had been sunk to the bottom and covered with sand. Presumably they were on the verge of being decommissioned and had been sent to act as barricades for the protection of the vulnerable island. Both were dated to the early years of the 14th century and their remains provided invaluable information on the construction of boats of that period.

Archaeological authorities have detailed information about 300 such cultural areas of interest in the bottom of the Venice Lagoon, whose locations are kept secret until excavation becomes feasible.

It should not be forgotten, however, that cultural values are not only associated with the past (either remote or recent), but also with the present, as culture evolves and is being created, in one form or another, on a continuous basis.

From a broader perspective, a large percentage of Ramsar sites have major cultural significance, as demonstrated by their corresponding Ramsar Information Sheets (RIS)33.

More widely than Ramsar sites, a preliminary analysis of a significant number of wetlands of national and local importance in some countries in Asia (i.e., 109 sites in Thailand, 30 sites in Lao PDR, 101 sites in Myanmar, plus visits and observations to many sites in Cambodia and Vietnam), for which descriptive information is presented in the national wetland inventory books (i.e., for Thailand, Lao PDR, Myanmar) indicates that a large percentage of wetland sites (55% of those in Thailand, 27% of those in Lao PDR and 20% of those in Myanmar) are recorded as having associated cultural values. (It should be noted here that most existing national wetland inventories still lack information on cultural aspects and wetland-related cultural issues have not yet been fully addressed.)

Thus the importance of the cultural values of wetlands may broaden their appeal to significant sectors of society. These include not only specialists in the various forms of culture, from archaeology to music, but also the wider public. In this way, powerful alliances can be created.

Based on efforts to combine cultural values with natural environment values in wetlands, an integrated tourism interpretation approach can be promoted. Financial benefits and employment that could be generated through this will be a great asset for local communities, and will enhance their appreciation of wetland resources. This in turn will enhance the economic valuation of wetlands, contributing to their conservation and wise use. Such an approach can be valid in many wetlands with significant cultural values, where visitors can be attracted to both their cultural and natural heritage. A particular case is the sites that have already a very strong visitor interest for their monuments, but little yet for their natural values. In all cases, care must be taken that such activities do not exert undue pressures on wetlands.

It is not only financial considerations that concern local communities, and more particularly indigenous people. Thus the significance, and sometimes the uniqueness, of the cultural values of wetlands contributes to these communities' self-esteem, solidarity and strength, ethics, and their readiness to safeguard particular sites, including Ramsar sites. Experience throughout the world has shown that the conservation and wise use of wetlands depends to a considerable degree on the links with local populations. Enhancement of cultural values, wherever they still exist, and efforts to preserve them where they are at risk of disappearing, can become a powerful tool in strengthening the links of local populations with their wetlands and their 'sense of place', and can be an aid to involving them actively in their conservation.


2. Main policy guidance for Ramsar Contracting Parties

In accordance with Resolutions VIII.19 and IX.20, certain general objectives can be proposed to the Contracting Parties for the incorporation of cultural aspects in the management of wetlands. These are supplemented in Chapter 4 with more specific objectives associated with major wetland-related activities.

It should be pointed out here that the guidance provided is only indicative. Culture is society-specific and each Contracting Party will have to decide on its own approach and priorities. On the other hand, disseminating knowledge on the experience gained in each country can be a very useful process in improving understanding of the options, methods and tools available.

2.1 General, conservation and management objectives

Below are proposed general and specific objectives that Parties are encouraged to implement now where appropriate, and which could be included eventually in a Ramsar strategy for the incorporation of cultural aspects in the management and wise use of wetlands. These objectives encompass many of the guiding principles initially included in the Appendix of Resolution VIII.19.

2.1.1 General objectives

  • GO.2.1.1a - To bridge the differences of approach between natural and social sciences (ex guiding principle 8).
  • GO.2.1.1b - To identify relevant associated partners and to encourage cross-sectoral and international cooperation (ex guiding principles 9 and 27).
  • GO.2.1.1c - To link the cultural aspects of wetlands with those of water (ex guiding principle 2).

2.1.2 Conservation and management objectives

  • O.2.1.2a - To use the proposed Ramsar Matrix in order to present in summary form the cultural aspects of individual wetlands (replacing guiding principle 1).
  • O.2.1.2b - To incorporate information about cultural aspects, where available, in the Ramsar Information Sheets (RIS) for the description of Wetlands of International Importance, whilst ensuring the protection of traditional rights and interests (ex guiding principle 20).
  • O.2.1.2c - To incorporate the cultural aspects of wetlands in management planning (ex guiding principle 21).
  • O.2.1.2d - To include cultural values in wetland monitoring processes (ex guiding principle 22).
  • O.2.1.2e - To consider the use of institutional and legal instruments for the conservation and protection of cultural values in wetlands (ex guiding principle 23).
  • O.2.1.2f - To integrate fully cultural and social considerations into environmental impact assessments (ex guiding principle 24).

2.2 Guidance on the general objectives

The differences of approach between culture specialists and wetland managers should be bridged, as they have interests which do not need to be in conflict. In recent times, culture specialists have become more involved with the impact of environmental issues on the cultural heritage. From their side, wetland managers, normally trained in the natural sciences, have become increasingly sensitive to aesthetic considerations in planning visitors' facilities and exhibitions, to the importance of the remnants of older civilizations in or close to the sites under their responsibility, and to other cultural aspects. Thus a propitious climate has been developing, which should facilitate collaboration and eventually synergy between the natural and cultural disciplines.

General objective GO 2.1.1a -
To bridge the differences of approach between natural and social sciences

In order to bring together the different approaches that may exist between specialists coming from different backgrounds in the natural and social sciences, the following actions are indicated:
a) make efforts to find a common language between the two disciplines and define carefully some key concepts such as 'cultural values' and 'management of cultural values', and if necessary choose a more easily accepted concept such as 'cultural aspects';
b) promote the understanding of each others' objectives and attempt to agree upon certain common ones;
c) include culture specialists in wetland management project teams, from the initial project development phases;
d) incorporate cultural aspects in the interpretation at visitor centres in natural protected areas;
e) develop a joint methodology for managing cultural values in wetlands, benefiting from the scientific background and the experience of both sides. This can best be done through pilot cases, where collaboration can be nurtured in a controlled environment and the results evaluated and then adapted for wider use.

At the international level, collaboration between the Ramsar Convention and organisations concerned with cultural issues and with the interface between culture and biodiversity, and culture and development, should be established and strengthened, as appropriate. In a first phase, such collaboration should focus on the following organisations (without this list being exclusive):

  • Convention on Biological Diversity;
  • Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention), with an emphasis on those World Heritage Sites which overlap with Ramsar sites;
  • International Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM);
  • International Council of Museums (ICOM), with a focus on the appropriate methods of presenting cultural elements in wetland sites;
  • International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), mainly in developing guidelines for the protection of historic buildings and structures;
  • UNESCO, including the World Heritage Centre and the Man and Biosphere Programme (MAB);
  • Wetlands Archaeological Research Project (WARP), a network with 300 members worldwide;
  • World Bank, co-ordinating donor interest and support;
  • European Archaeological Council, in view of its initiatives in wetland archaeology.

At the national level, in numerous countries, horizontal co-operation on wetlands and water -even at the government level, and between clearly related sectors- is weak or absent. Thus, operational relations between government sectors dealing with wetlands and water and those dealing with culture should be established or strengthened.

General objective GO 2.1.1b -
To identify relevant associated partners and to encourage cross-sectoral co-operation at the international and the national levels

At the international / regional level, the following actions are indicated, in order to reinforce the capacity of the Ramsar Administrative Authorities and wetland managers to incorporate fully the cultural aspects of wetlands into their management planning:
a) identify the international and regional institutions that have expertise on these matters or that may be interested in developing it,
b) enlist their support in international, regional, national and local activities aimed at incorporating or reinforcing the inclusion of cultural aspects in the management of wetlands.

At the national level, suggested implementation actions include:
c) initiate dialogue between the sectors dealing with wetlands / water and the sectors dealing with cultural issues;
d) as a first step, invite culture sector representatives to participate as full members in the National Ramsar/Wetland Committees;
e) undertake joint policy reviews aimed at the conservation of both the natural and cultural heritage in wetlands; and
f) in all cases, ensure the active participation of indigenous and local communities and stakeholders in such collaborative processes (see Ramsar Handbook 5).

At the cultural level, wetlands and water should be treated in an integrated manner, as their inextricable anthropic linkages have existed since early civilisations and are still pertinent today. It is reasonable, therefore, to consider wetlands and water as one domain when assessing or promoting relevant cultural aspects.

General objective GO 2.1.1c -
To link the cultural aspects of wetlands with those of water

In order to establish a close linkage between the cultural aspects of wetlands and water in general, the following implementation actions are indicated:
a) promote understanding by decision-makers and the wider public of the role of wetlands in the water cycle;
b) identify such linkages in oral traditions, religion and mythology and the arts and make them widely known through CEPA activities;
c) place particular emphasis on traditional methods of water management related to wetlands, and draw from them useful lessons and public awareness material;
d) identify opportunities provided by religious/cultural events and festivals focusing on water to advance the notions of wetland conservation and wise use; and
e) continue to present water as a key issue in wetland management and in the application of the Convention on Wetlands.

2.3 Guidance on the conservation and management objectives

The Ramsar Working Group on Culture has developed a Matrix for the rapid and simplified recording / assessment of the cultural aspects of specific wetland sites (see Appendix III). Its use may facilitate the incorporation of cultural aspects in management activities.

Objective O 2.1.2a -
To use the proposed Ramsar Matrix in order to present in summary form the cultural aspects of individual wetlands

Suggested implementation actions:
a) apply the proposed Ramsar Matrix to selected wetland sites;
b) communicate the results and proposals for improvement in the Matrix to the Ramsar Secretariat.

The cultural aspects of wetlands should be fully incorporated in wetland inventory systems. Cultural aspects should also be recorded with as much detail as possible in the Ramsar Information Sheets (RIS) for the description of Wetlands of International Importance, so as to take them into account inter alia when preparing management plans for these sites.

Objective O 2.1.2b -
To incorporate information about cultural aspects, where available, in wetland inventories and especially the Ramsar Information Sheets (RIS), whilst ensuring the protection of traditional rights and interests

Suggested implementation actions:
a) ensure that cultural aspects are fully incorporated in all wetland inventory systems, with the co-operation of experts on identification and recording of cultural elements;
b) ensure that when filling out the RIS for new designations of Wetlands of International Importance, as well as when preparing updates of the RIS of Ramsar sites designated in the past, the cultural aspects of the sites in question are fully researched and reflected in the RIS.

The cultural aspects of wetlands should be fully incorporated in the management planning of sites, involving relevant indigenous peoples and local communities, as well as other stakeholders that feel identified with these cultural aspects.

Objective O 2.1.2c -
To incorporate the cultural aspects of wetlands in management planning

Suggested implementation actions:
a) research and undertake inventories of all relevant cultural aspects relating to the site in question and select those that will be subject of defined management interventions, with the active participation of relevant communities, groups, institutions and individuals, taking into account the guidance provided in the present document;
b) incorporate in the management plan specific activities addressing the cultural aspects of the site.

Mechanisms for monitoring wetland ecological character should include indicators related to cultural aspects. In general, indicators are a measurable -and therefore objective- means for identifying and documenting trends, both positive and negative. They are also invaluable for communicating these trends in a convincing way to decision-makers and the public. Usually, within the wetland monitoring context, indicators are set for ecological and sometimes socioeconomic parameters, but not often yet for cultural ones.

Objective O 2.1.2d -
To include cultural values in wetland monitoring processes

Suggested implementation actions:
a) develop and incorporate indicators for cultural parameters in the monitoring of the status of ecological character of wetlands and its change or possible change, on the basis of scientific work on the development and testing of such indicators; and
b) train practitioners in the gathering of culture-related data and in its interpretation.

Protection and enhancement of wetland-related cultural aspects should be incorporated in legal and institutional frameworks. Where possible, nature and cultural protection measures should be integrated and streamlined. In this context, it should be realised that policies and measures addressing wetland conservation are often implemented with a degree of laxity, while legislation for the protection of archaeological heritage is often stricter. Streamlining the two should ensure a higher degree of implementation (and if necessary enforcement) of both, avoiding the 'lowest common denominator' effect.

Objective O 2.1.2e -
To consider the use of institutional and legal instruments for the conservation and protection of cultural values in wetlands

Suggested implementation actions:
a) review the existing legal and institutional framework concerning wetlands and water, on the one hand, and cultural values on the other, and identify weaknesses/conflicts (see Ramsar Handbook 3);
b) incorporate culture-related issues in national wetland policies or equivalent instruments; and
c) enact, or when necessary strengthen, legislation for the conservation of wetland cultural landscapes and their values.

Environmental impact assessments (EIAs), when adequately applied, have proven useful in optimising spatial planning decisions and mitigating negative impacts from development activities on wetlands. They should now be extended to ensure the integration of cultural values as well, as a means for the conservation and enhancement of such values. Thus, within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD COP6 has adopted Decision VI/10 containing Recommendations for the conduct of cultural, environmental and social impact assessments regarding developments proposed to take place on, or which are likely to impact on, sacred sites and on lands and waters traditionally occupied or used by indigenous and local communities.

Objective O 2.1.2f -
To integrate fully cultural and social considerations into environmental impact assessments

Suggested implementation actions:
a) propose and encourage, when required, modifications/additions in the existing national legislation governing the application of environmental impact assessments (EIA) to incorporate proper consideration of the cultural aspects of wetlands;
b) include the cultural aspects of wetlands in all EIAs of wetland and water development and management projects, as well as of any other projects or programmes that may affect wetlands;
c) promote the incorporation of similar considerations in the process for the enactment and implementation of legislation on strategic environmental assessment (SEA);
d) apply the Recommendations for the conduct of cultural, environmental and social impact assessments regarding developments proposed to take place on, or which are likely to impact on, sacred sites and on lands and waters traditionally occupied or used by indigenous and local communities, adopted under Decision VI/10 of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

2.4 Proposed actions at strategic level

The Convention on Wetlands, including the Contracting Parties, the Ramsar Secretariat and its regional activities (such as MedWet, the Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative and WacoWet, the West African Coastal Zones Wetlands network), as well as its International Organization Partners, should play a key role in the implementation of the main objectives mentioned above and in catalysing the launch of the proposed actions. In this process, partners from the cultural sector should be sought and the necessary activities should be decentralised as much as possible, retaining only a strategic facilitation role for the Ramsar Secretariat and its Working Group on Culture.

In a first phase, these efforts could perhaps be incorporated into the work plan of the Ramsar Secretariat. In the medium term, however, once the programme starts expanding, it will require more substantial human (and, therefore, financial) inputs to carry out the tasks agreed, which must be secured through appropriate fundraising, beyond the core budget of the Ramsar Convention.

Thus, maintaining and enhancing the cultural values of wetlands will require long-term efforts by a wide variety of actors and stakeholders throughout the world. The following suggestions on specific actions should be considered by the Convention and its partners for implementation when the required resources are identified or become available.

Wider actions

A short- and medium-term strategy for the identification, safeguard and use of the cultural aspects of wetlands should be developed, defining measurable and realistic objectives, a clear distribution of roles and responsibilities, activities to be carried out with priorities assigned, the resources required, and appropriate indicators to allow the monitoring of progress made. The Convention Secretariat should co-ordinate this task, but wide participation of all the relevant organisations interested in this matter should be encouraged. The Strategy should include both a general approach and regional components.

As part of the Strategy, an initial inventory of cultural aspects based on the Ramsar Information Sheet (RIS) should be organised and maintained and its results widely disseminated. Compatible methods and tools for inventories of the cultural aspects of wetlands should be developed, tested and widely discussed, so that the information collected is both verifiable and comparable. The National Wetland Inventory of each country should be revised and amended, where required to include adequate detailed information on cultural aspects.

Universities and other research and learning institutions should be encouraged to undertake more applied research on cultural aspects related to wetlands and the results disseminated in a form useful to wetland managers and policy-makers. In addition, existing research knowledge of cultural aspects should be found through bibliographic research and repackaged and disseminated so that it can become accessible to those responsible for wetlands.

Examples of good practice in the area of identification, safeguarding and use of the cultural aspects of wetlands should be identified and made widely known. This work could be organised on a regional basis. The Mediterranean Wetland Initiative (MedWet) could initiate a first pilot exercise and identify such examples in the Mediterranean Basin, as well as WacoWet in West Africa. Ramsar Contracting Parties and/or International Organization Partners could undertake similar work for other regions. In a first phase, the pilot cases selected could be posted on the Ramsar Web site, and their publication and dissemination in other appropriate forms should also be envisaged.

Practical tools, mechanisms and other concrete guidance should be provided to those responsible for wetland management, complemented by training and transfer of know-how. As first steps a practical manual and a training module should be produced. This should constitute one of the first projects to be developed and launched, once executant(s) and potential donors are identified.

A wide programme of public awareness activities concerning the cultural aspects of wetlands should be organised through web sites, publications, exhibitions, events (such as World Wetlands Day celebrations) and other appropriate means. One very effective medium could be the reconnection of existing traditional festivals to wetlands and efforts to re-establish those relevant festivals that have become abandoned. A typical example would be the El Rocío procession through the Doñana National Park (Ramsar site) in Andalucía, Spain. These festivals attract large segments of the local populations (as well as visitors) and encourage an active participation of those attending, in contrast to other, more passive means of communication. A global inventory of such traditional festivals related to wetlands and water should be carried out on a priority basis.

Specific initiatives

A travelling exhibition on culture and wetlands prepared by the Ramsar Secretariat and other interested organisations and circulating globally (physically and through the Web) may be a cost-effective means for increasing public awareness and support. Already the European Archaeological Council has proposed participating in such an endeavour.

A manual on the conservation and enhancement of cultural values related to wetlands and water is a necessary tool at an early stage. Although there is little practical experience available in the management of many types of wetland-related cultural resources and the enhancement of their values, sufficient material has been gathered to provide an initial basis for such a manual. It would certainly not be either complete or exhaustive, but it would act as a powerful tool for the sensitisation of those responsible for wetlands and for bringing them into contact with culture-oriented institutions and individuals.

An intense effort should be made to include social and cultural values in all ongoing wetland management projects and to incorporate them in all new project proposals. Already this has started in certain cases, for example:

  • In MedWetCoast, a GEF/FFEM, USD 15.5 million, 5-year project -already completed-, concerning 15 sites in 6 countries, an inventory of cultural elements has been included as part of the diagnosis of each site. In addition, two case studies for managing cultural heritage have been carried out in greater detail in two sites, in Egypt and Tunisia;
  • in the GEF project to be started in Benin for 'Community-Based Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Management (CBCMBM)', social impact assessment that includes cultural aspects has been completed as part of preparatory studies.
  • The development of Xi-Xi Wetland Park, Hang Zhou, China, is based upon using the accumulated cultural management expertise over the last 1500 years. The park is a series of 3,000 fish ponds, and is being developed in three stages, with new interpretative centre being planned to showcase the links between cultural understanding of the wetlands management, and the present biological diversity.
  • In the Moulting Lagoons Wetland of International Importance in Tasmania Australia. Limited collection of wild bird eggs by Aboriginal people has been re-instated, to allow them to continued to practice cultural activities, and continue their dietary practices in a way consistent with long term conservation of the site and its biodiversity.
  • Med-INA, the Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos, is carrying out a three-year project on the cultural values of Mediterranean wetlands (2007-2010), co-funded by the MAVA Foundaton.

Particular attention should be given to launching integrated management projects for sites that are designated both under the Ramsar Convention and the Convention on World Heritage and/or are Biosphere Reserves under the Man and Biosphere Programme (MAB) and are found to have important cultural components.


3. Practical activities for wetlands and related cultural values

3.1 A possible typology of activities and values

To systematise the cultural values related to wetlands, a typology of wetland-related activities has been considered necessary. This has been based on a matrix prepared in 2006 by Med-INA (included in Annex III) and incorporated in Table 01 below. The activities included are not exhaustive, but are intended to include the most significant ones. In a future phase, the table will be completed with additional activities indicated by experts throughout the world.

In principle, all human activities produce culture. Wetland sites are repositories of cultural aspects, both tangible and intangible, that have been left by past civilisations and their activities, many of which have been discontinued. Moreover, contemporary activities related to wetlands are creating contemporary cultural values. It is not the purpose of this guidance to attempt an assessment of such cultural values, but only to examine their pertinence to wetland management and wise use. Naturally, sustainable practice of wetland-related activities should be promoted, while unsustainable exploitation of resources -even though they may have cultural values- should be discouraged.

Table 01: Typology of wetland-related activities

1. Habitation
1.1 Cultural landscapes
1.2 Cultural heritage sites
1.3 Settlements and structures
1.3.1 Ancient sites and structures (up to 1599)
1.3.2 Traditional and modern settlements and structures
1.4 Wetland archaeology
1.5 Infrastructure
1.5.1 Terrestrial transportation networks
1.5.2 Water management facilities and networks

2. Primary uses of wetland resources
2.1 Agriculture
2.1.1. Rice cultivation
2.1.2 Other wetland related agriculture
2.2 Stock-breeding
2.3 Fishing and aquaculture
2.3.1 Artisan fisheries
2.3.2 Commercial fisheries
2.3.3 Extensive aquaculture practice
2.3.4 Intensive aquaculture facilities
2.3.5 Sports fishing
2.4 Management of forest wetland types
2.4.1 Wood products
2.4.2 Non-wood forest products
2.5 Hunting
2.5.1 Subsistence hunting
2.5.2 Sports hunting
2.6 Salt extraction
2.6.1 Artisan / traditional salinas
2.6.2 Industrial facilities
2.7 Mining and quarrying
2.7.1 Sand and gravel extraction
2.7.2 Gold mining
2.7.3 Other mineral extraction
2.8 Water use
2.8.1 Irrigation
2.8.2 Domestic use
2.8.3 Water transfer infrastructure
2.8.4 Industrial use (energy production)
2.8.5 Other water uses (water mills, saw mills etc)
2.9 Use of other wetland natural resources
2.9.1 Biomass extraction
2.9.2 Sustainable use of medicinal plants

3. Secondary use of wetland resources
3.1 Food
3.1.1 Traditional methods of food preservation
3.1.2 Culinary heritage
3.2 Craftsmanship
3.2.1 Artefacts
3.2.1.a Artefacts of ancient origin (up to 1599)
3.2.1.b Traditional and modern artefacts
3.2.2 Handicrafts and tools
3.2.2.a Handicrafts and tools of ancient origin (until 16th century)
3.2.2.b Traditional and modern handicrafts and tools
3.2.3 Transportation means (boats etc)
3.2.3.a Ancient transportation means (up to 1599)
3.2.3.b Traditional and modern transportation means.
3.3 Traditional building construction
3.3.1 Dwellings
3.3.2 Utilitarian buildings
3.3.3 Public buildings
3.4 Wetland-based traditional marketing
3.5 Tourism - eco- and cultural tourism
3.6 Leisure and sports
3.6.1 Nature appreciation
3.6.2 Hiking and mountain climbing
3.6.3 Rafting and kayaking
3.6.4 Sailing and boating
3.6.5 Diving
3.6.6 Speleology
3.7 Festivals, celebrations and events

4. Knowledge, belief systems and social practices
4.1 Scientific research and education
4.2 Traditional knowledge
4.2.1 Oral traditions and expressions
4.2.2 Languages, dialects and special terms
4.2.3 Gender, age and social class-related roles
4.2.4 Practice of traditional medicine
4.3 Spirituality and belief systems
4.4 Artistic expression

3.2 Cultural aspects of wetland-related activities

In this first phase of guidance, objectives have been assigned to most of the wetland-related activities identified in the previous section, and these objectives are shown in Table 02 below. They include most of the 'guiding principles' attached to Resolution VIII.19 of 2002, converted into objectives, with additional ones proposed in the present Guidance document (and marked 'new'). These are not intended to be exhaustive, but are only indicative and will certainly be modified in future phases of work concerning the incorporation of cultural aspects in the management of wetlands.

Guidance is presented in this document for many of these objectives, while it is expected that for the remaining ones similar guidance will be provided in a second phase of work. It is expected that further objectives will be developed in the future as the incorporation of cultural aspects in the management of wetlands will progress.

It should be noted here that all these objectives are in a context of compatibility with the wise use principle in Article 3.1 of the Ramsar Convention.

Table 02: Cultural objectives for key wetland-related activities

1. Habitation
1.1 Cultural landscapes
- O.1.1 - To safeguard wetland-related cultural landscapes (from guiding principle 3).
1.2 Cultural heritage sites
- O.1.2 - To support the recognition, study and promotion of new significant cultural heritage sites (new).
1.3 Settlements and structures
- O.1.3 - To improve the sustainability of human settlements in relation to bodies of water by increasing environmental and cultural awareness and reinforcing traditional links between humans and nature (new).
1.3.1 Ancient sites and structures (up to 1599)
- O.1.3.1 - To take carefully into account and protect ancient sites and structures in or closely associated with wetlands (new).
1.3.2 Traditional and modern settlements and structures
- O.1.3.2 - To protect characteristic / distinctive traditional and modern structures of cultural importance in or closely associated with wetlands (from guiding principle 12).
1.4 Wetland archaeology
- O.1.4a - To take all necessary measures for the protection of underwater cultural heritage (new).
- O.1.4b - To take all necessary measures for the protection of wetland heritage peat lands (new).
1.5 Infrastructure
1.5.1 Terrestrial transportation networks
- O.1.5.1 - To conserve or re-establish traditional footpaths and other traditional ways (new).
1.5.2 Water management facilities and networks
- O.1.5.2 - To promote the conservation (preferably in use) of historical and traditional infrastructure works related to water management and use and to wetlands (new).

2. Primary use of wetland resources
- O.2 - To consider the possibility of using certification labelling of sustainable traditional wetland products, in a voluntary and non-discriminatory manner (from guiding principle 26).
2.1 Agriculture
2.1.1. Rice cultivation
- O.2.1.1 - To conserve -preferably in use- the characteristic landscapes created through rice cultivation (new).
2.1.2 Other wetland related agriculture
2.2 Stock-breeding
- O.2.2 - To safeguard and promote traditional sustainable methods of stock-breeding relevant to wetlands (new).
2.3 Fishing and aquaculture
2.3.1 Artisan fisheries
- O.2.3.1 - To record and maintain sustainable traditional fishing methods in wetlands (new).
2.3.2 Commercial fisheries
2.3.3 Extensive aquaculture practice
2.3.4 Intensive aquaculture facilities
2.3.5 Sports fishing
2.4 Management of forest wetland types
2.4.1 Wood products
- O.2.4.1 - To encourage sustainable use of wood resources by indigenous peoples and local communities and give recognition to the symbolic aspects of this activity (new).
2.4.2 Non-wood forest products
2.5 Hunting
2.5.1 Subsistence hunting
- O.2.5.1 - To maintain sustainable subsistence hunting by indigenous peoples and local communities associated with their cultural values (new).
2.5.2 Sports hunting
- O.2.5.2 - To preserve the traditional social and cultural aspects of sustainable sports hunting (new).
2.6 Salt extraction
2.6.1 Artisan / traditional salinas
- O.2.6.1 - To encourage the conservation of the cultural heritage of sustainable traditional salinas (new).
2.6.2 Industrial facilities
2.7 Mining and quarrying
2.7.1 Sand and gravel extraction
2.7.2 Gold mining
2.7.3 Other mineral extraction
2.8 Water use
- O.2.8 - To preserve collective water and land use management systems associated with wetlands (from guiding principle 14).
2.8.1 Irrigation
2.8.2 Domestic use
2.8.3 Water transfer infrastructure
- O.2.8.3 - To support the documenting and preservation of knowledge related to traditional water transfer infrastructure (new).
2.8.4 Industrial use (energy production)
2.8.5 Other water uses (water mills, saw mills etc)
2.9 Use of other wetland natural resources
2.9.1 Biomass extraction
2.9.2 Exploitation of medicinal plants

3. Secondary use of wetland resources
3.1 Food processing
3.1.1 Traditional methods of food preservation
3.1.2 Culinary heritage
- O.3.1.2 - To record traditional sustainable culinary practices related to wetland products, and encourage their use in tourism and ecotourism activities (new).
3.2 Craftsmanship
3.2.1 Artefacts
3.2.1.a Artefacts of ancient origin (up to 1599)
3.2.1.b Traditional and modern artefacts
- O.3.2.1b - To protect and preserve wetland-related artefacts [mobile material heritage] (from guiding principle 13).
3.2.2 Handicrafts and tools
3.2.2.a Handicrafts and tools of ancient origin (up to 1599)
3.2.2.b Traditional and modern handicrafts and tools
- O.3.2.2b - To exhibit handicrafts and tools related to wetland activities in visitor centres and / or other appropriate facilities (new).
3.2.3 Transportation means (boats etc)
3.2.3.a Ancient transportation means (up to 1599)
3.2.3.b Traditional and modern transportation means.
- O.3.2.3b - To encourage the use of traditional sustainable means of water transport (new).
3.3 Traditional building construction
- O.3.3 - To promote the sustainable use of wetland materials (such as reeds) in building construction and in heating (new).
3.3.1 Dwellings
3.3.2 Utilitarian buildings
3.3.3 Public buildings
3.4 Wetland-based traditional marketing
3.5 Tourism - ecotourism
- O.3.5 - To introduce and safeguard the cultural aspects of wetland sites in tourism and ecotourism activities (new).
3.6 Leisure and sports
- O.3.6 - To encourage the incorporation in leisure and sport activities of traditional cultural practices (new).
3.6.1 Nature appreciation
3.6.2 Hiking and mountain climbing
3.6.3 Rafting and kayaking
3.6.4 Sailing and boating
3.6.5 Diving
3.6.6 Speleology
3.7 Social practices and methods
- O.3.7a - To maintain traditional sustainable communal management practices and promote the products resulting from these practices (from guiding principles 5 and 15).
- O.3.7b - To safeguard sustainable wetland-related traditional production systems (from guiding principle 11).
3.8 Festivals, celebrations and events
- O.3.8 - To restore stronger links to wetlands / water in social events that take place in the proximity of wetland sites (new).

4. Knowledge, belief systems and social practices
4.1 Scientific research and education
- O.4.1a - To incorporate cultural aspects in educational and interpretative activities in wetlands (from guiding principle 6).
- O.4.1b - To encourage research on palaeoenvironmental, palaeontological, anthropological and archaeological aspects of wetlands (from guiding principle 10).
- O.4.1c - To improve wetland-related communication, education and public awareness (CEPA) in relation to the cultural aspects of wetlands (from guiding principle 25).
4.2 Traditional knowledge
- O.4.2 - To record traditional knowledge, keep it alive and learn from it (from guiding principles 4 and 17).
4.2.1 Oral traditions and expressions
- O.4.2.1 - To safeguard wetland-related oral traditions (from guiding principle 16).
4.2.2 Languages, dialects and special terms
- O.4.2.2 - To encourage research and documentation of the language aspects, terms and symbolisms related to water and wetlands, especially of indigenous peoples and local communities (new).
4.2.3. Gender, age and social class-related roles
- O.4.2.3 - To take into account culturally appropriate treatment of gender, age and social role issues (from guiding principle 7).
4.2.4 Practice of traditional medicine
4.3 Spirituality and belief systems
- O.4.3a - To encourage co-operation between wetland managers and the custodians of sacred natural sites (new).
- O.4.3b - To raise awareness of nature conservation aspects in religious / spiritual activities (new).
- O.4.3c - To take into account wetland-related spiritual belief systems and mythologies in efforts to conserve wetlands (from guiding principle 18).
4.4 Artistic expression
- O.4.4 - To work with the arts to promote wetland conservation and interpretation (from guiding principle 19).
- O.4.5 - To cultivate the perception of wetlands and water as inspiration for artistic expression (new).

4. Technical guidance on objectives related to the practical activities

For a limited number of objectives, either those related to the Guiding Principles from Resolution VIII.19 or those new objectives suggested here by the CWG, guidance is provided in the form of specific suggested actions. Naturally, these actions are meant for consideration within the context of the specificities of each country and would be supplemented by additional actions considered appropriate by the Contracting Parties. In all cases of implementation of such actions, data should be kept carefully and communicated to the Ramsar Secretariat, so that the experience gained can be evaluated and disseminated for broader consideration.

4.1 Habitation

The protection of wetland-related cultural landscapes which have resulted from traditional human activities should be an important component of policy and management objectives. Traditional activities often created landscapes of considerable biodiversity and of a unique beauty, in ways which are compatible with conservation and sustainable use of the natural environment.. Examples include the sculpted rice fields in many parts of Asia, the canals of the Neretva Delta in Croatia, and the land terracing in most Mediterranean islands. In numerous parts of the world, the traditional activities that have moulded the landscape for millennia are regressing or disappearing. As a result, the landscapes dependent on them are starting to erode and may also disappear with time, leading to the loss of their cultural (and natural) values.

O.1.1
To safeguard wetland-related cultural landscapes

(from guiding principle 3)

In order to achieve the long term conservation of wetland-related cultural landscapes:
a) proceed to identify and compile inventories of cultural landscapes, including information on their conservation status and the trends affecting them;
b) encourage official recognition at the national and international level of wetland-related cultural landscapes as part of the national and, where appropriate, international heritage, with a view to according them effective protection status;
c) promote the protection of such landscapes in policies that concern them directly or may affect them indirectly;
d) ensure that such landscapes are taken into account in territorial planning and in the determination and control of land and water uses;
e) in the case of wetland-related cultural landscapes that still maintain some of the traditional activities that have formed them, as in the case of salinas (see also Objective O.2.6.1), promote economic and regulatory measures for stimulating those activities and ensuring their sustainability. Where this proves impossible, search for other means to maintain the beauty and functioning of these landscapes;
f) where environmentally appropriate and useful, promote the inclusion of wetland-related cultural landscapes in tourism promotion activities;
g) for exceptional sites, examine the feasibility of their nomination as World Heritage Cultural Landscapes.

Many human settlements of various scales, from metropolitan cities to small settlements, are associated directly with wetlands, mainly rivers and lakes. Often, the interface between the urban environment and the natural sites is not managed properly, to the detriment of both. Particular attention should therefore be paid to the sensitivities of these areas.

O.1.3
To improve the sustainability of human settlements in relation to bodies of water by increasing environmental and cultural awareness and reinforcing the traditional link between humans and nature

(new)

The actions suggested for implementing this objective are the following:
a) identify 'interface areas' between urban areas and wetlands;
b) determine the use of these interface areas for the benefit of local inhabitants and for the maintenance of the ecological character and of the ecological integrity of the wetlands;
c) provide wherever appropriate buffer zones between built areas and wetlands, for example by creation of urban parks;
d) co-ordinate wetland management plans together with city planning tools and measures that affect surrounding areas.

As human beings have lived in the proximity of wetlands for thousands of years, they have left remnants of their habitation in the form of isolated structures or of entire settlements (such as the Ancient Greek and Roman towns of Empurias in Catalonia (Spain). These remnants are highly valuable for understanding the diachronic relationships between humans and wetlands, and they can provide useful insights through archaeological research.

O.1.3.1
To take carefully into account and protect ancient sites and structures (archaeological heritage) in, or closely associated with, wetlands

(new)

Six actions are suggested for achieving the above objective:
a) recognise ancient sites in the proximity of wetlands and collect information on their history, extent and significance from bibliographic sources and from responsible services and experts;
b) incorporate these sites in the management plans of the neighbouring wetlands;
c) ascertain whether the ancient sites can be incorporated in wetland visitor programmes;
d) identify ancient structures in or in the proximity of wetlands, especially those that were used for wetland-related activities;
e) promote archaeological research on these structures;
f) include information on ancient structures and sites in wetland visitor centres and in related publicity materials.

Historical structures (buildings and settlements, hydraulic works, transport systems, etc) in wetlands or closely related to them. Considerable knowledge already exists on the conservation and restoration of such structures. Yet they are very numerous and in danger of disappearing in many places.

0.1.3.2
To protect characteristic / distinctive traditional and modern structures of cultural importance in or closely associated with wetlands

(from guiding principle 12)

The following actions may be required:
a) identify historical structures such as buildings and settlements, hydraulic works, transport systems, etc., located in wetlands or closely related to them, and compile inventories of them through description, photography and drawing, including recording their conservation status;
b) study the historical, architectural and technical characteristics of such structures, encouraging, where appropriate, schools of architecture to include work of this kind in their programmes;
c) consider assigning to these structures an appropriate protection status (such as 'listing'), and thus preserving them from demolition;
d) develop projects and/or programmes for the long-term conservation of such structures, including their restoration, maintenance and purchase if necessary;
e) if these structures cannot be restored to their initial use, consider converting them, where appropriate, into environmentally sustainable visitor centres, eco-museums, conference centres and/or hotels, with the aim of ensuring their maintenance, taking into account the sharing of benefits with the local communities and other stakeholders.

4.2 Primary use of wetland resources

The encouragement of traditional activities related to wetland resources is a powerful means of maintaining the cultural landscapes that have been beneficially influenced by these activities. One way to do this, without prejudicing free trade agreements, is to promote certified wetland products.

O.2
To consider the possibility of using certification labelling of sustainable traditional wetland products in a voluntary and non-discriminatory manner

(from guiding principle 26)

Actions required may include:
a) identify appropriate partners from the private and public sectors for promoting wetland-related products that are consistent with the maintenance of the ecological character of sites;
b) promote the quality, origin and sustainability certification labelling of wetland products as a means to increase their attractiveness and demand;
c) encourage advertising campaigns of wetland products under the responsibility of appropriate national and local authorities, as well as of interested communities and the private sector;
d) ensure that the economic benefits of these undertakings reach the local communities, thus assisting in the maintenance of traditional production activities.

In many parts of the world, and particularly in parts of Asia, traditional rice cultivation has resulted in unique cultural landscapes that merit conservation.

O.2.1.1
To conserve -preferably in use- the characteristic landscapes created through rice cultivation

(new)

Possible ways to achieve this objective are:
a) document traditional rice production practices;
b) use quality labelling for rice produced traditionally in wetlands to encourage continued cultivation;
c) investigate the possibilities of developing ecotourism in relation to traditional rice cultivation;
d) in case rice production stops being feasible, investigate other uses for rice paddies that are compatible with their landscapes.

Traditional fishing methods were historically developed in very many of the world's wetlands, but are being increasingly abandoned with the development of mechanised fishing methods and gear, and of unsustainable intensive aquaculture. Unfortunately, these new systems often result in unsustainable practices that lead to the collapse of the fisheries themselves.

O.2.3.1
To record and maintain sustainable traditional fishing methods in wetlands

(new)

To avoid the loss of traditional fishing practices, the following actions are suggested:
a) record and document traditional fishing practices, including boats and gear, and make the resulting information available to the public through publications, films and exhibitions;
b) favour traditional sustainable fishing methods, rather than intensive mechanised methods, in protected wetland sites;
c) encourage the consumption of wetland fish caught through traditional methods by incorporating them in culinary products related to ecotourism;
d) explore the potential for sustainable sport fishing activities in wetlands through local initiatives using traditional methods.

Traditional salinas have been highly valuable for the maintenance of biodiversity, as they have provided refuge for important species, while conserving notable cultural values. Such salinas are, however, rapidly disappearing due to competition from large industrial salt-producing industries, and they are being transformed to other uses (mainly resort housing and mass tourism facilities). Efforts for their maintenance have been noted in various parts of the world, but these efforts are unfortunately still too few and insufficiently systematic.

O.2.6.1
To encourage the conservation of the cultural heritage of sustainable traditional salinas
(new)

Within the constraints of free trade agreements and of economic feasibility, certain actions are proposed that may lead to the conservation of traditional salinas, as follows:
a) compile inventories, record and document traditional salinas, whether in use or abandoned;
b) evaluate the viability of operating individual traditional salinas;
c) encourage certification labelling of salt from traditional sustainable sources;
d) relate tourism / ecotourism programmes to traditional salt production;
e) support or initiate the establishment of salt museums or salt information centres;
f) assess the feasibility of restoring to use individual abandoned salinas;
g) Investigate other uses for abandoned salinas, which would maintain their natural and cultural values.

Past and present collective water and land use management systems (such as irrigation, water distribution and drainage associations, and traditional dispute settlement practices). Insufficient attention has been given to social organisation structures such as these, which, for a given period of time, have been a sophisticated and effective response to specific problems, most of them focusing on the critical resource of water and on its equitable allocation; and yet they have been integral parts of the traditional culture of many societies and may contain invaluable lessons for the present and the future. In addition, some locations and structures associated with them merit preservation.

O.2.8
To preserve collective water and land use management systems associated with wetlands

(from guiding principle 14)

The actions required may include:
a) identify, analyse and record collective water and land use management systems;
b) assess the possibility of the maintenance of such systems or, if this is not possible, their partial integration in contemporary management systems;
c) preserve and enhance the tangible elements associated with these systems;
d) incorporate the results of these actions in educational and public information activities;
e) work with local government structures and civil societies to enlist their participation in the maintenance of these systems.

4.3 Secondary use of wetland resources

Wetland-related artefacts (transport equipment and tools) may provide useful knowledge on the traditional practices associated with wetland sites.

O.3.2.1b
To protect and preserve wetland-related artefacts [mobile material heritage]

(from guiding principle 13)

The following actions may be required:
a) identify and compile inventories of all wetland-related artefacts and tools of heritage significance used in wetland sites;
b) consider ways and means to maintain such artefacts and tools in use, if at all feasible, especially in the case of traditional boats;
c) develop projects to ensure that the know-how to produce and use such artefacts and tools is suitably recorded and maintained;
d) identify and apply appropriate incentives for the maintenance, use and production of such artefacts and tools;
e) collect ancient artefacts, restore and conserve them, and mount exhibitions in local museums or in wetland visitor centres;
f) organise thematic museums, preferably close to wetland sites, if rich material of this kind is available.

Various wetland plants have been used as building materials through the ages, as well as for the construction of boats and other artefacts. The most characteristic examples relate to the Iraqi Marshes and Lake Titicaca. Even today, reeds are still being exploited for thatching roofs. Their continued use often contributes to wetland conservation.

O.3.3
To promote the sustainable use of wetland materials (such as reeds) in building construction and in heating

(new)

Important actions in this context are:
a) to compile inventories and to document the use of wetland materials in construction;
b) to investigate the possibility of sustainable use of wetland materials in contemporary buildings, either in their traditional context or in innovative ways.
c) to study the technical and financial aspects of sustainably using wetland biomass as a heating medium or for the production of energy.

Traditional self-management practices that have demonstrated their value over time should be strengthened, as they led to the empowerment of local societies, and constitute in themselves an invaluable part of the socio-cultural assets of an area. For this reason, contemporary governance approaches should be introduced in a balanced and sensitive manner taking these factors into account. The role of 'elders' or socially recognized community leaders in allocating resources equitably, for example, which has been widely respected in many countries, has had a stabilising influence which would be lost if they were replaced by government services or the private sector. Special care, therefore, should be taken when applying modern governance systems, to ensure that traditional ones are not discarded, but are instead complemented and can benefit from appropriate contemporary technological and management developments.

Traditional techniques for exploiting wetland resources (salt, rice, fish, reeds, etc.) and their associated products and structures should be encouraged. In a rapidly changing world, it is not usually possible to maintain traditional production methods and products artificially, but given their social and cultural significance and the growing interest in at least some countries in naturally-produced food, efforts should be made to maintain traditional techniques.

O.3.7a
To maintain traditional sustainable communal management practices and promote the products resulting from these practices

(from guiding principles 5 and 15)

To achieve this objective, and in conjunction with objective 4.2 on page 46, the following additional steps are suggested:
a) analyse the social characteristics of traditional self-management practices and extract lessons that may be useful for the present and the future;
b) in case of practices which have already been abandoned, assess the reasons for their abandonment and determine whether they could be re-established, wholly or in part;
c) for each new resource management proposal, evaluate the cultural and social impact that it might have (see also objective O.4.1c below on cultural impact assessment);
d) ensure the active participation in wetland management of local societies and indigenous people, using the Ramsar guidelines contained in Ramsar Handbooks 5 and 16;
e) encourage the sensitive study of the economic aspects of traditional production systems in wetlands and/or around them, and of the resulting products;
f) devise imaginative methods for promoting and marketing traditional sustainable products, including extensive use of the Internet;
g) associate local techniques and products with education and awareness campaigns on the cultural aspects of wetlands.

Wetland-related cultural landscapes are the result of traditional production and agro-ecosystems (ricefields, salinas, exploited estuaries etc.). In many cases both the landscapes and the systems are under threat due to technological innovations and changes in socio-economic conditions. There is a need to take a proactive approach to the conservation of these systems/areas and, when required, to their revitalisation.

O.3.7b
To safeguard wetland-related traditional production systems and the resulting landscapes

(from guiding principle 11)

The required actions may include the following:
a) conduct a detailed inventory of the cultural landscapes in each country, including the identification of traditional production activities that have created them, recording also their conservation status and the prospects for their long-term viability;
b) promote in-depth studies of the sustainability of the activities that originated the cultural landscapes and those activities that are currently being practised;
c) identify complementary activities that can reinforce the economic viability of such activities (such as education, ecotourism and sports);
d) work with governments and, where appropriate, aid agencies and international donors, to develop programmes aimed at the long-term conservation of wetland-related cultural landscapes.

4.4 Knowledge, belief systems and social practices

The cultural aspects of wetlands have the potential to become a strong element of interest and attraction for a considerable percentage of visitors, bringing benefits to local populations and demonstrating the importance of wetlands; but this will not occur automatically. Educational and interpretative activities in wetlands (ecotourism and cultural routes, eco-museums, etc.) should be promoted in an organised and consistent manner, taking into account the sensitivities and carrying capacity of each site.

O.4.1a
To incorporate cultural aspects in educational and interpretative activities in wetlands

(from guiding principle 6)

In order to incorporate cultural aspects in educational and interpretative activities at wetland sites, the following actions are suggested:
a) take into account all appropriate cultural aspects in management planning, and treat them distinctly in all its phases, from preliminary inventories and analysis to final management measures;
b) make provision to provide appropriate infrastructure, facilities and services for visitors, by including these in spatial planning instruments for wetland sites and their surrounding areas;
c) institute visitor management and monitoring tools and mechanisms to minimise the damage that visitors may cause to fragile habitats and other sensitive elements of the natural and cultural heritage. (Special attention should be given to the control of mechanised traffic, which should be restricted to prescribed areas only, while alternative means of transport should be provided.);
d) give specific attention to the cultural aspects of wetlands in eco-museums, visitor centres and other similar facilities, and consider the production of publications on this issue.

Paleontological and archaeological records in wetland water sediments and especially peat. In some cases, the first requirement on this matter could be the promotion of applied research. This is necessary because a large part of the cultural heritage of wetlands is still hidden and its discovery, conservation and enhancement present scientific and practical problems. As funds for such research are often limited and the time necessary for it long, rapid survey methods may provide a cost- and time-effective approach. The results of such research could improve vastly the existing knowledge of wetland cultural heritage, and could also help in raising public awareness of the cultural richness existing in them, thus augmenting substantially their values and attraction both to local inhabitants and visitors. The second requirement is to encourage an interest in cultural values among specialist groups such as the International Peat Society, the International Mire Conservation Group, the Society of Wetland Scientists and others.

O.4.1b
To encourage research on palaeoenvironmental, palaeontological, anthropological and archaeological aspects of wetlands

(from guiding principle 10)

The following actions may be required:
a) promote thematic applied research, as well as archaeological fieldwork on specific sites, through systematic programmes of survey and excavation, on issues that may include
- historic models of wetland resource use, providing also useful lessons for future sustainable use;
- effects of re-wetting on organic archaeological and palaeo-environmental evidence, including issues of water quality;
- history of the hydrology of cultural heritage sites;
- development of new methods for rapid assessment of potential cul- tural content in cases of imminent threat;
- preservation of archaeological remains in situ, to analyse the changing burial environment of wetland sites; and
- balancing educational and recreational access to wetlands with the need to protect their archaeological heritage;
b) develop rapid survey methods to assess wetland sites with high scientific potential in which efforts should be concentrated in a first phase;
c) use the results of such research for education and public awareness purposes, to enhance knowledge and appreciation of wetland values;
d) encourage specialist wetland groups to include cultural values in their programmes.

Wetland-related communication, education and public awareness (CEPA) actions concerning the cultural aspects of wetlands should be instituted and strengthened as they are practically non-existent at present. The reasons for this deficiency may be limited understanding and appreciation of the issues, as well as lack of appropriate material and of trained personnel.

O.4.1c
To improve wetland-related communication, education and public awareness (CEPA) in relation to the cultural aspects of wetlands

(from guiding principle 25)

Actions required may include the following:
a) sensitise teachers at the various levels of education, starting with schools in the vicinity of major wetland sites, about the cultural aspects of these sites;
b) develop educational and public awareness materials and training modules;
c) encourage the production and dissemination of videos and films on the cultural aspects of wetlands;
d) design and launch public awareness campaigns, addressed to local inhabitants, wetland visitors and wider publics, on the values and significance of the cultural aspects of wetlands and their potential recovery where they are being lost or abandoned;
e) incorporate the promotion of the cultural aspects of wetlands in national and local tourism campaigns, taking into account the particular sensitivities and the carrying capacity of each wetland in relation to the potential tourism activities;
f) use the mass media and wetland-related traditional festivals as means to disseminate information and foster appreciation of wetland cultural values.

Invaluable lessons can be learned from traditional approaches to water and wetland resources management (especially sustainable use, floods, recurrent drought and desalinization), which can be useful in developing contemporary approaches to the same issues. These approaches are still practiced in many parts of the world, such as the Saharan oases, with highly effective and sustainable results.

Wetland-related traditional knowledge. The Convention on Biological Diversity is considering this issue through the Ad-Hoc Open-ended Inter Sessional Working Group on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions. The Ad-Hoc Group defines traditional knowledge as "the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities around the world. Developed from experience gained over the centuries and adapted to the local culture and environment, traditional knowledge is transmitted orally from generation to generation. It tends to be collectively owned and takes the form of stories, songs, folklore, proverbs, cultural values, beliefs, rituals, community laws, local language, and agricultural practices, including the development of plant species and animal breeds. Traditional knowledge is mainly of a practical nature, particularly in such fields as agriculture, fisheries, health, horticulture, and forestry." In addition, especially in medicine, there is a resurgence of the systematic practising of traditional methods, including the use of medicinal plants, hot springs, mud baths, etc.

O.4.2
To record traditional knowledge, keep it alive and learn from it

(from guiding principles 4 and 17)

Before promoting and trying to incorporate new water management technologies and approaches:
a) make an inventory of the traditional approaches to water resources management, both those still being practised and, if possible, those that have been abandoned;
b) undertake a careful analysis and assessment of their advantages and weaknesses;
c) study the possibilities of improving these approaches through the careful use of cost-effective contemporary and innovative methods. The goal should be to meld the old with the new, not necessarily to replace the traditional practices;
d) test the resulting composite approaches in selected pilot cases; and
e) make the lessons learnt widely known, in developing and developed countries alike.

Additional actions required may include the following:
a) search for linkages between traditional knowledge and wetlands, and in particular with wetland flora;
b) establish systematic cooperation with the organizations interested in this matter, such as the Society for Economic Botany, the International Society for Ethnobiology, the Centre for International Ethnomedicinal Education and Research, the Society for Medical Anthropology, and others;
c) urge that the Ad-Hoc Open-ended Inter-Sessional Working Group on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity incorporates fully all wetland-related issues in its work and that the Ramsar Administrative Authorities and the Ramsar Secretariat contribute to the preparation of the CBD's Composite report on the status and trends regarding the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity;
d) disseminate information about traditional medicines related to wetlands as part of public awareness activities, and encourage the trend towards usine again traditional medicines in societies that had, to a large extent, abandoned them, in relation to wetlands and water resources aspects.

Wetland-related oral traditions are still maintained and transmitted by word of mouth from generation to generation in many societies, and in particular among indigenous people, as a means of transmitting knowledge and social values. In many societies, though, as the means of communication and of information storage and dissemination has become more sophisticated, starting with printing and expanding with electronic and digital means, some of these traditions have not been considered important enough to be recorded. They are thus in great danger of being forgotten and lost.

O.4.2.1
To safeguard wetland-related oral traditions

(from guiding principle 16)

The following actions may be required:
a) record in a systematic manner wetland-related oral traditions;
b) promote the appreciation of the value of these traditions as part of the cultural heritage and encourage local groups to maintain them;
c) consider establishing an archive of oral traditions in digital form; and
d) disseminate by all appropriate means the information collected.

Gender, age and social role issues should be explicitly taken into account to identify the roles played in relation to cultural aspects by women and men and by members of a given social group at different stages of their life cycles. In the case of women, in many cases, they are the custodians of traditional management practices and social patterns (such as modes of preparing food), are in charge of natural resources use, in particular water, and are the ones who transmit cultural values to new generations. Men, in turn, may be the custodians and practitioners of particular cultural practices, such as hunting, an activity with strong cultural components, both in traditional and modern societies. Members of the group may have particular roles according to their age, for example as members of the group that have all had their initiation into adulthood at the same time, youth groups (both of men and women), and elders. In addition, there are social roles that have strong and significant cultural components, including those of the traditional or elected local authority, local land owners and business leaders, teachers, medical doctors, religious figures, artists, traditional healers, shamans, and fortune-tellers. Thus gender, age and social role issues should be taken into account in the entire process, starting from the planning and inventory phases.

O.4.2.3
To take into account culturally appropriate treatment of gender, age and social role issues

(from guiding principle 7)

In order to ensure an adequate and equitable treatment of gender, age and social role issues in relation to the cultural aspects of wetlands, the following actions are suggested:
a) invite representatives of local women's and men's groups, different age groups and members of the community with recognized and valued social roles to participate in the initial inventory of wetland cultural aspects and in the characterisation of their significance;
b) evaluate ways and means to involve these groups and individuals in an appropriate manner in wetland management;
c) ensure an active role for such groups and individuals in education and public awareness campaigns directed at appreciating the cultural aspects of wetlands, as a tool to ensure their effective management; and
d) promote the participation of community groups in the development of tourist and other income-earning activities related to cultural aspects, ensuring that there is no discrimination due to gender and/or age in the access to the benefits.

A number of wetlands include sacred sites regarded as such by indigenous people or by people in mainstream faiths. This has often led to misunderstanding and conflicts between wetland managers and the custodians of the sacred sites, as has happened for example with the famous El Rocío yearly pilgrimage through the Doñana National Park in Spain. It is advisable, therefore, to cultivate collaboration between the two sides, which can lead to synergy and mutual benefit.

O.4.3a
To encourage co-operation between wetland managers and the custodians of sacred natural sites

(new)

To achieve co-operation, the following actions are proposed:
a) recognise officially the sacred character of specific natural elements and the inherent rights associated with them;
b) invite the custodians of sacred natural sites to participate in the preparation, approval and implementation of management plans for relevant protected areas;
c) invite these custodians to participate in an equitable manner in the management bodies of relevant protected areas;
d) establish consultation mechanisms between the two sides in order to resolve amicably emerging issues of conflicting land uses and practices.

Wetland-related religious aspects, beliefs and mythology: Religion in its broader interpretation, most often solidly based on a long historical development, can be an important medium for reaching and mobilising large numbers of people in many parts of the world. Traditional religious links with water can be strengthened to convey a powerful ecological message. Beliefs and mythology, in particular creation myths, may also have a powerful significance for the conservation of wetlands, in particular those in, or related to, sacred sites.

O.4.3c
To take into account wetland-related spiritual belief systems and mythologies in efforts to conserve wetlands

(from guiding principle 18)

The following actions may be required:
a) study in detail for each religion, belief and mythological system its links with nature, water and wetland resources, drawing on the active participation of religious institutions and leaders, and the custodians and practitioners of the belief and mythological systems in indigenous and local communities;
b) use this knowledge to present the conservation and sustainable use message in appropriate forms;
c) work with churches and/or religious leaders and appropriate members of indigenous and local communities to encourage them to convey these messages and to participate actively in the efforts for environmental conservation as an integral part of respectful management of the Creation.

The arts can provide a very significant vehicle for approaching and sensitising the wider public to wetland-related values and wetland issues. In all societies, the arts play an important role, and in many of them the arts are embedded in the structure of the culture and are of particular significance. The 'arts' include all forms of popular art, as well as the professional expressions in the fields of music, singing, dance, painting, literature and cinema production.

O.4.4
To work with the arts to promote wetland conservation and interpretation

(from guiding principle 19)

The required actions may include:
a) identify art forms and specific works that have been inspired by or based upon wetlands and water, in cooperation with artists and art-related institutions at the local and national level;
b) use and promote artistic expressions as means to advance the conservation and wise use of wetlands;
c) cultivate the interest of the art community in the full range of wetland values, and in wetland and water management issues;
d) incorporate appropriate art in visitor facilities and interpretation, and especially in eco-museums; and
e) sensitise wetland managers, and all those involved with wetlands and water, to culture and to the art forms that express it.


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Appendix I

Resolution VIII.19

Guiding principles for taking into account the cultural values of wetlands for the effective management of sites

1. ACKNOWLEDGING that the ancient and intimate links of traditional societies to wetlands and water have given rise to important cultural values relevant to wetland conservation and wise use, which have been recognized in the diverse cosmologies of different civilizations and cultures throughout history;

2. FURTHER ACKNOWLEDGING that the specific physical features of wetlands have contributed to particular ways of managing traditional activities through structures, procedures, techniques and specially designed artefacts which are of great cultural significance;

3. RECOGNIZING that peoples' relations with wetlands have given rise to aspects of non-material culture, through folklore, music, mythology, oral traditions, customs, traditional knowledge and popular wisdom, and that their reflection can be found in social practices and the traditional forms of social organization for managing wetland resources, and especially water;

4. FURTHER RECOGNIZING that sustainable traditional uses of wetland resources have frequently created cultural landscapes of significant value to wetland conservation and wise use;

5. AWARE that the cultural values of wetlands have been and still are of great importance to societies living in wetlands and their surroundings, and constitute part of their identity; thus their loss may not only contribute to their alienation from wetlands, but also cause significant negative social and ecological impacts;

6. RECOGNIZING that cultural knowledge of wetlands constitutes a collective legacy for today's societies;

7. AWARE that most of the knowledge about practices, and practices themselves, of traditional wetland management in the diverse cultures have contributed to wetland conservation and wise use over millennia, and continue to contribute to it;

8. FURTHER AWARE that in addition to their spiritual dimension of this knowledge and other aspects of past wetland management, such values can be of considerable socio-economic importance, since they can be used as a resource for sustainable tourism and recreational activities and, through them, contribute to an increase of income and quality of life for the inhabitants;

9. CONSCIOUS of the fact that the adequate recognition of and support for cultural heritage, both material and non-material, is an indispensable component in any process for the sustainable use of wetland resources;

10. RECOGNIZING that there are important weaknesses and gaps in the procedures and methods for identifying, valuing and protecting the cultural heritage of wetlands, as well as in defining and implementing policies related to them;

11. NOTING that the profound and rapid social and economic transformations that have taken place during recent decades have increasingly threatened the adequate preservation of the cultural heritage that is typical of wetlands in many parts of the world;

12. RECOGNIZING that there are various multilateral agreements and organizations that work to recognize and protect cultural values and relationships with ecosystems including wetlands;

13. ACKNOWLEDGING that the Ramsar Convention needs to work in cooperation with multilateral and regional agreements and other bodies addressing the need for resolute action to preserve the cultural heritage, including among others:

  • the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (Paris, 1972);
  • the Call of Granada (1975) of the Council of Europe on Rural architecture and its landscape;
  • Recommendation 881 (1979) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Rural architecture heritage;
  • UNESCO's activities in the promotion of the conservation of cultural heritage;
  • the general principles for conservation proposed by the Vernacular Built Heritage Charter (Jerusalem, 1996), ratified by the XI General Assembly of the International Council of Monuments and Historical Sites (ICOMOS);
  • the various recommendations of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for the protection, conservation, legal status, economic exploitation, and international protection of folklore;
  • the Convention on Biological Diversity, in particular concerning its Decision VI/10 of the Conference of the Contracting Parties on the Outline of the composite report on the status and trends regarding the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and the plan and timetable for its preparation; and on Recommendations for the conduct of cultural, environmental and social impact assessment regarding developments proposed to take place on, or which are likely to impact on, sacred sites and on lands and waters traditionally occupied or used by indigenous and local communities;
  • the European Landscape Convention (Florence, 2000);
  • the Convention concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (International Labour Organisation No. 169, 5 September 1991); and
  • the Permanent Forum of Indigenous People.

14. RECALLING that inter alia the text of the Ramsar Convention already recognizes, in the third paragraph of its preamble, "that wetlands constitute a resource of great economic, cultural, scientific, and recreational value, the loss of which would be irreparable" and FURTHER RECALLING that COP7 adopted Guidelines for establishing and strengthening local communities' and indigenous peoples' participation in the management of wetlands (Resolution VII.8); and

15. NOTING the background documentation and examples on the cultural aspects of wetlands from around the world presented during Technical Session 5 of this meeting of the Conference of the Parties;

THE CONFERENCE OF THE CONTRACTING PARTIES

16. TAKES NOTE WITH INTEREST of the list of Guiding Principles included in the Annex to this Resolution;

17. REQUESTS that the Ramsar Bureau seek inputs from Contracting Parties, experts and practitioners, and local communities and indigenous peoples from around the world to enhance the information paper on cultural aspects of wetlands (COP8 DOC. 15) and the detailed guidance prepared for consideration by this meeting of the Conference of the Parties, with a view to publishing it as a background document, and to inform COP9 of the progress made;

18. ENCOURAGES Contracting Parties to consider using the list of Guiding principles included in the Annex to this Resolution, but only in relation the conservation and enhancement of the cultural values of wetlands;

19. FURTHER ENCOURAGES Contracting Parties, within their national and legal frameworks and available resources and capacity:

a) to consider the compilation and assessment of both material and non-material cultural elements related to wetlands and water, in particular when preparing the Ramsar Information Sheet (RIS) for the designation of new Wetlands of International Importance or when updating the RIS of existing Ramsar sites, taking into account, as appropriate, intellectual property rights, customary law, and the principle of prior informed consent, in accordance with CBD and WIPO rules;

b) to promote the appreciation and revitalization, of these cultural values among populations close to wetlands, and in general among the wider public;

c) to include relevant aspects of cultural heritage in both the design and implementation of wetland management plans;

d) to make efforts to integrate cultural and social impact criteria into environmental assessments, which could include, inter alia, issues of particular cultural concern, such as beliefs and religions, customary practices, forms of social organization, systems of natural resources use, including patterns of land use, places of cultural significance, sacred sites and ritual ceremonies, languages, customary lore/law systems, political structures, roles and customs;

e) to carry out such efforts with the active participation of indigenous peoples, local communities and other stakeholders, and to consider using the cultural values of wetlands as a tool to strengthen this involvement, particularly in wetland planning and management;

20. ENCOURAGES Contracting Parties to recognize cultural and heritage values relating to wetlands in their existing heritage protection, legal framework and policies;

21. INVITES Contracting Parties to consider conducting appropriate joint educational and training activities with regard to the cultural values of wetlands, as well as to consider developing pilot projects for testing on a local, regional and national scale with a view to further improving the application and/or integration of the Guiding Principles in wetland conservation and wise use;

22. ENCOURAGES Contracting Parties to establish appropriate consultation mechanisms at regional or national levels, in order to consider how the Guiding Principles might be applied in developing and promoting the cultural values of wetlands; and

23. URGES Contracting Parties and the Ramsar Bureau to develop synergies and to avoid duplication of efforts with the relevant multilateral agreements, such as those mentioned in paragraph 13 above.

Annex

Guiding principles for taking into account the cultural values of wetlands for the effective management of sites

General principles

1. This document proposes a number of general principles for identifying, preserving and reinforcing the cultural values of wetlands, which could be supplemented with additional ones at future meetings of the Conference of the Parties as more knowledge and experience are obtained. Some of them may overlap, but this is only natural as cultural values are often related and require an integrative approach.

2. There is a strong link between wetland conservation and benefits to people. In addition, a positive correlation between conservation and the sustainable use of wetlands has been repeatedly demonstrated. Therefore, conservation requires the involvement of indigenous peoples and local communities and cultural values offer excellent opportunities for this.

Guiding principle 1 - To identify the cultural values and relevant associated partners.

Guiding principle 2 - To link the cultural aspects of wetlands with those of water.

Guiding Principle 3 - To safeguard the wetland-related cultural landscapes.

Guiding principle 4 - To learn from traditional approaches.

Guiding principle 5 - To maintain traditional sustainable self-management practices.

Guiding principle 6 - To incorporate cultural aspects in educational and interpretive activities in wetlands.

Guiding principle 7 - To take into account culturally appropriate treatment of gender, age and social role issues.

Guiding principle 8 - To bridge the differences of approach between natural and social sciences.

Guiding principle 9- To mobilise international cooperation in matter of culture issues related to wetlands.

Guiding principle 10 - To encourage research on palaeoenvironmental, palaeontological, anthropological and archaeological aspects of wetlands.

Guiding principle 11 - To safeguard wetland-related traditional production systems.

Guiding principle 12 - To protect historical structures in wetlands or closely associated with them.

Guiding principle 13 - To protect and preserve wetland-related artefacts (mobile material heritage).

Guiding principle 14 - To preserve collective water and land use management systems associated with wetlands.

Guiding principle 15 - To maintain traditional sustainable practices used in and around wetlands, and value the products resulting from these practices.

Guiding principle 16 - To safeguard wetland-related oral traditions.

Guiding principle 17 - To keep traditional knowledge alive.

Guiding principle 18 - To respect wetland-related religious and spiritual beliefs and mythological aspects in the efforts to conserve wetlands.

Guiding principle 19 - To use the arts to promote wetland conservation and interpretation.

Guiding principle 20 - To incorporate cultural aspects, where available, in the Ramsar Information Sheet (RIS) for the description of Wetlands of International Importance, whilst ensuring the protection of traditional rights and interests.

Guiding principle 21 - To incorporate the cultural aspects of wetlands in management planning.

Guiding principle 22 - To include cultural values in wetland monitoring processes.

Guiding principle 23 - To consider the use of institutional and legal instruments for conservation and protection of cultural values in wetlands.

Guiding principle 24 - To integrate cultural and social criteria into environmental impact assessments.

Guiding principle 25 - To improve wetland-related communication, education and public awareness (CEPA) in the matter of the cultural aspects of wetlands.

Guiding principle 26 - To consider the possibility of using quality labeling of sustainable traditional wetland products in a voluntary and non-discriminatory manner.

Guiding principle 27 - To encourage cross-sectoral cooperation.



Appendix II

Resolution IX.21

Taking into account the cultural values of wetlands

1. AWARE that wetlands and water resources in all parts of the world have been focal points for people and societies, providing vital services and being places where local communities and indigenous peoples have developed strong cultural connections and sustainable use practices;

2. ALSO AWARE that wetlands are especially important to local communities and indigenous peoples and that these groups must have a decisive voice in matters concerning their cultural heritage;

3. FURTHER AWARE that a great number of Ramsar wetlands hold significant cultural values linked to the ecological functioning of these wetlands.

4. RECALLING that the Ramsar Convention from its beginning has recognized the cultural values of wetlands in its Preamble, as well as recognizing that cultural actions may be determined by ecological processes and vice versa;

5. APPRECIATING that the wise use of wetlands, the foundation of the Ramsar Convention, requires taking seriously into account these cultural values as they may assist in strengthening or re-establishing the links between people and wetlands, and giving cultural values greater recognition within the Convention;

6. NOTING Resolution VIII.19 Guiding principles for taking into account the cultural values of wetlands for the effective management of sites, adopted by COP8, and the need for its implementation;

7. TAKING ALSO INTO ACCOUNT a) Resolution VII.8 Guidelines for establishing and strengthening local communities' and indigenous peoples' participation in the management of wetlands, adopted by COP7, and b) paragraph 30 of Resolution VIII.10 on "additional criteria and guidelines for the identification and designation of Ramsar sites concerning socio-economic and cultural values and functions that are relevant to biological diversity … which would be applied on each occasion in conjunction with one or more existing criteria for the identification and designation of Ramsar sites";

8. AWARE of the work undertaken by the Scientific and Technical Review Panel during the 2003-2005 triennium concerning the inclusion of the cultural importance of wetlands in Ramsar site designation processes;

9. MINDFUL that the Ramsar Convention needs to work in cooperation with multilateral and regional agreements and other international bodies, within their respective mandates, addressing cultural heritage issues as they relate to wetlands, and NOTING the role of the World Heritage Convention in the protection of cultural heritage; and

10. NOTING the presentations and discussions during the COP9 Technical Session 2 on 'Culture and knowledge in wetland management';

THE CONFERENCE OF THE CONTRACTING PARTIES

11. ENCOURAGES the Contracting Parties to identify and analyze further case studies of wetlands with significant cultural values and make them widely known, thus increasing the knowledge and understanding of the relationship between cultural processes and wetland conservation and wise use;

12. AGREES that in the application of the existing criteria for identifying Wetlands of International Importance, a wetland may also be considered of international importance when, in addition to relevant ecological values, it holds examples of significant cultural values, whether material or non-material, linked to its origin, conservation and/or ecological functioning;

13. FURTHER ENCOURAGES Contracting Parties to incorporate cultural values in wetland policies and strategies, as well as in wetland management plans, and to communicate the results, thus contributing to the development of comprehensive and integrated approaches;

14. EMPHASIZES that measures taken with respect to this Resolution in accordance with the Ramsar Convention are consistent with Parties' rights and obligations under other international agreements;

15. IDENTIFIES the following cultural characteristics as relevant in the designation of Ramsar sites:

i) sites which provide a model of wetland wise use, demonstrating the application of traditional knowledge and methods of management and use that maintain the ecological character of the wetland;

ii) sites which have exceptional cultural traditions or records of former civilizations that have influenced the ecological character of the wetland;

iii) sites where the ecological character of the wetland depends on the interaction with local communities or indigenous peoples;

iv) sites where relevant non-material values such as sacred sites are present and their existence is strongly linked with the maintenance of the ecological character of the wetland;

16. INSTRUCTS the Ramsar Secretariat to complete, through a broad participatory process, the work prescribed in paragraph 17 of Resolution VIII.19 concerning the guidance to be provided on cultural values;

17. REQUESTS the Ramsar Secretariat to establish a multi-disciplinary working group on the cultural values of wetlands, with a balanced geographic representation, under the supervision of Standing Committee, with appropriate input from the STRP, to coordinate the activities described above; and

18. FURTHER REQUESTS the Ramsar Secretariat to analyse the activities carried out to incorporate cultural values in the work of the Convention during the triennium 2006-2008 and the experience gained, and to report to the Standing Committee and to the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP10).


Appendix III: Ramsar Cultural Aspects Matrix

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