Report of the 43rd meeting of the Standing Committee
CONVENTION ON WETLANDS (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)
43rd Meeting of the Standing Committee
Gland, Switzerland, 31 October - 4 November 2011
Tuesday, 1 November
Agenda item 1: Opening statements (texts are available on the Ramsar website)
1. Mr Yeon-Chul Yoo (Republic of Korea), Chair of the Standing Committee, welcomed the participants and noted that the present meeting (SC43) is the last chance to complete the required preparations for the 11th meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP11), and he therefore hoped that the participants would participate actively and cooperatively to reach useful conclusions. He observed that next year, with Rio+20, will be a crucial one for the environment, and it presents a valuable opportunity for assessing progress of the Rio conventions and charting the future. It is very important for the Ramsar Convention to cooperate with the other MEAs, especially the Rio conventions, and important that Ramsar should participate fully in the Rio+20 process. He expressed hope that we could solve issues like the hosting of the Secretariat and budgetary matters and be able to focus on the main business of the Convention.
2. Ms Julia Marton-Lefevre, Director General of IUCN, welcomed the participants to the IUCN Conservation Centre and stressed the importance of the present meeting in preparing for a fruitful COP11. She reaffirmed IUCN's commitment to continue hosting the Ramsar Secretariat and stressed the unique suitability of IUCN to provide the right platform for Ramsar. She noted the importance of ending the current uncertainty about hosting arrangements and congratulated Mr Koba of Indonesia, Chair of the SC's Ad Hoc Working Group, for his diligent efforts to bring that matter to completion.
3. Ms Marton-Lefevre drew attention to the key events that will be taking place in 2012, including the Rio+20 meeting in Brazil, IUCN's Congress in the Republic of Korea, the CBD's COP11 in Hyderabad, and the UNFCCC COP in December. She noted Ramsar's important place amongst the biodiversity-related conventions working jointly to achieve the ambitious Aichi Targets for 2020, especially in driving forward action on Target 14 on restoring and safeguarding ecosystems that provide essential services such as those related to water. She urged that the Parties look at all of the Draft Resolutions (DRs) under review through the lens of the biodiversity crisis and meeting the Aichi Targets by 2020. She promised IUCN's support, both in the new joint MOC with all the IOPs and in Ramsar's Joint Work Plan with the relevant programmes of IUCN, among other initiatives.
4. Mark Smith of IUCN, speaking on behalf of the International Organization Partners (IOPs), observed that the present meeting would advance the setting of priorities for COP11 and therefore for the next triennium. He reported that the IOPs would welcome greater alignment of Ramsar's Strategic Plan with the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, and suggested a more radical restructuring by reframing the Strategic Plan using the same high-level goals and targets, whilst retaining Ramsar-related activities. The IOPs feel that the urgency of helping to meet the Aichi Targets puts the issue of institutional hosting of the Secretariat into sharp relief. Either hosting arrangement would be workable, but it is clear that a change of host will be costly and time-consuming, and the IOPs urged Parties to bring this long debate to a close and prevent it from continuing as a substantial distraction.
5. Dr Smith continued that it is vital that Ramsar should continue to engage actively with the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and he said that the IOPs welcome coordination with the Global Wetland Observing System partnership (GWOS) and the TEEB Water and Wetlands study. He also welcomed the Draft Resolutions that refer to sectors outside of a narrow wetland management focus, but he noted that the IOPs share a concern that the Small Grants Fund (SGF) seems to be drying up. He urged the Parties to take the lead in assisting other regions as the Swiss Grant and Wetlands for the Future Fund have helped Africa and the Neotropics. He noted that the Ramsar Secretariat's capacity is extremely stretched, as it struggles to maintain the full range of partnerships that have developed, and he urged the Parties to seriously consider scaling up that capacity.
6. Mr Anada Tiéga, Secretary General (SG) of the Convention, expressed his appreciation to the Chair and participants, IOPs, STRP, and Secretariat staff, and introduced three new staff members. He warmly thanked the Parties that have contributed financial and in-kind support for the COP11 preparatory regional meetings and for facilitating the implementation of the Changwon Declaration. He noted the opportunity of the Convention's 40th anniversary to take stock of achievements and consider how emerging circumstances affect the implementation of the Convention. He hoped that the Draft Resolutions to be considered by the SC would be a foundation for our future strategic and operational direction. He asked for the full support of all Parties for the COP to be held in Romania in June 2012.
Signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation between the Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention and Martin Spray, Chief Executive of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.
7. The SG thanked Mr Spray and the WWT and noted that the MOC largely confirms cooperation that has been going on for a long time and will continue.
8. Martin Spray noted that the relationship between WWT and Ramsar goes back to long before the signing of the Convention in 1971, as WWT founder Peter Scott was an early advocate and the keynote speaker at the Ramsar meeting in 1971, and Geoffrey Matthews was Director of Research. Established in 1946, WWT now operates nine wetland centres (six of which are Ramsar Sites) with 2,500 hectares of wetlands, hosts a million visitors a year, including 60,000 schoolchildren, has 600 staff members, and is working increasingly around the world. He noted that it may seem surprising that WWT is not already among the Ramsar IOPs and said that such a suggestion would be welcome.
Agenda item 2: Adoption of the agenda
9. The Chair introduced the revised version of the agenda. The agenda was adopted by consensus.
Agenda item 3: Admission of observers
10. The Deputy Secretary General (DSG) noted that, though Contracting Party observers and permanent observers do not need to be admitted, four additional participants can be formally admitted. All of the observers were admitted.
Agenda item 4: Matters arising from decisions of SC42
11. The DSG noted that all but two items from SC42 have been covered either intersessionally or in other SC43 agenda items. He drew attention to DOC. SC43-07, which proposes to eliminate time spent in COP plenaries with Parties' updates to information reported in COP Information Papers by inviting Parties to submit corrections and updates to the Secretariat by a deadline prior to the COP so that a Rev. 1 can be prepared for the COP discussions.
12. The USA suggested that the President of the COP should also invite delegates to submit updates, if necessary, for a Rev. 2 to be issued by the end of the meeting.
13. Switzerland suggested a deadline of two weeks rather than one, to give the Secretariat more time to prepare the Rev. 1 paper. She also pointed out that many of the Draft Resolutions (DRs) have far too many paragraphs to actually be read, especially preambular paragraphs which are not part of what is being resolved. She said that it would be more efficient to keep the DRs slim and readable, streamlined, and focused on what is to be done, rather than having them left unread.
14. Canada urged that Parties be reminded of the policy early and repeatedly, and separately rather than in a pile of other COP papers. She asked for clarification of the phrase "matters of substance", which seems too subjective.
15. Thailand suggested that regional meetings should be used to facilitate input of information on the Status of Ramsar Sites info paper.
16. The DSG welcomed the suggestion of a two week deadline and proposed that the remaining regional meetings should be invited to submit such information, and he affirmed that the COP President will be asked to guide the process during the COP. He agreed about the length of many of the DRs but cautioned against being too prescriptive about their length. He noted that he has been trying to introduce helpful section headings into some of the longer DRs for greater clarity, but agreed that they should be "no longer than absolutely necessary" and suggested that that should be kept in mind as the SC reviews them during this week. He promised to think further about clarifying "matters of substance".
Decision SC43-1: The Standing Committee agreed that the "Guidance to Parties for providing input for COP information documents" annexed to DOC. SC43-07, with the proposed amendments and clarification of the meaning of "matters of substance", should be finalized and made available to Contracting Parties, including as a COP11 Information Paper and specifically drawn to the attention of all Parties and delegates who will participate in the COP.
17. The Senior Advisor for Asia-Oceania, Lew Young, made a PowerPoint presentation providing background on the Changwon Declaration and the need for reporting back on its uptake and promotion. He noted that the Ramsar Regional Centre - East Asia (RRC-EA) has hosted well-attended annual meetings for the Changwon Declaration network, and these have shown the need for an "implementation plan" with case studies to allow for measuring progress and identifying gaps. A consultant is presently drafting such a plan, which should be ready by February and presented for COP consideration The Senior Advisor explained that the plan is not a new thing to be implemented but rather a way of reaching out to other sectors. He stressed the importance of identifying and involving all potential stakeholders and finding ways of being more inclusive in projects. He noted that the relevant indicator questions in the National Reports for COP11 are being analyzed and will be reported.
18. The SC Chair said that he attended the Changwon Declaration Network meeting in August and indicated that the Republic of Korea will continue to provide assistance for these efforts.
19. The DSG noted the proposal to add references to the Changwon Declaration to the Strategic Plan at midterm, and he reaffirmed the importance of engagement with other sectors.
20. Uganda recalled that COP10 intended to make the Changwon Declaration a living process, to see what is working and what not, so he suggested a need to pilot some of its ideas at country or local level.
21. The Marshall Islands, speaking for Australia, supported implementing the Changwon Declaration but indicated that Australia does not support any additional reporting process in this regard. The DSG reassured that the National Reports are the appropriate place to report and confirmed that there is no wish to add any new reporting requirements.
22. The Islamic Republic of Iran considered the Declaration an added value for the Convention and a good example of partnership building, and he urged the exchange of best practices for implementing the Declaration's goals.
Agenda item 5: Report of the Subgroup on COP11
23. Romania, Chair of the Subgroup on COP11, presented the report of the Subgroup, which covered such items as the COP logo and slogan (which were greeted with applause), the encouraging financial situation, the COP website now under development, hotel reservations for sponsored delegates arranged by MKA (a contact will be provided through whom other Parties may reserve), availability of meeting rooms at the venue, the proposal for a ministerial segment, complimentary excursions during the COP and a selection of other pre- and post-COP excursions, and a report from Ramsar staff on logistical preparations on the Secretariat's side.
24. Cameroon drew attention to the fact that no ministerial segment per se was being planned, for budgetary reasons, but felt that there would not really be any budgetary or time constraints. He felt that a ministerial segment would be very valuable in terms of visibility for the Convention and would help to clarify and streamline the COP's issues. He recalled that at COP10, it was postponed to COP11, and now to COP12, and he felt that it was going to be postponed indefinitely.
25. The SG explained that Ramsar has never had any experience in organizing a high level segment, but always welcomes ministers who wish to participate in the COP. He recalled that the Ramsar Contracting Parties make no core budgetary provisions at all for the holding of the Conference of the Parties. Romania has expressed a willingness to welcome and facilitate the discussions of any ministers who wish to come, but is not in a position to send a letter inviting ministers, with all the expectations and commitment that that entails. He said that everyone recognizes the value of high level participants, but Romania is not able to organize a separate, additional event for them or to create that sort of expectation.
26. Romania affirmed that ministers will be warmly welcomed, but there is an agreed budget and it will be impossible now to increase it. A working lunch or dinner can be provided for any ministers present.
27. Uganda recalled that at COP9 in Kampala the idea of a high level segment ended up as a "ministerial dialogue", the outcomes from which were captured in the Conference Report.
28. Mexico noted that it would be difficult for ministers to travel, especially around the time of Rio+20, and asked whether they would be meant to participate in the entire COP or just in the dinner event. Romania explained that we are talking about a dinner and dialogue for those who are there, for those who wish to come.
29. Islamic Republic of Iran suggested considering a half-day ministerial segment to discuss biodiversity and sustainable development, with a concept paper to be prepared by the Secretariat.
30. Cameroon reiterated that it is a question of visibility and positioning and there really must be a ministerial segment, but the ministers will not come just for a meal. Romania explained that Romania will be pleased to offer a congenial setting for any discussions ministers may wish to have.
31. The Chair suggested that a date should be set for the event so that ministers can plan their participation in advance, and Romania and the Secretariat indicated that they will prepare a date and include it in the programme. The SG suggested that if there will be such an event key issues should be identified in advance, in order to provide some focus.
Agenda item 7: Selection of Ramsar Award/Evian Special Prize laureates
The Standing Committee met in closed session to select the Ramsar Award winners for 2012.
32. The DSG reported on the Standing Committee's decision in closed session concerning the Ramsar Award winners for 2012. The winners will be announced soon (after they have agreed to their selection) in a press release from the Secretariat and should be confidential until then. The Awards will be bestowed at the opening of COP11.
Decision SC43-2: The Standing Committee selected the laureates for the 5th cycle of Ramsar Wetland Conservation Awards, out of a field of nominations of high merit. For the award for education, the Wisconsin Wetlands Association (USA) was selected; for management, Ms Augusta Henriques (Guinea-Bissau); and for science, Prof Tatsuichi Tsujii (Japan). A special "Recognition of Achievement" will be made to Mr Thymio Papayannis, and one of the Convention's "founding fathers", Dr Luc Hoffmann, will be presented with a 40th Anniversary Honorary Ramsar Award.
33. The DSG noted that the SC has asked the Secretariat to review the Award processes and documentation for COP12, with clearer guidelines, nomination criteria, and so on.
Agenda item 6: Financial matters - Report of the Subgroup on Finance
34. Finland, Chair of the Subgroup on Finance, explained that the Subgroup considered DOCs. SC43-03 and SC43-02. Under a) Financial challenges for 2011 and 2012 budget approval, she explained the reasons for the present difficulties and reported that the Subgroup recommended that the SC ratify the steps taken by the SG to reduce 2011 expenditures.
35. Argentina inquired whether ratifying the SG's steps meant agreeing to freeze funding for the Regional Initiatives. He felt that the Secretariat could not take that decision unilaterally, as it was a COP decision and would need consultations with the Parties. It could cause problems for Parties that might have made commitments. Finland, the Subgroup Chair, noted that the SC is empowered to make such allocations between COPs.
36. The USA felt that the Subgroup's recommendation was too vague. In what is proposed for 2011 and 2012 combined, the CHF 400,000 for Regional Initiatives would be reduced to 121,000, a 70% cut for Initiatives and no other changes elsewhere. He felt that the Initiatives are important for developing countries, one of the good things that Ramsar does. Instead, he proposed, the amount for Regional Initiatives should be moved upward from 121,000 to 300,000, still a 25% cut over two years, and the difference of 179,000 should be made up elsewhere.
37. The USA affirmed that the Convention has a very barebones budget and it is hard to find items to cut, but he proposed that travel should be cut by 30,000, and that CEPA activities should be cut by 40,000 and the difference made a priority for fundraising. The Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) budget covers annual meetings and contracts for work. He said that the Convention has the best STRP Chair we have ever had, but he felt that the Parties deserve some of the blame, as does the Secretariat and the STRP, for having ignored Resolution VIII.45 for eight years, which called for measures to determine whether the STRP's work is really effective and worthwhile. It was agreed that an independent analysis was going to be made, but we are still hearing complaints about the usefulness of that work, given the limitations of languages, audience, etc. Until those questions have been addressed, until the Parties receive full answers, some key funding should be held back, and he proposed that the STRP's budget should be cut by CHF 96,000. That would leave 13,000 still short overall and the Secretariat should look for those additional cuts. He noted that all of this does not yet address the Reserve Fund shortfall.
38. Jamaica argued that it is not reasonable to cut only the Regional Initiatives, especially given the problems that that would cause from some of them, and he called for a solution that would be balanced and fair, more holistic, and not unilateral. He agreed with some of the USA's proposals for cuts, especially those related to the STRP.
39. The SG explained that no unilateral actions have been taken - the Secretariat is proposing these solutions for the SC to make its own decision. For the remainder of 2011, for those Initiatives not yet allocated, it is hard to see how we can pay for them. For other items, e.g., the STRP, the money has already been spent. For 2012, it is not only the Initiatives that have been targeted - in the proposed budget, there are no salary increases, even though the COP budget provided for a 4% increases, and the travel line has been reduced as well. It is a decision for the SC to make.
40. The Finance Officer, Anna Goodwin, explained that in August 2011, the SG was faced with a significant shortfall involving one important Contracting Party in particular and a very serious problem with the exchange rate. The SG ensured the viability of the Secretariat by admitting no further expenses for the time being. The exchange rate has now moved 10% upward, and though the situation is somewhat less dire, it is still serious, because this Convention has no reserves or safety net. The strength of the Swiss franc makes the Secretariat extremely vulnerable.
41. Panama urged that there should be a fair and balanced solution, one which recognizes the importance of the role of the regions and the benefits to developing countries.
42. Finland, the Subgroup Chair, noted that the recommendation so far is to postpone payments for Regional Initiatives and reconsider the situation in 2012, and if necessary to make further budget cuts in a fair and balanced way. She reported on discussion under b) IUCN draft internal audit report, and introduced c) on the Reserve Fund, noting that the current Reserve Fund (predicted to be 166,000 CHF at the end of 2012) is considered to be inadequate. The Subgroup recommended introducing a minimum Reserve of 6% of annual budget, a maximum of 30%, and an ideal of 15%, and amending para. 22 of the DR on Financial and Budgetary Matters accordingly.
43. Argentina inquired whether there would be an impact on Parties' contributions, and the Finance Officer noted that, if the Parties conclude that they would like an increase in the Reserve Fund, it would require 150,000 CHF in reduced expenditures or additional contributions. Japan agreed that the Reserve Fund is important, but adding to it is meant to come from the surplus of income over expenditures and therefore should come from a reduction of expenditures. Argentina said that it would be difficult to go back to capitals and report that Regional Initiatives had been cut for 2012 whilst there will also be an increase in contributions. Jamaica expressed understanding of why restoring the Reserve Fund is necessary but could not support a cut of all Initiatives; he urged that these should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and, for 2012, everything possible should be done not to cut them.
44. The Finance Officer suggested that a compromise might be possible: as of today, it might be possible to release some funds for Regional Initiatives (on a case-by-case basis) in 2011, but it would be unwise to allocate funds for 2012 yet. That decision should be left open, so that if the situation should improve, based on demand and budget the matter can be reconsidered. She suggested that some of the USA's proposals should be considered for increasing the Reserve Fund, which may or may not be needed but needs to be there.
45. Finland suggested that all of the budget issues should be treated as a package rather than as slices, and that decisions be deferred until all matters have been considered.
46. Australia suggested that the Secretariat be asked to produce a new budget for 2012 incorporating the proposals made by the USA, in order to aid comparisons.
47. The SG noted that he understands that there may be a balance left from what has already been paid for the Caribbean Regional Initiative, and he indicated that, if so, he has been requested to consider whether the balance could be used to help a Party from the Americas to participate in the Americas regional meeting. The SG needs to have a decision from the SC on that matter.
48. The USA pointed out that it hasn't yet been considered that several core budget lines could be considered to be marketable. He inquired whether, now that the Partnership Coordinator is on board, the Secretariat could point to any budget lines that could be resourced from outside. The SG explained that we have not been focusing on core budget lines in the planning for seeking additional resources - the focus has been on seeking voluntary funding for non-core items like Regional Initiatives, Ramsar Advisory Missions, the STRP, and the Small Grants Fund. He felt that operational matters should be funded from the core budget and noted that it is always very hard to raise funds from donors for day-to-day operations.
49. Finland, Chair of the Subgroup, suggested that the Finance Officer and SG try to rebudget for 2012 during this meeting and come back with new figures for consideration.
Decision SC43-3: The Standing Committee agreed that the Convention should set a minimum Reserve Fund level of 6%, a maximum of 30%, and an ideal level of 15%, and that efforts should be made to reach that ideal level by 2015.
50. The Chair of the Subgroup introduced the discussion of Parties with contributions in arrears and noted that the Subgroup agreed about the seriousness of the problem but did not reach consensus on recommending any punitive measures.
51. Tanzania, on behalf of the Africa group members present, expressed Africa's great concern over the increasing arrears in contributions and reported that the African Parties, at their regional meeting on 3-8 October 2011, have agreed the "Ouagadougou Commitment", in which the Parties committed themselves to pay outstanding contributions by COP11 and to make voluntary contributions, especially in the context of their decision at COP10 embodied in Resolution X.2, para. 23. He commended those African Parties that have already effected that commitment by paying or processing their payment: Cape Verde, Ghana, Liberia, Libya, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Togo.
52. Tanzania reported that the African Parties urged the SC members to redouble their efforts to ensure effective communications with Parties in their subregions and to remind them about their overdue contributions; the Parties to make use of National Ramsar/Wetland Committees where financial matters can be brought to the attention of decision makers; the Secretariat to make frequent contact on these matters, targeting the responsible ministers; and the Secretariat and SC Regional Representatives to undertake Ramsar Advisory Missions on this matter.
Decision SC43-4: The Standing Committee very strongly urged all Parties with assessed contributions in arrears for 2011, 2010 and earlier to bring all such payments fully up to date as a matter of great urgency, particularly in relation to current core budget financial challenges for 2011 and 2012, and it determined to further discuss this matter.
Decision SC43-5: The Standing Committee decided that Parties in arrears should not be subject to penalties and that such wording should not be reflected in the proposed Draft Resolution on "Adjustments to the roles and composition of the Standing Committee".
53. Finland, Chair of the Subgroup, referring to item e) of the Subgroup's report, expressed thanks to Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, and the USA for financial support for pre-COP11 regional meetings, and to Burkina Faso, Jamaica, Indonesia, Slovakia, and Palau for hosting those meetings with financial and in-kind support. She reported that the Secretariat's fundraising target for sponsoring two delegates to COP11 from each of 117 eligible Parties is CHF 900,000.
54. Concerning item f) on the Small Grants Fund, Finland reported that the Subgroup recommended that the SC should reiterate the terms of Decision SC42-18 and amend the Draft Resolution on Finance to better reflect the Committee's ongoing commitment to the SGF.
55. The Chair of the Subgroup, concerning item g), reported that the costs of providing simultaneous interpretation for the SC's subgroup meetings have been estimated at CHF 15,000 and that no low- or no-cost solutions have been identified. Simultaneous interpretation for SC subgroups will be included in the next version of the COP11 budget scenarios as an item for voluntary funding.
56. The Subgroup Chair introduced the Secretariat's three budget proposals for COP11 consideration, with 0%, 2%, and 4% impacts on Parties' contributions, and requested the Secretariat to rework those scenarios with provisions for reaching a Reserve Fund target of 15% just by reducing expenditures. The USA pointed out that those percentages should be shown as "per annum".
57. The USA urged that the SC should adopt only one, or at most two, of the scenarios for consideration by the COP, and that the same balance proposed for 2012 should be incorporated into the proposals for 2013, 2014, and 2015. He suggested that a small working group of interested Parties should assist the Secretariat in advancing those issues.
58. Argentina agreed that only one scenario should be sent to COP. Japan felt that the increase in the Reserve Fund should be achieved by reducing expenditures, not by any increase in contributions. Mexico agreed that the fewer scenarios, the better, and that the Reserve Fund should not be financed by Parties' contributions. Finland agreed on establishing a working group but felt that the COP should have at least two options to consider. Iran felt that the COP should be given one or a maximum of two scenarios.
59. The Standing Committee agreed to establish a working group of interested Parties to consider the 2012 and 2013-15 budget scenarios further and to reconsider those matters following the working group's report.
Agenda item 6 bis: Report of the CEPA Oversight Panel
60. The CEPA Programme Officer, Sandra Hails, drew attention to DOC. SC43-10 and made a PowerPoint presentation covering progress in implementing the Panel's work plan since SC42.
Decision SC43-6: The Standing Committee encouraged the CEPA Oversight Panel, working with the Secretariat and the STRP, to review, consolidate, and update the Convention's guidance adopted by Resolutions VII.8 and VIII.36 and to bring new or revised guidelines on participatory management as a Draft Resolution for COP12 (2015).
Decision SC43-7: The Standing Committee requested the CEPA Oversight Panel to draft an operative paragraph on identifying capacity building needs of Ramsar Regional Centre staff for inclusion in the COP11 Draft Resolution on "Regional Initiatives".
Decision SC43-8: In order to streamline the process of replacing members of the CEPA Oversight Panel when necessary, the Standing Committee decided that, if one of the CEPA National Focal Points leaves during the first half of the triennium in which she or he has been elected, the Secretariat should select a replacement based on the nominations received for the triennium without regard to the maintenance of regional balance.
Agenda item 9: Report of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Administrative Reform
61. The SC Chair expressed the SC's appreciation to Mr Mohammad Koba of Indonesia, who has served as Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group since June 2011.
62. The Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group (WG) thanked the members of the group for their time and contributions, as well as Australia, IUCN, and UNEP. The WG met on 6 and on 29 June and elected him as Chair and Ms Victoria Romero of Mexico and Mr Ainsley Henry of Jamaica as Vice Chairs. The group sent letters seeking more information, and both UNEP and IUCN responded. The WG was not able to reach any consensus. There was a consultant's report tabled in 2009, but there is no consultant now to update that. There is unfortunately no possible solution with a little something for everyone, and the proponents of the two options are very far apart.
63. The Chair of the WG urged that this matter has consumed a lot of time and energy and should be brought to a conclusion now. Every detail has been covered and the situation is always pretty much the same. In making their decision, the Parties must consider 1) how their decision will affect the staff of the Secretariat, and 2) how it will affect the implementation of the Convention on the ground.
64. The SG expressed thanks to the former Co-Chairs, Chile and Australia, and congratulated the new Chair and Vice-Chairs. He thanked Australia for its financial support for the WG's work. He hoped that the Parties would now have enough information to make their decision, but the Secretariat is ready to provide any further information needed. He affirmed that the Secretariat will respect any decision that is made and will continue to work closely with both IUCN and UNEP whatever that may be. Any decision made should be able to improve the work of the Convention.
65. Thailand urged that the SC should not commit to either option but should leave both for the COP's consideration. She suggested that the Secretariat should include discussion of this issue in the pre-COP regional meetings and COP contact groups.
66. Mauritius, speaking on behalf of the Africa group present, said that the Africa group felt that it would be important for the Secretariat to join UNEP, which he believed would result in greater visibility and better integration with international processes. He recalled that Decision SC41-4 noted that the WG said that a large majority of its members were in favor of UNEP and mandated the WG to draft a Resolution in that regard.
67. The Netherlands recommended that the analysis in the 2009 report should be updated to provide a clear comparison, and felt that the Secretariat should do that. He noted that the SC's Decision SC42-30 asked for clear, easily comparable information and felt that the mandate of Decision SC41-4 was clearly superseded by that later decision.
68. Argentina felt that Secretariat works well under the current hosting arrangement with IUCN and that any change would adversely affect the Convention's operations.
69. Japan felt that the WG's proposed DRs are not written in standard form and that a clearer DR would be needed for COP11.
70. Australia supported the two DRs as written and felt that that concludes the work of the WG. He urged that if either DR is adopted, it should be accompanied by further information about the costs to be incurred.
71. The USA felt that there was a lot of controversy earlier in the WG's work but more transparency recently. She urged that it is time to eliminate this distraction from the Convention's work, as there has not been any agreement or consenus. She agreed with the Netherlands that it would be good to have a single comparative compilation of information, but the US position is that there should be a DR going forward to remain with IUCN, an arrangement that has worked well for 40 years. The USA cannot see what the problem is that needs to be solved by moving the Secretariat. She requested the Secretariat to use the updated submissions from IUCN and UNEP to modify the comparison table in the consultant's report and, as a clerical matter, to add them to the consultant's table in order to provide a good analysis for the Parties. She felt that, assuming that there will be no agreement on either DR, there should be further information provided in an Information Paper to accompany the DRs that would consist of the updated comparison table. In addition, she agreed with Australia that information about any additional costs to Parties should be added to the DR concerning UNEP.
72. Finland agreed on the desirability of having the information refreshed and compiled for the COP.
73. Islamic Republic of Iran requested that Ramsar's legal officer should join this discussion tomorrow. The DSG reminded him that the Convention has no legal officer, but the Secretariat is proposing the addition of some funding in future budgets for legal advice.
74. Panama stressed the need for maximum participation and transparency, and felt that if a new summary document is needed, it should be a technical and not a political analysis. He wondered therefore whether the Secretariat is best positioned to summarize the WG's work. Panama also supported what was said by Mauritius.
75. The SG noted that the Secretariat could attempt such a compilation of updated information and try to be technical rather than political, but he felt that it would be difficult to guarantee that the result would be unbiased, and it would not be helpful if the Secretariat's effort could always be challenged as biased.
76. The DSG noted that, in terms of process, such an Information Paper could be prepared and included in the first mailing of documents for COP consideration.
77. The Marshall Islands also requested that the two DRs should be brought to the pre-COP regional meetings for consideration, with information about financial impacts and impacts upon services. The DSG agreed but noted that two regional meetings have already been held, and Oceania's is scheduled for a date after the required mid-March mailing of DRs.
78. Turkey felt that, in the absence of clear advantages and disadvantages, more information will be needed before a decision can be made. Indonesia also supported making a new, clear compilation of information, which should be easily done.
79. WWF International suggested that the SC consider making audio recordings of this discussion for future use. We had exactly the same discussion three years ago, and we could just replay those tapes.
80. Brazil noted that one of the main purposes of the Rio+20 processes is to examine improvements in environmental governance, and UNEP will figure prominently in that. He suggested that Ramsar should wait until after the Rio+20 meeting and transmit its outcomes to the Ramsar COP as part of its consideration.
81. The DSG summarized that the Standing Committee is still considering whether to send one or the other of the DRs or both, whether we should make a compilation including the new information and who might do that, and whether we should wait for the outcomes of Rio+20.
82. The SG suggested that a Contracting Party could volunteer to lead a small group in making that compilation, thus avoiding the risk of bias. The Netherlands suggested that UNEP and IUCN could collaborate on updating the compilation, as they are not competing in this matter and both can be trusted to work together, not to change the information but to improve the Parties' access to it.
Wednesday, 2 November
83. The SC Chair convened the session and called upon the DSG.
84. The DSG drew attention to two new documents. The draft report of the first day's session will be reviewed for adoption in the closing session, but participants are urged to provide the rapporteur with any merely factual corrections, either on paper or by e-mail. The paper on the IPBES has been provided by the Chair of the STRP as an addendum to DOC. SC43-19 and will be discussed under that agenda item.
Agenda item 8: the Secretariat's Work Plan for 2012
85. The SG explained that the SC is asked annually to review and approve the Secretiat's work plan for the following year, in this case 2012. All staff members have been involved in producing it, and it is organized in terms of the Strategic Plan 2009-2015 and its Key Result Areas (KRAs). The highest priority for 2012 is the preparation of COP11, of course; since the Convention has no budget for holding a COP, he sought the full support of Parties and especially SC members in obtaining the necessary resources.
86. The SC Chair proposed to give the participants time to review the Work Plan by moving to the next agenda item in the meantime.
Agenda item 8bis: Strategic Framework for Ramsar Partnerships
87. The SG explained that the Secretariat has been working, including with an external facilitator, to understand the internal factors and external circumstances in obtaining a clear vision of where we want to take the Convention in order to make it more relevant and effective for the Parties. It was found that water is our most important entry point, and that our task is to convince everyone of the importance of water and wetland issues. We are looking not only for partners who will contribute resources but also for those who can influence decision makers on water issues.
88. Ms Claudia Fenerol, the Partnership Coordinator, made a PowerPoint presentation elaborating upon DOC. SC43-09 and describing the proposed Framework, the Secretariat's steps so far in arriving at the present draft text, and the current activities underway. The Framework covers both partnerships and resource mobilization. She explained the "Vision 40+" that the Secretariat has arrived at and the three main "core values" that have been identified, with under each core value its operational priority and strategic goal. She provided a snapshot of the current state of the Secretariat's partnerships and the techniques currently being employed to develop relationships of trust with potential large-scale donors.
89. Switzerland expressed strong support for partnerships but found some difficulties with the text in its present form. She found the notion of Vision+40 to be quite confusing, and it was difficult to tell what referred to what. She noted that the Parties have agreed other priorities for the Convention as well (such as the biodiversity targets), which are not reflected here. She inquired about the list of partnerships currently in force and how their present status was assessed, and she asked why the focus seemed to be upon foundations in the USA rather than upon Asian or South American sources, for example, as well. She urged that the text be discussed in SC regional meetings before the SC considers these and other questions in plenary session.
90. Venezuela agreed with the importance of partnerships but cautioned that it is not wise to go after funding wherever it can be found. There must be a clear view of the potential donors and a clear sense of Ramsar's goals. When dealing with the private sector, it is necessary to keep in mind where they are coming from, as they are businesses after all, and to keep the Convention's values and objectives in mind at all times. He agreed with the need to look carefully at the document, nationally and not just within the SC, and he recommended that it be considered in regional meetings. He urged that the Parties have an essential role to play, and steps must be taken to ensure that moving forward will be a team effort involving the Secretariat and the Parties, too.
91. Islamic Republic of Iran emphasized the importance of the relationship with other scientific bodies.
92. The SG affirmed that the Secretariat will better clarify what is meant. He noted that Ramsar has been focusing on biodiversity so far, but now we want a better understanding of the real scope of the Convention, which is not just a protocol of the CBD. With a broader focus on all ecosystem services, people can see that the Ramsar Convention is important for sustainable development. When the Rio+20 staff said that they understood that Ramsar was a bird convention, we had to explain that we are a "water convention" and thus important for food security and sustainable development.
93. The SG explained that he had instructed the Partnership Coordinator not to try to go everywhere at the same time but rather to concentrate at first on where we can have the most success; thus she is presently focusing most upon the area she knows best, New York, but not exclusively so. Concerning the business sector, he noted that the Secretariat has moved very carefully to obtain the Parties' agreement to a set of Principles for Partnerships which govern everything that we do. He assured the Parties that due diligence will always be carried out and that nothing will be signed with the private sector without the Parties' agreement.
94. The SG welcomed further discussion of the draft text at national level, because we need an agreed fundraising framework that we can adapt for the national level, and we need the Parties' advice, not only on the Strategic Framework but also on how to use it at that level. The Secretariat needs the Parties for guidance and for advice about where we should focus, so that we can respond to the Parties' needs.
95. Finland expressed support for this systematic effort and understood that it takes time. She wondered how we could involve the Parties more in this process and in renewing the strategy after this triennium. She requested background information on situation analyses not only from the partnership perspective but also on the Convention itself.
96. Panama supported the idea of partnerships with large corporations and large organizations involved in education, which would help to achieve the Convention's objectives, but he felt that this should be dealt with at the regional level. Concerning the list of partnerships, he noted that it would be useful to see exactly what they have brought and how the relationships could be improved.
97. The Partnership Coordinator explained that the concept of the Vision 40+ should be looked at in the context of the Strategic Plan and agreed that it should evolve and develop further. She noted that the USA is the best place to begin, because US tax law encourages a culture of giving, and we have had the warmest response there. She noted that the "situation analysis" showed that a lot of our partnerships are old and we are in the process of looking at them one by one.
98. The DSG reported that, with IUCN, the Secretariat has mapped the Ramsar Strategic Plan against the 20 Aichi Targets, which demonstrates how our current implementation work fits in as the CBD's lead partner for wetlands.
99. Bolivia welcomed partnerships and felt that the document contains some useful ideas, but he referred to the growing privatization of environmental protection and the involvement of market forces. He said that Bolivia rejects association with the private sector, because it tends to diminish the significance of wetlands by reducing them to monetary values. Nature and biodiversity are beyond pricing and cannot be brought down to the dollar values that are responsible for the environmental crises we are facing. He said that we need a more integrated and humble approach, and that a mere inventory of services provided is counterproductive. We need to show how societies depend upon wetlands.
100. Bolivia expressed concern that the private sector is being given priority in Ramsar fundraising, and he felt that the monetarist approach would lead to new markets for biodiversity and common resources. He said that the private sector firms tend to turn recipients to their own ends, to meet their own goals for business profits. They should not be given control of environmental protection efforts. Bolivia cannot accept turning to the private sector, even in these difficult times. We must ensure strong safeguard mechanisms, with no strings attached or earmarks for specific projects, which give businesses too much control. Ramsar should turn to the public sector, for it is the responsibility of States, especially developed States, to take this responsibility. There should be a tax assessed to allow developing countries to carry out their environmental protection efforts. He asked for amendments to the document so that it would not deepen the Convention's dependence on the private sector, to be taken over by the profit motive.
101. Switzerland urged that the participants discuss these issues in SC regional meetings and come back to this agenda item later in the week, and this was agreed.
102. The Chair of the SC returned to the Secretariat Work Plan.
103. Australia inquired whether the Work Plan would be affected by the results of continuing discussions of the budgetary issues. The SG replied that there would be no big changes in the Work Plan itself - it includes all aspects of the Convention and Strategic Plan and will be implemented as well as it can be within whatever budgetary decisions the Parties should come to.
Decision SC43-9: The Standing Committee adopted the Secretariat's Work Plan for 2012 as presented in DOC. SC43-05.
Agenda item 9: Report of the Ad Hoc Working Group (continued)
104. The SC Chair introduced the Vice Chairs of the WG, Mr Ainslie Henry of Jamaica and Ms Victoria Romero of Mexico.
105. Denmark made a prepared intervention touching upon the importance of the decision on hosting arrangements and a number of significant questions, some of which have not been raised heretofore.
"The question of hosting the Secretariat is an important question. In this respect this is indeed an important meeting of the Standing Committee as stated in the introduction remarks yesterday morning. It touches on many issues vital for the success of the Ramsar Convention.
First of all, the success of implementing our Convention on the ground - the successful conservation and management of wetlands globally and successfully securing the basic function of wetlands, so important for biodiversity in the very broad sense. This includes the ability to contribute to the national and regional processes and promote awareness and stakeholder involvement on the relevant levels of society.
Secondly, the ability of our Convention to successfully cooperate equally with the other biodiversity-related conventions and organisations in order to contribute to the overall goals on the global biodiversity agenda. This also includes the ability of our Convention to take the responsibility to provide the necessary scientific and political advice concerning wetlands and their functions and to feed this timely into the biodiversity agenda.
In these aspects the Secretariat plays the central role. It enables us to function, it carries out our decisions, and it communicates our considerations to the bodies of our Convention.
In preparing for this meeting I have been through the documents covering the last years of considerations. Reading the documents leaves the impression of the many hours and meetings spent by dedicated and committed colleagues combined with serious and balanced contributions from the consultant, from UNEP, from IUCN, and from the Secretariat. In the effort to advise the Danish government on a Danish position, it is necessary to look for answers to a series of questions:
" Will the Secretariat of our Convention, if hosted and managed by UNEP in the present UN organisational set-up, enhance the functions of the Secretariat compared to the situation of today?
" Can it be reasonably argued that an inclusion of the Secretariat in the UNEP family will enhance the role of our Convention in the global biodiversity context, compared to the present IUCN arrangement?
" Is it likely to assume that by being a member of the UNEP administrative family the Secretariat will be better able to assist the implementation of our Convention on the ground?
" To what extent will a change in the hosting arrangement be harmful to the functions of IUCN - an organisation of which Denmark is a member and allocates substantial financial support - and will any eventual harm to IUCN exceed the anticipated benefits for the Ramsar Convention and its incorporation with the other biodiversity conventions?
" Can the hosting arrangements with IUCN be improved in order to achieve the same goals as if hosted by UNEP?
Being personally a new member of the Ramsar family, it is my experience - after many hours of reading - that you have to take many crosscutting notes and it is difficult to reach a clear conclusion, and some of the questions are not answered. Hence, it is no surprise that the working group were not able to reach consensus.
Bearing this in mind - and representing Denmark which has the presidency of the European Union during the COP in June next year, which includes the responsibility to seek consensus among the 27 EU countries' positions - it seems very difficult - maybe impossible - to reach a mandated position on one of the two alternative Draft Resolutions based on the way the documentation has been presented in connection with the Draft Resolutions. Endorsing the two Resolutions without any recommendations from those Parties who have participated in the process since the last COP leaves the majority of the Contracting Parties in a situation where they have to prepare a mandated position for COP 11 on this issue based on documentation that is not compiled and without any guidance from the Standing Committee.
If this is the case we could be in a situation where it is very difficult to reach a well reasoned, well balanced, and broadly accepted decision at COP 11. The long Ramsar tradition for consensus is at stake. The possibility of a vote on this question and the possibility of a narrow decision could in itself be harmful for the function of the Convention.
It is understandable and also reasonable to share the view of many of the distinguished delegations that there could be a need to end this long discussion of the hosting arrangements and location of the Secretariat. But it might not be wise or even possible to end this discussion at COP 11. The present preparations for the Rio+20 conference taking place shortly before COP 11 include the question of global environmental governance - or in other words "the institutional framework for sustainable development" with (in the words of UNEP) "an expected strong focus on the institutional framework of international environmental governance including environmental conventions". The outcome of the Rio+20 process might be an institutional reform - and if so, it might lead to a process of reforming UNEP including the convention secretariats, their staffing and location.
Processing the two alternative Resolutions to the COP not taking into account the possible results of the Rio+20 process might then lead to a situation where a pro-UNEP decision might result in two transitions of the Secretariat, namely first the transition and possibly relocation into the UNEP family and then - after a period - the transition and possible relocation in the context of an institutional reform of UNEP. In this situation we might double up the negative consequences of the transition.
And we will not avoid prolonging the discussion on the administrative reform. We could be in a situation where the Standing Committee and COP12 are forced to contribute to a UNEP administrative reform. Unless of course the Parties of the Ramsar Convention decide to leave it to other conventions and UNEP to decide on the implementation of a reform of the UNEP institutions.
We should seriously consider this possible outcome and take into our considerations that we can be in a situation where it will be very difficult for many delegations to react on the outcome of the Rio+20 process in due time to adjust their mandated position on this matter.
This underlines the need of guidance to Parties from the Standing Committee. If a decision is reached to transfer the secretariat to UNEP, the Draft Resolution raises serious questions regarding matters of procedure as well of matters concerning the future cooperation between the Contracting Parties and UNEP on hosting arrangements. The Resolution leaves it to the Executive Director of UNEP to launch the transition process and requests the Secretary General of the Convention to work closely with the Executive Director of UNEP on any necessary arrangements in this context.
The Resolution has no instrument to resolve matters of disagreement in this process, it does not include any possible negotiations between the Parties and UNEP on how to reach an agreement on the hosting arrangement, and there is no guidance how to agree on many of the issues raised in the process so far concerning matters of location alternatives now and in the future, the conditions for transfer of the Secretariat staff, the process of appointing a new Secretary General. There is no mechanism to protect the interests of the Convention in the transition process. The absence of how to solve these matters can certainly change the influence of the Contracting Parties on how UNEP manages the Secretariat in the future.
The way this alternative Resolution is drafted leaves it entirely to UNEP to decide on these questions - of which several by UNEP are described as alternatives to investigate and decide upon. Hence, the contribution by UNEP so far can be considered as alternative proposals serving as a basis for negotiation and therefore the Draft Resolution should include a mandate to representatives of the Contracting Parties including terms for the negotiations with UNEP and a mechanism for how to decide upon the result of these negotiations. Like with the arrangement with IUCN, there is a need to mandate someone representing the Convention to sign an agreement on the hosting arrangement with UNEP, in case that is the decision deriving from COP11.
Mr. Chair, to conclude it seems necessary that the Standing Committee consider how best to guide the majority of Parties who have not participated in the process so far, including the question of the consequences for IUCN and possible actions to minimise these consequences, the question of how to deal with the results of the Rio+20 process, and how to secure the ability of the Contracting Parties to control the transition process if a decision to transfer the secretariat to UNEP is reached at COP11. This seems necessary in order to reach a decision on this matter that seeks consensus and broad acceptance by the Contracting Parties and secures an effective and engaged Secretariat also in the future."
106. Indonesia, Chair of the Ad Hoc WG, reported that Jamaica has updated the consultant's compilation with UNEP's and IUCN's recent information, and that this and the 2009 consultant's report can be distributed. He said that, putting Ramsar in the broader environmental context, Ramsar has specific goals to be achieved and these should be put first, and only secondarily should the wider environment movement be considered.
107. Mauritius, speaking on behalf of the Africa group present, noted that some participants had mentioned that Decision SC42-30 superseded Decision SC41-4, and he sought clarification of what that means.
108. The SG explained in detail the Secretariat's actions to fulfil the mandates of Decision SC42-30, not only to participate in but also facilitate the work of the WG. The Chair of the SC confirmed that he was in close consultations with the SG over the three months of the WG's recent work.
109. The Netherlands felt that we have gained some good information but differing views on the capacity of the Secretariat, the length of time for the transition, and more points that could be mentioned, so comparability of the options is still a problem. The SG explained some of the implications of UNEP's three different scenarios for job grading of staff. The Netherlands wondered how to compare and resolve these differences and doubts, and he recommended that there should be an overview of the two options, including differing views where necessary.
110. The Chair of the SC suggested deferring the discussion until the new documents could be distributed. Australia recommended resuming tomorrow in order to leave time for consultations with capitals. At the DSG's suggestion, it was agreed that the participants would like to have a printed version of Denmark's intervention as well, and at the USA's request it was agreed that electronic copies of the consultant's report, the updated compilation, and Denmark's intervention would be sent promptly by e-mail to all participants.
Agenda item 10: Consideration of proposed Draft Resolutions for COP11
111. The DSG noted that if the SC should approve all of the proposed DRs there would be about 20 in all, a smaller number than in past COPs.
DOC. SC43-14, Adjustments to the Strategic Plan 2009-2015 at the midterm
112. The DSG provided background and noted that there could be further suggestions for adjustments emerging from the Parties' National Reports, which are still being received. These will be added subsequently and circulated to the SC for electronic sign-off. He proposed the addition of three KRAs and an appendix showing how the implementation of the Ramsar Strategic Plan contributes to the Aichi Targets, noting that the Ramsar strategies speak to all but three of the 20 Aichi Targets.
113. Switzerland approved of those proposals and suggested two amendments to the language of the text, which were agreed. The Netherlands suggested a few amendments as well.
Decision SC43-10: The Standing Committee approved the Draft Resolution on adjustments to the Strategic Plan, with the proposed amendments, for inclusion in the first tranche of documents for COP11 and instructed the Secretariat to supply an updated version for electronic sign-off including any further proposed adjustments gleaned from the Parties' National Reports.
DOC. SC43-15, Regional Initiatives in the framework of the Convention
114. Tobias Salathé, the Senior Regional Advisor for Europe, explained the background and the structure of the document, which includes an assessment of the success of the Initiatives so far, followed by a proposed DR which, in essence, continues the arrangements now in place with the benefit of experiences gained. He noted that we presently have four Regional Centres and nine networks and that we don't expect any, or many, new proposals over the next triennium. The principle of restricting support to start-up funding is working well, and some of the older Initiatives are now independent. He expected that not much core funding would be needed for the next triennium, though the Parties may wish to budget a certain amount for contingencies. He recalled that the Regional Initiatives programme was foreseen to be bottom-up, politically, morally, and financially supported by their constituents, as the Secretariat does not have the capacity to be too closely involved in them. The regional teams try to advise and guide the early work of the Initiatives but cannot support them extensively.
115. The DSG recalled that in Decision SC43-6 the SC requested the CEPA Oversight Panel to provide an additional paragraph for the present DR on identifying capacity building needs of Ramsar Regional Centre staff.
116. Uganda, on behalf of three of the four Regional Centres, emphasized the value of the Regional Centres in delivering the mission and strategic objectives of the Convention, and he noted that in paragraphs 13 and 14 of the Secretariat's assessment two main issues affecting the operations of the Centres were highlighted: their legal status, which has implications on their receiving funds, and the management mechanisms of the Centres, which affect their independent operation. He noted that the operative paragraphs do not provide a solution for these issues.
117. Uganda continued that the three Regional Centres proposed that a decision be made calling for an independent assessment to review the operation of the Ramsar Regional Centres in Africa and Asia as soon as possible so that the results of the assessment can be included in the Information Paper on Regional Initiatives to be presented to COP11 These results, as appropriate, should be included in the operative paragraphs of the DR on Regional Initiatives that will be debated at COP11. In order for the exercise to be successful, the Regional Centres request voluntary contributions from the Parties and other sources.
118. Islamic Republic of Iran felt that para. 15's prohibition against Initiatives receiving support for more than two triennia contradicts Resolution X.6 about centres that fully meet the Operational Guidelines. The SG replied that the Operational Guidelines adopted by COP10 clearly specify that financial support is the responsibility of the Parties and that the core budget cannot be expected to continue support indefinitely. It is only by providing start-up funding and then expecting Initiatives to sustain themselves that we can hope to assist new Initiatives in the future.
119. Lebanon and Japan supported Uganda's proposal for an independent assessment. Thailand suggested that the SC should ask the Secretariat to hire a consultant to report to COP11.
Decision SC43-11: The Standing Committee agreed that an independent assessment to review the operation of the Ramsar Regional Centres in Africa and Asia should be carried out and the results included in an Information Paper to COP11, and, as appropriate, be included in the operative paragraphs of the DR on Regional Initiatives to be debated at COP11. The independent assessment should be funded through voluntary contributions from the Parties and other sources.
120. Panama sought clarification of the DR's para. 17 on confusion about the roles of the Initiatives, the Administrative Authorities, and the Secretariat, and of para. 19 on the independent evaluation, and how that will be funded.
121. Jamaica felt that the Caribbean initiative should not be included amongst those mentioned in paras. 18 and 21 of the assessment. He felt that the stipulation in the DR's para. 15 of a time limit of two triennia on financial support for Initiatives is not equitable, that 'time' is not enough for such a judgement, since some Initiatives might receive a lot of support for a short time and others a little support for a longer time. He felt that the independent evaluation of para. 19 would be an unwise expense for a new Initiative and should be amended to encourage strengthening the reporting requirements instead.
122. Paraguay also expressed dissatisfaction with para. 15's time limit and sought clarification about the independent evaluation mentioned in para. 19.
123. Iran urged that if para. 15 means that all centres must be self-reliant within six years, they should be included as one of the Convention's fundraising objectives.
124. The Senior Advisor for Europe explained that the independent evaluation, based on MedWet's experience, is not meant to be constraining or prescriptive, merely to indicate that such an evaluation in perhaps 5 or 10 years has proven to be a useful exercise and would be part of any good business plan. The evaluation would not be part of the Secretariat's mandate or part of the core budget.
125. The SG confirmed that the purpose of the evaluation, in addition to assisting the Initiatives' own managers, is to enable the Secretariat to report to the Ramsar community on what added value the Initiatives are providing, to assist in fundraising among other things. For fundraising purposes, the evaluation must be independent. On para. 15, he noted that the Parties decided that whilst start-up money can be essential, in order to be fully functioning the Initiatives must be supported by their members and self-sustaining. On fundraising, he said that there should be a high priority on Regional Initiatives but we will need to have good proposals to be successful. The independent evaluation will help by showing that real activities are being carried out on the ground.
126. Jamaica observed that rather than placing a defined time limit tied to a number of years, the determination should be tied to the level of support. It would be more useful to have a maximum cap than a specified time limit.
127. The USA noted that when the Regional Initiatives were created, based on the MedWet model, all Parties were concerned about endless commitments. New questions of equity have arisen, with some regions having many Initiatives and others few. He said that the Parties are going to have to consider placing a moratorium on funding any new Initiatives, given the financial situation, and concentrating instead on succeeding with the existing ones.
128. Islamic Republic of Iran proposed amending the DR's para. 21 to read "URGES Contracting Parties geographically covered by a Regional Initiative to express their willingness to provide strong support for the Initiative through the provision of a formal letter and financial support".
129. Panama said that Regional Initiatives should provide effective support for regional implementation of the Strategic Plan, but the DR actually imposes constraints on the implementation of the Convention. The Initiatives should have support, and the Parties should provide assistance.
130. Denmark proposed maintaining para. 15 as drafted. Jamaica proposed deleting it, if necessary; he would support limitations of some sort, but not this time limit. Argentina supported Jamaica. The DSG invited Jamaica, Argentina, and any others to consult and come back with text to propose for that paragraph. A decision on this DR was deferred.
DOC. SC43-16, Partnerships and synergies with MEAs and other institutions
131. The DSG provided background and noted that the COP needs to update this Resolution regularly to keep up with changes in the international environmental scene. He noted that bracketed text indicates that certain information can only be supplied after certain events have taken place.
132. Canada, the Netherlands, Thailand, and the USA suggested amendments to the text.
133. Switzerland urged that the MEAs mentioned should be summarized in a table on one page for ease of reference. She emphasized the importance of collaboration between the Administrative Authorities and the focal points of related conventions in the capitals (para 34).
134. The DSG provided explanations about the use of language about 'water security' and about the CMS agreements, and he strongly supported Switzerland's point about the relationship between Ramsar AAs and the national focal points of other MEAs. He proposed adopting the DR for COP11 subject to the proposed amendments.
135. Panama and Brazil objected to adopting a document without having an opportunity to read the revised version, in the interest of the transparency of the process. The DSG explained the normal Ramsar practice but offered to try to post revised versions for this meeting on the Ramsar website's SC43 page for those that have substantive amendments to be made. He noted that Parties can call for subsequent electronic recirculation whenever that is wished, and he reminded that these are drafts for which there will be further opportunities to debate and amend the text at the COP. He requested those suggesting amendments to provide written text to the rapporteur very soon on paper or by e-mail.
136. The Chair of the SC recognized the Parties' wish to read the revised text before adopting it. This DR was deferred until a revised text can be posted on the website.
DOC. SC43-17: Adjustments to the roles and composition of the Standing Committee
137. The DSG explained that Resolution VII.1 has been brought forward and updated with requested amendments as an appendix to the present DR, which when adopted by the COP will replace Resolution VII.1.
138. Finland and the USA proposed amendments to the text.
139. Islamic Republic of Iran registered its reservation on the list contained in Annex 2 relating to the Asian regional categorization.
140. There was discussion of para. 5 on Switzerland's role as host country, and language was sought to establish Switzerland as a voting member of the SC with, in addition, the right to stand as a Regional Representative for Europe when appropriate. Thailand supported the host country being a full member of the SC, which is consistent with the practice of other MEAs.
141. South Africa raised questions about SC members being nominated beginning with pre-COP regional meetings and when they would be elected early in the COP; the DSG explained the rationales for those wordings.
142. Panama and Mexico requested deletion of the paragraph on the desirability of English for members of the Executive Team; it was agreed to leave text on the desirability of a common language for efficient practice but remove the mention of English specifically.
143. The DSG explained the rationale for nominating the treaty's depositary as a permanent observer to the SC.
144. The DSG offered to bring a revised version of the text back for adoption.
DOC. SC43-18, Adjustments to the modus operandi of the STRP
145. Dr Heather MacKay, Chair of the STRP, made a PowerPoint presentation which provided an overview of the scientific and technical DRs and an explanation of the Panel's current work and objectives. She noted that the STRP has been giving a great deal of thought to such matters as the credibility of the Panel, its responsiveness to emerging issues and to the needs of end user groups, and the usefulness of its products and guidance for the Parties and for other sectors. She proposed to lead the Committee through each of the scientific DRs and invited the SC to consider three questions regarding each of them: 1) what feedback could be provided to the Panel about the content and presentation of the material; 2) what technical support would be needed at COP11 (technical briefings, reports, advice, etc.); and 3) what implementation support might be needed for the DR (e.g., information resources, CEPA, training).
146. The USA inquired about a document presented at COP10 as an initial response to Resolution VIII.45. The STRP Chair explained that that was the executive summary of a report by consultant Gwen van Boven on the utility of the Convention's guidance. The DSG said that that full document, "Evaluation of the use and utility of Ramsar guidance", is available on the STRP page of the Ramsar website.
147. The director of the Ramsar Regional Centre for Central and West Asia (RRC-CWA) pointed out that the Regional Centres are the perfect vehicles for bringing out Ramsar guidance but that staff would need a training course from the STRP. Parties say that the guidance is too scientific, so the training course and the guidance should be made fit for the users.
148. The Chair of the STRP agreed that the role of the Centres is very important and suggested that the STRP could help to develop materials but would not be able to lead the courses themselves. She welcomed collaboration on finding the right level for guidance materials.
Thursday, 3 November
149. The Chair of the SC welcomed the participants to the third day's plenary sessions and described how he hoped to allocate the time during the day.
150. The DSG drew attention to three new documents on the tables: the draft report of the second day's plenaries for adoption on Friday, a proposed DR from Uganda on ministerial segments, and a suggested DR from Denmark on the Secretariat's hosting arrangements.
Agenda item 9: Secretariat's hosting arrangements (continued)
151. Finland on behalf of the members of the European group present clarified that the European group at its meeting had asked Denmark to prepare the tabled DR.
152. Denmark explained that the European Parties saw a need to produce a document that would fairly summarize the information, improve the existing DRs by including a negotiating mechanism, and consider an alternative that would leave UNEP the opportunity to respond to the results of Rio+20 before engaging with Ramsar.
153. Panama, Argentina, and Mexico requested clarification of the process to be followed.
154. Cameroon noted that the question of administrative reform has been going on for a long time. The new DR concerning UNEP seems to be asking us to wait for Rio+20, but Rio+20 may or may not make changes in environmental governance and there is no reason why we should wait for them. The Parties are in a position to choose one or the other of the two options before us.
155. The Netherlands broadly supported Denmark's DR but felt it needed discussion of details as well as UNEP's response to it.
156. Bolivia said that his country is in favor of the UNEP alternative.
157. Islamic Republic of Iran and the USA felt that time was needed to study the new document.
158. Brazil said that it would be useful if Denmark or a European representative would comment on the differences between the options presented and explain what it is that is being introduced.
159. The DSG suggested that an informal group should meet during lunch to discuss the new document. Brazil asked again for explanations about what the differences are amongst the proposals. Panama and Mexico asked about what the informal discussions would be about and whether there would be interpretation for the informal group's meeting. The DSG said that interpretation could be provided from noon to 1 p.m. but not after that.
160. Denmark explained that the Ad Hoc WG's two DRs would be difficult to forward to COP11 because they have no summarizing material, no help for the Parties from the SC, and no mechanism to permit the Parties to oversee and control the negotiations with UNEP satisfactorily. Denmark, which has no position on the UNEP and IUCN options yet, has included in the DR a mechanism for negotiations with UNEP in the Parties' interests. The proposal from Denmark also provides for the possibility that Rio+20 may take steps such that UNEP would need more time before engaging with Ramsar. The other option is to stay with IUCN. The European Parties felt that it would be good to have a draft text to work from and he would welcome discussion about improving it.
161. Brazil and the USA thanked Denmark and expressed a willingness to discuss the texts. Indonesia sought clarification of what the mandate would be for the informal group.
162. Cameroon said that it was not clear what the group was asked to do; the Parties have studied the matter from financial, political, and strategic points of view, but UNEP administrative reform and a control mechanism were never the issues. To remain with IUCN would be difficult in terms of the Convention's profile, and we would need to know about IUCN's legal status in Switzerland. If the Secretariat were to leave IUCN, it would be a loss for IUCN, but the Convention would gain in visibility.
163. Argentina felt that setting up a group to move forward would involve analysis of costs and advantages, work that has already been done. He felt that a DR opening negotiations with UNEP might prejudge the outcomes, and that the costs, etc., should be studied before such a decision is made and not after it.
164. Australia indicated a need for an explanation of the differences between the new DR and those of the Ad Hoc WG and perhaps a need for some kind of summary paper.
165. The SC Chair wished to set up an informal group to discuss the Denmark proposal, with no specific mandate at this time.
166. Jamaica explained that the table just provided merely takes the table of UNEP and IUCN responses from the 2009 consultant's report and updates it with information received subsequently. The USA said that it would be useful to include in the summary table a footnote indicating the ancestry and sources of the information, as well as a box which compared the current staff roster with UNEP's information on its budget-neutral scenario for staff strength. Since the information came from a questionnaire provided to UNEP and IUCN, it would also be helpful to bring to mind the relevant questions and also to have a third column with the Secretariat's comments on each of the items. Japan also requested that the table should include, to the left of the columns of answers, a column indicating the questions to which they were responding.
167. The SC Chair sensed that the Parties needed more time to read the new document but wished to discuss it in plenary. He proposed to turn to other important issues and come back to the hosting matter at the end of the day, and then to establish the informal group if the plenary cannot reach a conclusion. Thailand suggested that instead of establishing a new group, the Ad Hoc WG could do the job as well.
Agenda item 10: Consideration of Draft Resolutions (continued)
DOC. SC43-18, Adjustments to the modus operandi of the STRP
168. The Chair of the STRP explained that each meeting of the COP must make small adjustments to update the timebound elements of the STRP's modus operandi, and this document may require still further adjustments if there are recommendations from the informal working group that was set up by Decision SC42-23. That informal group was requested to draft a COP11 Resolution for SC43 consideration designed "to ensure that the STRP's objectives and strategies for their delivery are as targeted and as effective as possible in a rapidly changing world". Thus there will be a Rev. 1 coming early next year for electronic sign-off.
169. Bolivia voiced concern that in the invitation to other bodies to work with the STRP there were some that might be involved in the privatization of environmental resources, namely the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Program (BBOP) and the TEEB Secretariat. He was not happy with the STRP having working arrangements with them, and it must be recognized that they are not engaged in any scientific research.
170. The STRP Chair acknowledged Bolivia's concern about market-based approaches but said that there is a distinction to be made between monetarization and what might be a valuable idea, that the value of ecosystem services can be quantified and made into a useful tool for protecting ecosystems by incorporating those values into public policy before they are lost. The STRP plans to work with TEEB because there is a great need for practical tools to demonstrate to decision-makers the advantages of protection and sustainable development. She felt that the STRP has a responsibility to work on these issues, as the world is going that way, and to give guidance about them to the Parties, and to do that we need those observers who have a scientific approach to these methods.
171. The SG said that Bolivia's point is an important consideration that is also related to the partnership issues. He insisted that we cannot leave these powerful players to destroy wetlands, we need to understand and develop the tools that we can use to help meet our objectives. He described some of his successes in convincing CEOs not to buy anything made by destroying wetlands, including peatlands and mangroves. That is the purpose of working with business, he said, and he promised to be careful when working with the business sector.
172. Paraguay inquired about who evaluates the work of the STRP? How can the SC make that evaluation without the expertise to assess the STRP's technical work? She suggested setting up a subgroup of the SC, including regional representatives, to evaluate how useful the STRP's guidance has been for the regions, a formal way of assessing the Panel's work.
173. Iran highlighted some issues in the STRP work plan, which should as much as possible assist the Parties in meeting their obligations, such as the target of an inventory of wetlands by 2015 and capacity building for the STRP National Focal Points, better coordination of the STRP on CEPA issues, and extending knowledge to the grass roots level. He suggested adding the UN Forum on Forests to the list of invited organizations.
174. Bolivia reiterated his country's opposition to the commercialization of wetlands.
175. South Africa corrected the wording about the NFPs' meeting.
176. Australia expressed an interest in the views of the Parties on the lengths of the terms of STRP members and allowable number of consecutive terms, and he noted a value in considering options to expand the range of participation in the STRP.
177. The USA said that the modus operandi DR is based on the USA's suggestions at SC42 and represents a start. He noted, however, that we were really exploring a reformulation of the STRP and the draft does not do that. He cited the "Evaluation of the use and utility of Ramsar guidance" report, prepared as a response to the issues raised in Resolution VIII.45 (2002) on the perceptions about the STRP's guidance amongst the Parties, and he said that it is more informative in its omissions than its conclusions. This type of document, from 2008, should have come up in SC meetings and been given to the working groups, but simply to produce and post it and carry on as before is not acceptable.
178. The USA noted that the document is intended to report on how everyone is using the guidance, potentially a huge pool of respondents, but the 91-page report is based on only 236 responses - the USA tried a similar exercise, got the same number of responses, and considered it unusable, but this document was written with no such caveats and with graphs and charts as if they were meaningful. Thus the conclusions are not useful, but they do indicate that many people, even key Ramsar people in the Parties, do not use the guidance, a dramatic gap between the guidance and the people on the ground. It also showed that the National Focal Points system (for Administrative Authorities, STRP, and CEPA) is not working and that the STRP needs better quality control. The Parties should take a more active role in helping to achieve that, and it is important to send a message to the Secretariat to bring such documents to the attention of the Standing Committee.
179. Accordingly, the USA made a number of recommendations. The SC needs an independent body or mechanism, as Paraguay suggested, to assess the work of the Panel, and that body should be ready with recommendations to make before COP12. The Management Working Group should be charged with analyzing the situation and making sound recommendations. The title of the DR should be changed to address the review of the STRP. In the DR in DOC. SC43-18, para. 11 should be deleted, as should paras. 16, 17, and 24 related to the budget, as well as similar paragraphs in other DRs, since they attempt to bind the Subgroup on Finance's decisions. Para. 13 can be left to the STRP and the new committee, but it should be done through networks and not just through experts.
180. Panama asked the record to show that Paraguay's and the USA's views were shared by the members of the Americas region present. Mexico agreed and expressed the need to have a methodological approach to assessing the significance of this body of knowledge, a way to assess its impact on the conservation and wise use of wetlands.
181. Denmark thanked the STRP for its important scientific work and noted that the Panel has been instrumental in many important initiatives, providing good value in the Convention's work with other bodies. There is still room for improvement, of course, and so he supported an assessment of science delivery and uptake, and he encouraged Parties to be involved in that.
182. The executive director of RRC-CWA stressed that using Ramsar guidelines in developing countries is important but said that that is difficult on the ground. She suggested the need for more training materials in the use of the guidance. Lebanon agreed with that view.
183. China appreciated the efforts of the STRP and stressed the need to pay attention to the applicability of the guidance to the Parties' needs. How can the work be utilized by the Parties rather than confined to academic papers? China is translating some of the Handbooks and the Ramsar Manual and preparing some further materials for its Ramsar Sites.
184. The Chair of the STRP reported that she had a student analyze the turnover of STRP members and other participants and found that the rate is sufficient to bring in new people and ideas whilst also preserving enough stability to follow up on rolling initiatives over more than one triennium. She seeks about a 50% turnover in each cycle but would welcome advice. The informal practice is a de facto limit on consecutive terms of 2 or 3 cycles.
185. The STRP Chair noted two distinct problems. One systemic problem in moving products through the Convention is a breakdown in the cycle. Before products can be used, they must be disseminated, and it has been shown that the Ramsar people in the Parties are not disseminating the products to their site managers and other relevant actors in their countries. Many site personnel in the Parties seem not even to have been told that there is such guidance available. There is also no adequate process for the Parties to articulate their needs to the STRP or for the STRP to receive them. There is a compelling need to improve these systemic communications issues.
186. She said that the second problem is how to manage the STRP processes, and she suggested that perhaps the informal group formed by SC42 should proceed, more actively now that the bulk of the work for SC43 has been completed. The informal group would prepare some recommendations and draft a DR for COP11 with some new ideas. She supported the idea of an independent impact assessment over the next triennium to look at the effectiveness of the Convention's science work - there is no way to achieve that before COP11 but COP12 would be a suitable target. She could see possible ways of restructuring, not only internally for the STRP but also for the overall science delivery. She asked whether the SC wished to take a decision on this DR or consider a later version, and whether we should prepare a DR on the way forward and perhaps an Information Paper to accompany it.
187. The DSG noted the broader issue of reviewing the whole process and sensed that a separate DR would be needed on all the issues raised, perhaps with recommendations for institutional improvements. He suggested that we may need to rethink the whole system of STRP National Focal Points, which is only now beginning to work. He proposed that the Secretariat, the STRP Chair, and the informal SC42 group should be asked to prepare a DR and Information Paper and advance the DR by electronic circulation in the new year. One option is for the Conference Committee to admit the DR to the COP as an emerging issue. In this way we would have some very clear proposals to make our science work even more successful, whilst avoiding endangering our areas of strengths.
188. The DSG suggested that the SC should request the informal SC42 group to continue its work and report in electronic form as the basis for a DR on science and the Convention, the STRP to circulate a revised modus operandi DR prior to the COP, and the Secretariat to transmit the views expressed by the SC to the informal group.
189. Brazil inquired how the Parties would know whether a DR had been adopted or not following electronic sign-off. The DSG explained several options and noted that some mechanism would undoubtedly need to be identified since there is now no longer any chance of completing all of the required work by Friday afternoon. To Mexico's question on procedures, the DSG explained that this is a new situation for us, because in the past the SC members have made their amendments and tasked the Secretariat to carry them out. There is neither staff capacity nor sufficient time to prepare and review all revised DRs before the end of the meeting, so a new method must be found.
190. The USA urged that a new working group of interested Parties should define the primary concepts and essence of a new document before the end of the present meeting, and he agreed on having a separate modus operandi DR and a new vision document. The DSG agreed that it would be helpful to map out the issues to be covered and invited the USA and the Chair of the STRP to work together with other interested Parties.
Decision SC43-12: The Standing Committee agreed to review and adopt a revised version of the Draft Resolution on the modus operandi of the STRP in the new year and to invite a working group of interested Parties to define the primary concepts for a new vision document on science and the Convention before the end of the present meeting, for later completion and consideration by COP11 as a separate DR with an Information Paper. [See also Decision SC43-36 below.]
DOC. SC43-19, Future scientific and technical priorities
191. The Chair of the STRP explained the structure of the proposed Draft Resolution and described it as the STRP's first cut on the priority issues facing the Convention. She solicited the SC's advice on the priorities and on what kinds of products would be most helpful. The present DR will also be revised in light of any input from the upcoming regional meetings.
192. The DSG amended some incorrect cost estimates in Annex 1 and explained that the presence of the estimates is helpful because potential donors can use the list to choose appropriate tasks to support with voluntary contributions. Many tasks have been progressed in recent triennia through such generous help from Parties.
193. Bolivia reiterated his country's concern about commercialization and explained at length why he could not adopt priorities that include mention of REDD+. The Chair of the STRP pointed out that the task is "to provide advice" on REDD+, not to promote it. She said that we cannot ignore such mechanisms and that it is the responsibility of the STRP to understand and advise the Parties about them.
Sandra Hails, the CEPA Programme Officer, invited the participants to join the Secretariat in celebrating the birthday of Tobias Salathé with a cake. Everyone sang 'Happy Birthday'.
194. The Chair of the SC and the DSG proposed a method of limiting the time spent on each remaining DRs (15 DRs to be considered in three plenary sessions), asking participants to make interventions only on substantive matters, keep them short, and provide textual amendments in writing to the rapporteur. Brazil agreed with the suggestion and said that he trusted that the Chair would show flexibility so that every delegation would have a chance to present its views.
195. Bolivia reiterated his concerns about the commercialization of wetlands, especially with regards to REDD+, and did not agree with its presence amongst the Convention's priorities.
196. Japan raised questions chiefly concerning the tasks on coastal and inland aquaculture and on rice, pesticides, and wetlands. Lebanon felt that CEPA activities should have a top priority.
197. The Netherlands recalled the discussion at SC42 about incorporating the work of the GAWI collaboration on agriculture and suggested ways in which the present tasks, especially that concerning rice, could show links to that GAWI work and build upon it. He also raised a question about the issue of re-engineering agricultural landscapes.
198. Australia felt that given the tight fiscal environment, the STRP's priorities should be focused on its core mission to provide scientific and technical guidance to the Parties, the SC, and the Secretariat. He noted some apparent overlaps amongst the listed tasks. He suggested that the STRP produce an Information Paper laying out the rationales for the task priorities and urged that it should identify synergies among the tasks and show how they build upon existing work by other organizations.
199. Uganda was pleased to see the valuation of wetland services amongst the tasks, as it is important to understand the contribution of wetlands to the country's GDP, which is the kind of language that decision makers use.
200. Canada and Islamic Republic of Iran made suggestions on individual tasks and Bolivia welcomed the task on climate change but objected to the inclusion of references to REDD and REDD+, also asking that references to the valuation of wetlands be deleted. The DSG noted that a number of Parties have been asking for that work to be included.
201. The STRP Chair promised to take the comments and amendments on board and agreed that it is essential to build upon existing work. The new plan for the STRP is to scope each task in terms of origins and existing work, etc., in a Briefing Note which can be made available. Many STRP tasks consist of synthesizing existing work; she explained that some tasks lie outside the scope of the Panel's expertise but the work of different organizations, like Wageningen University, can usefully be adopted or adapted to provide guidance for Ramsar Parties.
202. The STRP Chair offered to discuss matters with Bolivia outside of the meeting, and Denmark asked to join that conversation.
Decision SC43-13: The Standing Committee agreed that the DR on 'Future scientific and technical priorities' will be circulated electronically in a revised version, taking into account the SC's proposals and amendments and following additional discussions in the regional meetings, for the Committee's adoption for consideration by COP11.
DOC. SC43-19 addendum 1: IPBES
203. The Chair of the STRP suggested that the SC wait until after the second IPBES plenary in April 2012 to decide whether to consider a standalone DR on the Convention's relations with that initiative.
204. The USA suggested that, given the text concerning IPBES in the DR on synergies with Multilateral Environmental Agreements, it's not clear that a standalone DR is needed. She appreciated the STRP Chair's engagement with IPBES, but she wished to avoid language implying direct STRP dealings with IPBES on matters that would need decisions from the Ramsar COP. The Chair of the STRP observed that all of the conventions face this issue of how their scientists represent them with IPBES. She suggested that we discuss a possible DR following the April plenary. The USA felt that, since the MEA text is already available, it might be better not to raise procedural questions by trying to bring in a new DR at the last moment. The DSG suggested that, if any new issues should emerge from the IPBES April plenary, we could circulate them in an Information Paper and thus would not require a standalone DR.
DOC. SC43-20, Wetlands and energy issues
205. The Chair of the STRP reported that the government of the UK has financed the work on this task, which was agreed at COP10; the DR is derived from work that will be published in full as a Ramsar Technical Report. It does not describe what should or should not happen, but only provides advice. The DR is long and could easily be reorganized as a short DR with an annex if preferable. The SC Chair indicated his preference for that reorganization, and the DSG observed that the DR can easily be adapted with a separation into an annex after para. 27.
206. The Netherlands, Thailand, and WWF International made suggestions about improvements to the text. The Republic of Korea urged a greater focus on capacity building and raising the awareness of local communities, and the STRP Chair affirmed that, now that the STRP's intensive work in preparing the guidance is concluded, it falls to the Parties to take over with implementation on the ground and implementation support activities at the local level.
207. Brazil said that it is crucial to address possible negative impacts of development policies on wetlands ecosystems, as well as to adopt a harmonized approach in order to address both human development and the protection of environment. There are a number of references in the DR to "negative indirect impacts" of energy sector policies on wetlands. Brazil felt that there is no scientific consensus on the methodologies to measure those impacts; this issue is being discussed in many multilateral fora, such as G20, Global Bioenergy Partnership, ISO, among others, and the consensus has been to emphasize the need to strengthen scientific investigations on indirect impacts. Therefore, Brazil would suggest the inclusion of an additional paragraph in order to acknowledge the lack of consensus regarding the assessment methodology.
208. In addition, Brazil said, the DR adopts a restrictive categorization of the precautionary approach with respect to the introduction of new technologies in the field of energy. The precautionary approach should be applied only to those cases in which there is great uncertainty about the safety of a product or a process. That is not the case with technologies of generation of energy, which are carefully studied and developed, usually through a lengthy process.
209. Specifically about biofuels, Brazil said that para. 11 of the DR highlights the negative aspects of biofuels production that are "water-intensive" and "land-intensive". However, Brazil said that we cannot assume those conditions as general characteristics, and the wording of para. 23(ii) could be amended to present a more positive language. Brazil proposed amendments to reflect all of those points.
210. South Africa wished to keep the language about the precautionary approach, and the STRP Chair offered to confer with both to arrive at suitable wording.
211. The DSG explained that the Secretariat will reorganize the current structure into a short DR and an annex, take the comments and amendments on board, and post the revised version for the SC members' review. He noted that the Secretariat staff members are presently working to set up an online review and comment mechanism so that SC members will be able to comment and signify their approval of the texts to go forward to the COP. Details on that mechanism will be provided as soon as the staff have established it.
Decision SC43-14: The Standing Committee requested the STRP Chair and Secretariat to prepare a revised DR, incorporating the proposed amendments and restructured as a short DR with an annex, and to recirculate it for SC approval for COP11.
DOC. SC43-21, Climate change and wetlands
212. The STRP Chair noted that the intent of the DR is to bring forward recent developments and said that the STRP needs more guidance from the Parties about what would be most useful on the ground; she said that we need a stronger dialogue with Parties and site managers.
213. Bolivia welcomed the DR on wetlands and climate change but objected that the DR allows for increased funding by REDD and REDD+, which should be deleted.
214. Australia and the USA urged that in deciding upon developing any new guidance, the STRP should always seek to build upon existing work. The USA agreed with some of Bolivia's comments about REDD and suggested a number of amendments to the text in that regard.
215. Thailand and Islamic Republic of Iran suggested additional amendments.
216. Brazil said that the role of conservation in climate change mitigation is still being discussed within the UNFCCC, and urged that Ramsar should acknowledge that a scientific debate is still ongoing within the fora that primarily address climate change and that this DR should not advance on decisions about the role of wetlands on mitigation. Brazil advised the Standing Committee to proceed with caution against statements and position of studies that were not endorsed by the Parties of UNFCCC nor are considered by IPCC.
217. The Netherlands asked that Wetlands International be invited to provide text on some issues, and given the shortage of time, Wetlands International was requested to provide that text to the rapporteur. The Netherlands proposed considering those proposals.
218. The Chair of the STRP summarized that she will take account of all amendments and, concerning Australia's mention of limits of acceptable change, she recognized a clear need for guidance on that issue.
219. The SG noted that many organizations are working on the role of wetlands, including peatlands, mangroves, etc., in relation to mitigation of the impacts of climate change, and he argued that our responsibility is to be aware of their work and advise the Parties on how best to use this existing information. Brazil agreed but suggested that a better balance should be sought in the language of the DR.
Decision SC43-15: The Standing Committee requested the STRP Chair and Secretariat to prepare a revised DR on climate change and wetlands for circulation for its approval for consideration by COP11.
Agenda item 9: Secretariat's hosting arrangements (continued)
220. The SG drew attention to the revised comparative table in which a third column with the Secretariat's responses has been added.
221. Finland appreciated the effort but still felt that an information document is needed that provides a comprehensive, easily readable summary of the history, rationales, and documentation for the Parties, using existing information and not reopening any questions. Such an INF Paper would also serve well as guidance from the SC to the COP in making its decision. He suggested that a consultant could be hired to compile this paper, and the SC Chair could appoint a group to finalize it so that it could be sent out with the first mailing of COP documents.
222. Australia felt that the SC should not make a decision at this meeting but leave that to the COP, but he noted that no clear case for moving the Secretariat has been made. The INF Paper should consider the issues in task 3 of Resolution X.5, and the independent consultant should also try to answer questions a) to f) of that Resolution. He said that Australia is prepared to offer the approximately CHF 20,000 left over from the earlier work of the Ad Hoc WG to be used to hire a consultant, if the SC should wish to use it in that way.
223. Thailand reported that the SC members present from the Asia/Oceania region appreciated the new DR provided by Denmark but felt that it raised quite a few questions. Given that and since consensus is unlikely to be found at this meeting, the group proposed that the Ad Hoc WG's original two alternative DRs should be forwarded to COP11, with a small group chosen now to fill them out as needed and with an updated INF Paper to accompany them. She felt that we seem to have forgotten where it all started: what are the problems with IUCN, and can they not be solved? The INF Paper should include the background of the whole issue.
224. The USA appreciated the revised comparative table but noted that several of the elements requested had not yet been added to it. She was doubtful about producing a new INF Paper, since we have so many documents before us already.
225. Indonesia supported the need for a comprehensive document summarizing the whole debate in easily readable form. He offered that if the paper can be compiled by, e.g., February, the Ad Hoc WG could review it and send it back for posting on the Ramsar website. Iran agreed on the need for further information and suggested that the SC Chair could provide a synthesis based on regional meetings and the consultant's report.
226. Panama reported that all present members in the Americas region are in agreement that both of the DRs proposed by the Ad Hoc WG should be sent to the COP, with the inclusion of an additional paragraph showing the steps to be taken after a decision has been concluded. Whichever option is chosen, there should be clear advantages in that choice.
227. IUCN made a thorough response to Denmark's proposed alternative DR. Regarding the Ad Hoc WG's proposed DR concerning IUCN, he made the following points:
"In the current formulation, it would be very easy to make the mistake of thinking that nothing has changed since COP10 and that IUCN did not respond to Resolution X.5. Therefore it will be very important in our view to redevelop the preambular text, to ensure that the following points are clear to all Parties, especially those who have not participated in the WG:
- it should note the strong commitment of IUCN to hosting the Ramsar Secretariat as repeatedly stated to Standing Committee by the DG of IUCN;
- it should note that IUCN is a Union of governments, NGOs and volunteer scientists and thus provides a platform for implementation of the Convention on the ground, as was envisaged at the origin of the Convention;
- we think it is worth reminding Parties of the status of IUCN, which was clearly defined for the WG in our submission in June 2011: IUCN has the legal status in Switzerland of an 'international quasi-governmental organisation' and is recognised as an Intergovernmental Organisation with Permanent Observer Status in the UNGA;
- IUCN and the Standing Committee signed a new Letter of Agreement in 2009 that was negotiated specifically in response to Resolution X.5, as is clear in the preamble of that agreement;
- the critical issues identified in DOC. SC37-2, which are mentioned specifically in X.5, have basically all been solved by the Parties themselves, the Government of Switzerland or IUCN, as was reported in DOC. SC 41-33."
228. WWF International proposed the following text for addition to Denmark's alternative DRs and for general consideration: "to define, well in advance, clear conditions and ways how IOPs would be associated to the process with a view to enhancing the efficiency of their relationship with the Ramsar Secretariat and of wetland conservation on the ground".
229. Japan supported the need for more good quality information, but he felt that Ramsar presently has a good relationship with IUCN, and that UNEP, to break that relationship, would need to show a compelling argument for divorce, not just comparative information.
230. UNEP noted the repeated calls for a comparative compilation of information for Parties that have not been involved in the process. She welcomed Finland's and Australia's proposal for an information document and appreciated Australia's offer to make finances available to hire a consultant. She was confident that all of the documents submitted by UNEP to the Ad Hoc WG would be reflected in the consultant's report, and that the report would not be primarily based on the previous consultant's report of 2009, nor on the revised table distributed at this meeting, since they contain a number of factual mistakes. She further hoped that that resulting information paper would be translated for the Parties at the COP. She felt that most of the questions in Denmark's statement have already been answered in those submissions. Regarding Denmark's Draft Resolution, she noted that some elements are constrained by UN rules and regulations and not within UNEP's mandate to comply.
231. Denmark wished to correct one misapprehension: he did not mean to imply that the present documentation was insufficient, only the presentation of it, and so he welcomed Finland's proposals. He recognized Thailand's doubts about the Danish DR but still felt the need for the addition of a negotiation mechanism and other points. He recognized IUCN's comments on the DR and welcomed further comments.
232. Brazil summarized the outstanding issues and stressed the need to avoid a lengthy DR containing all of the elements. He urged making a simple decision to send the Ad Hoc WG's two DRs to the COP with one additional paragraph to provide a mechanism to ensure the COP's control of the negotiations. Mexico supported Panama and Brazil, adding only that the need for additional information could be dealt with through an Information Paper. She felt that we should not get involved in rethinking everything at this late stage.
233. Canada agreed that both of the Ad Hoc WG's DRs should go forward to the COP and proposed wording for the additional paragraph:
"RECOGNIZING that following an informed decision by Contracting Parties on the future hosting arrangement of the Ramsar Secretariat, under either hosting scenario, a mechanism will be established by the 46th meeting of the Standing Committee which will take into account the needs of the Contracting Parties and the Ramsar Secretariat to facilitate discussions relating to the future operations of the Secretariat to ensure the effective implementation of the Convention."
234. The Netherlands noted that there is no text on cost levels, which we are assuming should be judged on a comparable cost basis. He felt that matters such as selection of the Secretary General and transfer of staff should be included.
235. Marshall Islands supported Thailand on sending the two original DRs. She thanked Denmark for proposing the alternative texts but was concerned that they contain a number of assumptions that would have to be agreed to. She agreed on the need for a paragraph on a negotiation process. Lebanon also supported the original two DRs. Iran supported sending the two DRs and suggested that the Secretariat should ask all Parties to be far more active in achieving the Convention's goals.
236. Australia sensed support for hiring a consultant and solicited ideas as to who could be chosen for that.
237. Denmark said that there had been a very constructive discussion, which had been the purpose of his making his proposals, and he welcomed Canada's text for the Ad Hoc WG's DRs.
238. The Chair of the SC invited interested participants to a short Friends of the Chair meeting to agree a way forward, and he adjourned the day's plenary session.
Friday, 4 November
239. The Chair of the SC reported that the Friends of the Chair meeting had arrived at a consensus on the way forward concerning the Secretariat's hosting arrangements and that Australia was currently finalizing a draft decision for the SC.
Agenda item 6: Financial and budgetary matters (continued)
240. Finland, Chair of the Subgroup on Finance, recalled the alarming challenges facing the Convention in times of financial difficulties and reported that the Subgroup on Finance and informal SC43 working group on finance had held two meetings during the week, resulting in a set of consensus recommendations for SC43 decisions. She read the suggested decisions.
241. Jamaica said that he had understood that there would be a clear signal in the decisions that any cuts for Regional Initiatives for 2011 would be considered on a case-by-case basis. It was agreed that this should be added to the decision.
242. The USA tentatively agreed with the decisions but requested the right to come back to them later in this meeting if a more careful reading should bring up reconsiderations.
Decision SC43-16: The Standing Committee recognized the financial challenges presented in 2011 stemming from the significant shortfall in income from Contracting Parties compared with that budgeted and approved at SC42, as well as the continued uncertainty regarding exchange rates. The Committee noted the actions taken to reduce expenditures and approved the forecast for 2011, with the proviso that additional expenditures for Regional Initiatives would be considered for support on a case-by-case basis. The Standing Committee recognized that in light of a Reserve Fund balance of only CHF 302,000 at the beginning of 2011, the situation requires firm action now to minimize the likely net deficit for 2011, which the Secretariat forecasts as likely to be ca. CHF 114,000.
Decision SC43-17: The Standing Committee recognized that financial challenges would likely continue in 2012 and approved the 2012 rebudget (annexed to this report) reflecting zero salary increases, an increase of the Reserve Fund of CHF 100,000, a carryover of CHF 121,000 from 2011 Regional Initiative allocations and further 2012 Regional Initiative allocations of CHF 73,000. The Standing Committee requested that efforts to secure alternative, non-Core sources of funding for Regional Initiatives should be stepped up both for 2012 and for 2013-2015.
Decision SC43-18: The Standing Committee recognized the challenging target of CHF 900,000 for sponsoring delegates to the 11th meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties and requested that the Secretariat and Parties make this a priority for voluntary funding for the coming year.
Decision SC43-19: The Standing Committee requested the Secretariat to continue to seek alternative sources of financing for the Small Grants Fund; encouraged Parties and other potential donors to demonstrate their desire to keep the SGF operational by making significant voluntary contributions to the Fund; and instructed the Secretariat not to solicit or assess any SGF proposals for the 2013 cycle and to continue to seek further funds for the 2010 and 2011 portfolio of projects.
Decision SC43-20: The Standing Committee decided that two 2013-2015 budget scenarios should be provided to COP11, one that reflects no growth and no inflation and keeps total contributions from Parties at their COP10 budgeted level for 2012, and a second 2% contribution increase version to build in expected local inflation. Both versions should also include budgeted increases to the Reserve Fund of CHF 160,000 per annum in an attempt to get to the ideal 15% level by the end of 2015.
Decision SC43-21: The Standing Committee noted that a number of items had been identified by the Secretariat and Contracting Parties as providing potential opportunities for cost savings in 2013-2015 budget scenarios, including Regional Initiatives, STRP Chair's stipend, STRP core contribution to projects, CEPA/ communications activities, travel, and legal support, and requested the Secretariat to focus on these items in particular when developing its revised budget scenarios for Contracting Parties consideration.
Decision SC43-22: The Standing Committee requested that the Secretariat and Chair of the SubGroup on Finance prepare an Information Paper for COP11 setting out the basis, rationale and implications for Convention implementation of each of the two scenarios and that each of the scenarios presented to the COP should include the projected contributions by Party.
243. The DSG noted that the meeting still had 12 Draft Resolutions to review, and he observed that SC43 must at least open them all for consideration, leaving little time for discussion of each. He urged that textual amendments be passed directly to the rapporteur and that only substantive issues be raised in plenary.
Wiki site for comment on Draft Resolutions
244. The DSG reported that Ms Lynn Sorrentino, the interim Communications Officer, has set up a wiki site for comment on the DRs, one that once operational would be highly private and open only to invitees. He explained that all amendments from this meeting will be incorporated into the DRs and posted as Rev. 1 versions on the wiki site as they are completed. Participants will be notified of each posted Rev .1 and given a deadline of two weeks to post their own comments and proposed amendments in a discussion forum for each DR that will allow participants to view all previous postings and take note of potential areas of disagreement in the proposals. SC members, but not observer participants, will be asked to signal their approval of the text at the end of that comment period, and each DR will then either be finalized and sent for translation for the COP and posting on the Ramsar website or, if necessary, re-issued to the wiki site as a Rev. 2 for further comment.
245. It was agreed that the wiki process should be open to all participants in the present meeting but that approval of the resulting texts would be limited to SC member Parties, since it those Parties that have the mandate to approve DRs for COP consideration. Comment would not be open to all Parties of the Convention, as the present process is Standing Committee business. Contradictory amendments to the texts of DRs would be square bracketed and transmitted to the COP for further debate if they cannot be resolved through the wiki discussion. Easy-to-follow instructions for using the wiki site would be provided in English, French, and Spanish.
246. The Chair of the SC agreed that square brackets should be used to signal unresolved conflicts between proposed amendments, as it is the mandate of the SC, not to resolve all conflicts before the COP, but to bring to the COP for its consideration the best text possible at the time.
247. Jamaica suggested that if the wiki method is successful it could be used in future, perhaps in advance of Standing Committee meetings as well. Conceivably, SC members could propose amendments on the wiki site prior to the SC meeting so that a Rev. 1 version of key documents would be available in time for SC discussions in plenary.
DOC. SC43-22, Integrated framework for wetland conservation and poverty eradication
248. The Chair of the STRP provided the history of this issue in the Convention and explained that the present DR, produced by a small STRP group led by Ritesh Kumar of Wetlands International, is a work in progress, a framework that sets out the most important connections between wetlands and poverty reduction, to be complemented by case studies and best practices and further investigation of what resulting products would be most useful to people on the ground. She expressed gratitude to Ritesh Kumar, Wetlands International, and the other members of the small group.
249. Tanzania, speaking on behalf of members of the Africa group present, expressed the need for further advice on how to mainstream such guidance into national programmes on poverty reduction, and he urged that the DR should be revised to guide Parties and stakeholders in that respect. He said that if a contact group should be established, Tanzania would be happy to participate in it.
250. The director of the RRC-CWA drew attention to the importance of having something in hand to give to people on the ground, such as case studies and best practices. It should be reflected in this DR, perhaps in para. 5, that this is a high priority for the STRP.
251. Islamic Republic of Iran suggested that this framework should be put on the agenda of the Incentive Initiative.
252. The STRP Chair said that the STRP will also reflect this in the DR on Future Priorities and noted that it would be helpful if participants could focus on what products would be most suitable.
253. WWF International proposed an amendment to the text and suggested that case studies should be solicited from the Contracting Parties as well.
Decision SC43-23: The Standing Committee approved the Draft Resolution on poverty reduction (DOC. SC43-22), as amended, for posting on the wiki site for review and approval for COP11 consideration.
DOC. SC43-23, Integrated framework for avoiding, mitigating, and compensating for wetland losses
254. The Chair of the STRP explained that the DR contains little new material and is rather a roadmap to guide Parties through the use of existing guidance on these issues and to identify a few gaps. It is chiefly focused on determining at what point conditions trigger certain actions. She acknowledged the work of the small STRP group that worked on this DR and the financial assistance for it from the UK.
Decision SC43-24: The Standing Committee approved the Draft Resolution on avoiding, mitigating, and compensating for wetland losses (DOC. SC43-23) for posting on the wiki site for review and approval for COP11 consideration.
DOC SC43-24, Principles for urban planning and wetlands
255. The STRP Chair noted that this is one of the sectoral DRs with the best connections to the Changwon Declaration. It grows out of our increasingly strong collaboration with UN-Habitat, and she thanked the SG for leading on that relationship, along with Rob McInnes for the STRP. Our Principles document feeds our science back to UN-Habitat, which has opened up collaborations for us with other organizations, too, and shows how limited resources can be leveraged through partnerships.
256. Austria observed that the Principles would also be very relevant, not only to urban and peri-urban areas, but to rural areas as well, and he proposed changing the title from "urban planning" to "spatial planning". Jamaica supported that suggestion.
257. Thailand proposed amendments to Practical Principle 3.
258. The Chair of the STRP explained that this work was developed to assist UN-Habitat in fulfilling a focus on urbanization, and she suggested that we could work out some language that would acknowledge the wider applicability of the principles without losing that focus.
Decision SC43-25: The Standing Committee approved the Draft Resolution on urban planning and wetlands (DOC. SC43-24) for posting on the wiki site for review and approval for COP11 consideration.
DOC. SC43-25, Wetlands and health
259. The STRP Chair explained that COP10 had asked the STRP to continue its COP10 work on human health into wetlands' relationships with ecosystem health as well. She drew attention to the two forthcoming Ramsar Technical Reports, one of them being published jointly with the World Health Organization.
260. Switzerland valued the document highly but wished for a strengthened section on communications, which the Chair of the STRP indicated would be provided.
Decision SC43-26: The Standing Committee approved the Draft Resolution on wetlands and health (DOC. SC43-25), with a strengthened section on communications, for posting on the wiki site for review and approval for COP11 consideration.
DOC. SC43-26, Rice paddy, wetlands and pesticides
261. The Chair of the STRP explained that this work has been prepared by the STRP Working Group on agriculture, led by STRP member George Lukacs, in collaboration with, inter alia, the UN-FAO and the International Rice Research Institute and has progressed through a number of scientific workshops, including one organized in Singapore in collaboration with the Ramsar Regional Centre for East Asia and the Ministry of Environment of Japan. It responds to the scientific consensus that the issue is real, emerging, and critical, and the DR has been discussed at a subsequent workshop with IRRI and UN-FAO. The DR is focused on sustainable pesticide use in particular but is important for the broader issue of ensuring agricultural practices that do not adversely affect wetlands.
262. Japan expressed three fundamental concerns about this DR. First, she felt that the language is unclear and subjective, for example in paras 9 and 11, which are non-objective and depend upon individual readings; Ramsar Resolutions should be conveyed objectively. Secondly, she felt that the DR is at variance with existing Resolutions of the COP, including the annex to Resolution X.4, which says that "rice cultivation is sustainably practiced at many Ramsar Sites", and Resolution X.31, in which rice paddies are considered to be wetland systems, whereas in para. 8 of the DR they are not. Such contradictions should be supported by scientific data. And thirdly, she felt that the DR is at variance with the spirit of the Ramsar Convention, which is about the conservation and wise use of wetlands, whereas para. 18 of the DR encourages Parties to promote the use of rice pesticides for development of new pesticide technology. In general, Japan expressed concern about the lack of scientific basis and balance in the DR, and she suggested that the STRP should provide a scientific information paper to the COP before submitting such a DR.
263. The Netherlands suggested an additional sub-paragraph connecting the DR to Resolutions VIII.34 and X.10 and the work of the GAWI partnership. China and Thailand suggested additional amendments.
264. Wetlands International expressed strong support for the DR; he noted that IRRI and UN-FAO presented critical scientific evidence of the severity of the problem and recognized Ramsar as a key mechanism for addressing it.
265. The Senior Advisor for Asia-Oceania, Lew Young, recalled the history of the scientific workshops held on this problem and noted that the STRP lead drafted the DR with input from the UN-FAO and IRRI. He explained that the DR does not argue for trying to stop or to promote the use of pesticides, it merely calls for their sustainable use, and he reported that the STRP lead, George Lukacs, is also producing a scientific information paper for the COP.
266. The Chair of the STRP noted that the Singapore workshop's report was also due for release soon and would be announced. She said that there was a great deal of scientific evidence to support the language in the DR.
267. The DSG suggested that if Japan was agreeable he would urge the STRP lead to compile the information paper as soon as possible to provide to the Parties. He invited Japan to highlight which paragraphs were of most concern, and the information paper would address those specifically to ensure that any language in the DR was supported by our expert partners. Japan signified assent to that proposal.
Decision SC43-27: The Standing Committee approved the Draft Resolution on rice paddies and pesticides (DOC. SC43-26), as amended, for posting on the wiki site for review and approval for COP11 consideration.
DOC. SC43-27, Tourism and wetlands
268. The Scientific and Technical Support Officer, Ms Monica Zavagli, explained that tourism has been on the Ramsar horizon for a long time and that the present seemed to be the right time to address the issue, in light of the theme of COP11 and of World Wetlands Day 2012, which have generated more support and interest than any other such themes. A working group has planned a number of related responses, with a publication, which includes more on-the-ground advice and case studies, to be launched at COP11, in concert with key messages and the World Wetlands Day materials for 2012 that have already been disseminated.
269. Ms Zavagli described the DR and its two annexes of definitions and key issues, and she noted that the expert consultant currently working on the publication has recently proposed further information for inclusion in it as well. A broad range of experts from UN-FAO, the IOPs, the CBD, and the UNEP network have commented on the DR, and she invited the SC to comment upon it and approve it to move forward towards finalization.
270. Mexico felt that it was a very good document but explained his reasons for recommending dropping the obsolete term "carrying capacity" in favor of "limits of acceptable change". The Chair of the STRP thanked Mexico and proposed that she, Monica Zavagli, and Mexico should come up with more suitable language for that section.
Decision SC43-28: The Standing Committee approved the Draft Resolution on tourism and wetlands (DOC. SC43-27), as amended, for posting on the wiki site for review and approval for COP11 consideration.
DOC. SC43-28, Responsible investment by government, submitted by Switzerland
271. Switzerland explained that some Swiss banks have developed their own investment guidelines that prohibit developments in Ramsar Sites and relating to other sensitive factors, because they realize that such investments involve a risk for themselves as well. The purpose of the DR is to promote that kind of institutional responsibility - there is no prohibition mentioned in the text, as it is only intended to raise awareness, and it reinforces the principles for dealing with partnerships with the business sector that were adopted by COP10.
272. The DSG noted that, procedurally, the SC cannot refuse any DR submitted by a Contracting Party within the Rules of Procedure, but may wish to offer advice upon it.
273. Thailand supported providing encouragement to Parties to develop public-private partnerships that invest responsibly in wetland conservation, etc., and suggested that technical support should be provided for such efforts. She urged that the STRP should be requested to undertake a review of available guidance on investments of that sort, and proposed text for an addition to para. 16.
274. Uganda pointed out that a key mechanism for Parties in this regard is through their National Ramsar/Wetland Committees and suggested that a reference be added to the DR on that point. The USA proposed an amendment to para. 7.
275. Canada inquired whether the request to the STRP in para. 16 should include a timeline. Switzerland wished not to pressure the STRP and promised to discuss the possibilities, possibly even using existing documents, with the Chair of the STRP and come back with some kind of a timeline. The DSG suggested that this concept could be worked into the STRP's work plan by the COP, but he said that normally, given the limitations of resources, we try not to place timelines on the work of the STRP but rather to let the STRP members scope their tasks and determine what can be accomplished and when.
Decision SC43-29: The Standing Committee welcomed the Draft Resolution on responsible investment (DOC. SC43-28) and invited Switzerland to take the proposed amendments on board and provide an updated version.
DOC. SC43-29, Status of Ramsar Sites
276. Tobias Salathé, Senior Regional Advisor for Europe, explained that through to the 5th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, when there were only 400 or 500 Ramsar Sites, the COPs had technical sessions devoted to discussing the status of Ramsar Sites and offering advice to the Parties involved. Since then, the Secretariat has fulfilled its Article 8.2 reporting duties by reporting on the status of Ramsar Sites with a report and Draft Resolution for each meeting of the COP, and the Standing Committee has instructed the Secretariat to provide the same sort of report annually to the SC. He noted that, as in other conventions, the cases to be mentioned are organized in terms of "open files" and "closed files".
277. The Senior Advisor noted that the present document includes information provided to the Secretariat through August 2011, and he invited the Parties to provide further updates until 2 June, just before the COP, when a revised document would be made available. There would be further opportunities for updating in writing during the COP for the final version of the DR. He said that it was not productive to discuss all such issues in the COP plenaries and that they would better be worked out bilaterally between the individual Parties and the Secretariat.
278. The DSG suggested that the SC note the progress to date and endorse the process, with the Secretariat providing a revised and updated DR just before the COP.
279. Australia reported that information had recently been supplied to the Secretariat as part of Australia's National Report, and updates would be submitted to the Secretariat up to one week before the opening of the COP.
280. China provided an update on four new Ramsar Sites and progress in updating RISs, and provided text to the rapporteur.
Decision SC43-30: The Standing Committee noted the information and model Draft Resolution in DOC. SC43-29 on the status of Ramsar Sites, agreed to provide the Secretariat with any further updates prior to 2 June, and endorsed the Secretariat's intention to issue a revised Draft Resolution just before the opening of the COP.
DOC. SC43-31 on Wetlands and sustainable development (the Tehran Declaration), submitted by Islamic Republic of Iran
281. Iran explained that the DR seeks to bring forward the valuable outcomes of the Ramsar 40th Anniversary celebrations held in Ramsar, Iran, in March 2011, which resulted in agreement on a Tehran Declaration. The main focus of the DR is on the future of the Convention and its ability to make valuable contributions to the Millennium Development Goals and Aichi Targets. He expressed the Iranian government's appreciation to all of the ministers, IOPs, Secretariat staff, and others who were involved in the 40th Anniversary event and contributed to the development of the Declaration.
282. China drew attention to the Wuxi Declaration adopted on 13 October 2011 at the Asian Wetland Symposium held in Wuxi, China (www.ramsar.org/cda/en/ramsar-news-archives-2011-wuxideclaration2011/main/ramsar/1-26-45-489%5E25409_4000_0__).
Decision SC43-31: The Standing Committee welcomed the Draft Resolution on wetlands and sustainable development (DOC. SC43-31) for transmittal to the COP for its consideration.
DOCs. SC43-30, Conservation of Mediterranean Basin island wetlands, submitted by Greece, and SC43-32, Guidance on the application of methods for determining water requirements of wetlands, submitted by Spain
283. The DSG explained that both DRs were submitted subsequent to the deadline for such submissions by Parties that is stipulated in the COP Rules of Procedure and notified to all Parties, and he noted that that deadline exists in order to give the Secretariat time to confirm with the Parties that the DRs meet the formal requirement of Resolutions and are not inconsistent with the Convention or existing or other new Resolutions. Draft Resolutions including scientific or technical contents require consultation with the STRP both on the scientific/technical aspects of the DR and on its relationship to existing and planned STRP work, which is a large part of the advisory mandate of the STRP. The DSG felt that Spain's material, submitted in Spanish and only recently complemented by an unofficial English translation, looked valuable, but could not be reviewed by the STRP within the time frame prior to the COP. The proposed DR from Spain covers an important topic, one on which the STRP has already been mandated by the Conference of the Parties to undertake substantial work in its work plan - that work has been underway for some time, with a set of peer-reviewed Ramsar Technical Reports close to finalization. He said that it would take time to ensure that the proposed DR does not overlap with that work. He pointed out that the Secretariat was not informed in advance of the plans by Spain to prepare and submit such a DR, and thus had been unable to forewarn the STRP.
284. The Chair of the STRP indicated that the Panel could assess the Spanish proposal, in English translation, and see how it fits into ongoing work, but she noted that the STRP does not have the capacity to work on that prior to COP11 along with its other tasks. She expressed a strong willingness to work with the Spanish scientists in future to see how the work could be fitted into the Convention's suite of guidance.
285. Mexico said that Mexico had worked closely with the Spanish and understood that an English translation of the guidelines had been sent. [An unofficial English translation was received in the Secretariat just at the beginning of the meeting, but the DSG and Chair of the STRP had not yet been informed of that.] He felt that the text was a very good DR but he did not wish to break the Rules of Procedure.
286. The SG said that the deadlines had been set to allow everyone time to do their jobs properly, so he felt that it would be a bad precedent to waive them even if the material was very good. Jamaica, the USA, and Thailand agreed that, without prejudice to the merit of the material, the rules should not be waived and the material should be considered by future meetings of the Standing Committee.
287. WWF International requested that the following statement be recorded: "WWF would like to provide the following clarifications: "It is the first time in 40 years of Ramsar history that Greece submit a Draft Resolution. This DR was announced to the Secretariat 10 days before the deadline for reception of DRs, but for some reasons (we are all well aware of the current difficult situation in Greece) it could finally only be transmitted to the Secretariat 10 days beyond the deadline. This DR is closely linked to the priorities of MedWet, Ramsar Regional Initiative for the Mediterranean, based in Greece and hosted by the Government of Greece. It is also a contribution to the 20th anniversary of MedWet, the very first Ramsar Regional Initiative, which will be celebrated in February 2012 - and of which a inspirer and leader, Thymio Papayannis, has just been selected by this Standing Committee for a 'Special Recognition of Achievement' as part of the 2012 Ramsar Awards process. For all these reasons, WWF would like to request that the Standing Committee accept to transmit to COP11 the Draft Resolution submitted by Greece."
288. The DSG noted that the topic of Greece's DR was an important one; he said that the CBD is presently reviewing its programme of work on this topic and there may be room for joint work. Thailand suggested that the SC might wish to advise Greece to propose inclusion of the elements of the DR when reviewing its programme of work on island biodiversity at the CBD COP11.
Decision SC43-32: The Standing Committee recognized the importance of adhering to the Rules of Procedure and urged all Parties to observe those deadlines in submitting Draft Resolutions to future COPs. The Committee invited Spain and Greece to consult with Chair of the STRP about how the materials could be integrated into ongoing work outside of the time constraints of COP11, and urged Greece to consider discussing the elements of its DR with the CBD in its review of its programme of work on island biodiversity.
Wiki site for comment upon Draft Resolutions (continued)
289. There was renewed discussion of the way in which the process of commenting upon and proposing amendments to Draft Resolutions would operate using the proposed wiki site. It was emphasized that clear instructions on the amendment procedure and the use of the wiki site would be provided soon in English, French, and Spanish.
290. Denmark urged that the wiki site should be used as well for a new DR on IPBES that has been proposed by the European members present. The USA felt that it would be confusing to establish discussion fora on the wiki site for matters other than the amendment of DRs, and she expressed her understanding that it had already been decided that the discussion of IPBES was to be included in the DR on synergies with MEAs and not in a separate DR.
291. The STRP Chair understood that the decision about a separate DR had been left until after the outcomes of the IPBES plenary in April 2012 had been taken on board. Denmark recalled that the European participants had asked for more time to discuss the question in their regional meeting, have done so, and would now like to call for a separate DR concerning IPBES.
292. There was agreement amongst participants that a standalone DR on IPBES could not be considered at this SC since the DR had not been submitted by the deadline for submission by Parties stipulated in the Rules of Procedure. However, the participants agreed that after the April 2012 IPBES plenary there may be, if appropriate, a need for modifying the DR on MEAs found in DOC. SC43-16 to incorporate additional IPBES-specific language, and some participants expressed as an alternative the possible need for a standalone DR on IPBES for consideration at COP11, depending on the outcome of the April 2012 IPBES plenary.
293. The DSG summarized that the wiki process for amending DRs could be moving forward during the end of this year and agreed with Brazil that a pilot could be tried first to iron out any difficulties. Australia suggested that a column be added to the wiki menu for the deadlines for each DR, and the USA suggested that keywords be added to the label for each DR, rather than just the document number. The DSG agreed and also suggested a column to show the current status of each DR.
294. To Panama's question, the DSG said that contributors could use French or Spanish if they prefer, but it would be helpful for everyone if they were to include English versions of their amendments as well. He added that the DRs need to be posted on the wiki site sequentially rather than all with one deadline for the lot, because we need to keep the translators working throughout the period.
295. The SC Chair reiterated that the COP will debate all of the DRs in the end, so there does not need to be full consensus on the DRs.
DOC. SC43-33, High-level ministerial segments at COPs, submitted by Uganda
296. Uganda explained that, following the earlier discussions about the importance of having high-level segments at COPs, it would be useful to bring a DR that would establish such segments as part of Ramsar COPs, as far as practicable, beginning with COP12.
297. Following some further discussion of the value of ministerial segments and whether they were worth the cost, a number of Parties indicated a reluctance to bring the DR forward since it had been proposed after the deadline stipulated in the Rules of Procedure. It was not felt that this was a sufficiently urgent issue to require waiving the Rules.
Decision SC43-33: The Standing Committee declined to transmit the Draft Resolution on high-level ministerial segments to the COP but requested the Secretariat to look into incorporating a section of advice on this matter, noting the value of such segments when considered on a case-by-case basis, into the generic information for potential hosts of the Conference of the Parties.
Agenda item 9: the Secretariat's hosting arrangements (continued)
298. Australia reported that the Friends of the Chair group has drafted a decision for the SC to accompany the two DRs proposed by the Ad Hoc Working Group, with the addition of Canada's proposed paragraph. He said that a few issues need to be resolved, such as identifying an independent consultant, whether the information document can be translated for the COP, and so on.
299. Mexico, Denmark, the USA, Finland, Indonesia, and Brazil expressed support for the proposed decision and alternative DRs. It was agreed that the DR on IUCN should precede that on UNEP, and there was discussion of language that would indicate that the Contracting Parties would retain control of the negotiation process without seeming to exclude the Secretariat and Standing Committee working under the Parties' direction.
300. IUCN, Iran, Switzerland, and the USA proposed additional amendments to the wording of the new paragraph in both alternative DRs, and Brazil, Mexico, Finland, and Panama supported those.
Decision SC43-34: The Standing Committee determined to transmit to COP11 the two Draft Resolutions contained in DOC. SC43-13 Rev. 1, as amended, and to request the Ad Hoc Working Group to work with an independent consultant engaged by the Secretariat with funds provided by Australia to prepare by the end of January 2012 an information paper based on existing information to facilitate the decision of COP11.
DOC SC43-17 Rev. 1, Adjustments to the roles and responsibilities of Standing Committee
301. The DSG reintroduced the document showing revisions requested by Parties earlier in the meeting and asked whether the SC would be prepared to adopt it in its present form for presentation to COP11.
302. Canada and South Africa proposed additional amendments. Iran requested that the DR go through the wiki process in order to give further time for consultation with capitals. It was noted that Iran is an SC observer and that procedurally only SC members must decide on whether to proceed with the DR. Panama agreed with Iran's suggestion.
303. Panama and Paraguay requested that para. 6 on the desirability of a common language be deleted. Jamaica recalled that the mention of English has already been deleted from that paragraph. Panama, Mexico, and Argentina noted that removing mention of a common language would not change the actual practice and failing to remove it might set a precedent by enshrining it as a principle in the document.
304. It was agreed that para. 6 of the DR would be deleted. The Chair of the SC said that the DRs in DOCs. SC43-16 Rev. 1 and SC43-17 Rev. 1 would be included in the wiki process of comment and amendment.
DOC. SC43-09, Strategic Framework for Ramsar Partnerships (continued)
305. Croatia, of behalf of the members of the European group present, presented a draft SC decision following on from DOC. SC43-09 on Partnerships.
306. Switzerland, Japan, Islamic Republic of Iran, Jamaica, and WWF International proposed amendments to the draft decision, which were agreed. The DSG defined the term "support group" as a kind of Friends of the Partnership Coordinator group, in which the IOPs would be welcome. WWF indicated that the IOPs would be happy to assist with the work of the proposed support group.
Decision SC43-35: The Standing Committee, recalling the Terms of Reference for the Partnership Coordinator (DOC. SC41-19 annex), requested the Secretary General and the Secretariat to undertake further work on and revise the Strategic Framework for Ramsar Partnerships as presented in DOC. SC43-09, particularly in order:
a) to provide further analysis of all existing partnerships, including those with donors, and to list gaps in the current situation;
b) in cooperation with the STRP, the IOPs, and Regional Initiatives, as well as National Focal Points, to identify potential global, regional, and national donors and to prepare tailor-made products and projects for them;
c) to report on a regular basis to the Subgroup on Finance on the progress of the work on partnerships and synergies with other relevant processes and organizations, including, inter alia, other Multilateral Environmental Agreements and United Nations agencies and organizations, following the structure of the above-mentioned Terms of Reference;
d) to elaborate a first draft work plan for the Partnership Coordinator with a roadmap and clear indicators of success until May 2012, taking into account fundraising as a priority, with particular emphasis on Regional Initiatives, the SGF, and the STRP; and
e) to offer training possibilities and tools on fundraising to each region over the next triennium;
established a support group composed of interested Contracting Parties and IOPs to work with the Secretariat on the above points and to meet together with Contracting Parties on the occasion of COP11; and invited interested Parties to inform the Secretariat of their wish to participate in that group.
Draft Resolution on delivery of scientific and technical advice for the Convention
307. The DSG recalled that earlier in the meeting the USA and the STRP Chair agreed to draft the elements of a DR, and he suggested that the SC should request the USA, the STRP Chair, and other interested Parties to coordinate with the existing informal group on STRP matters and prepare such a DR based on the elements articulated in the paper annexed to this report, and to post it on the wiki site for comment and amendment. The DSG and the USA noted that this was not a newly proposed DR but was rather complementary to the STRP modus operandi DR covering additional matters requested by Decision SC42-30.
308. Denmark congratulated the STRP Chair and the USA and offered to participate.
Decision SC43-36: The Standing Committee invited the STRP Chair, the USA, Denmark, and the Secretariat, and any other interested Parties, to prepare a Draft Resolution based upon the elements articulated in the paper annexed to the report and decisions of this meeting, and to post it on the wiki site for comment and amendments and transmission to COP11 for consideration. [See also Decision SC43-12 above.]
Agenda item 11: Proposed amendments to the COP Rules of the Procedure
309. The DSG explained that the Rules of Procedure are adopted at the beginning of each COP and the SC should make recommendations to the COP about any changes to the existing Rules that might be thought necessary. The rule changes proposed were to rules 18, 19, and 26 and relate to the approval of COP credentials, and were based on the advice in the Credentials Committee's report to COP10.
310. The USA proposed a number of amendments to the wording of the changes in Rules 18 and 26. The DSG explained the circumstances identified by the Credentials Committee that made the proposed amendments seem necessary. The USA preferred the new amendments to that wording, as proposed by the USA.
Decision SC43-37: The Standing Committee approved the proposed amendments to the COP Rules of Procedure in principle, for transmission to the COP, subject to further discussions between the USA and the Deputy Secretary General about their precise wording.
Agenda item 12: Date and venue of the next meeting
311. The SC Chair noted that the 44th meeting of the Standing Committee will take place in Bucharest on Sunday, 17 June 2012 [subsequently amended to Wednesday, 4 July 2012].
Agenda item 13: Adoption of the report of the meeting
312. The DSG explained the way in which the Ramsar Convention has always adopted the reports of the Standing Committee meetings, in which the SC goes quickly page by page over the first three days' draft reports and brings up any substantive issues, whilst all factual corrections to the text are passed directly to the rapporteur in writing. For the fourth day's report, it is established practice that the SC entrusts the Chair of the SC to review and adopt that part of the report on its behalf.
313. The SC Chair said that he did not want to approve the draft report at this meeting but would like the four days' draft reports to be posted as a single package on the wiki site for comment and amendment.
314. Iran, Panama, and Paraguay also wished to have a single package posted on the wiki site. Canada urged that a deadline should be stipulated for finalizing the report.
315. WWF International preferred to adopt the report during this meeting, as usual, because the alternative requires a great deal more time and discussion.
316. The DSG pointed out that at the moment there is no wiki site, and that the Secretariat staff would begin working to establish one, write instructions for using it, and get those instructions translated for distribution. He said that the draft reports "package" would have to be e-mailed to the participants and the comments e-mailed back to the rapporteur at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any conflicts would then have to be straightened out by e-mail. He noted that the SC report is a record of the decisions that were taken and a summary of the interventions that were made during the meeting, not an exact verbatim record. Thus any proposed amendments that alter the decisions that were agreed during the meeting or include material that was not actually spoken by participants during the meeting would not be appropriate for inclusion.
Agenda item 14: Any other business
317. There was no other business.
Agenda item 15: Closing remarks
318. The SG thanked the participants for a fruitful week and renewed his commitment to implement the SC's decisions. He clarified that the Secretary General's mandate is to be aware of anything that might impact upon the Convention and to notify the Executive Team. That is what he did when he discovered the effect of the high exchange rate of the Swiss franc, alerting the Executive Team on 30 August. He noted that the situation is better today. He wished to clarify that he made a proposal to review the 2011 budget but in no way made a decision to act unilaterally. He noted that in accordance with Rule of Procedure 14 the Secretariat would examine the financial impact of all proposals submitted to COP11 to assist in its decision making.
319. The Chair of the SC thanked the delegates and the interpreters, looked forward to seeing everyone next year in Romania, and adjourned the meeting.
Draft Resolution: Ensuring efficient, effective delivery of scientific and technical advice and support to the Convention
The DR will be supported by an information paper prepared through the small working group which was established after SC42.
Elements of the proposed DR:
1. Establish a small review committee consisting of volunteer members of the SC and any other interested Parties. The committee may be overseen by a Party which volunteers to do so.
2. The committee may consult with relevant entities, including the STRP Chair, Secretariat staff, national focal points, Ramsar site managers, other wetland managers, IOPs and representatives of other bodies associated with Ramsar such as biodiversity-related MEAs who can offer advice and guidance.
3. Recommendations of the review committee will be submitted to the SC for consideration prior to COP12. Recommendations will include suggestions for mechanisms within the Convention to implement changes which may be agreed.
4. The committee will address, inter alia:
- Review of the full processes by which scientific and technical Convention implementation needs are identified, articulated, and converted into tools for the range of on-the-ground stakeholders, including those processes which involve adoption of scientific and technical Resolutions by the COP as well as other processes within the Convention;
- Review of the roles of relevant entities within the Convention for scientific support and delivery to stakeholders, including the roles of STRP, the Secretariat, the national focal points and the regional initiatives, giving special attention to finding ways to ensure that scientific and technical products effectively support Convention implementation;
- Exploration of possible refinements or changes to relevant Convention processes to facilitate effective communications between all those entities involved in scientific support and delivery. This could include changes to Resolution processes, the STRP modus operandi, and the focal point system;
- Development of measures to track and assess the effectiveness of the scientific support and delivery processes within the Convention, across the various entities responsible;
- Suggestions for a future vision, direction and objectives for maintaining the strong practical science base on which Ramsar has always been founded.