Review of scientific support to Ramsar's STRP



Review of scientific and technical support amongst partners to improve core science foundation support to the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) and the Ramsar Convention

2.2.1 Implementation of the Ramsar Strategic Plan - role of IOPs

1 Introduction

1. This Review has been produced by Wetlands International as an input to the proposed changes in the modus operandi of the STRP (ref: document COP8 - DR28 on Modus operandi of the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP), available at, and as called for in the Report of the Standing Committee subgroup on the modus operandi of the STRP (Doc. SC26-27, Addendum 1, revision 1).

2. In accordance with the following terms of reference described in Doc. SC26-27, Addendum 1, revision 1, this paper is submitted to the the Standing Committee's Subgroup on the modus operandi of the STRP to consider this Review, through the Chair of the Sub-Group, the Chair of the STRP and assisted by the Bureau.

1.1 Terms of Reference

3. Wetlands International agreed at the 26th Meeting of the Standing Committee, held in December 2001, to assist in the review of the scientific support to the STRP (see Document SC26-27, Addendum 1, Revision 1).

4. The Review should make recommendations on further developing the scientific support and synergies amongst Ramsar's International Organization Partners (IOPs) and other observers in the STRP, so as to improve core science foundation support to the Ramsar Convention, through the STRP.

5. Specifically, the review should take into account the capacity and expert networks and make recommendations to the Standing Committee concerning:

a) whether an improved institutional arrangement between Wetlands International and the Convention would more effectively deliver work in support of the Convention's scientific and technical needs;
b) if so, what should be the institutional arrangements and what are the benefits and opportunities that will derive from such arrangements;
c) whether amended arrangements along comparable lines with any other organisations would be similarly beneficial.
d) the cost of different options, identifying the financial issues concerned;
e) how better coordination of the involvement of the Specialist Groups that operates under the umbrella of Wetlands International and other IOPs could be achieved, and gaps in areas of expertise that should be filled; and
f) how to improve the engagement with national STRP Focal Points and to augment their capacity, so as to enable better access for STRP to national expert networks.

6. The Review should act in the spirit of a multilateral review suitable for application to key Conventions linked by common Joint Work Plans (CMS, CBD, Ramsar). The Review is therefore wide ranging and has two key components:

a) General review of science support to STRP; and
b) Specific suggestions for Wetlands International's role, and the role of other organisations

2 General review of science support to the STRP

7. The Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) of the Convention is a very flexible mechanism that can enable broad-based high quality support to the work of the Convention. The work of the STRP is regarded as a relatively open process which enables representative and expert advice to be sourced from Contracting Parties and also from a wide range of other sources. In practice, however, organising the participation of experts and especially resourcing the work done by them in response to the demands of the Conference of the Contracting Parties appears to be an increasingly challenging task.

2.1 STRP operation and availability of expertise

8. The STRP was established in 1993 by Resolution 5.5 (COP5, Kushiro, Japan). At that time the STRP was made up of 7 experts, one per each Ramsar region at that time, designated to serve in their personal capacity by the Conference of the Parties (COP), on the advice of the Standing Committee and from the candidates proposed by Contracting Parties. An alternate to each STRP member from the same region was also designated. To respond to their remit, they could seek further expertise from any authoritative source amongst Contracting Parties and partner organisations. At the time, IUCN and IWRB (now Wetlands International) were accredited as observers to the STRP.

9. In 1999, Resolution VI.2 (COP7, San Jose, Costa Rica) modified the STRP's modus operandii and composition such that the Panel now comprises 13 experts from the current six Ramsar regions, with the number of experts from each region being proportional to the number of Contracting Parties, with their appointment made by the COP to provide advice in their personal capacity, and not as representatives of their countries or governments.

10. The same Resolution requested the Parties to designate National STRP Focal Points (NSFP). STRP members are expected to liase with the NSFPs from their respective regions/sub-regions.

11. Importantly, Resolution VI.2 also called on the Convention's International Organisation Partners, namely BirdLife International, IUCN-The World Conservation Union, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Wetlands International, to each nominate a representative to become an STRP member on equal basis with those designated by the COP, and identified a series of other organisations with scientific or technical expertise on wetland matters to participate in the work of the STRP as observers.

12. With these changes, the STRP was considerably strengthened, so as to enhance its capacity to cope with the increasingly heavy workload placed upon it by COP decisions and Strategic Plan actions. This in turn has resulted from the increasing number of areas of work and issues on which the COP wishes to take a view and/or to provide guidance to the Parties.

13. Nevertheless, during the current triennium the STRP has recognised a range of difficulties in its capacity and mechanisms for delivery of its tasks. This has led to a draft Resolution and revised STRP modus operandi that has been approved by the Standing Committee for consideration by COP8. (se paragraph 1), proposing further changes to the STRP modus operandi, which will be considered at COP8. Elements of the revised modus operandi were developed in recognition that there is a need to more effectively engage the assistance of experts in the work of the STRP, and to streamline ways of undertaking substantive tasks of the STRP.

14. The Review presented in this paper is intended to provide further input to the Standing Committee's consideration of the future STRP modus operandi particularly with regard to establishing mechanisms for improving access to scientific and technical experts and the delivery of tasks through clarifying and strengthening the role of the Convention's International Organisation Partners. The Review's conclusions and recommendations will be considered at the meeting of the Standing Committee Subgroup on COP8 and Subgroup on Finance on 15-17 May 2002.

15. The STRP has available for its work four main groups of expertise:

1. 13 expert members designated by the COP on the basis of nominations received from the Parties;
2. experts designated as STRP members by the IOPs;
3. representatives of scientific and technical organisations with observer status to the STRP; and
4. STRP National Focal Points (NFPs) designated by Administrative Authorities.

16. In addition, the STRP has the opportunity to identify and request the assistance of external experts on specific topics on which it may establish and expert Working Group.

17. Together the 13 expert regional members of the STRP bring a varied range of scientific and technical knowledge to the work of the Panel. However, currently the appointment procedure means that this expertise is not necessarily directly relevant to the major topics in the STRP's work programme although the recommended changes to its modus operandi are designed to address this point.

18. The second and third categories (IOPs and observer organisations) provide access to a quite different network of expertise, which may be organised at global, regional or, less, often at national level. This expertise is, in general, not directly and necessarily related to the national Ramsar Administrative Authorities and/or Ramsar National Committees, when they exist.

19. The first three groups of experts work together in STRP expert Working Groups, which are established by the STRP at its first meeting of a triennium as need arises to concentrate on producing results called for in its work programme.

20. Access to the expertise of STRP National Focal Points is facilitated by STRP regional members, the STRP Working Group leads and the Ramsar Bureau, although in practice mechanisms and capacity to fully engage this part of the network have so far been limited.

21. The Ramsar Bureau acts as the secretariat for the STRP, at present with the Deputy Secretary General acting as the staff member responsible for all STRP matters. The Bureau organizes the STRP meetings and to a large extend provides support, guidance and advice to the STRP Working Groups.

22. In many instances, the support, guidance and input of the Bureau has been critical to guarantee the delivery of the STRP outputs.

23. In summary, there is a range of networks of expertise currently or potentially available to support the work of the STRP for the Convention but present mechanisms and modus operandi do not permit full access to and input from these networks. This is in part due to the complexity and different nature of the expert groups and networks and opportunities exist to streamline and make more coherent their expert input to the work of the Panel.

2.1.2 Roles and tasks of Ramsar's International Organisation Partners (IOPs)

24. Statements from each IOP on its role and networks available to support the work of the STRP are provided in Annex 1.

25. From the point of view of the expected contributions to the implementation of the Convention, the current four IOPs each enjoy the same official relationship with Ramsar, having being formally recognised as IOPs by the COP . However, their roles and delivery mechanisms are different. For example in each IOP responsible for coordination of input to the STRP lies with its designated STRP member from the IOP's global/international secretariat but, as the statements in Annex 1 indicate, the extent and way in which expertise is sourced from the different parts (global, regional and national) of each IOP is very variable.

26. A key feature in common to the IOPs is that they provide continuity to the work of the STRP through semi-permanent representatives and network leaders. This contrasts with the three-yearly cycle of changing membership of the STRP Chair and regional members. Additionally, the working relationship of IOPs and the Convention is further elaborated for Wetlands International with a Memorandum of Agreement (1997), for BirdLife with a Memorandum of Cooperation (1999), for IUCN with an Agreement for Programme Cooperation (1991), while for WWF such an agreement will be signed on 16 May 2002. These existing agreements should be regarded as the starting point, but do not exclusively define the cooperation and support provided to the STRP and the Convention from the IOPs. It is, however, intended that this will be further clarified and elaborated through the development of joint work plans based on the Implementation Plan of the Convention's second Strategic Plan 2003-2008.

27. The current role and tasks of the four IOPs in support of the STRP are quite different, as stated in Annex 1. Examples of the key contributions of IOPs to the work of the STRP are as follows:

i) BirdLife International is concerned with all aspects of policy development and operation of the STRP, promoting and performing inventories (e.g. on Important Bird Areas), and with development of monitoring and biodiversity indicators;

ii) IUCN provides species advice through its Species Survival Commission, general advice on wetlands and water issues, including on policy, through its Wetlands and Water Programme, and certain areas of thematic advice (wetland economics, climate change, social policy, etc.) through other IUCN programmes; and its Red Listing programme provides the basis for the application of Criterion 2 for globally threatened species;

iii) Wetlands International provides policy advice, guidance on designation of under-represented wetland types in the Ramsar List, advice on inventory, monitoring and assessment, and on training. Globally relevant benchmarks for waterbirds including the regular review and setting of 1% population thresholds for the application of Criterion 6 criterion for the designation of Ramsar sites;

iv) WWF International primarily contributes policy advice on wetlands and ecosystem management, and undertakes expert reviews of different aspects of the scientific, technical and policy implementation of the Convention.

28. Of the four IOPs, Wetlands International's niche as specifically a wetland organisation has the closest overall match with the range of work of the STRP. However, all four IOPs have unique strengths and expertise that are largely complementary.

2.1.3 Implementation of the Ramsar Strategic Plan - The role of IOPs

29. The STRP is expected to assist appropriately in the delivery of some of the actions contemplated under a number of the 21 Operational Objectives of the proposed Strategic Plan 2003-2008. Analysis of the Objectives that include specific expected Actions and outputs from the STRP (see Annex 2) indicates that for each Operational Objective there is a close link with the expertise of one or more IOP (Table 1). The work areas of the Operational Objectives shown in bold in the Table 1 are those that directly involve the STRP in science-based and/or technical work. IOPs are also expected to support the delivery of these objectives and the Table 1 lists the work areas against the expected IOP involvement in the delivery of advice and assistance to the STRP.

Table 1. Expected IOP involvement in the delivery of actions under the 21 Operational Objectives of Ramsar's proposed Strategic Plan 2002-2008.

Strategic Plan 2003-2008 Operational Objectives

Expected IOP involvement (lead expertise in bold)

1. Inventory and assessment


2. Policies and legislation, including impact assessment and valuation

BirdLife, IUCN, WI, WWF

3. Integration of wetland wise use into sustainable development

BirdLife, IUCN, WI

4. Restoration and rehabilitation


5. Invasive alien species


6. Local communities, indigenous people, and cultural values


7. Private sector involvement


8. Incentives


9. Communication, education, and public awareness


10. Designation of Ramsar sites

BirdLife, WI

11. Management planning and monitoring of Ramsar sites


12. Management of shared water resources, wetlands and wetland species

BirdLife, IUCN, WI, WWF

13. Collaboration with other institutions

BirdLife, IUCN, WI

14. Sharing of expertise and information


15. Financing the conservation and wise use of wetlands


16. Financing of the Convention


17. Institutional mechanisms of the Convention


18. Institutional capacity of Contracting Parties (see Note 1)

BirdLife, IUCN, WI, WWF

19. International Organisation Partners and others (see Note 2)

BirdLife, IUCN, WI, WWF

20. Training


21. Membership of the Convention


Note 1: An action under this Operational Objective concerns the role of IOPs at national scale in National Ramsar/Wetlands Committees and their input through STRP NFPs to the work of the STRP.
Note 2: This Operational Objective concerns the overall role and delivery mechanisms of IOPs in support of the work of the Convention, including the STRP.

30. The roles and lead inputs to the different themes of Convention work summarised in Table 1 have been identified in the drafting and review process of the Strategic Plan, which has included consultation and input from the IOPs. The analysis indicates a clear lead role for one or other IOP for some Operational Objectives (or in some cases different elements of an Operation Objective), but in other cases the involvement of three or all four IOPs. This emphasises the need to further clarify and agree the precise roles and lead roles of each IOP in relation to the work of the STRP and other implementation of the Convention, and for the IOPs together to clarify and agree their joint working relationship on topics of common interest, and to agree these with the Bureau and STRP.

2.3 Role of other organisations in the work of the STRP

31. COP7 approved formal observer status of a number of scientific and technical organisations. Several of these organisations potentially bring networks of their organisation's membership into the work of STRP in areas of expertise complementary (or in some cases supplementary) to those of the IOPs, although in practice to date their input has been largely restricted to the expertise of individual representative attending STRP meetings.

32. COP7 also approved invited observer status on the STRP to the chairs of the equivalent scientific and technical subsidiary bodies of other global environmental conventions (CBD, CMS, UNCCD, and UNFCCC). This is intended to facilitate collaboration between the multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) on topics of common interest in their respective work programmes. To date the level of engagement has, however, been limited. To enhance this collaboration between MEAs, particularly in relation to the development and implementation of joint work plans, the revised STRP modus operandi to be considered by COP8 includes the granting of observer status also to the secretariats of these MEAs.

33. In addition, Memoranda concerning Cooperation between the Convention and a number of other organisations have been signed by the Ramsar Bureau. In some cases the agreement includes observer status to STRP, but in others without such status or, as yet, direct involvement in its work. However, the revised STRP modus operandi to be considered by COP8 includes the granting of STRP observer status to all relevant scientific and technical organisations with which the Convention has established such memoranda.

34. Currently observer organisations to the STRP include:

i) The Society of Wetland Scientists, which contributes expertise, capacity building and access to an expert register, and additionally commits itself to promote the implementation of the Convention's wise use guidelines, assisting with wetland inventory and assessment programmess, and raising awareness of wetlands and their values, including the promotion of World Wetlands Day. Input to the work of STRP to date has particularly focussed on wetland restoration.

ii) The Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), which is co-operating with the Bureau and Wetlands International to develop a web-based a data gateway for the Ramsar Database in relation to other spatial datasets, and which has expertise in socio-economic digital information.

iii) The International Association for Impact Assessment, invited by the STRP in the current triennium to assist in its work on developing Convention guidance on impact assessment; and which brings network expertise on this topic at both the strategic and project levels;

iv) The Global Wetlands Economics Network (GWEN), with a network of expertise in wetlands socio-economic issues, valuation and incentives;

v) The International Society of Limnologists (SIL), with expertise in freshwater ecosystem research and management, but which has to date engaged very little with the STRP's work;

35. Other organisations with which the Convention has a memorandum and which can bring areas of scientific and technical expertise to the work of the STRP include:

i) The Nature Conservancy, which supports the implementation of the Ramsar Strategic Plan and which has extensive expertise in biodiversity data and information management systems and site management;

ii) Eurosite, which offers advice on site management and associated capacity building and the drafting of management plans;

30. Ducks Unlimited, which through its work promotes awareness and understanding of the Convention and has extensive wetland and waterbird management experience.

2.4 The need for improved expertise and support in the delivery of STRP's work

36. With the increasing expectation on the delivery by the Ramsar COP of scientific, technical and policy advice on a large and increasing number of issues, the demands upon the Bureau and the core members of the STRP has grown considerably. The IOPs and observer organisations to STRP have become increasingly relied upon to take the lead on work in their fields of expertise, and to organise the necessary input through their own networks.

37. However, such roles have to date been largely developed on an ad hoc basis. It is essential to retain flexibility in the formation and work of STRP expert groups to deliver the outputs requested of the STRP. But there is a clear need to streamline and co-ordinate much more effectively the varied scientific input required, through better and more consistent access to, and engagement from, the wide variety of expert networks both from the IOPs and other organisations, and at the same time promote accountability and consequent timely delivery of results. This Review therefore considers possible ways forward to further assist the STRP in delivering the expected outputs.

38. Currently the STRP's Work Plan is developed at the first meeting of the STRP in each Ramsar triennium, in response to the decisions of the COP, including tasks in the Convention's Work Plan derived from the Strategic Plan. Hence the work topics for the STRP have been determined after the appointment of regional STRP members by the COP, so their expertise does not necessarily match the required work and this has proved a major impediment to effective delivery of the STRP's work during the current triennium.

39. Whilst the revised STRP modus operandi includes mechanisms designed to improve the match of regional members' expertise to that of the STRP work programme, it is highly unlikely that these 13 members will have the required best global expertise for each and every major work area required of the Panel. Improved access to such global expertise through the expert networks of the IOPs and others will be essential to ensure the best possible quality of scientific and technical guidance to the Convention.

40. With the large number of different topics of substantive guidance being required in the STRP's work, the Bureau has recognised that its capacity under its current staffing levels is increasingly overstretched in advising the Panel on the establishment and membership of expert working groups and servicing and ensuring delivery of the work of these groups. For each STRP task there is substantive work required of the Bureau, and this currently falls to the Deputy Secretary General as just one part of his overall role in leading delivery of the scientific and technical work of the Convention, with limited support on certain topics from other Bureau technical staff.

41. In particular the Bureau has recognised that there is an urgent need to improve mechanisms for drawing on the expert networks of IOPs and others in the establishment and work of STRP expert working groups, and for streamlining the identification of appropriate experts from the multiplicity of existing networks. Such STRP working groups should draw fully on the expertise of such networks and not duplicate them.

42. Furthermore the Bureau has identified the urgent need to have increased capacity in the management of the work of working groups and their lead experts with responsibility for drafting substantive guidance and reports, including as appropriate the engagement of expert consultants to prepare such material on behalf of the working groups.

43. The Bureau has also stressed that it currently lack the capacity fully to service and engage the STRP National Focal Points in contributing to the work of the STRP, and to maintain contact with this important mechanism of the Convention.

44. The Bureau has noted that there are several options for achieving this enhanced capacity, and these are reflected in the Terms of Reference established by the 26th meeting of the Standing Committee of this Review. These include inter alia:

i) the establishment of an additional Bureau technical staff post with specific responsibility for network identification and servicing the work of the STRP expert working groups, and this is currently identified as part of a non-funded budget line in the draft Convention budget for the next triennium; or
ii) the delivery of these elements of the STRP work on behalf of the Bureau by another organisation, and specifically one of the IOPs of the Convention in full recognition of their role of providing scientific and technical support to the Convention.

45. Whichever proves to be the most appropriate option to implement there is a critical need to improve and link existing registers of expertise including those established by the Bureau (Ramsar Expert Database, STRP National Focal Points), the IOPs (staff and Specialist Groups) and other organisations and to agree and establish a more coherent mechanism for identifying appropriate experts from the wide variety of relevant organisations and experts worldwide.

46. It is also recognised that there may be gaps in the expertise available from the existing expert organisations and their networks in relation to certain topics of required STRP work, and that gap analysis and identification of additional organisations and experts, and/or the establishment of additional expert networks with which to forge links with the STRP and Convention, will be an essential part of the delivery of improved network support to the STRP.

47. Part of this gap analysis should be the further mapping of existing sources of expertise from IOPs and others to that presented in Table 1 against:

a) the Operational Objective topics of the Strategic Plan 2003-2008;
b) different wetland ecosystems and habitat types; and
c) different wetland species taxa

and ensuring that this information is widely available not just to the STRP but also in support of Contracting Parties implementation of the Convention.

46. If the Standing Committee Subgroups on Finance and COP8 agree an option for enhancing network support and management for the STRP on the basis of this review, it should be noted this may require some amendments to the revised modus operandi of the STRP approved by the 26th meeting of the Standing Committee for consideration by COP8.

47. Expert contribution to the work of the STRP needs, under the revised STRP modus operandi being proposed to COP8, to be provided in three ways:

i) from the Panel itself in contributing:
- its expertise in guiding the establishment of expert working groups;
- where appropriate global expertise on a topic existing amongst the Panel member, directly undertaking drafting work of scientific and technical materials; and
- reviewing and approving draft materials for transmittal to the Standing Committee;
ii) identification of additional experts, including from existing external networks with which the STRP has established links, to become members of STRP expert working groups, and to lead drafting of their materials;
iii) where appropriate, identification of a wider group of experts, including from STRP National Focal Points and others, on each topic in the STRP work plan, to be invited to undertake peer review of draft materials prepared by the expert working groups.

3 Response to the STRP and STRP-related Ramsar Bureau needs

48. The established working relationship between the IOPs and the Ramsar Bureau enables various support options to be considered. In responding to the STRP and STRP-related Ramsar Bureau needs, it would be effective to consider ways of strengthening the existing relationships, as well as ways of addressing remaining weaknesses in science support to the STRP.

49. The questions set out in the Terms of Reference (see section 1.1) are used below to structure this discussion., A concluding section makes recommendations for consideration by the Standing Committee Subgroup on the modus operandi of the STRP on the basis of this analysis.

a) Would an improved institutional arrangement between Wetlands International and the Convention more effectively deliver work in support of the Convention?

50. Currently, Wetlands International's work in support of the Convention is governed by three structures:

a) generally by the 1997 Memorandum of Agreement with the Ramsar Bureau;
b) through implementation actions for it identified in the current Ramsar Strategic Plan and developed through a joint work plan prepared in 2000:
c) contractually for Ramsar Database work on a triennial basis.

51. A major gap exists in these arrangements concerning the role of Wetlands International's Specialist Groups and the enabling of their scientific support to the STRP. The waterbird Specialist Groups are vital in assisting the delivery to the Convention of the Waterbird Population Estimates and the 1% population levels set for waterbirds and used as the basis of the Ramsar 1% criterion for Ramsar Site designation. There is potential also for further development of Wetland International's thematic wetland Specialist Groups with a focus on key areas of STRP work.

52. As an IOP, Wetlands International, in common with the other IOPs, is well placed to propose and develop new ways to improve support to the STRP through enhancing input from its networks. IUCN Species Survival Commission, Wetlands International and in association with BirdLife, co-operate in managing the species Specialist Group network, 16 of which, all waterbird related, are led through Wetlands International. Other networks are also associated with Wetlands International, including expert groups on wetland inventory and monitoring, wetland restoration and on peatlands.

53. Wetlands International is the only IOP whose sole business of working in the field of wetlands. The other IOPs have much greater coverage of issues as their missions, with wetlands only one component amongst many. Wetlands International is therefore closer in its purpose to the mission of the Ramsar Convention (and through its predecessors, a co-founder), and is an appropriate IOP to enter into an arrangement with the Ramsar Bureau to strengthen support of the STRP. Such an arrangement is likely to more effectively deliver work, through enabling better access to expertise not only from Wetlands International's network, but also that of its partners.

b) If an improved institutional arrangement is recommended, what should be the institutional arrangements and what are the benefits and opportunities that will derive from such arrangements?

54. In addressing the STRP and STRP-related Ramsar Bureau needs, Wetlands International could, through an improved institutional arrangement deliver enhanced access to expertise. There are several options, however, to achieve this, which are further discussed here.

55. Section 2.4 above has evaluated the need for increased capacity to fully undertake the STRP-support tasks currently delivered by Ramsar Bureau staff , and more support officer time has been identified as a need, to enable two key results:

a) Identifying further appropriate and globally reputable expertise, in particular by truly engaging the network of National STRP Focal Points and their own networks at national level, and identifying and establishing links with other expert organisations; and
b) developing services and enabling mechanisms to access this expertise.

56. These results could be achieved through one the following options:

Option A: Partners, including IOPs, and their networks, making available their expertise to an "in-house" Ramsar Bureau dedicated STRP support officer, who would identify necessary expertise (from IOPs and others), manage access to it by the STRP and develop the necessary support services.

Advantages: All the business of the STRP would be under direct Contracting Party control through the Standing Committee and the COP, and the support officer would be fully conversant with Ramsar Bureau practice. Involving the Contracting Party-designated STRP Focal Points could be facilitated if it is the Bureau doing this.

Disadvantages: Distance from the knowledge of the IOPs staff and expert networks and their capacities to contribute. Higher salary and overhead costs than for an IOP located outside Switzerland. The option would need core funding within the Convention's triennial budget (currently not accepted within the draft proposed Convention core budget for 2003-2005), unless one or more Parties was will to support a post and its costs through voluntary contributions.

Option B: A dedicated support officer located within an IOP to perform this duty, would in partnership with other IOPs, access the available networks of the IOPs and other bodies, develop and maintain support services, and manage the supply of the necessary expertise to the STRP.

Advantages: The support officer would have immediate access to the expert networks of the IOPs and their skills registers. Undertaking this function would recognise and further demonstrate the significant role and purpose of IOP status under the Convention in providing scientific and technical support. Salary and overhead costs would be lower outside Switzerland than for the equivalent post based in the Bureau or a Swiss-based IOP.

Disadvantages: The support officer would not be directly accountable to Contracting Parties, could find more difficult to engage the National STRP Focal Points and may be less conversant with the modus operandi of a multilateral environmental agreement. The support function and officer would still need to be fully funded.

57. If Wetlands International is identified as the most appropriate chosen as the IOP under Option B, it would have a comparative advantage over BirdLife International and WWF International, but not necessarily over IUCN, concerning immediate access to associated experts and networks. However, Wetlands International's associated experts and networks are all dedicated to wetland subject areas relevant to the work of the STRP.

58. In terms of staffing and related costs of running Option B, it is anticipated that, as for Option A (additional capacity within the Bureau) costs for Swiss-based IOPs (IUCN, WWF) are anticipated to be higher than those for Wetlands International (Netherlands) or BirdLife International (UK) - see also question d) below.

59. One condition needs to be established and agreed upon is that if an IOP, such as Wetlands International, hosts the proposed service under Option B, the remaining three IOPs should be prepared to work together to ensure that access of STRP to additional expertise is transparent and open. This could be best achieved through a simple joint memorandum between all four IOPs and the Ramsar Bureau outlining the agreement and mechanisms for delivery.

c) Would amended institutional arrangements along comparable lines with any other organisations be similarly beneficial?

60. Apart from the IOP option, the most immediate alternative would be to invite an STRP Observer organisation to host the STRP support service. Amongst the current Observers, the Society of Wetland Scientists has the nearest match of role required, and has a detailed roster of experts (on a range of scientific topics relevant to the Convention) at its disposal.

61. A benefit would be that a professional association of scientists could be an effective clearing house for sourcing expertise. A possible disbenefit is that the range of expertise and its geographical location is limited primarily to the Americas. However, a cooperative arrangement with the IOPs or lead IOP delivering the STRP support service could overcome this limitation.

d) Costed options, identifying the financial issues concerned

62. Elements of the proposed STRP technical support service with cost implications are as follows:

· STRP support officer (full-time salary and social costs)
· Skills register development and maintenance
· Outreach development of expertise register and capacity for National STRP Focal Points
· Support costs to WI Specialist Groups and IUCN Specialist Groups in fulfilling STRP tasks
· Development costs for agreed gap-filling permanent Specialist Groups
· Travel and subsistence costs for attending STRP-related and network development meetings
· Costs of arranging and hosting mid-term workshops for STRP expert working groups (anticipated in the revised STRP modus operandi) (Note. A budget line for STRP working group support, which may include consultancy costs for drafting materials and/or travel and subsistence for working group members to attend workshops, is included in the tentative core budget 2003-2005 for the Convention. This amounts to CHF 80,000 for the triennium.)

63. It has not yet been possible during this stage of the review to prepare fully costed options for Options A and B. However, the elements of the work are similar for either option whatever the location and mechanism selected. The main differences in the anticipated costs for the delivery of the STRP support service through Option A (Bureau in-house) or Option B (Wetlands International - non-Swiss based IOP) will lie in salary and social costs for a staff member, which are anticipated to be significantly higher in Switzerland than in the Netherlands. Other differences in costs may arise in travel and subsistence for meetings attendance dependent on the location of the support service.

64. It is proposed that a fully costed budget for the 2003-2005 triennium be prepared after consideration of the recommendations of this review by the Standing Committee Subgroups on Finance and COP8 at their May 2002 meetings.

65. However, to implement the proposed STRP technical support service will require funding additional to that currently available. No core funding for STRP support currently exists in the Convention budget, and the IOPs carry the costs themselves of their involvement in STRP meetings and drawing on the expertise of their expert networks to input to STRP work. The proposed Convention core budget 2003-2005 includes CHF 80,000 for STRP working group support (see above) but the current indications from the Standing Committee are that core funding for an STRP support officer post will not be included in the core budget to be considered by COP8.

66. If the Standing Committee does not consider it appropriate to include full funding for the STRP support service in the Convention's core budget, then funding will need to be sought from donors, either through voluntary contributions from Contracting Parties (either to or through the Ramsar Bureau or direct to the implementing IOP, depending on which implementation option is selected) and/or the submission of project proposals for other agencies or foundations. Potential donors should be encouraged to provide the necessary funding as a matter of urgency.

67. To develop and implement the support service to be effective in support of the STRP in the 2003-2005 triennium it will be essential to have the service fully funding for the whole of the triennium, and to have this funding available to initiate development of the service not later than January 2003, since the service would need to provide advice on available expertise, and initiate support of expert working groups, at the first meeting of the STRP which is anticipated to be in May 2003.

e) How can better coordination of Specialist Group involvement from Wetlands International and other Ramsar IOPs be achieved, and gaps in areas of expertise that should be filled

68. Specialist Groups led by Wetlands International (including those operating jointly with IUCN-SSC), are best coordinated through Wetlands International, while IUCN-SSC Specialist Groups have a coordinating focal point at IUCN Headquarters. At present, informal liaison is maintained between the focal points at WI and IUCN respectively.

69. Gaps in the existing networks of IOPs and others need to be analysed against the expertise needs of the STRP and the Convention. Part of this gap analysis should be the further mapping of existing sources of expertise from IOPs and other organisations and individuals with links to the Convention (including STRP National Focal Points) to that presented in Table 1 above, against:

a) the Operational Objective topics of the Strategic Plan 2003-2008;
b) different wetland ecosystems and habitat types; and
c) different wetland species taxa

70. Gaps in expertise that are identified could be filled through several different mechanisms: a) a term limited task force of experts to cover a gap can be created; or b) formal links established with an existing network to provide lead expertise to the Convention; or c) a new Specialist Group established to cover a long term gap, e.g. at taxon level.

71. This gap analysis should form part of the priority activities of an enhanced STRP technical support function, delivered through either Option A or B above.

f) Possible ways of improving engagement with National STRP Focal Points and augmenting their capacity, to enable better access for STRP to national expert networks.

72. National STRP Focal Points are requested to act as a clearing house to identify and as much as possible, consult with, and seek input from, other experts and expert bodies in their countries. This task depends upon the existence of an effective mechanism within each country. Capacity building may on occasions be essential to enable the focal point duties to be effectively performed. Key steps recommended are to regularly assess needs, particularly of less developed countries and to propose supportive measures.

73. The Bureau, in its 2001 review of STRP modus operandi has already recognised the need to establish a register of the expertise of the National Focal Points as a means of engaging their expert assistance in the work of the STRP, and this should be a priority activity in the delivery of an enhanced technical support service to STRP.

74. The IOP network is well placed to engage with STRP focal points and to assist both with assessment and in organising effective response. Should an IOP be selected to host an enhanced service to the STRP, one of its duties should be to keep under review the effectiveness of the STRP national focal points.


4.1 Summary of Conclusions

75. This review concludes that there is need and value in establishing a mechanism for increased science-based support to the work of the STRP, and with the increased work load upon the STRP. Its needs require a response that is well structured to enable that Panel to more fully and efficiently access to the global network of expertise and support.

76. The present STRP support arrangements managed by the Ramsar Bureau have been shown to require considerable strengthening, and several options have been reviewed.

77. The review concludes that such a support service could be operated directly as a strengthened Ramsar Bureau role or by an International Organisation Partner of the Convention. It is concluded that it is both feasible and appropriate for the role of the IOPs for the support service be operated in this manner, and identifies Wetlands International as the most appropriate IOP to deliver the service.

78. It is anticipated that cost savings, particularly in relation to staff costs, would be achieved in the operation of the support service by Wetlands International when compared with operation from within the Bureau. Fully costed options will be prepared following the consideration of the conclusions of this review by the Standing Committee Subgroups in May 2002.

79. The support service should undertake four major functions:

i) the establishment of improved links with and knowledge of existing expert networks operated by the Convention (Ramsar Experts Database, STRP National Focal Points), IOPs, other organisations with observer status to STRP and/or with which the Convention has developed links;

ii) identification of gaps in expert network coverage in relation to the STRP's work, and gap-filling including identification of other existing networks and the establishment of new networks as appropriate;

iii) advising the STRP on appropriate experts from these networks to contribute to the work of the STRP; and

iv) managing the work of expert working groups established by the STRP, on behalf of the Bureau.

80. A decision for Wetlands International to develop and implement the support service would need to be with the full agreement of, and contribution from, the other three IOPs.

81. To be effective in supporting the work of the STRP in the 2003-2005 triennium the support service needs to be established not later than January 2003.

82. Additional resourcing to that proposed in the draft Convention budget 2003-2005 for STRP working group support will be needed to provide the support service, and Contracting Parties and other should be encouraged as a matter of urgency to provide this funding, which will need in the first instance to be for the full 2003-2005 triennium.

83. If the recommendations of this review are approved some modifications to the text of the revised modus operandi of the STRP approved by the Standing Committee for COP8 consideration will be needed to fully reflect the role of the support service.

4.2 Recommendations to the Standing Committee

83. The Standing Committee Subgroup on the modus operandi of the STRP is invited to consider making the following recommendations to the Committee's Subgroups on Finance and COP8:

84. Recommendation 1. That an International Organisation Partner (IOP), working in open and transparent partnership with all other IOPs, STRP observer organsations and others be requested to host an enhanced support service to STRP and the Bureau, under a contractual arrangement with the Ramsar Bureau and the supervision of the Ramsar Standing Committee.

85. Recommendation 2. That Wetlands International be invited to be the host IOP for the enhanced service, for reasons of cost effectiveness and synergy with networks.

86. Recommendation 3. The STRP support service should undertake five major functions:

i) the establishment of improved links with and knowledge of existing expert networks operated by the Convention (Ramsar Experts Database, STRP National Focal Points), IOPs, other organisations with observer status to STRP and/or with which the Convention has developed links;

ii) further development and capacity-building of the network of STRP National Focal Points and their within-country expert networks;

iii) identification of gaps in expert network coverage in relation to the STRP's work, and gap-filling including identification of other existing networks and the establishment of new networks as appropriate;

iv) advising the STRP on appropriate experts from these networks to contribute to the work of the STRP; and

v) managing the work of expert working groups established by the STRP, on behalf of the Bureau.

87. Recommendation 4. That a full Terms of Reference, including budgets, for the STRP support service should be prepared by the Bureau in consultation with Wetlands International, other IOPs and the STRP.

88. Recommendation 5. That the Standing Committee's Subgroup on Finance consider the options for funding the STRP support service either through the core Convention budget or voluntary contributions from Contracting Parties and others and, as appropriate, urge potential donors to provide the necessary funds as a matter of urgency; and also recognise that to be implemented the STRP support service should be fully funded for the 2003-2005 triennium and begin implementation in January 2003.

89. Recommendation 6. That the Bureau be requested to revise the draft COP8 Resolution on the modus operandi of the STRP to reflect the establishment of the STRP support service.

Annex 1. Roles of International Organisation Partners

Wetlands International

1. As one of the four International Organisation Partners, Wetlands International has a general role of supporting the work of the Convention, and in particular, the provision of expert scientific advice in its recognised areas of expertise. A first Joint Work Plan (Ramsar Bureau and Wetlands International, 2000), identified the following work:

· Ramsar Training Service
· Work in STRP Sub-Groups (Wetlands International is a member of STRP Sub-Groups on Peatlands (co-lead), Inventory, World Commission on Dams, Wetland Restoration, Ecological Character.)
· Waterbird Population Estimates (publication cycle approximately 3 years)
· Ramsar Database and Directory Service (under contract from the Bureau 1999-2002)

2. These activities have continued to form the core of the work undertaken, and in addition, a substantial expectation of the Ramsar Database and Directory Service contract is that Wetlands International will assist in the identification of under-represented wetlands in the List.

3. Wetlands International's Specialist Group network is involved in certain areas of the work, specifically in the preparation of the Waterbird Population Estimates (all waterbird groups), Inventory (Inventory SG), Ramsar Training Service (Education and public awareness SG). However, Wetlands International's paid staff provide the majority of the direct input to the work of the STRP.

4. As a global organisation with a headquarters in the Netherlands and several regionally based offices, Wetlands International delivers work primarily at supranational scale. This is performed by the paid staff and by representatives of Specialist Groups. Although some Specialist Groups have an extensive regional structure, in general Groups provide advice and deliver work at a global level. This "top down" organisational approach contrasts, for example, with the approach that can be taken by BirdLife or by STRP National Focal Points, who can access nationally organised expertise.

Wetlands International's expectations of the Review

5. Wetlands International considers that the Review offers a mechanism to improve both the delivery of scientific and technical advice to the Convention, and potentially, a means to improve the necessary resourcing of such work.

6. From Wetlands International's perspective as a global organisation, resources needed as identified in this Review are best targeted at funding working group / expert input and supply of data and analysis to the STRP.

7. This separates the role of the Contracting Party selected STRP members who review work performed for the Convention, from the majority of the providers of the information etc, that come from an outer and more stable "scientific civil service", made up of a collection of experts and SGs, whether from IUCN, WI, etc. Wetlands International therefore sees its role primarily to supply expertise at an integrated global level.

8. There are several possible outcomes concerning the role of Wetlands International in strengthening support for the STRP. For example, Wetlands International could act as the general mediator and where appropriate, the provider of the work needed for the science and Working Group input to the STRP and the Convention. Therefore Wetlands International sees this Review as an opportunity to achieve two principal results:

a) to improve science-based support to the STRP, from a wide range of organisations and individual experts; and
b) to enable Wetlands International (including the Specialist Group network) to perform the most appropriate role for the Ramsar Convention.

Wetlands International's available expertise

9. The following tables summarise the existing Specialist Group and staff focal points that are able to deliver science support to the Ramsar Convention. Specialist Groups are volunteer networks organised around the common interests of members of the Groups, and the majority of Wetlands International's groups are established to study waterbird taxa. The remaining small number of Groups are thematic and deal principally with wetland habitat. Staff focal points have programmatic responsibilities for work done by teams within WI, whose members may be located in more than one office. All work performed by staff should conform to the Wetlands International Strategy 2002-2005, and be costed through the appropriate Programme Action Plan.

Table 1. Key focal points for expertise available through Wetlands International







Mennobart van Eerden


Joseph Kerekes


Africa, Europe, Middle East & Americas

*Clinton Jeske

Marc Woodin



Old World

*Alan Johnson

New World

Felicity Arengo


Western Palearctic

*Bart Ebbinge

Eastern Paelarctic

Masayuki Kurechi


Ray Alisauskas


Jon Fjeldsa


Heinz Hafner


Old World

*Alain Crivelli

New World

Daniel Anderson


Barry Taylor


Old World

*Stefan Pihl

North America

Jean-Pierre Savard

Storks, Ibises & Spoonbills

Old World

Wim van Den Bossche

New World

Malcolm Coulter



*Jan Beekman


Roberto Schlatter

Threatened Waterfowl


*Baz Hughes


Andy Green

North America

Tom C. Rothe

Wader Study Group

David Stroud

Woodcock & Snipe

Old World

*Yves Ferrand



Dan McAuley

Economic Assessment of Wetland Functions & Values

Fern Filion


Wetland Inventory & Monitoring

*Max Finlayson


Luis Naranjo

Wetland Restoration

Kevin Erwin

Wetlands & Water Resources



Education & Public Awareness

Doug Hulyer


Gilles Deplanque




Marcel Silvius

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

Douglas Taylor

Wise use actions

Marcel Silvius


Scott Frazier

Training, capacity building and outreach

Taej Mundkur

Waterbird monitoring

Simon Delany

Biodiversity Conservation Programme

Gerard Boere

River Basin Management

Dr C.L. Trisal

* denotes global focal point, where more than one is shown, otherwise names with bold type are main focal points

Analysis of the focal point commitments to the scientific work of the Ramsar Convention

10. Wetlands International's current inputs are drawn from staff and WI Specialist Groups and fall into the categories shown in the following table (Table 2), with approximate number of days commitment per year.

Area of expertise

Staff of Wetlands International – Person days / yr

Specialist Groups – Person days / yr

Waterbird census and WPE



STRP sub-group Inventory



STRP sub-group Peatlands (co-lead)


90 (IMCG, IPS)

STRP sub-group Wetland Restoration



STRP sub-group Ecological Character



STRP sub-group WC on Dams



STRP Millennium Assessment



STRP Other (training, outreach, general)



11. The great majority of the current Specialist Group input consists of unfunded voluntary contributions, while staff input is approximately 60% funded.

BirdLife International

Response received from David Pritchard on behalf of BirdLife International

BirdLife International's "core" input to the work of the STRP.

12. BirdLife International has a long history of input to policy development in Conventions, in pioneering aspects of global guidance as well as elaboration of national policy and legislative frameworks in individual countries. Programmes and projects at local level include scientific research, conservation management of key sites and ecosystems, education and community participation initiatives. More widely, campaign activities promote public awareness of a range of bird and biodiversity conservation issues. BirdLife International provides support and assistance to Conventions at all levels, including their global technical bodies, regional initiatives and national implementation by Parties. In particular BirdLife collects and synthesises a variety of data resources which offer significant contributions to implementation. These include inventories of Important Bird Areas (IBAs), and the World Bird Database, concerning the status and distribution of birds worldwide. Much of this is now accessible through the new website BirdLife is also currently developing integrated monitoring and biodiversity indicators in three categories: IBAs, threatened bird species and common bird species. Convention-related processes will be among the end-uses for this work.

13. In relation to the STRP, we follow all of its agenda, and have been participants in the working groups on impact assessment (effectively co-lead), ecological character, management planning, water allocation, and inventory. In addition we have been active in one-off or ad hoc working arrangements or workshops associated with the STRP's work programme, including impact assessment and incentives, ecological character, and legal interpretation issues.

14. BirdLife has also made contributions from a perspective which supports the STRP work programme at Technical Sessions of the COP and regional and sub-regional meetings of the Convention.

15. We are also members of the Standing Committee sub-group on review of the modus operandi of the STRP, and have deputised for the STRP Chair at the Standing Committee and in its sub-groups, including delivering the report of the Panel to the Committee.

16. A role which has expanded considerably in recent times has been BirdLife's promotion of the STRP's interests and contribution of its perspective in other fora, including SBSTTA of CBD, the Scientific Council of CMS, the Technical Committee of AEWA, the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention, and especially in the context of negotiations over Joint Work Plan and similar arrangements between Ramsar and CBD, CMS and AEWA.

17. Finally, a good deal of BirdLife's input to STRP work takes place in the form of ad-hoc discussions, consultations, correspondence and comments on documents between meetings, on issues both within and outside the scope of the specific working groups.

18. Estimated time spent on these activities: 30 person-days/year.

Input from BirdLife International's networks.

19. BirdLife International is fundamentally a network-based organisation, and is represented by Partner Organisations or similar representatives in over 100 countries in all regions of the world.

20. Scientific activities, such as the definitive directories and databases of Important Bird Areas, Endemic Bird Areas and threatened bird species, involve input from networks of hundreds of individual expert consultees around the world. Fifteen taxonomic specialist groups (concerning waterbirds) are joint groups in the system shared between Wetlands International, IUCN Species Survival Commission and BirdLife International. BirdLife has several specialist groups of different kinds on particular species in addition to these, and in Europe and Africa in particular, focal specialists have been identified for coordinating or contributing to individual Species Action Plans or programmes.

21. There are also networks of people set up in relation to sites (Important Bird Areas), including "IBA caretaker" monitoring networks in many parts of Africa and Europe in particular (intending to expand in other regions in future).

22. The activities of BirdLife's networks contribute substantially to work synthesised on a joint basis or by others, such as for example waterbird census programmes, site monitoring, bird population status reviews, etc.

23. Estimated time spent on these activities: 70 person-days/year (this is not easy to estimate, and depends on what is included/excluded).

Response to TOR questions (a)-(f) in Introduction to Review.

NOTE: The TOR are attached in Annex 3

24. On the details of these issues we will wish to participate in further debate as it unfolds. Time does not allow a full exposition of possible ideas at this stage. Future institutional arrangements should probably be specific to a given organisation, but there might be considerable similarity between those for, say, Wetlands International and BirdLife International.

25. Regarding (e), from BirdLife's point of view things seem to have been improving, but of course we are very happy to consider and discuss the possibilities for ensuring that this will work in the best and most productive way.

26. We will consider (f) further as I think there is some scope here, especially in respect of BirdLife, given that we are constituted with national organisations operating on a day-to-day basis at that level with governments and other national agencies.

27. One important point concerning BirdLife's input to the STRP is the considerable emphasis we give, in addition to e.g. provision of data, to advice and analysis on issues (all within the "technical" realm of the STRP's remit) of strategic policy development, legal issues, and the relationship of these to each other and to questions of science. BirdLife contributes this type of input perhaps to a greater degree than the other IOPs.

Other comments on the consultation paper.

28. Consultation Statement made by WI: Resources needed by WI under the review should be targeted on funding the resourcing of working group / expert input and supply of data and analysis to the STRP. This separates the role of the CP selected STRP members who review work performed for the Convention, from the providers of the information etc, that can come from an outer and more stable "scientific civil service", made up of a collection of experts and SGs, whether from IUCN, WI, etc.

29. In the above Consultation Statement prepared by WI, the distinction described between WI and the CP-nominated STRP members may hold good in relation to WI, but this paragraph would not apply in the same way to BirdLife. Both the description given of WI's type of input and the description of the CP-nominees' type of input could apply to aspects of input made by BirdLife.

WWF International

Response received from Jamie Pittock on behalf of WWF International

30. WWF focuses on topical policy debates on wetland (freshwater and marine) ecosystem management. It seeks to demonstrate and document solutions to wetland ecosystem conservation in the field.

31. From time to time it undertakes expert reviews of topical issues in conjunction with the Convention, or presented to the Convention for its consideration.

32. In the next three years WWF will be focusing on establishment of protected areas, river basin management, and sustainable use of water and fish.

IUCN - The World Conservation Union

Response received from Jean-Christophe Vie, on behalf of SSC and IUCN/Species Programme.

33. To date our input has been quite limited to the role of the Specialist Groups we share with WI and Birdlife. To my knowledge other groups had a limited contribution to Ramsar convention. The Species Programme acted in a reactive way though offering to contribute more for additional ad hoc advice. The estimated amount of time was probably around 1 person a week per year.

34. With the development of the freshwater biodiversity programme the figure will certainly greatly change. Our main goals are:

- to increase freshwater biodiversity knowledge and develop a FW information system
- establish the basis for a FW biodiversity monitoring programme and develop indicators for the FW biodiversity status
- regional capacity building to identify important sites and update knowledge on FW biodiversity
- identify key threatening processes and priorities for conservation
- increase awareness.

Amended Arrangements

35. This should be treated within IUCN as a whole with wetlands, protected areas ... programmes and other commissions (WCPA, CEM). The IUCN draft contribution to the joint Ramsar/CBD workplan will certainly serve as a basis to consider the role of IUCN and the eventual requirement of new arrangements.

Costed Options

36. The freshwater programme is starting and remains in a fundraising phase. The global programme has been estimated at 5.5 millions CHF (not including specific work on assessment and contributions from Specialists Groups). This entire programme is supposed to contribute to the Ramsar Convention workplan


37. A survey has been undertaken by IUCN (Sue Mainka) to improve coordination of SGs with all supporting organisations.


38. In addition to the SGs we share with WI, SSC can fill important gaps in the Freshwater biodiversity taxonomic coverage with:

- mammals: at least 8 SGs deal with water-dependant mammals (hippos, sirenia, otters...). A mammal global assessment should start next year.
- plants : 16 regional groups potentially cover aquatic habitats
- reptiles: 8 groups (crocodile, freshwater turtles, regional groups)
- amphibians: 4 groups + 1 taskforce
- 4 invertebrate SGs (mollusc, odonata...)
- 6 fish SGs
- disciplinary groups (invasive...)

39. We have started to expand and structure the network for fish and invertebrates, and to structure the marine network (which might bring a plus for coastal wetlands). We then expect a much better input into the Convention workplan in the near future.

Annex 2. Operational Objectives and actions relevant to STRP in the draft Ramsar Strategic Plan 2003-2008

The following table lists the relevant Actions under each Operational Objective of the proposed Ramsar Strategic Plan 2003-2008 where the STRP is expected to generate outputs. Note that additional Actions for STRP may be introduced to the Strategic Plan from Resolutions and Recommendations adopted by COP8.


1.1.4 Make available a Web-based wetland inventory meta-database and encourage the inclusion of a metadata record for all national (including provincial) wetland inventories. GO1 {STRP, Wetlands International, CPs

1.1.5 Undertake an update of the Global Review of Wetland Resources and Priorities for Wetland Inventory (GRoWI) to include updated information on the distribution and size of the global wetland resource and progress in national (including provincial) wetland inventory since COP7 (Resolution VII.20), and report on this to COP9. GO1 {STRP, Wetlands International, Bureau}

1.2.1 [6.1.3] Actively contribute to the work of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment project ( by serving on its Board and Executive Committee and on its various working groups; analyze the Assessment's methodologies, results and findings at Ramsar COP9, and review the necessary actions, if any, to update and make comprehensive the global assessment of wetland resources and their condition. GO1 {CPs, Bureau, MedWet, STRP, IOPs} (Refer also to Action 1.1.5)

1.2.2 Establish a repository for the contribution by Contracting Parties of summarized national (or, where appropriate, provincial) assessments of changes in the status of wetland resources, as the basis for regular analysis and improved reporting on the status of global wetland resources. GO1 {STRP, Bureau, IOPs, CPs, OCs}

1.2.3 Develop for consideration by COP9 guidelines for rapid assessment of wetland biodiversity and functions and for monitoring change in ecological character, including the use of indicators, for both inland and coastal and marine ecosystems. GO1, 2 {STRP, Bureau, CBD} (Refer also to Action 11.2.1)

1.2.4 Develop methodologies for the assessment of the vulnerability of wetlands to change in ecological character, including their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, sea-level rise, invasion by alien species[, and agricultural practices]. Apply for this purpose the Convention's Risk Assessment Framework (Resolution VII.10), its guidance on impact assessment (Resolution VII.16) [and the further guidance on assessing change in ecological character adopted at COP8]. GO1, 2 {Bureau, STRP, MedWet, IOPs, MEAs}

2.2.4 [2.4.1] Promote the continuing development, wide dissemination - primarily through the Internet-based resource kit ( – and application of methodologies to undertake valuations of the economic, social and environmental benefits and functions of wetlands, in collaboration with the International Association of Impact Assessment (IAIA), Ramsar's International Organization Partners, and interested Parties and organizations. GO1 {CPs, STRP, Bureau, MedWet, IOPs, OCs}

3.1.1 Review the Wise Use concept, its applicability, and its consistency with the objectives of sustainable development. GO1 {STRP, CPs}

3.1.2 Compile advice, methods and best practice studies for the wise use of wetlands, including the application of the ecosystem approach, and disseminate these to wetland managers. GO1 {STRP, CPs, Bureau}

3.4.3 Review, from case studies and other materials compiled through the CBD/Ramsar River Basin Initiative, lessons learnt and good practice experience, and report this to COP9, including the preparation of additional guidance, as appropriate, on integrating wetlands, biodiversity and river basin management. GO1, 3 {Bureau, STRP, MEAs, OCs} (Refer also to Operation Objective 12.1)

3.4.4 Develop guidelines to assist Parties in considering the full environmental, social and economic impacts on wetland and river systems of constructing large dams, for consideration at COP9. GO1, 3 {STRP, Bureau, MedWet, IOPs}

3.4.7 Develop, for consideration at COP9, guidance on the sustainable use of groundwater resources to maintain wetland ecosystem functions. GO1 {Bureau, MedWet, STRP, IOPs}

[3.4.8 In collaboration with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (refer also to Action 13.1.1), promote and implement the guidance adopted by COP8 for the management of wetlands in relation to adaptive management and mitigation of the impacts of climate change, particularly in the context of land use, land use change and rising sea levels, forestry, peatlands [and agriculture]. GO1, 2 {STRP, Bureau, MedWet, OCs}]

4.1.3 [2.6.2] Compile information on new research and methodologies for the restoration and rehabilitation of lost or degraded wetlands and disseminate this information. GO1 {CPs, STRP, Bureau, MedWet, IOPs}

5.1.2 In collaboration with the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP), the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ramsar's International Organization Partners, and interested Parties, continue to develop and disseminate practical guidance for the prevention, control and eradication of alien species, based on case studies and documented experiences from around the world. GO1 {CPs, STRP, Bureau, MedWet, GISP, IOPs, OCs}

8.1.2 Continue to develop and improve upon the Internet-based resource kit ( on incentives prepared and maintained by IUCN-the World Conservation Union. GO1 {CPs, STRP, IUCN, Bureau}

8.1.3 Report to COP9 on progress in the design, implementation, monitoring and assessment of incentive measures and the identification and removal of perverse incentives, [including those relating to agriculture]. GO1 {STRP, Bureau}

10.2.4 [5.3.3] Fully update and submit revised Ramsar Information Sheets as frequently as necessary to record changes in the status of sites, and at least for every second meeting of the COP, so that they can be used for reviewing change in ecological character and progress in achieving the Vision and Objectives of the Strategic Framework and guidelines for the future development of the List of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Handbook 7) at each COP. GO2 {CPs, STRP, Bureau, Wetlands International}

[11.1.3 Develop and publicize the "San José Record" for Ramsar sites (Resolution VIII.xx) whose management plans and their implementation fully meet the Ramsar management planning guidelines adopted by COP8, and create an Internet-based resource kit and knowledge and information exchange for the sites accepted onto the Record. GO2 {CPs, Bureau, MedWet, STRP}]

11.2.6 [5.1.5] Where a Ramsar Advisory Mission has been completed for a Montreux Record site, take all necessary steps to implement the recommendations, and report at regular intervals to the Bureau on the results of these actions. At the appropriate time, seek the removal of the site from the Montreux Record, having provided the Bureau and STRP with details of the site condition using the approved questionnaire (Ramsar Handbook 7). GO2 {CPs, STRP, Bureau}

12.2.3 Through the Memorandum of Understanding and associated Joint Work Plan with the Convention on Migratory Species and the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds Agreement (AEWA), work cooperatively to identify and manage important sites for wetland-dependent migratory species, and promote jointly, where appropriate, [promote to Parties of both Conventions and Agreement] the development of site networks referred to in the previous Action. (Section B3 of the Guidelines.) (Refer also to Operational Objective 12.1). GO2, 3 {STRP, Bureau, MedWet, OCs}

12.2.4 Promote and disseminate research into the population dynamics and sustainable harvesting of wetland dependent species, especially migratory waterbirds. GO1, 3 {STRP, Bureau, IOPs, OCs}

13.1.1 [7.2.3] Continue to strengthen cooperation and synergy with the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention to Combat Desertification, the Convention on Migratory Species and its Agreements, the World Heritage Convention, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in particular through the vehicles of Joint Work Plans and collaboration among the respective subsidiary scientific bodies of the conventions and the secretariats, and at national level among the Ramsar Administrative Authorities and Focal Points of the different MEAs. GO3 {STRP, CPs, Bureau, IOPs, OCs}

14.1.1 Using mechanisms such as the national focal points for communication, education and public awareness (CEPA) and for the STRP, promote the sharing of knowledge (traditional, indigenous, and more recently derived technologies and methods) at the global, regional, and national levels. (Section D1 of the Guidelines.) GO1, 3 {CPs, CEPA, STRP, Bureau}.

15.1.11 [7.4.6] Assist, where requested, Contracting Parties and bilateral and multilateral development assistance agencies in the development, screening and evaluation of wetland projects. GO1, 3, 4 {STRP, Bureau}

17.1.4 [8.1.4] Review the working priorities and modus operandi, and ways of financing, of the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) at each meeting of the COP. GO4 {COP, SC}

17.1.5 Maintain as an ongoing priority action of the STRP, with the support of the Convention's network of STRP national focal points, IOPs and others, the development of new tools to assist Parties with the implementation of the wise use principle, as well as the review of the Ramsar Criteria for Identifying Wetlands of International Importance to ensure that these reflect global wetland conservation and wise use priorities. GO1, 2, 4 {COP, STRP, Bureau}

17.1.6 Ensure that each Contracting Party has nominated a national focal point for the work of the STRP (as called for by Resolution VII.2) and two focal points (one government, one non-government) for the Outreach Programme on wetland communication, education and public awareness (as called for by Resolution VII.9). GO1, 4 {COP, CPs}

18.1.2 [8.1.9] Establish National Ramsar/Wetlands Committees to provide the opportunity for input from, and representation of, relevant government agencies and non-governmental organizations, STRP and CEPA National Focal Points, key stakeholders, indigenous people and local communities, the private sector and interest groups, and land use planning and management authorities (Recommendation 5.13). When in place, ensure the proper functioning of these Committees. GO1, 4 {CPs, Bureau, MedWet, IOPs}

[19.1.2 Implement mechanisms for strengthening the contribution of networks of experts of the International Partner Organizations and other collaborating organizations to the work of the STRP and the Convention. GO4 {Bureau, IOPs, STRP}]

The International Organization Partners (IOPs)

70. Through Action 19.1.1 of this Strategic Plan, each International Organization Partner of the Convention develops a programme of joint work with the Convention based on the Actions in Section II of the Strategic Plan that the IOPs are expected to contribute to or undertake, and to establish the targets for the delivery of these Actions.

71. Other organizations, particularly those with which the Convention has established a Memorandum of Cooperation or Agreement, are encouraged to develop similar joint plans which contribute to the delivery of Actions under Section II of the Strategic Plan.

Action 19.1.1 [8.3.1] Establish with each International Organization Partner a programme of joint work based on this Strategic Plan, review it annually, and seek additional funding for the implementation of actions not covered by existing organizational budgets. GO4 {Bureau, IOPs}

Back to top
Follow us 
Ramsar Awards 

The Convention today

Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

Ramsar Secretariat

Rue Mauverney 28
CH-1196 Gland, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 22 999 0170
Fax: +41 22 999 0169
Map: click here

Ramsar Forum: subscribe