Official documents of the Conference of the Contracting Parties and the other bodies of the Convention take a number of forms and fulfill a number of purposes. After the Convention text itself, which is the foundation of everything else, the Convention’s current Strategic Plan (and, for historical purposes, its earlier incarnations) informs the directions and goals of all of the bodies of the Convention, including the Contracting Parties.
The Official Guidelines are those that have been formally adopted by the Conference of the Parties and cover a range of advice on technical and management issues to help the Parties and the Convention bodies to implement the Strategic Plan as well as possible. The National Reports presented by the Parties to each COP measure their own views as to how much progress has been achieved so far in that implementation.
The official documents of the bodies of the Convention – the Conference of the Parties, Standing Committee, STRP – typically consist of meeting reports, decisions (including COP Resolutions and Recommendations), and agenda documentation. The Work Plans embody the commitments of each of those bodies and the Secretariat to tasks aimed at implementing the Strategic Plan. The Rules of Procedure govern the administration of meetings of the COP and, mutatis mutandis, the Standing Committee.
The Secretariat’s own work produces several kinds of formal documentation, including notifications to the Parties through diplomatic channels, reports of Advisory Missions to assist the Parties, memoranda of cooperation with other conventions and organizations, formal instruments from the Parties concerning Montreux Record and Transboundary Ramsar Sites. Most of these have not been formally adopted by the COP.
Finally the “Wise Use Resource Library” contains a sampling of useful but unofficial items such as examples of National Wetlands Policies and site management plans, articles about the Convention and its effectiveness, and so on. These have not been formally adopted by the COP.