Ramsar in Central America -- trip report


(21 August 1997)

Trip Report (20 July - 7 August 1997)
Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Aruba

Montserrat Carbonell
Regional Coordinator for the Neotropics

Guatemala (20 - 27 July 1997)

The objective of this trip was to apply the Management Guidance Procedure to the Ramsar site Biotopo Laguna El Tigre, which had been included in the Montreux Record in June 1993 as a result of threats caused by oil activities and unplanned establishment of human communities within the protected areas. The Administrative Authority of the Ramsar Convention in Guatemala, Comisión Nacional de Areas Protegidas (CONAP), coordinated all the logistical aspects of the mission, which lasted two weeks.

Members of the Ramsar mission were Alicia Villamizar from Venezuela, specialist in oil activities, Jorge Fernández-Porto from Puerto Rico, specialist on conflict management and community development, and Montserrat Carbonell (Regional Coordinator for the Neotropics, Ramsar Bureau). The Ramsar mission was also joined by Lirio Márquez, a community specialist from Puerto Rico who worked in the Nariva Management Guidance Procedure team in 1995, Raquel Sigüenza (soon to be an intern at the Ramsar Convention Bureau), and several specialists and technical staff from CONAP, Centro de Estudios Conservacionistas (CECON), Conservation International, and CARE. Technical staff of the oil company, BASIC, also spent a considerable amount of time with the team.

Meetings were held in Guatemala city and in Flores, both to gather information and to explain the mission's objectives, with expert individuals and/or organizations. The remaining time was spent carrying out field work at the oil company facilities and operations in El Tigre, and with the different communities outside and within the protected areas.

The final report, with suggestions and recommendations to the Ramsar Administrative Authority, CONAP, will be available before the end of the year.

El Salvador (28 July) and Nicaragua (29 July)

The main objective of visiting these two countries was to offer assistance in the process of ratification of the Convention. The Regional Coordinator visited El Salvador and Nicaragua together with Nestor Windevoxhel of the IUCN-ORMA office in Costa Rica, so as to benefit mutually from each other's contacts and mission.

Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Environment and Natural Resources, as well as congressmen were visited, and meetings organized with the NGO and university sectors.

In El Salvador, the process of joining the Convention is very close to being completed, while in Nicaragua we received the good news that the instrument of ratification has already been sent to UNESCO in Paris.

Costa Rica (30 July - 3 August)

The objective of visiting Costa Rica was to work with the Ministry of Environment and Energy (Ministerio del Ambiente y Energía, MINAE), the Ramsar Administrative Authority in this country, in the preparations for the application of the Management Guidance Procedure (MGP) in Palo Verde.

It was agreed that MINAE will convene a national meeting in early September 1997, with the idea of bringing together researchers, conservationists, community leaders, and anyone interested in the conservation and management of Palo Verde. The final objective of this meeting will be to come up with a number of issues that will constitute the basis for the terms of reference for the organization of the Ramsar mission for the application of the MGP in this site in November.

It was also agreed, and triggered by a request of the Minister of the Environment and Energy, that an international workshop on vegetation management and control in tropical wetlands will take place at the time of the application of the MGP. This will be organized by the MINAE and the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) and will be a complement to the MGP work.

Aruba (4-6 August)

The Regional Coordinator visited Aruba to participate in the Annual Meeting of the Society for Caribbean Ornithology, and to present the Ramsar Convention, its benefits and its technical and financial tools, in collaboration with Herb Raffaele of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Approximately 70 participants were present, and there were many interesting papers. Participants from Ramsar Contracting Parties Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago were present, but most participants came from countries which have not yet joined the Convention. This was an extraordinary opportunity to promote the Convention's work in the Caribbean and inform the participants of the forthcoming meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties in Costa Rica in 1999.

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