Report on the Montreal meetings
(9 September 1997)
Montreal: Global Biodiversity Forum 8, Wetlands International Workshop, and SBSTTA3
The Ramsar Bureau was involved in a series of important meetings related to wetlands, held in Montreal, Canada, from 28 August to 5 September:
Global Biodiversity Forum 8 (GBF8), held from 29-31 August, and in particular its workshop on "Biodiversity of Inland Waters". GBF8 was the latest in a series of meetings organized by IUCN to precede other important international events and to allow broad discussion of the issues by governmental and non-governmental experts and interested bodies. GBF8 preceded the 3rd meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which was to discuss, inter alia, marine and coastal issues, inland water ecosystems and forest biodiversity. A full report on GBF8 appears on the IUCN Web site.
The Ramsar Bureau was represented at the GBF8 workshop on biological of inland waters, which pursued discussions on this theme held at the July workshop organized in Wageningen, Netherlands, by the Ramsar Bureau, IUCN 's Commission on Ecosystem Management, and Wetlands International. The workshop developed further the conclusions of the Wageningen workshop (about which a report has already been included on the Ramsar Web site), with a view to contributing to the SBSTTA discussions.
On 31 August and 1 September, Wetlands International organized the "International Workshop on Partnership for Integrating Wetlands and Water Resources Management" at which the Ramsar Bureau was also represented. This workshop took advantage of the presence in Montreal at the same time of participants in the SBSTTA meetings and in the World Water Congress. It took the form of a panel discussion bringing together members of both the water resources community and the wetland conservation community, followed by a series of workshops. It identified a number of specific actions which the water resources and wetland management communities could and should take in common. The summary report of this workshop is also available on the Ramsar Web site.
From 1-5 September, SBSTTA met in Montreal. The principal official documents were posted on the CBD Web site (www.biodiv.org) in advance. After an opening plenary session in which the Ramsar Bureau had the opportunity to address the meeting and make a number of suggestions (text of speech already posted on the Ramsar Web site), two parallel working groups were held.
Working Group 1, chaired by Ms Elaine Fisher of Jamaica, covered item 3 of the agenda: "The main ecosystem topic; assessment of the status and trends of the biological diversity of inland water ecosystems and identification of options for conservation and sustainable use". In addition, it dealt with coastal and marine biodiversity and implementation of Article 7 on indicators and monitoring. This was obviously the workshop of the greatest relevance to Ramsar, and was attended by M. Smart of the Ramsar Bureau and Dr Y. Ntimoa-Baidu, the Chair of the Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel. Dr. Ntimoa-Baidu also made a presentation at a lunchtime session organized by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) about its project on coastal wetlands of Ghana, which aims to conserve and make wise use of five Ghanaian Ramsar sites; another presentation at this session was devoted to the GEF project at the Jordanian Ramsar site of Azraq.
Working Group 2, chaired by Mr Gabor Nechay of Hungary, dealt with forest and agricultural biological diversity.
The reports of both workshops were approved in a final plenary session and will no doubt be available in the near future on the CBD Web site. The conclusions on "Biological Diversity of Inland Waters", on "Identification and monitoring of components of biological diversity of inland water systems", and on "Methodologies for the the assessment of biological diversity in inland water ecosystesm" figure in document UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/3/L.8, and those on marine and coastal biological diversity feature in document UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/3/L.9.
The conclusions on inland water ecosystems, and on indicators and montoring, have particluar relevance to the Ramsar Convention. The main thrust of the documents adopted (which will be presented as recommendations for the approval of the 4th Conference of the Parties (COP) to CBD in Bratislava, Slovakia, in May 1998) was very much in line with preliminary workshops held in Trondheim, Norway, in June, in Wageningen in July, and at GBF8. Great emphasis was laid on:
- adopting an integrated catchment approach to watershed management (and hence developing cooperation with the Broader Water Resource Community);
- to making valuation of inland water biological diversity;
- and to emphasizing more effective conservation and efficiency in water use, together with non-engineering solutions.
The documents make specific calls for closer cooperation with Ramsar:
The General Recommendations include a call to the CBD COP in Bratislava to encourage the two secretariats to elaborate a work plan that ensures cooperation and avoids overlap. Included is a reference to Decision III/21 of the third CBD COP which identified Ramsar as a lead partner in inland water ecosystems and wetland issues.
The General Recommendations also call for establishment of a roster of experts on the conservation and sustainable use of the biodiversity of inland waters, noting that the Ramsar Bureau is also establishing a similar list.
In the conclusions relating to identification and monitoring of components of biological diversity of inland waters, the SBSTTA recommends that the CBD COP advise its Parties to prepare indicative lists of inland water ecosystems. The CBD secretariat should also work closely with the Ramsar Bureau, and the SBSTTA with Ramsar's STRP, "to achieve desirable convergence between approaches on criteria and classification of inland water ecosystems between the two Conventions."
The Ramsar Bureau is keen to take up the challenge presented by these recommendations, and is already investigating follow up action with the CBD secretariat.
-- reported by Michael Smart, Senior Policy Advisor, Ramsar Convention