The U.S. National Ramsar Committee meets with the Secretary General
The following notes on the U.S. National Ramsar Committee's meeting with Delmar Blasco, the Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, on 6 May 1997, were forwarded by Constance Hunt, WWF-US and Chair of the Committee. -- Web Editor.
MEMORANDUM TO: Members and Observers, U.S. National Ramsar Committee
FROM: Constance Hunt, Chair
SUBJECT: May 6 Meeting with Secretary General Delmar Blasco
DATE: May 6, 1997
The U.S. National Ramsar Committee met with Ramsar Secretary General Delmar Blasco today at the World Wildlife Fund offices. The meeting convened at approximately 10:00 a.m. and was attended by Scott Sutherland and Dan Wrinn from Ducks Unlimited, Inc.; Larry Mason, the Conservation Treaty Support Fund and Caddo Lake Institute, and co-chair of the U.S. National Ramsar Committee; Gerald Winegrad, the American Bird Conservancy; George Furness, the Conservation Treaty Support Fund; Marshall Jones, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Lilian Pintea, a graduate student from Romania interested in Delaware Bay and the Danube Delta; and Matthew Witten, a Sea Grant Fellow working for the Wetlands Division of U.S. EPA.
The Chair opened the meeting with a number of news items concerning the activities of the U.S. National Ramsar Committee:
1.Ramsar List Serve. The list serve is operational. The list serve was established and is managed by the Terrene Institute with financial support from WWF-International and Ducks Unlimited. Anyone who wants to subscribe should contact me at 202/861-8386, or Lura Svestka, the list serve operator at the Terrene Institute, at 703/548-5473.
2. Small Grants Fund. We are in the process of soliciting pilot grant proposals from local NGOs to use as examples of the types of projects the Small Grants Fund will support. Once we have a sample of applications, we intend to approach both corporate donors and foundations. We will solicit funding both for site-specific projects in the geographic areas of interest to potential donors and for general support for the small grants fund.
3. Community-based wetland management (Recommendation 6.3). We anticipate using at least two venues to collect case studies to support development of guidelines for implementation of this Recommendation. The first is the international track of this week's "Communities Working for Wetlands" conference, which will cover much of the Western Hemisphere; and the second is a proposed conference for the Eastern Hemisphere to be hosted by the Kushiro Wetlands Center in Japan next year. IUCN has taken the lead on this project, with cooperation from WWF-International, the U.S. National Ramsar Committee, the Kushiro Wetlands Center, the Caddo Lake Institute, and the Ramsar Secretariat.
4. U.S. Shadow List. The Chair has discussed with Joe Larson and Vivian Newman the establishment of a shadow list of potential Ramsar sites. We intend to develop criteria for placing sites on the list based on factors such as community support and involvement, potential for the transfer of sustainable wetland and water resources technologies, ecological distinctiveness, and threat and conservation potential. Scott Sutherland, Dan Wrinn, Gerald Winegrad, and Jeff Price (with the American Bird Conservancy) will provide data regarding priority sites for migratory birds. The next meeting will take place on June 25 to discuss the development of the list further.
5. Recruitment of new U.S. National Ramsar Committee members. We have sent a package of information to over 34 potential member organizations affiliated with sites that have been designated or for which designations have been requested. The Wildlife Habitat Council recently joined the committee. Other groups and individuals have requested participation on the list serve system.
6. Appropriations. The House Committee International Relations Committee is in the process of marking up their bill, and they have already increased their numbers to roughly equal the President's request. The appropriations committees are awaiting their allocation from the budget agreement between the President and Congressional leaders. We have written to the key members of the International Relations Committee and have submitted testimony to the appropriations committees on both the House and Senate sides.
Delmar Blasco updated the Committee on the activities of the Ramsar Bureau and on preparations for the next Conference of Parties.
7. Mr. Blasco referred to recent growth in membership and effectiveness of the Convention. He said that, with the recent addition of South Korea, the number of Contracting Parties has now reached 101. The Republic of Congo and Nicaragua are in the process of joining the Convention. There are now 872 sites listed under the Ramsar Convention globally, totaling 62.5 million hectares, an area larger than Kenya or Spain. The largest site, at over 6.8 million hectares, is the recently designated Okavango Delta System. Other nations, including Australia, Spain and Ghana, have developed or are developing national wetlands strategies.
2. Mr. Blasco mentioned that the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) met in mid-April. The Panel, chaired by Dr. Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu of Ghana, tasked the Bureau with the preparation of further guidelines on implementation of Ramsar site selection criteria for submission to the next Conference of Parties in 1999. The STRP and the Bureau are also working on clarification of the term "ecological character" and the meaning of the "maintenance of ecological character." The panel and the Bureau are collaborating with WWF-International on guidelines for Contracting Parties to monitor and report on the presence of toxic substances in wetlands. Finally, the Bureau has decided to undertake an assessment of global wetland resources.
3. The Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity has requested the Ramsar Secretariat to compile proposals for the conservation of biological diversity in inland waters. The Bureau plans to convene a number of workshops involving participants from around the world to prepare proposals. The Dutch and Canadian governments have expressed interest in providing financial support for this effort.
4. The Contracting Parties to the Convention to Combat Desertification will be meeting in Rome this October. The Ramsar Bureau will attend this Conference of Parties in order to emphasize the importance of wetlands in arid regions.
5. The Ramsar Bureau is making an effort to disseminate information more rapidly. Information on Ramsar Convention activities available through the Ramsar Bureau's Web site (access at http://iucn.org/themes/ramsar/) is updated on almost a daily basis. The Ramsar Bureau is also planning to reduce the length and increase the publication frequency of its newsletter.
6. The Bureau is recruiting a Senior Coordinator for Policy and Technical Affairs to replace Mike Smart, whose contract expires in September. They have compiled a short list of candidates and hope to reach a decision by the end of this month. The Bureau is also recruiting a Regional Coordinator for Africa. This position is open only to African nationals.
7. In financial news, after a tough year in 1996, the Bureau is running a small budget surplus. Mr. Blasco hopes to add to the surplus until a reserve of approximately 300,000 SFR has been accumulated. The Bureau expects to have 1 million SFR available for the Small Grants Fund this year. They have received 107 applications for funding; a significant increase from the 27 received last year. The Bureau has proposed that the fiscal year 1997 budget contribution from the United States be used to support the core budget, the Wetlands for the Future program, and the upcoming Conference of Parties.
8. Preparations for the next Conference of Parties, scheduled for May 10 through 18 1999 in San José Costa Rica, are proceeding smoothly. Costa Rica views the conference as a major opportunity to highlight its conservation efforts. Both candidates for President in the upcoming elections support the Ramsar Convention. The Costa Rican National Parks Foundation has established a trust fund for the conference and is working with the Ramsar Bureau to develop the budget by July of this year. This is the first time that the conference will be hosted by a developing nation, and contributions to the conference will be solicited from a wide range of sources. The conference theme will be "People and Wetlands: The Vital Link."
9. The format for the technical sessions will be different in 1999 from that of previous conferences. Each technical session topic will be introduced by a panel during the plenary session. The conference will then break into seven regional groups to discuss the topics raised by the panels during three days devoted to technical sessions. The Standing Committee will choose the themes for the technical sessions during their meeting in October of this year. Proposals for technical session topics should be submitted to the Bureau before October. The Bureau has not prescribed a format for these proposals, but all technical session topics must be designed lead to a decision by the Conference of Parties.
The meeting adjourned at approximately 11:20 a.m.