Ramsar Address to the Opening Session of the 4th Conference of the Parties to the CBD


4 May 1998

Convention on Biological Diversity
Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties
Bratislava, Slovak Republic, 4-15 May 1998

Intervention at the Opening Session
by Delmar Blasco, Secretary General,
Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour to address this opening session in my capacity as Secretary General of the Convention on Wetlands, the Ramsar Convention.

Let me first of all express my gratitude to the Government and people of Slovakia for hosting this very important event, and for the warm hospitality with which we have been welcomed.

I am very pleased to convey to you some very good news: synergy between CBD and Ramsar is working. In 1996, in your decision III/21, your COP3 endorsed the Memorandum of Cooperation that had been signed by the two Secretariats and invited Ramsar "to cooperate as a lead partner in the implementation of activities under the Convention [on Biological Diversity] related to wetlands", and you requested your Executive Secretary to seek our inputs in the preparation of documentation for this meeting concerning inland water ecosystems. In the Ramsar Secretariat, we have made a particular effort to honour your Decision, and I must acknowledge here the full and effective cooperation that we have received from the CBD Secretariat and in particular from the Executive Secretary, Dr. Calestous Juma. We have also encouraged and supported our Administrative Authorities in the 106 Contracting Parties to Ramsar to work towards an integrated approach in the implementation of both Conventions at the country level. We have not yet been able to evaluate how much progress has been done in this respect, but there are indications that many countries are making progress in this direction. We are aware, for example, that wetland biodiversity conservation and sustainable use have been fully incorporated in many cases in national biodiversity strategies, and a number of eligible countries have accessed GEF funding to implement wetland-related projects.

Most probably you will receive reports during this meeting concerning the project being carried out by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre concerning synergy among the conventions on biodiversity, world heritage, endangered species, migratory species and wetlands, which has been funded by the five conventions. Ramsar has contributed with enthusiasm to this project and we were pleased to note at the workshop held recently in Geneva that the project is coming up with very interesting and practical recommendations for the short-, medium- and long-term future to ensure effective coordination, and even some degree of integration, among these five treaties.

In order to further the cooperation between CBD and Ramsar, we have submitted to your consideration the proposal for a Joint Work Plan contained in information document No 8. We very much hope that the proposal will receive the considered attention of the Contracting Parties and that you will agree to endorse it.

Sometimes it appears that there are too many treaties and instruments in force and that the world could do better with fewer of them. Yet, all of them have a history and a raison d'être behind them. Rather than enter into the painful exercise of trying to rationalize the number of instruments, with the risk of never-ending disputes about which are more or less relevant than the others, I think a more constructive approach consists in making them to be mutually supportive. Maybe, by truly doing so, the time will come when some mergers will occur naturally, as is happening today so often in the business world!

In closing, Mr. Chairman, I would like to wish you and the Contracting Parties to CBD a very successful COP4. On my part I want to restate the absolute commitment of the Ramsar Secretariat to continue to seek synergy with all environment and sustainable resource use-related conventions. It is possible to make it work. We must do it.

Thank you.

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