Ramsar Address to Working Group I of the 4th Conference of the Parties to the CBD


6 May 1998

Statement to the Fourth Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity
Bratislava, Slovakia, 4-15 May 1998

Working Group I on Inland Freshwater Ecosystems

Mrs Louise Lakos, Chair of the Standing Committee
Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)

Thank you for the opportunity to make this intervention in my capacity as the chair of the Standing Committee of the Convention on Wetlands, more commonly known as the Ramsar Convention.

The many areas of synergy between the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on Wetlands have been recognised by the member States of these two Conventions at their respective Conferences of the Contracting Parties. Notably, at CBD’s previous Conference, you the member States adopted Decision III/21 which invited the Ramsar Convention to cooperate as a lead partner in the implementation of CBD activities related to wetlands.

Since then, it is pleasing to see that the level of cooperation has escalated greatly, as noted and described by the Executive Secretary in UNEP/CBD/COP/4/13 (paragraph 5), relating to cooperation with other agreements and institutions. More recently, this cooperation has focused upon inland, freshwater ecosystems which has come under the close attention of your Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice.

I wish to take this opportunity to introduce to you UNEP/CBD/COP/4/Inf.8 entitled "Cooperation with the Convention on Wetlands". This document provides for your information a review of implementation of the Memorandum of Cooperation between the secretariats of the two Conventions, as signed in January 1996. It also presents a proposed Joint Work Plan between the Conventions in accordance with Paragraph I.(b) of Recommendation III/1 of SBSTTA. The proposed Joint Work Plan is, as stated in SBSTTA’s recommendation to you, designed to ensure cooperation and avoid overlap between the activities of our two Conventions. I recommend the Joint Work Plan to you and urge that it receive your formal endorsement by way of a Conference Decision as the basis for elaborating the many areas of future collaboration between CBD and the Ramsar Convention.

I also note with pleasure that in UNEP/CBD/COP/4/4 (paragraphs 18-26 in particular) it is recommended that there be close cooperation with the Convention on Wetlands in the area of criteria and classification associated with CBD’s further elaboration of Annex I for these habitat types. Such collaboration is clearly desirable as the Ramsar Convention’s criteria for identifying Wetlands on International Importance, and the associated classification system, have been applied by 106 Contracting Parties to designate and describe some 904 Ramsar sites with an area of 68 million hectares. It is worth noting that approximately half of these sites contain freshwater ecosystems and the other half have coastal and marine elements.

It is this latter point that I wish to dwell on for a moment. Under the Ramsar Convention, wetlands have a very broad definition ranging from coral and seagrass communities in the marine environment, through estuarine habitats, to freshwater floodplain systems, peat swamp forests and bogs and fens. I would urge you, as a Convention, to recognise this and to ensure that Ramsar’s partnership with you is not restricted to just the inland freshwater ecosystems.

In your consideration of the proposed Joint Work Plan, it will also be obvious that the potential for cooperation between CBD and Ramsar extends far beyond the identification of sites for in-situ conservation action. The Plan sets out some 28 areas of possible partnership in response to Articles 6, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 17, 18 and 21 of the Convention on Biological Diversity. These cover topics such as international cooperation, national strategies and policies, monitoring and assessment, the involvement of local and indigenous people, legal instruments, economic valuation, training and capacity building, impact assessment, clearing house mechanism, rosters of experts and technical bodies.

There would seem to be benefits for both CBD and Ramsar if these areas of common interest, and possible joint action, are formally recognised by you when reviewing the future programme activities of CBD which are before you in this Conference. In particular, I urge you to take into account the activities which Ramsar is undertaking when reviewing the work programmes for inland water ecosystems, marine and coastal biological diversity, the clearing house mechanism, implementation of Article 8 and the guidance that you may provide to the Global Environment Facility.

With regard to the Financial Mechanism, the final section of the proposed Joint Work Plan sets out some proposals from the Convention on Wetlands for how CBD, through guidance provided by this COP to the GEF, can immediately escalate its efforts for better conserving the biological diversity of inland water ecosystems and the wetlands of the marine and coastal zones. Suggested there are a range of very specific actions which, if supported by the GEF, would see developing countries and those in transition better placed to meet their global responsibilities under both the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Ramsar Convention. In closing, Mr/Ms Chairperson, let me reiterate my strong belief that effective synergy between the two Conventions can only bring benefits to the Contracting Parties and to the achievement of the high goals of both treaties.

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Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

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