Ramsar and the Commission on Sustainable Development Intersessional Ad hoc Working Group on Strategic Approaches to Freshwater Management


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Statement from the Bureau of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) delivered by the Deputy Secretary General of the Convention, Dr Bill Phillips, to the Commission on Sustainable Development Intersessional Ad hoc Working Group on Strategic Approaches to Freshwater Management

24 February 1998

Madam/Mr Co-chair,

In my intervention yesterday I made reference to the fact that it was time to get on with the task of implementing integrated water resources management, albeit urging that in doing so we must recognize the vital roles that ecosystems play in delivering the goods and services upon which humanity relies.

Yesterday, in making the statement that the tools and instruments for delivering integrated water resources management were largely in place I also acknowledged that there was room for improvement in the area of coordination. It is this point which I want to return to today.

You have just heard from the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity about the developing partnership between our conventions, which we at Ramsar are pursuing with equal vigor and enthusiasm. Under this partnership we are developing a range of joint actions and identifying areas where each convention can assist the other with meeting their respective charters. These areas of cooperation are at present being incorporated into a Joint Work Plan which will go forward for consideration at CBD’s forthcoming Conference of the Contracting Parties in Bratislava in May of this year.

To reinforce my message of yesterday, I think is worth very briefly mentioning some of these areas where CBD and Ramsar are looking to work as partners.

  1. Clearing house mechanisms - both conventions are developing networks of networks to serve as focal points for information and technology transfer. We see there being very tangible benefits from linking these two "clearing houses" to provide a better service to those seeking expertise and expert information.
  2. Technical and advisory bodies - both conventions have expert advisory groups, SBSTTA for CBD and the Scientific and Technical Review Panel for Ramsar. Regular dialogue and a flow of information between these expert bodies will clearly be advantageous.
  3. Rosters of experts - again, both conventions have access to wide networks or rosters of experts around the world. CBD through its Roster of Experts and Ramsar through its Experts Database. The Convention on Wetlands has the added advantage of being able to access the expertise of its four official partner NGOs - Wetlands International, IUCN - World Conservation Union, WWF - World Wide Fund for Nature International, and Birdlife International.
  4. Harmonizing the development of policy and legislative instruments at the national level - both conventions give very high priority to the development of policy instruments and legislative frameworks at the country level. We both recognize that for the long-term sustainability of freshwater ecosystems and waterways, there must be cross-sectoral approaches taken to the development of national policy instruments which integrate water, biodiversity, wetland, desertification and climate change expectations. Countries such as South Africa are leading by example in this regard and we must promote this approach to national policy and planning instruments through all possible avenues. I would suggest that this forum is one such avenue.
  5. Development of tools for promoting "best practice" - CBD and Ramsar both have work programs which aim to deliver in the short term a greater range of management tools for governments and local communities which are based on "best practice" experience. Several of these I referred to in my intervention yesterday. The secretariats of the two conventions will work collaboratively on a number of these to avoid duplicated effort but also to ensure that they are based on the needs of the stakeholders.
  6. Mobilizing financial mechanisms - this brings me back to the point I ended on yesterday, that the challenge for the freshwater sector is to mobilize the various financial mechanisms to implement integrated water resources management now. The models and tools are available, so what is preventing us from doing this? It is fair to say that some donor agencies are giving greater prominence to supporting this type of activity. But it is also the case that others are not, and that some seem unwilling to accept the urgency of the issues or that the expertise is available. CBD and Ramsar plan to work together to try to encourage the mobilization of greater resources into the freshwater sector, but such an effort will require support from meetings such as this and those that will follow over the next few weeks.

In conclusion, and by way of recommendation to this Intersessional, our two Conventions are convinced that the following must be clearly reflected in what goes forward from this meeting for higher consideration.

  1. That in addressing the global freshwater management problems, the vital roles of ecosystems must be recognized and given greater prominence as a cornerstone for the implementation of integrated water resources management.
  2. That the expertise, models, tools and best practice case studies are in place, or will be in the short-term, to allow us to move ahead with greater speed to deal with the problems in a cross-sectoral and consultative way.
  3. That it must be a priority for the long-term sustainability of freshwater ecosystems and waterways, to have in place national policy instruments which integrate water, biodiversity, wetland, desertification and climate change expectations.
  4. That the urgent need is to further expand the partnership approach being demonstrated by the CBD and the Convention on Wetlands to include other relevant international instruments (such as the Convention to Combat Desertification and the Framework Convention on Climate Change), enabling organizations (such as UNDP and UNEP) and multilateral and bilateral donor agencies (World Bank, GEF, etc.) so that onground actions can be taken as soon as possible.
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