The Ramsar Bulletin Board - Special Edition

13/05/1998

Ramsar News from the 4th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Bratislava, Slovak Republic, 4-15 May 1998

(reverse chronological order)


Small Island Developing States speak out(reported 13 May). A recurring theme in Bratislava has been the need to create links between the thematic work programmes addressing inland waters and marine and coastal biodiversity. The Small Island Developing States have been especially vocal on this subject, and the Ramsar representatives at the COP have supported them through the contact groups developing Decisions for the conference to adopt on these programmes. Land-based marine pollution and salt water intrusions into freshwater ecosystems are just two reasons for creating these links. Ramsar tries to promote this type of holistic, ecosystem approach, and it is to be hoped the CBD COP4 recognises that while their current thematic approach helps to plan actions it has limitations when being implemented if artificial boundaries are created. The Ramsar Convention has historically been under-represented amongst the Small Island Developing States, and the Bureau has prepared a brief information paper laying out the advantages of Ramsar membership for the SIDS in particular.  The case of Trinidad and Tobago as a Contracting Party to the Convention is an especially instructive one, and Dave Pritchard of RSPB recently studied T+T's success in implementing the Convention in some depth; his report is also available here.
Ramsar issues gaining prominence at COP4 (reported 11 May). On days 4 and 5 of CBD’s COP4 in Bratislava, the meeting was starting to get into the real business. Of special interest to the wetlands community were the work programmes on the Jakarta Mandate on Marine and Coastal biological diversity and cooperation between CBD and the other agreements and Conventions. Under the Marine and Coastal item several countries drew attention to the mandate of Ramsar here as well as in the inland water ecosystems. Slovenia, speaking for the Central and Eastern European States, referred to the number of Ramsar sites which have coastal elements and called on the meeting to reflect this in the work programme and ensure that the cooperation between CBD and Ramsar was not restricted to the inland water ecosystems. Under cooperation with other agreements and conventions, Hungary sought to have the proposed Joint Work Plan between CBD and Ramsar formally endorsed by the COP as a framework for enhancing cooperation. This was strongly supported by other countries, notably Iran and Malawi. The delegate from Malawi went on to urge that similar Joint Work Plans be developed between the Conventions to assist with integrated implementation at the country level.Coming up this week will be the reports back to the plenary from the "contact (drafting) groups" established to further develop the work programmes and draft Decisions relating to each agenda item. Of keen interest to Ramsar will be the reports back from the inland waters ecosystems groups, the marine and coastal ecosystems group, and the group looking at cooperation with other agreements and conventions.The Secretary General, now in Bratislava to take over from the DSG, will have to try and participate in the development of all three reports!!! But it is encouraging that Ramsar, and the Joint Work Plan with CBD, has gained good support from the country delegations present at COP4, and this is being further encouraged by good support from our NGO partners. Perhaps the strongest message emerging from Bratislava is that the goverments want there to be closer cooperation between the internation conventions: Ramsar, CBD, World Heritage, Migratory Species, and CITES, as well as Climate Change and Desertification. Ramsar's Joint Work Plan with CBD is setting the trend.
Ramsar Partner NGOs pledge support for the CBD(reported 10 May).  During the Working Group I session on 6 May, the four Ramsar Partner Organizations (BirdLife International, IUCN - The World Conservation Union, Wetlands International, and the World Wide Fund for Nature) presented a pledge to support the CBD through four major actions, including implementation of the Ramsar Strategic Plan 1997-2002 and contributions to the Proposed Joint Work Plan between Ramsar and the CBD.   Here is the text of their "pledge of commitment".
CBD COP4 takes up inland freshwater ecosystems(reported 7 May). On the third day of the 4th Conference of the Parties in Bratislava, 6 May, Working Group I took up the issue of inland freshwater ecosystems, about which the Ramsar Convention has made a number of contributions over the past year.  The Chairperson of the Ramsar Standing Committee, Louise Lakos, opened the session with an introduction to the Proposed Joint Work Plan between Ramsar and the CBD (text available on this Web site) and was followed by 35 other speakers, 20 of whom urged the necessity of working with the other environmental conventions including Ramsar, and 10 of whom made a point of supporting the formal recognition of the Proposed Joint Work Plan by the COP. Press releases emanating from the NGO community also urged cooperation between Ramsar and the CBD, including brief commentaries on the events by Ron Orenstien of the Humane Society of the United States and Blake Lee Harwood of BirdLife International, both reprinted here.
Ramsar at the opening of the CBD's COP4(reported 6 May). The 4th Convention on Biological Diversity Conference of the Parties has got under way, and at the opening statements in the first plenary sessions, the Ramsar Convention and three other environment-related conventions assisted in welcoming the delegates.   Izgrev Topkov, Secretary General of CITES; Arnulf Müller-Helmbrecht, Executive Secretary of the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species; and Arba Diallo, Executive Secretary of the Convention to Combat Desertification, joined Ramsar's Secretary General, Delmar Blasco, at the podium -- the text of the Secretary General's address is available here.  
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