Secretary General's address to the International Conference on Water and Sustainable Development
[The Water Conference in Paris in March 1998 was intended to develop recommendations for the Commission on Sustainable Development meeting set for New York in April. The Ramsar Convention was invited to present a paper at one of the Conference's three workshops on the role of wetlands in meeting the challenges of the global water crisis. Here is the Secretary General's brief account of the Paris Conference and its significance for Ramsar, followed by the text of his intervention in plenary. At the bottom of this page there are links to the text of the Convention's invited paper, "The key role of wetlands in addressing the global water crisis", to Bill Phillips' explanation of Ramsar's role in the water meetings of spring 1998, and to the Paris Conference's Final Declaration.]
International Conference on Water and Sustainable Development
Paris, France, 19-21 March 1998
The Conference was a high-level meeting involving the 80 countries that are members of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, plus international organizations and NGOs. Some 40 ministers were in attendance.
The French government made a point of having the "civil society" (or NGOs) actively participating, practically on equal footing with the governments. A concrete example was that ministers and NGO representatives all got five minutes to speak in plenary, without distinction, and the chair was as strict with both categories in making certain that the allotted time was respected. In addition, NGOs were not heard at the end of the meeting, as is normally the case, but their interventions were mixed with those of governments and intergovernmental institutions.
The Ramsar Secretary General made a presentation on the Convention in one of the three workshops of the Conference and delivered the following intervention in plenary.
The Final Declaration of the Conference will be transmitted for consideration at the 6th Meeting of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (New York, 20 April - 1 May 1998). Two paragraphs of the Declaration are particularly important for Ramsar. In the first one the Conference underlined, among other things, that "the protection of ecosystems is essential for the maintenance and rehabilitation of the natural hydrologic cycle in order to manage freshwater resources in a sustainable manner". In the other operative paragraph of particular significance to Ramsar, the governments committed themselves to promote the integration of all aspects of the development, management and protection of water resources and recognized that "international conventions such as the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention to Combat Desertification, and the Ramsar Convention can make a contribution on the integration of their special interests in the sustainable use of water".
The Secretary General will attend the above-mentioned CSD meeting in New York to further promote the contribution that the Convention can make to the integrated approach to water resources management.
International Conference on Water and Sustainable Development
Paris, 19-21 March 1998
Intervention by Delmar Blasco, Secretary General of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)
Mme la Ministre
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me first of all congratulate President Jacques Chirac and the Government of France for having taking the initiative of organizing this high-level Conference leading to the important discussions on water that will take place at the CSD meeting next month.
The Convention on Wetlands, also known as the Ramsar Convention after the city in Iran where it was signed, is here for two reasons.
First, because wetlands, in most cases, perform very important hydrological functions in the catchment areas in which they are located. Thus, wetlands constitute an important natural asset (or an important "natura1 infrastructure" as you are calling it here in France) that can be sustainably used in the framework of an integrated water management approach. But in order to do that, the value of wetlands has to be recognized and measures taken to conserve them. That is what our Convention exists for.
The second reason that the Convention is here is to invite our Contracting Parties, as well as those countries that have not yet acceded to it, to use the treaty as yet another instrument in achieving what in my view are the two essential objectives that have brought us here: 1) to ensure that the fresh water resource base of the planet, or what is being called in some countries "the reserve", is maintained in a healthy condition, so as to satisfy our needs and those of future generations; and 2) that measures are taken soon to solve the scandalous situation in which billions of human beings are still immersed in, because of lack of access to clean water and sanitation.
The Convention on Wetlands has today 106 Contracting Parties, and we are sure that by the end of the century most countries will have joined it. The Convention has 27 years of experience and has developed a good number of mechanisms that make the treaty a useful instrument at the disposal of Contracting Parties for wetlands conservation and sustainable use.
Given today's need of a wide-front battle to avoid having on our hands a serious water crisis in the 21st Century, the Convention on Wetlands, in addition to continuing to apply the biodiversity-related components of the treaty that so far it is best known for, could also develop and use its water-related components. Many Contracting Parties are looking in this direction, and some of them are even suggesting that a water protocol should be developed under the treaty.
These issues will be the subject of important discussions at our next Conference of the Parties in May 1999. In the meantime, I would like to reiterate from this podium my invitation to the Contracting Parties and to the international community to consider using the potential of the Convention on Wetlands to the fullest, in the quest of creating a water-safe planet, where water is used as tool for peace, for sound environmental management, and for human well-being and happiness.
Thank you very much.
"The key role of wetlands in addressing the global water crisis" (English, French, Spanish), Ramsar contribution to the International Conference on Water and Sustainable Development
"The world focuses on water": Ramsar and the water meetings of spring 1998