Memorandum of Cooperation between Ramsar and BirdLife International


BirdLife International

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Memorandum of Cooperation


The Convention on Wetlands
(Ramsar, Iran, 1971)


BirdLife International


Since its inception in 1971, the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) has provided the single most important intergovernmental forum on wetland conservation issues. According to the Convention's mission statement, the Contracting Parties agree to "the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local, regional and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world".

The Convention is founded on three pillars of:

  • promoting wise use of wetlands,
  • developing international cooperation, and
  • developing a network of Wetland sites of International Importance.

The conservation and wise management of wetlands through the designation of wetlands for the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, especially the obligation to maintain the ecological character of designated sites, deserves special recognition. This obligation recognizes the importance of wetlands for the maintenance of healthy and productive inland freshwater and coastal systems. In the context of water and wetlands, the Convention on Wetlands thus addresses issues which guide its Contracting Parties on ways to achieve sustainable development.

Within the general obligations set out by the treaty, Contracting Parties, meeting as the Conference of the Parties (COP) identify priorities for action through a Strategic Plan. Implementation of this Memorandum of Cooperation shall be through joint actions within the framework of the Strategic Plan, detailed in the attached annex.

BirdLife International's mission is to conserve wild birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, by working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources. BirdLife aims to prevent extinctions in the wild, to maintain and where possible improve the conservation status of all bird species, to conserve the sites and habitats important for birds and other biodiversity and to sustain the vital ecological systems that underpin human livelihoods, and enrich the quality of people's lives. In the process, BirdLife will empower people and contribute to the alleviation of poverty, and strive to ensure sustainability in the use of natural resources.

For the period 2004 - 2015 the BirdLife Partnership have chosen four high level objectives:

1. to conserve the diversity and distribution of wild bird species worldwide as an integral part of nature;
2. to identify, conserve and promote a global network of internationally important sites for birds and biodiversity;
3. to maintain, manage and restore the diverse habitats that sustain vital ecological services;
4. to empower, mobilise and expand a worldwide constituency of people who care for birds and their natural environment.

Many of the world's threatened bird species depend on wetlands, and a high proportion of internationally defined Important Bird Areas are wetlands. In working to conserve and sustainably manage these ecosystems, BirdLife promotes and actively engages in integrated water resources management at all levels, for the benefit of birds and people. This includes governance reforms, habitat restoration, biological and socio-economic research, systematic monitoring and public awareness activities.

The Convention on Wetlands and BirdLife International recognize the fundamental role played by wetlands in regulating and providing water, in supporting maintenance of cultural and biological diversity, in ensuring high ecosystem productivity, and in providing services and benefits for people and the planet.

The Convention on Wetlands and BirdLife International share similar conservation goals and the positive cooperation between the two institutions to date has been expressed through the recognition of BirdLife International as a Ramsar International Organisation Partner (confirmed through COP7 Resolution VII.3 on "Partnerships with international organisations"). Turning to the future, it would be ideal to establish specific mechanisms for enhancing synergies and partnerships to achieve common goals, whilst avoiding duplication of effort, especially since the joint implementation of the Ramsar Convention Strategic Plan currently in force also contributes to the programmes of other major environmental agreements.

Therefore, the Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands and BirdLife International agree the following:

Article 1. Mechanisms for Programme Cooperation

A - The Secretariats of the Convention on Wetlands and BirdLife International will develop a collaborative programme for sustainable wetland and water resource conservation and management by increasing current consultation and cooperation between them.

B - The Secretariats of the Convention on Wetlands and BirdLife International will inform their focal points at regional and national levels of their cooperative activities. For general matters, the focal points for the Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands and BirdLife International are respectively the Secretary General and the Director and Chief Executive, or their assigned delegates.

C - The focal points, or their assigned delegates, may meet from time to time to assess the implementation of this Memorandum, exchange documents and review on-going activities.

Article 2. Joint Activities

A - Common areas for joint conservation activities, as identified in the annex to this Memorandum of Cooperation, relate clearly to the Ramsar Strategic Plan currently in force and will be reviewed annually or at the request of either party.

B - BirdLife International and the Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands will communicate agreement on common areas with their respective networks, and BirdLife International will endeavour to mobilise the expertise available on wetlands and water resources within its organisation in support of these activities.

C - The Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands and BirdLife International will provide each other with details of their annual work programmes to ensure harmonisation of activities at global, regional and country levels.

D - The extent to which the collaborative programme and the joint conservation activities are implemented will be subject to the availability of resources.

Article 3. Obligation, Review and Termination

A - This Memorandum of Cooperation constitutes an expression of a shared objective and vision. However, each party's actions will be considered to be that party's sole and separate action, for all purposes, and neither party shall claim to be acting on behalf of, or as agent for the other party to this Memorandum of Cooperation.

B - The term for this Memorandum of Cooperation is six years. The agreement may be reviewed at the request of either party (usually annually) and may be terminated by either party subject to six months notice in writing.

Peter Bridgewater
Secretary General
Convention on Wetlands
Dr Michael Rands
Director and Chief Executive
BirdLife International
Done at: BangkokDate: 20 November 2004

ANNEX to the Memorandum signed on 20 November 2004

BirdLife activities, including joint activities, contributing to the implementation of the Ramsar Convention Strategic Plan 2003-2008

Note: The Convention Strategic Plan 2003-2008 was approved by COP8 as an Annex to Resolution VIII.25 in 2002. The terminology, arrangement and cross-references to Strategic Plan strategies and objectives here, however, relate to the condensed and partly restructured framework for the implementation of the Plan which was accepted by COP9 as an Annex to Resolution IX.8 in 2005.

BirdLife activities are situated in a context of the BirdLife International Strategy 2004-2015.


Strategy 1.1: Information on wetlands

- A high proportion of the c10,000 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) identified by BirdLife International are wetlands; and these are also promoted as Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), given that many are also are of international importance for non-avian biodiversity. Regional directories of IBAs have been published for Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and national directories have been published in 50 countries and territories. Inventories for further areas will be compiled, including a regional one for the Americas due in 2007.

- Digitisation of IBA map boundaries is advancing and will be completed initially for Europe in 2006.

- Each country's IBA programme includes awareness and conservation/protection advocacy activities.

- BirdLife will continue to play a key role in wetland information activities of the STRP, including work on effectiveness indicators relating to status and trends of wetlands, with links to assessment of progress towards the 2010 biodiversity targets, and direct use of BirdLife data.

- Birds are the best known group of organisms on earth, and their monitoring provides a sound basis for indicating of the state of the planet's natural environment and biodiversity, including wetland ecosystems.

- BirdLife is the Listing Authority for the IUCN Red List on birds, and information from this work will also feed in to the Ramsar indicators.

- BirdLife undertakes both baseline and pioneering research, and participates in the International Waterbird Census and related surveys.

- The national & international species action plans/recovery programmes BirdLife compiles, plus strategies for "keeping common birds common", cover many waterbirds.

Strategy 1.2: National policies and legislation

- The BirdLife Partnership will continue its range of relevant work on policy development and advocacy at national, regional and global levels, including efforts to mainstream biodiversity conservation into economic and development planning.

Strategy 1.3: Recognition of wetland services

- BirdLife Partners will continue to expand their networks of grassroots community Site Support Groups. Many of these (over half of those in Africa for example) work in sites which are Ramsar sites or sites which qualify for designation; and there is already evidence of the work of these groups improving agricultural productivity, fuel use, and soil & water conservation through sustainable approaches, with consequent measurable positive impacts on people's livelihoods.

- The demonstration value of projects such as the Berga Wetland Project in Ethiopia (which has improved livelihoods), the Ebro Delta certified wildlife-friendly rice scheme in Spain (which maintains a wetland system of high biodiversity value alongside agricultural production), a wetland resource-use regulations project in Madagascar (which integrates science-based management with sustainable traditional practices), a mangrove management project in the Philippines, and several wetland-based ecotourism projects, will be maximised. Further demonstration projects and case studies will be sought in future, with more explicit extraction of lessons learned for specific Ramsar objectives, and links to STRP's wise use case studies work. See also 3.2 below.

Strategy 1.4: Integrated planning and resource management

- BirdLife promotes and actively engages in integrated water resources management at all levels in a number of parts of the world, for the benefit of birds and people. This includes governance reforms, habitat restoration, biological and socio-economic research, systematic monitoring and public awareness activities.

- Protection and management of IBAs (covered below in relation to the sites themselves) also helps with wider landscape-scale wise use - eg sustainable management of tropical forests helps maintain the water catchments on which people and ecosystems depend throughout the river basins.

Strategy 1.5: Restoration and rehabilitation

- BirdLife's wetland restoration and rehabilitation projects include plans for the largest single scheme in Europe, involving 600,000 ha of peatlands in Belarus (current projects there already cover 42,000 ha).

Strategy 1.6: Invasive alien species

- BirdLife Partners are making successful efforts to remove alien invasive species from selected islands.


Strategy 2.1: Applying the Strategic Framework for the Ramsar List

- BirdLife's published inventories of candidate Ramsar sites for Europe, Africa, Asia (where respectively only 24%, 14% and 11% of qualifying IBAs were designated at the time of publication) will continued to be followed through by advocacy for designation in relevant countries. Coverage of the Americas, Middle East, Central Asia (not in BirdLife's "Asia" region) and Pacific/Oceania by similar publications is intended in future.

- Input will continue to be made to on-going STRP work on reviewing criteria & guidelines, and on issues of representation of wetland types and coherence of the site network.

Strategy 2.2: Ramsar Sites Information Service

- BirdLife will support the RSIS with input of information where appropriate; and will explore the scope for linkages with World Bird Database.

Strategy 2.3: Maintaining the ecological character of Ramsar sites

- The more than 1.2 million ha of nature reserves managed by Birdlife Partners in 25 countries will continue progressively to be increased in numbers and extent; and many of these sites are wetlands of international importance.

- Local networks of people forming hundreds of Site Support Groups, centred on individual IBAs in numerous countries, monitor and help maintain the integrity of sites, including a number of Ramsar sites. This system is being actively expanded.

- BirdLife will undertake further assessments of the financing needs for conservation of IBAs, especially in Africa.

- BirdLife is making a leading input to the STRP's development of guidance on detecting, reporting and responding to change in ecological character.

Strategy 2.4: Monitoring sites; and responding to problems

- BirdLife is operating a new globally standardised and coordinated IBA monitoring system, and aims to extend its coverage further - Site Support Groups (see above) are one key part of this.

- Results from monitoring, especially concerning sites under threat, have been designed to feed directly into relevant Ramsar effectiveness indicators.

- BirdLife Partners at national level will continue to help to stimulate and assist governments with Article 3.2 reporting, and the use of the Montreux Record and Ramsar Advisory Missions.

- BirdLife will participate in and support RAMs and other Art 3.2 response options as appropriate; including, when possible, financial support (from the RSPB) of the RAMs budget.

- BirdLife is facilitating the exploration of a range of site monitoring activities potentially to be pursued by the Convention's international organisation partners (IOPs) jointly - see also 4.9 below.

Strategy 2.5: Shared wetlands and wetland resources

- Transboundary IBA conservation projects will contribute to this.

- An active role continues to be played in implementing flyway initiatives, networks and agreements eg in Africa-Eurasia, Asia-Pacific, Western Hemisphere, Central-South Asia.

Strategy 2.6: Regional initiatives

- BirdLife will contribute to several of these as appropriate, including representation of joint IOP interests where agreed.


Strategy 3.1: Collaboration with other institutions

- This is a core part of what BirdLife represents - a Partnership with distributed, on-the-ground activities, linked in common agendas and numerous joint programmes.

- BirdLife aims to ensure engagement in a consistent and linked way across all relevant MEAs.

- Technical support to the Ramsar Secretariat will continue as appropriate on priority Joint Work Plans and other synergy/harmonisation initiatives, including representation of STRP and Secretariat in relevant fora where appropriate.

Strategy 3.2: Sharing expertise and information

- BirdLife publishes regularly updated scientific reference information such as State of the World's Birds, planned Status of IBAs reports, identification of priority conservation actions and action plans for globally threatened bird species.

- Open access to such data and information eg via the web, including the World Bird Database, will be increasingly promoted.

- Further demonstration projects and case studies will be sought in future, with more explicit extraction of lessons learned for specific Ramsar objectives - see 1.3 above.

- BirdLife will continue to contribute as appropriate to joint MEA information/knowledge-management processes - see also 3.1 above

- Many BirdLife Partners are able to assist Parties with input of information to national reports.


("Review of guidance" items in the Plan - no numbered strategy for these):
- BirdLife is assisting the Convention Secretariat and STRP with reviews of guidance and COP resolutions, assessing coherence, gaps, redundancies, conflicts, user needs etc.

Strategy 4.1: Participation of local communities

- BirdLife is assisting the Secretariat and the Culture Working Group with development of further guidance on taking into account the cultural values of wetlands.

- BirdLife seeks always to empower local people to make their own contribution to the implementation of conservation and wise use strategies; and has its own specific objectives for gender balance and engagement of marginalised or disadvantaged groups.

- Growth in BirdLife's grassroots conservation organisations is expected.

Strategy 4.2: Involving the private sector

- BirdLife has a range of innovative partnerships with the private sector; and specific wetland-related opportunities within these will be explored.

Strategy 4.3: Promoting the wise use principle

- See under 1.2 above regarding policy development and advocacy. An input will be made to the development/review of national legislation in several countries.

Strategy 4.4: Communication, education and public awareness (CEPA)

- BirdLife has a worldwide membership of 2.5 million and a further 8 million supporters; and always seeks to increase these numbers.

- High-profile campaigning on wide public interest issues will from time to time include issues of wetlands protection.

- BirdLife has extensive programmes for promoting public awareness, enjoyment in and support for birds & the environment.

- Thousands of schools and over 4 million children around the world are involved every year in BirdLife education activities.

- BirdLife will seek to link bird festival and other outreach etc events to World Wetlands Day where this is appropriate.

- BirdLife is an important source of translations of relevant materials into local languages. Opportunities will be sought in future to facilitate wider translation of materials produced by the Convention.

Strategy 4.5: International assistance

- BirdLife's support network of over 10 million individuals mobilises significant funding for conservation - in the five years to 2004, Partners in developed countries channelled US$15M to conservation programmes in developing countries, including wetland projects.

Strategy 4.6: Funding and governance of the Convention

- Active participation will continue in the Convention's various governance oversight structures under the Standing Committee, and in effectiveness/efficiency reviews etc.

- BirdLife will undertake supportive advocacy among Parties and others for adequate resourcing of the implementation agendas mandated by the Ramsar COP.

Strategy 4.7: Efficiency and effectiveness of institutional organs of the Convention

- Active participation will continue in governance oversight structures, effectiveness/efficiency reviews etc (see 4.6 above), and a key role will be played in relation to coordination and analysis of results from the Convention's effectiveness indicators.

Strategy 4.8: Contracting Party capacity, and within country coordination

- A range of types of support to Contracting Party governments, covered in other sections above, will help with this.

Strategy 4.9: Working with the International Organisation Partners

- Several leading contributions to coordination of IOP activities and representation of joint IOP interests will continue; including development of a new joint IOP initiative on site monitoring - see also 2.4 above.

- During this Plan period BirdLife expects especially to enhance its strategic engagement with Ramsar in Asia and the Americas.

- Performance of various delegated tasks for the Secretariat, STRP and Standing Committee will continue; including acting as coordinator of relevant technical Task Forces; representation of the Convention in external fora as appropriate; co-option on to relevant working groups, and "support-in-kind" assistance through a staff secondment scheme.

Strategy 4.10: Training

- BirdLife will conduct further training & civil society capacity building programmes, some of which will be of high relevance to Ramsar implementation. In the five years to 2004, over 50 training events were attended by 800 participants from c80 countries.

- See also item on translation of relevant materials into local languages, under 4.4 above.


Strategy 5: Universal membership

- BirdLife continues to assist countries to join the Convention; including through advocacy, advice, funded support projects etc; especially in non-Party countries where it has a strong presence.


This Annex was compiled subsequent to the signing of the text of the Memorandum itself. Signature of the Annex is therefore effected separately below:

For BirdLife InternationalFor the Convention on
Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran 1971)
Dr Michael Rands
Director and Chief Executive
Dr Peter Bridgewater
Secretary General

[November 2006]

Photos of the 2004 signing ceremony

Previous memorandum of cooperation (1999), now superseded

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