Ramsar address to COP3 of the Convention to Combat Desertification

18/11/1999

Third Session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention to Combat Desertification

Recife, Brazil, 15-26 November 1999

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Statement by the Secretary General of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)

Mr. Delmar Blasco

Mr. Chairman,

It gives me great pleasure to address the Conference of the Parties to the Convention to Combat Desertification at its Third Session on behalf of the Convention on Wetlands, the Ramsar Convention, as we have done in your two previous sessions in Rome and Dakar. It is also a great pleasure for me to be in Brazil, this magnificent country that is very active in its implementation of our Convention, as it is in yours.

I am here once more to talk about complementarities and synergies between our two treaties, as well as with other sister conventions such as those on biological diversity and climate change.

Before doing so, let me refer very briefly to how the Convention on Wetlands has progressed, since your session in Dakar last year, in becoming a better-equipped partner to work with you in your endeavour to curb desertification and create better conditions of living for the million of people around the world that are affected by it.

In May this year, our Conference of the Parties met in Costa Rica and assembled through its decisions what we are calling the Ramsar ‘toolkit’. It includes guidance under the Convention relating to the application of the "wise use" (or sustainable use) concept, wetland policy development, reviewing laws and institutions affecting wetlands, integrating wetlands into river basin management, involving local and indigenous people in wetland management, education and public awareness, systematic development of the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, management planning, monitoring, wetland risk assessment, and international cooperation. In this last area – international cooperation -- the guidance that has been adopted by the Conference of the Parties includes issues such as shared species and shared wetlands, partnerships, sharing knowledge, development assistance, and international investments.

This Ramsar ‘toolkit’ will be published early next year as nine integrated Handbooks in English, French and Spanish, which will be distributed free of charge to all interested government institutions, NGOs, local communities and practitioners. While the Ramsar handbooks have been prepared to assist in the implementation of the Convention of Wetlands, several of them, such as those dealing with laws and institutions and community participation, could be useful, mutatis mutandis, to most intergovernmental treaties dealing with environment and development issues. In that sense, they are at your disposal.

Concerning the issue of synergies between Ramsar and your Convention and with the other Conventions, your secretariat has put at your disposal an excellent document, ICCD/COP (3)/9 on Review of activities for the promotion and strengthening of relationships with other relevant conventions and relevant international organizations, institutions and agencies [available in PDF, http://www.unccd.de/docs/cop3/official/pdf/9eng.pdf]. I have little to add to this excellent analysis and set of proposals, except to reiterate our willingness to translate as soon as possible the letter and spirit of the Memorandum of Understanding between the two secretariats into concrete actions at the field level.

We are working in that direction. We are presently reviewing the Joint Work Programme between the Convention on Wetlands and the Convention on Biological Diversity. I would be very pleased if we could go a step further and in the near future conceive a tripartite work programme, involving the Convention to Combat Desertification as well. We are also progressing towards establishing a working relationship with the Climate Change Convention on issues of mutual concern, such as the role of wetlands in climate change mitigation strategies and as carbon sinks. I very much hope that in a not too distant future the implementation of these four conventions will be done simultaneously in those areas in which they can be brought together.

The task in front of us, for all conventions, is still immense. The more we can do to pull our resources and comparative advantages together the better -- the better position we would be in to make our contribution to the sustainability of the planet, and to the improvement of the living conditions of the many millions of people whose human dignity is still being affronted, or even denied.

Thank you very much.

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