Recommendations of the 1st Oceania Regional Meeting


Recommendations of the First Oceania Regional Meeting of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)

held in Hamilton, New Zealand, 1-4 December 1998

A preparatory meeting for the 7th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Wetlands, San José, Costa Rica, 10-18 May 1999

General and Specific Recommendations

We, the representatives of the following, met in Hamilton, New Zealand to review the priorities and formulate recommendations for the conservation and wise use of wetlands within the Oceania region:

The countries of Australia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kingdom of Tonga, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the dependent territories, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Territory of Guam and Territory of the Wallis and Futuna Islands, plus

The representatives of the Tainui tribe and other iwi groups of New Zealand and 17 international, regional, national and local governmental and non-governmental organisations (as detailed in the list of participants).

The meeting notes with pleasure that since the "Wetland Conservation in the Pacific Islands Region" conference held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea in June 1994, considerable progress has been made with addressing the priorities identified at that time for wetland management within the region.

The First Oceania Regional meeting acknowledges the special needs and considerations of the small island developing states of the region, and that these are well articulated in the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.

In the course of the meeting a number of the countries represented, which are not presently signatories to the Ramsar Convention, have indicated a strong interest in pursuing accession. They are urged to do so as soon as possible, and preferably in time for the Seventh Ramsar Convention Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP7) to be held in Costa Rica in May 1999.

The Hamilton meeting has identified issues, assessed progress and defined the future challenges for wetland management within the Oceania region. The framework for these discussions were questionnaires completed in advance and reviewed at the meeting, a series of case studies presented under four session themes, and a number of the draft documents prepared for Ramsar’s COP7. The meeting report provides details of all of these. At the conclusion of the meeting the following general and specific recommendations were formulated and these are presented in Sections I and II, respectively.

The First Oceania Regional meeting also requests that Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, being at present the three Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention from the region, take all of the following recommendations into account when preparing the official government positions to guide their participation at COP7 in May 1999. Other countries and organisations present in Hamilton, which may also attend COP7 as observers, are requested to do likewise.

The meeting also formally thanks the organisers and sponsors of this meeting, in particular the hosts, the Government of New Zealand and its Department of Conservation. Funds to assist the attendance of representatives from Small Island Developing States (SIDS) were kindly provided by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Environment Australia and the Swedish International Development Assistance Programme (through funds provided to the Ramsar Convention Bureau). Wetlands International (Oceania) and the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme provided assistance and advice with developing the programme.

The meeting also expresses its thanks to the Bureau of the Convention on Wetlands for its willingness to undertake this meeting in a truly consultative and participatory way, which resulted in a highly relevant programme with focused and open discussion of issues of concern to the countries of the region.

I. General recommendations

Through the analysis of the pre-meeting questionnaires, country and territory presentations based on these during the meeting, and other overview statements and conclusions, the following general recommendations are made by the First Oceania Regional Meeting of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971):

1. The management of wetlands for long term sustainability must be undertaken by the local indigenous people, communities and stakeholders, supported by their governments, non-government organisations, and regional and international programmes and conventions, as appropriate.

2. Policy and planning instruments designed to promote the wise use of wetlands remain a priority for the countries of the region, and should be developed and implemented at the appropriate scale and through a suitable combination of top-down and bottom-up processes.

3. While encouraging progress has been made toward promoting the harmonised implementation of international environment conventions, this continues to be a high priority for the countries of Oceania and the efforts in this area need to be further escalated through the range of actions, articulated below through the Specific Recommendations, at the national, regional and international levels.

4. Cooperation at the regional and international levels also remains a priority for promoting the conservation and wise use of wetlands within Oceania, and efforts in this area should be guided by, but not limited to, the specific recommendations prepared under this theme below (refer to the Specific Recommendations under Theme D). Country representatives working with appropriate organisations and bodies are encouraged to prepare funding proposals for consideration by appropriate donors in order to progress the implementation of these recommendations.

5. Those Ramsar Contracting Parties with dependent territories in the Oceania region are urged to ensure that their implementation of the Convention extends to these territories in every possible way, including especially these recommendations and the possible designation of Wetlands of International Importance within these territories.

6. The international community, and the development assistance agencies especially, are urged to recognise that due to the economies of scale which exist for the Small Island Developing States, these countries provide ideal opportunities to trial the implementation of the various global guidelines being developed under international environment conventions (such as the Ramsar Convention), and to mobilise resources to support such pilot projects.

7. The Ramsar Convention Bureau is requested to develop for consideration at COP7 a conceptual framework for the application of its many wise use tools and guidelines to assist countries with developing comprehensive polices and implementation plans. It is recommended that this framework be developed and circulated well in advance of COP7 to allow for its comprehensive review at that time.

8. All countries and dependent territories in the Oceania region are urged to give priority to completing wetland inventories as soon as possible to help guide policy/strategy development, planning and implementation.

II. Specific recommendations from the theme-based reviews of priorities

Theme A - Involving local and indigenous peoples in wetland management

9. Those attending Ramsar’s COP7 in Costa Rica in May 1999, especially the Contracting Party representatives, are urged to seek the following modifications and improvements to the draft Guidelines for establishing participatory processes to involve local communities and indigenous people in the management of wetlands, as reviewed in detail by this meeting, so that they are more applicable to the Oceania region.

10. The Guidelines should be reviewed in full to remove suggestions that participatory management is something which is to be imposed on local stakeholders. Rather, the Guidelines need to clearly promote partnerships between governments and local stakeholders. Given this different attitude to promoting participatory management, a preferred title is Guidelines for participatory processes and effective partnerships with indigenous peoples and local communities for the conservation and wise use of wetlands.

11. It should be clearly articulated that the Guidelines, while having Contracting Parties as a primary target, are also intended as a tool for Ramsar’s Partner Organisations and those involved in promoting community stakeholder action to achieve the goal of wise use of wetlands.

12. The Guidelines need to indicate that there should be equity in the outcomes of the processes of community empowerment. Equity of benefit and equity of sacrifice are integral elements of the partnership consultations between governments, indigenous peoples and local communities.

13. In the consideration of issues relating to traditional knowledge, the Guidelines should note the relevant aspects of the Nadi Statement from the First Pacific Islands Regional Meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) held in Fiji in April 1998, and in particular Article 8j of that Convention and its associated guidance developed through the Bratislava Conference of the Contracting Parties of 1998. The Oceania Ramsar meeting also urges that the Guidelines seek to safeguard, within participatory processes, the place of traditional knowledge and to ensure that traditional knowledge informs science and science informs traditional knowledge.

14. For the Oceania region, the Guidelines should distinguish between the concepts of ‘joint’ and ‘participatory’ management to reflect the differing land tenure arrangements in place. For Oceania, customary land tenure is common and the Guidelines need to reflect the implications of this for promoting participatory management.

15. The Guidelines should also reflect more strongly that the desirable endpoint is to build ownership and a shared vision through the participatory process. In doing this there is a need to manage the process appropriately, and to define the stakeholders at the outset. The guidelines should incorporate the need for the community to:

i. identify the relevant stakeholders and decision makers

ii. collectively agree on the issues to be considered

iii. collectively agree on the participation process to be undertaken

iv. create an environment which establishes equity among the interest groups

Note - reference should also be made in the Guidelines to the recommendations which follow under Theme B relating to the development and implementation of policy and planning instruments.

16. The Guidelines should be reviewed to ensure they have the ideal length, organisation and focus to assist Contracting Parties, non-government organisations (NGOs) and local communities with their effective application.

17. Within the Guidelines it should be made more explicit that the local context should guide the participatory approach. The approach may vary from negotiated legal partnerships through to less formal consensus seeking among stakeholders.

Theme B - National and provincial planning for wetland conservation and wise

18. All the countries of Oceania are urged to put wetland-related policies in place, and depending on their circumstances to do so either as integrated components of broader environmental policies, as clearly related and complementary additions to existing policies, or as stand alone policies.

19. Oceania’s countries should seek to ensure that wetland management issues are appropriately considered in broader water resource, and watershed/catchment/river basin management policies and planning instruments, and that matters relating to the conservation and management of freshwater wetlands are not neglected.

20. Policy and planning frameworks for wetlands should be developed through an appropriate combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches, depending on the situation. The factors listed below should be taken into consideration in developing guiding principles for such processes.

In terms of top-down activities, the roles of government are:

i. to provide leadership as a reflection of political will and support;

ii. to support the establishment of links with the community, and/or to operate through established links;

iii. to support community empowerment and where necessary to train personnel in these skills;

iv. to facilitate the overall policy developmental process;

v. to ensure coordination among Ministries and with stakeholders through mechanisms such as consultative or advisory committees;

vi. to support research to inform the process and decision makers, and to disseminate this information;

vii. to provide appropriations and other resources for policy development and implementation;

viii. to monitor the implementation of the policy;

ix. to ensure feedback and accountability in terms of both ecological and process aspects of implementation;

x. to promote and support networking (such as regional wetland committees and forums);

xi. to ensure there is follow through on commitments made;

Key aspects are for there to be trust, honesty, transparency, integrity and commitment

In terms of bottom-up approaches, the roles and issues are:

i. the community role depends on the context – the community should determine their own role through a community design process;

ii. it is important to undertake awareness raising and education activities and to promote knowledge sharing;

iii. a priority has to be to identify ALL stakeholders at the beginning of the process and the areas of known or potential conflict between them;

iv. it is important to understand the aspirations of the stakeholders;

v. the aim has to be to empower and develop ownership so that actions occur – that is, implementation takes place;

vi. the community role can also include ground truthing, monitoring and review of the policy and planning instruments;

vii. new decision making models may be required as well as powerful and flexible conflict resolution models.

21. Countries are strongly encouraged to co-ordinate implementation planning following the adoption of wetland-related policy documents, to act as work programmes and provide opportunities for developing countries to seek external support with implementation.

Theme C - Harmonising the implementation of international environment conventions

22. The Oceania Ramsar meeting strongly endorses the harmonised and integrated implementation of international environment conventions, at all levels, so as to address the problems associated with sectoral approaches and the scarcity of human resources for such activities, especially in the small island developing states of the region.

23. To progress toward more harmonised and integrated approaches to implementing international environment conventions the following actions are urged at the national, regional and international levels, and by the Ramsar Convention Bureau.

At the national level countries are urged to:

i. identify a system for harmonised implementation using existing structures and policies/strategies, where possible. One option may be to identify a focal point for the implementation of all international environment conventions.

ii. ensure that the appropriate political decision-makers are aware of, and support, the efforts to achieve harmonised implementation.

At the regional level the following actions are encouraged. They all refer to increased cooperation with the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in recognition of its existing network of contacts, information resources and work programmes in the region:

i. for there to be regular meetings between convention secretariats, the parties to these conventions and relevant regional organisations, perhaps in conjunction with SPREP meetings;

ii. that SPREP and NGOs operating at the regional or subregional levels in Oceania work with the Ramsar Convention Bureau and its Contracting Parties to promote and provide targeted and complementary support for wetland conservation and wise use;

iii. review past and existing initiatives, especially aspects of capacity building, relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands in Oceania to ensure complementarity of actions between SPREP, NGOs, the Ramsar Bureau and other relevant agencies;

iv. the development of a Memorandum of Co-operation between SPREP, the Ramsar Convention Bureau, Wetlands International, WWF and other appropriate organisations with an annexed programme of work;

v. that SPREP, working with the international convention secretariats, pursue mechanisms to increase its capacity for supporting the SIDS with harmonised and integrated implementation of environment conventions.

At the international level the following actions are encouraged:

i. actions i. – v. inclusive above under regional actions;

ii. the further pursuit of Joint Work Plans (JWP) between the Conventions, such as that in place between the Ramsar Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity;

iii. for the environment convention secretariats to continue supporting the implementation of the recommendations of the WCMC Report on harmonised information management, as reviewed by this meeting, to assist with improved access to information, tools and guidelines;

iv. further to iii. above, seek to introduce a streamlined and integrated system of national reporting under the international environment conventions, as proposed and described in the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) Report, which ensures that National Reports are useful to the countries concerned as well as to the international community.

The Ramsar Convention Bureau is requested, as resources allow, to:

i. support the actions i. – v. inclusive above under regional actions and actions i. - iv. inclusive above under international actions;

ii. review the Barbados Programme of Action with the view to identifying common issues and actions to support the conservation and wise use of wetland systems within SIDS through the Convention on Wetlands;

iii. target support, where possible and appropriate, to Pacific Island countries in their development of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans under the CBD (Article 6) to include a focus on wetland conservation and wise use;

iv. review other relevant articles of the CBD, particularly Article 8j relating to Traditional Knowledge, and determine their applicability to the JWP between Ramsar and CBD. As necessary, seek to revise the JWP to better reflect these expectations;

v. ensure that the JWP with CBD, and the consequent delivery of support and services, does not discriminate against countries who are party to the CBD, but not to the Ramsar Convention in this region;

vi. explore and implement, as appropriate, mechanisms and partnerships to address SIDs special needs and considerations for wetland conservation and wise use including inter alia the possibility of a SIDs officer or intern in the Ramsar Bureau and/or an officer attached to SPREP, a SIDs special session and/or focus at the Ramsar COP7 in May 1999;

vii. as indicated under "regional actions" above, work with SPREP in the development of a Memorandum of Cooperation between SPREP, the Ramsar Convention Bureau, Wetlands International-Oceania and WWF with an annexed programme of work, designed to improve the delivery of support and resources for Pacific Island countries and territories;

viii. continue to develop Memoranda of Cooperation and associated JWPs with the other international environment conventions, notably the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the World Heritage Convention.

Theme D - Frameworks for regional and international co-operation

24. The Oceania regional meeting reviewed the draft Guidelines for International Cooperation under the Ramsar Convention under preparation for Ramsar’s COP7 and offered the following suggestions for making them more applicable to the region. Australia, as a member of the Ramsar Standing Committee’s drafting subgroup currently reviewing these draft Guidelines, and the Ramsar Bureau, are requested by the meeting to draw these suggestions to the attention of the drafting subgroup, and to seek appropriate modifications to the Guidelines in line with these suggestions.

25. Suggestions for improving the applicability of the draft Guidelines for International Cooperation under the Ramsar Convention:

General comments on the draft Guidelines for International Cooperation

i. the Guidelines, while a comprehensive draft, need to be reviewed to ensure the focus and intent is clear for each section, that the actions of each Contracting Party are precisely articulated, and that the relationship between the Guidelines and other Ramsar guidance for implementing the Convention is shown.

ii. the review of the Guidelines should also consider the various important roles non-government organisations can, and do, play in promoting international cooperation such as facilitating project/programme development and implementation, the sharing of knowledge and promoting training activities.

For the specific sections of the draft Guidelines, the following observations and comments were offered.

Section 2.1 - Managing shared wetlands and river basins

i. in this section there should be greater reference to using existing international and regional instruments for promoting transboundary cooperation for shared water management.

ii. a gap in this section is the issue of management and control of invasive species.

Section 2.2 - Managing shared wetland-dependent species

i. it should be noted in the Guidelines that small wetland sites used by migratory species can have great collective value for biodiversity conservation.

ii. the guidelines should seek the development of a Joint Work Plan between the Ramsar Convention and the Convention on Migratory Species, similar in style to that which exists between Ramsar and CBD.

iii. this section should refer to traditional knowledge and expertise in managing shared species.

iv. cooperative research should be another element of co-operation under this theme, as well as in 2.4 below.

v. the sharing of site-based research findings between managers should be promoted here also.

Section 2.3 - Ramsar working in partnership with international/regional environment Conventions and agencies

i. this section should promote, from the perspective of the Oceania region, the establishment of a partnership between SPREP and the Ramsar Convention, and also explore partnerships with other relevant regional organisations and NGOs.

ii. given the issues of implementing Conventions in the dependent territories of Contracting Parties, the idea of "associate member" status of the Convention for these territories was proposed for further consideration.

Section 2.4 - Sharing of expertise and information

i. for Oceania there is a need to establish, or enhance, mechanisms for information and experience sharing between indigenous people, local communities NGOs and government agencies.

ii. there is a need to establish / enhance regional data collection centres.

iii. in the training section it should be recognised that local determinations of training needs are desirable to ensure relevance and ownership.

iv. the section on twinning needs to refer to existing site "twins" and mechanisms such as the Evian Project which can promote and support these arrangements.

Section 2.5 - International assistance to support wetland conservation and wise use

i. the guidelines should encourage enhanced levels of financial support for wetland conservation and wise use, including support from those Contracting Parties with dependencies in the region.

ii. the Global Environment Facility (GEF) should be specifically encouraged to give even higher priority to funding wetland conservation and wise use in the Small Island Developing States of the Oceania region.

Section 2.6 - Sustainable harvesting and international trade in wetland-derived products

i. mechanisms that see resources from trade in wetland-derived products flow back to support wetland conservation and wise use should be encouraged.

ii. this section also needs to further promote co-operation between the Ramsar Convention, the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the biotrade initiative under the CBD. It was noted that this is a complex area which needs to also consider issues such as trade agreements other than CITES (for example World Trade Organisation -Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights and World Intellectual Property Organisation), access to and ownership of genetic resources and bioprospecting.

iii. for some countries harvesting of wetland-derived products can also be transboundary issues and this should be reflected in the guidelines.

2.7 - Regulation of foreign investment to ensure wetland conservation and wise use

i. the guidelines should refer to the urgent need to ensure that foreign investment, particularly in the tourism sector, contributes in a positive way to wetland conservation and wise use.

ii. this section needs to be further developed to reflect the reality which exists with foreign investment impacts, such as the use of locally-based companies or consultants to simplify the gaining of development approvals in some countries.

iii. there needs to be greater emphasis given to the need for promoting, and models for developing Codes of Conduct.

iv. there should be an expectation that Codes of Conduct are in place and that they should be reviewed as part of impact assessment within the country where the development is proposed.

v. it is also suggested that the order of presentation of the subjects under this theme be reversed to give greater prominence to the issue of Codes of Conduct of the business sector.

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