Ramsar Memorandum of Understanding with CIESIN and Wetlands International


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between the

Bureau of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971),

Wetlands International


The Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Columbia University

Relating to



The Bureau of the Convention on Wetlands (hereinafter referred to as the Ramsar Bureau), Wetlands International and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (hereinafter referred to as CIESIN), Columbia University;


The Ramsar Convention is the primary intergovernmental instrument focused on the conservation and wise use of wetlands. It also operates as a lead partner in the implementation of activities related to wetlands under the Convention on Biological Diversity, and has, or is developing, joint work programmes with the following: the Convention on Migratory Species, the Convention to Combat Desertification, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the World Heritage Centre, UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme, the Cartagena Convention, the Society of Wetland Scientists, Eurosite. It also has as its official international partners four non-governmental organizations; BirdLife International, IUCN-The World Conservation Union, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and Wetlands International.

Wetlands International (through the former International Waterfowl and Wetlands Bureau - IWRB) played an instrumental role in the development of the Ramsar Convention and provides technical support to the Convention as a formal International Organization Partner. A specific component of this technical support concerns the management and dissemination of information through the Ramsar Sites Database, which is supported by an allocation from the Convention budget. Wetlands International is the leading international non-profit organization focused on wetland conservation. Through its decentralised offices and expert networks on six continents, it provides an outstanding source of information and expertise for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. Global and regional programmes are supported in over 120 countries by government agencies, NGOS, foundations, development assistance agencies and private sector groups. Strong links exist with other international governmental organizations and treaties, such as the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) under the Convention on Migratory Species.

CIESIN was established in 1989 as a non-profit, non-governmental consortium, and relocated to Columbia University in July 1998 as a Center within the Columbia Earth Institute. Its mission is to provide access to and enhance the use of information worldwide, advancing understanding of human interactions in the environment and serving the needs of science and public and private decision-making. CIESIN specializes in science data management, Internet-based information systems development, decision support applications, and training, education, and technical services. CIESIN has been designated the World Data Center for Human Interactions in the Environment by the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), and operates the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) for the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Within the SEDAC umbrella, CIESIN maintains a database on Environmental Treaties and Resource Indicators and has offered to develop and host a "Ramsar Wetland Data Gateway" for the Ramsar Convention Bureau.


Recognizing their mutual interest in providing and gaining access to data and information relevant to wetlands, the Ramsar Bureau, Wetlands International and CIESIN have set forth this Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate in a manner that each may benefit from the other’s resources and expertise.


Article 1: General Objectives

1.1 The Ramsar Bureau, Wetlands International and CIESIN will develop an on-line "Ramsar Wetland Data Gateway" through a multilevel, multidisciplinary, diverse resource base, including spatial, tabular and graphic data, all of which can be accessed through a common search interface.

1.2 The Ramsar Bureau, Wetlands International and CIESIN will encourage innovation in information dissemination and decision-making by sharing expertise on relevant information technologies, including interactive, on-line tools for encouraging dialogue and participation among diverse user groups. Examples of such activities are networking or training opportunities, assisting groups to identify appropriate information technologies, and utilization of services such as the email-to-web gateway to diversify access to Internet services.

1.3 The Ramsar Bureau, Wetlands International and CIESIN will facilitate the development of more powerful data-sharing capabilities within the Ramsar community by sharing expertise on such new technologies. Examples of this may include the development of applications using the Spatial Database Engine (SDE®) and OpenGIS®, incorporation of wetlands data catalogs into the Ramsar Wetland Data Gateway, and sharing of expertise on metadata management.

Article 2: Roles and Responsibilities

2.1 All, or specifically identified, Parties shall conduct the following activities to the best of their ability, and within the resources they have available.

2.2 All Parties will assist in the development of the work plan for establishing the on-line Ramsar Wetland Data Gateway, including, by agreement among the Parties, associated Ramsar Database developments which may facilitate this occurring.

2.3 The Ramsar Bureau will monitor the implementation of this MOU and its detailed work plans (to be appended) for this joint activity developed between the Parties.

2.4 Wetlands International, as the custodian of the Ramsar Sites Database, will provide this database to CIESIN for development of the on-line Ramsar Wetland Data Gateway, and as per paragraph 2.2 above, additional associated Ramsar Database development.

2.5 Wetlands International, as the custodian of the Ramsar Sites Database, will review and test the on-line Ramsar Wetland Data Gateway, and any proposed modifications to the Ramsar Database.

2.6 CIESIN will be identified as the creator of the Data Gateway, and individual datasets used in the Data Gateway will be attributed to their creators and/or custodians as appropriate. Specific elements of this on-line Ramsar Data Gateway will be developed in close collaboration with Wetlands International and will be so attributed.

2.7 CIESIN will, as requested, provide working copies of the components of the Ramsar Wetland Data Gateway, including the data model, and scripts written for the Ramsar Wetland Data Gateway, search query forms, html files, and executable versions of any proprietary CIESIN software required to operate the Gateway.

2.8 The Parties agree that this MOU will be implemented only by mutually agreed work plans. The work plans will identify the specific objectives to be accomplished by the collaboration, the products or services to be provided, the time frames for completion, and the assignment of appropriate personnel to the project, the funding of the project and any other conditions applicable to such agreements.

2.9 Focal Points

Ramsar Bureau: Deputy Secretary General
Wetlands International: Senior Wetland Inventory Officer
CIESIN: Project Scientist, Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center

2.10 The focal points shall aim to meet to assess the implementation of this Agreement at least once per annum, and shall arrange for reviews of the Agreement as necessary.

Article 3: Other Collaboration

The Ramsar Bureau, CIESIN and Wetlands International may work together to explore other potential areas of collaboration that would mutually benefit all three organizations. Such areas may include database integration, data products, software application development, computing capabilities, electronic networking, information technology, training, education and workshops, and the pursuit of funding for joint activities.

Article 4: General

4.1 Resourcing

This Memorandum of Understanding does not bind CIESIN, Wetlands International or the Ramsar Bureau, nor does it commit either CIESIN, Wetlands International or the Ramsar Bureau to any exchange of funds, nor does it exclude the possibility of such an exchange. Additionally, the work will be contingent on all Panties having the necessary resources.

4.2 Review

This Memorandum of Understanding will be reviewed annually by the Ramsar Bureau in consultation with representatives from CIESIN and Wetlands International.

4.3 Acknowledgements

In recognition of the nature of this tripartite agreement, the Parties will give full acknowledgement for each other’s contribution to the activity, and will provide prominent links to each other’s communication tools, including Web sites and printed materials.

4.4 Ownership (of the data and data products)

Ownership of the primary source data (that provided by Contracting Parties at the time of site designation, or subsequent reviews and updates) rests with the Ramsar Bureau on behalf of the Contracting Parties of the Ramsar Convention. Through its contractual arrangement with Wetlands International for the maintenance of the Ramsar Sites Database, the Ramsar Bureau (on behalf of the Convention) has agreed that Wetlands International has freedom to use and disseminate this data as part of its information provider and outreach functions without reference to the Ramsar Bureau. Through this Memorandum, the Ramsar Bureau is conferring the same freedom to use, disseminate and make available the primary source data (as defined above) to all interested Parties. This is to be done by both Wetlands International and CIESIN without charge to any client.

Wetlands International has, through various sources, added additional information relating to the Ramsar sites into the database and has agreed to allow the use and dissemination of this supplementary data by the Ramsar Bureau, Contracting Panties of the Convention and others upon request. Through this Memorandum, CIESIN is given the same freedom to use and make available through the Data Gateway this supplementary site data.

CIESIN also has as its disposal additional datasets and supplementary information, some of which, in consultation with Wetlands International and the Ramsar Bureau, it may decide to integrate into the Data Gateway. Through this Memorandum such additional datasets and supplementary information will be made freely available to other Parties for their use in promoting the development of the List of Wetlands of International Importance (as set out in Ramsar Resolution VII.11 from the 7th Conference of the Contracting Parties) and for general promotion and analysis.

4.5 Termination

This Memorandum shall remain in effect until 31 December 2002. This Memorandum may be terminated by either Party subject to written notice of at least three months.


Agreed on behalf of the Ramsar Bureau: Delmar Blasco, 14/2/00

Agreed on behalf of Wetlands International: Robin Schaap, 20/2/00

Agreed on behalf of CIESIN: Roberta Balstad Miller, 9/3/00

Agreed on behalf of Columbia University: Michael Crow

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