Central American, Caribbean and North American Regional Meeting of the Convention on Wetlands, 2001
|Central American, Caribbean and North American Regional Meeting of the Convention on Wetlands|
Reunión Regional Centroamericana, del Caribe y Norte América de la Convención Ramsar, 26-28 septiembre, San Pedro Sula
Ramsar Regional Meeting for Central America, the Caribbean and North America, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, 26-28 September 2001
Report of the Meeting
1. Over 60 delegates from Central America, the Caribbean and North America, representing Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, St. Lucia, Suriname, the United States of America, and Argentina (as Regional Representative for South America in the Ramsar Standing Committee), participated in the meeting. Other organisations participating included The Central American Environment and Development Commission (CCAD), IUCN - The World Conservation Union, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and other non-governmental agencies.
2000-2002 Work Plan
2. Regarding advances that countries in the region have made since the last COP, conclusions are that four countries in the region: Canada, Costa Rica, United States and Trinidad and Tobago, have national wetland policies, and the first three countries also have national wetland strategies. In addition, Cuba has included a national wetland strategy in its national environmental strategy. Jamaica has prepared draft national policies for its coral reef, sea grass beds and mangroves, and for coastal wetlands. Honduras has prepared a project profile to develop a national wetland policy. With regard to National Committees, Bahamas, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Trinidad and Tobago have committees that are already working; El Salvador has prepared a draft decree to establish its committee; and Belize, Guatemala and Honduras are working on their creation or reactivation.
3. In terms of legislation, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, and Mexico have legislation related to wetlands management. The Environmental Law in El Salvador covers aspects related to coastal wetlands, such as mangroves and other aquatic ecosystems. Guatemala has made a compilation of existing legislation related to wetlands. The environmental legislation in Jamaica (NRCA 91) has provisions for the protection of wetlands through a system of permits and licences. Panama includes wetlands in Chapter X of the General Law of Environment, and measures for the conservation of waterfowl and the ecosystems they depend on are established therein.
4. Bahamas, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States have wetlands inventories. Nicaragua needs to complete and update its inventory. Jamaica has obtained satellite images for the whole island at a scale of 1 m, and these are being used for ecosystem mapping, including wetlands.
5. Concerning designation of new Ramsar sites, Cuba reported that it is preparing Ramsar Information Sheets for five new Ramsar sites; El Salvador reported that it has information sheets ready to designate two new Ramsar sites with the aid of UICN Mesoamerica, and is preparing one more; and Nicaragua informed the meeting that it has already finished the information sheets for seven new sites. Jamaica is considering two existing protected areas to be included in the Ramsar List, and Panama is working on the information sheet for a priority area of importance for migratory birds, the Gulf of Panama, and on the expansion of the Gulfo de Montijo Ramsar site in order to include the reef ecosystem. Concerning the 89 existing Ramsar sites in the region, Belize has a management plan for its Ramsar site; 18 of Canadas 36 sites have management plans; Costa Rica has management plans for 8 out of its 10 sites, and it is working on management plans for the other two. El Salvador has been preparing the management plan for La Laguna del Jocotal since last year with the aid of AECI, Spanish Agency of International Co-operation, and it has to be approved by the Ministry of the Environment; the stage of gaining consensus with local communities still needs to be done. Guatemala has updated management plans for three of its four sites. The management plan for the Black River Morass in Jamaica is in draft and it is expected to be finalised by the end of 2002. Panama has a management plan for Punta Patiño, and is preparing the management of the Golfo de Montijo. At present it is processing a consultancy contract in order to produce the management plan for San San Pond Sak. In August this year countries in the region were requested to update 55 Information Sheets for Ramsar sites that were designated before 1991, and so far Nicaragua and Panama have advised that they are working on their updating, and Guatemala has sent the updated sheet for Manchon - Guamuchal. If all the sites mentioned above were designated, it would only be necessary for Canada to designate 3 sites, and expand 1, Guatemala to designate 2, Panama 1, Suriname 2, and The United States 1, in order to comply with the pledges made at Ramsar COP7, as registered in Resolution VII.12.
6. The Bureau invited Bahamas, Cuba, El Salvador, Jamaica, and Panama to designate their focal points for the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP), and the Focal Points for the Communication, Education and Public Awareness Program (CEPA), both from the governmental and from the non-governmental organisations, as soon as possible. Belize was also urged to send the names of the designated focal points as soon as possible.
7. Similarly, the Bureau suggested that the participating countries make all possible efforts to concentrate on two or three concrete actions of the work plan, such as the creation of national wetland committees, development of national policies, etc. in the period between this meeting and COP8, in Valencia, Spain in November 2002.
8. The Regional Wetlands Policy of Central America was considered an excellent example of working in a regional way towards the implementation of the Convention, and particularly in terms of shared wetlands. CCAD, IUCN and the Administrative Authorities of the region have made a considerable effort to generate the present draft policy.
9. The National Wetland Policy of Costa Rica is a good example of the application of the Ramsar guidelines on this topic, and the meeting recommended that other countries in the region make an effort to begin or complete these processes at the national level.
National Reports for COP8
10. The presentation by Canada on the National Report Format for COP8 concluded that this is an important achievement by the Bureau that allows for consistent comparisons and analyses to be made between countries, and facilitates producing valuable information that can be shared globally.
11. The main limitations and constraints of the present format that were identified are the need for federal countries, in particular, to devote large financial and human resources in order to fill out the report, and that it also requires extensive consultation processes with a great number of government entities at the different levels, as well as with non-governmental organisations, and private sector partners. In addition, it is considered that the format is in places ambiguous and repetitive, and that many of the sections do not permit flexible answers since there are many "yes/no" questions.
12. There was a recommendation to concentrate on a set of key questions in the future, further adapt to the needs of the countries, and promote the possibility to measure success through indicators.
13. Guatemala has submitted its national report; Belize has begun to complete the form; and Bahamas advised during the meeting in Trinidad last December, they considered, together with Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad, that the current format is a useful tool for planning for the Small Island States, but he agreed that the format is too long and it takes a long time to complete it.
Structure and proposed procedures for Ramsar COP 8
14. Nick Davidson, the Bureaus Deputy Secretary General, presented the proposal for the structure and procedures of COP8, and reported that the Standing Committee had determined that the structure would follow closely that adopted for COP7, with a duration of 9 days, since the seventh day is essential for the Bureau to prepare the final versions of documents for adoption by the meeting, and have them ready in the three official languages of the Convention, which otherwise would be impossible to do with the time and resources available.
Other elements proposed by the Parties
15. The United States presented its memorandum on the paper prepared by the IUCNs Environmental Law Centre concerning urgent national interest and compensation under Articles 2.5 and 4.2 of the Convention, and explained its reasons to be in disagreement with the document.
16. The most difficult issue in the United States is convincing the community of the fact that proposing a Ramsar site does not affect sovereignty. Concerning the interpretation of urgent national interest under the Convention, the United States considered that its definition and application should be made by each country rather than by the Convention.
17. If this document were adopted it would not be possible to designate further Ramsar sites in the United States.
18. Canada pointed out that an international agreement must facilitate co-operation and should not be a rigid structure that could limit the achievement of the objectives of the Convention.
19. The Secretariat informed that so far there have not been achievements in major additional fundraising for the Small Grants Fund (SGF), but that a proposal has been prepared for the establishment of a Trust Fund that should generate annually one million dollars ($ 1,000,000) that would allow more stable financing of the SGF. This proposal will be submitted for approval to the Standing Committee at its next meeting.
2003-2008 Ramsar Strategic Plan Proposal
20. Regarding the Strategic Plan, there was a suggestion to include the theme of flood management, and to address Research more specifically in the Plans Actions. It was also mentioned that some actions have clear goals but not all actions have goals that are well defined or quantified. The Bureau advised that all such targets would appear in the Conventions Work Plan rather than the Strategic Plan.
21. Canada mentioned its satisfaction with the document, but it encouraged the Parties to identify the priority themes and actions for implementation that may allow the donors to identify the areas that need more support. It likewise stressed the importance of inventories and evaluations, with important opportunities for synergies with other conventions. Emphasis was also made on the importance of research, particularly in terms of economic assessment.
Technical Session 1 of COP 8. Wetlands: major challenges and emerging opportunities in the new century
22. "La Encrucijada" is a Biosphere reserve, which is a protected natural coastal area of the Mexican Pacific. The long-term objective of the project is to conserve the ecosystem health and productivity in the river basin of the Coapa river, county of Pijijiapan, Chiapas, through the implementation of actions based on an Integrated Management Plan for the River Basin. The aim is to decrease the impacts on the basin at different altitudes, through co-ordination among different sectors, community participation, and participation of academic institutions in the conservation, restoration, research, negotiation and management of the river basin and its natural resources.
23. In order to develop this plan, government institutions, non-governmental organisations, academics and researchers, representatives of "La Encrucijada" and "El Triunfo" Biosphere Reserves, and users of the Coapa river basin: cattle ranchers, peasants and fishermen, participated.
24. The goal of this plan is to achieve a productive re-conversion of the hydrographic river basin of the Coapa river to allow for the maintenance of long-term conservation objectives: cloud forests in the "El Triunfo" Biosphere Reserve (REBITRI), soils (fertility), natural riverbed (quality and quantity of water, riverside vegetation, and biodiversity), and Lagoon Systems in "La Encrucijada" Biosphere Reserve (REBIEN).
25. The methodological base on which the design of the "Management and Conservation Plan for the Rio Coapa River Basin" was designed corresponds to the "Planning for the Conservation of Sites" (PCS) of "The Nature Conservancy" (1999), as well as to studies and evaluations carried out in the Coapa river basin by the Universidad Autónoma de México (UNAM) and Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM), as well as the Institute for Sustainable Development in Mesoamerica, A.C.
26. Ecological restoration activities are in progress in the communities of Nueva Flor, Guanajuato, Salto del Agua and Ceniceros. This restoration is aimed at establishing two forest plant nurseries in the communities of Nueva Flor and Guanajuato, with a capacity of 50 000 plants between them. The trees will be planted on riverbanks and next to the fences of pastures donated to the communities of Nueva Flor, Guanajuato, and Salto del Agua. Likewise, organic maize sowing is being carried out by 60 producers from the communities of Nueva Flor and Progreso, on a surface of 60 hectares. However, these are only 8 communities served, out of the 12 that are situated in the Coapa River basin, where certain actions are being carried out, which do not cover many of the economic needs of the population, and which do not maintain long-term conservation objectives.
27. To measure progress, focus should be put on the number of producers served per community, the coverage of communities settled along the river basin, as well as the number of community promoters designated by each community.
28. Another measurement of progress in the implementation of the plan will be the number of institutions participating in the productive re-conversion of the river basin, and the number of strategies implemented, depending on whether they are short, medium or long term.
29. These measurements of progress and success will mainly depend on the agreements and commitments resulting from the presentation of the plan, as well as upon the interests of the institutions and communities to actively participate in the process that began in October 1999.
Synergies among Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs)
30. Although no case studies were presented on this topic, the Bureau advised that joint work experience at the national level, particularly with regional co-operation activities such as the Cartagena Convention, and the preliminary discussions with the Agreement for the Protection of the Marine and Coastal Areas of the South-East Pacific, was important.
31. Likewise, the Parties were encouraged to make all possible efforts in order to carry out joint actions at the national level with the focal points of the other Conventions, as well as discussing and adopting positions that have been reached by consensus at the COPs of the different conventions.
Technical Session 2. Wetland inventory and assessment
32. Guatemala presented the results of its national wetland inventory. The objectives of Guatemalas inventory are to classify, evaluate and prioritise those wetlands that require more conservation and management efforts; informing civil society about the richness of wetlands in the country, their functions and values as a national heritage, in order to attain their wise use, utilise their valuable resources for their own benefit, in the best possible way, and establish the vital link between people and wetlands.
33. The evaluation results provide the criteria under which the administration of the protected areas can modify its planning, focus on the prioritised activities of management, and be efficient in the execution of the area management programs.
34. Monitoring of the management of protected areas, especially those with wetlands, must be carried out as part of the annual planning process. In comparing the annual evaluations over time, changes related to the critical elements of management can be detected, and aspects that demand more attention will be identified. This encourages the improvement of management efforts. When improvement in measurements is detected this provides evidence of improved status and management of the sites.
35. To ensure implementation of monitoring, the methodology has been designed in such a way that it is user-friendly, and allows collection of reliable and specific data from the area in a short period of time.
36. The process does not require very specialised technology, or training, and does not need large investment on equipment, making it low-cost. In addition, it is presented in a way that allows improvements according to the conditions of the area where it is applied.
37. From the case study of the Ramsar site Golfo de Montijo, Panama, using biological and socio-economic diagnostic methods, it is clear that the economic situation of the inhabitants of the area is very critical. Most inhabitants depend on natural resources to meet their needs; producers do not obtain fair prices due to market speculation; access to credit is very limited; availability of agricultural land is scarce; and there is a need for technical assistance to improve production and promote sustainable use of resources; the residents must get their resources outside the area of production. However, a trend to spend and acquire unnecessary consumer products is perceived; there is a need to carry out community organisation programs and improve the credibility level of the institutions in the eyes of the community, as well as a continuity of the actions. This requires the reinforcement of the management of ANAM, being the institution responsible for the administration of the site.
38. As a result of this process there is better information on the status of the wetland which will promote the prioritisation of actions for its conservation, and lead directly to the preparation of a management plan based on the findings of the study. The protection and management of natural resources have been strengthened, establishing the conditions for utilisation, even though during the past years the residents have been able to improve their living conditions, the participation of the institutions will be strengthened and oriented more towards development and growth based on the rational use of resources.
39. Efforts are being made to improve education, taking steps to establish literacy programs, and carrying out environmental education activities involving all the actors in the improvement of the quality of life of inhabitants. Finally, Panama is preparing a proposal to carry out its inventory of Ramsar sites and hopes to receive financial assistance from the Ramsar Bureau.
40. The United States made a presentation on the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS). The protection and informed management of a wetland requires knowledge of the geographic relationships among key components, such as water, soil, vegetation, animals, and humans. Having the capability to spatially represent and analyse information facilitates and strengthens the ability to make planning and management decisions. The presentation described how user-friendly geographic information systems could assist site-level managers in assimilating and interpreting data to help them answer management questions.
41. A GIS combines computer software with hardware to access, view, manipulate, and display geographically-oriented information, such as land uses, soil types, vegetation types, rainfall, human infrastructure or species distributions- anything that can be mapped. The concept of GIS is not difficult. Its basic methodology is equivalent to overlapping two or more sheets of clear acetate containing geographic information about an area. When these different sets of data from the same geographic area are viewed together, patterns and relationships between them often emerge that may otherwise have remained hidden.
42. Despite its value and conceptual simplicity, GIS has remained out of reach for many field conservationists due to high start-up costs, a steep learning curve, and lack of awareness of its value to conservation. This need not be the case, as a standard computer and an investment of about $1,000 in software, a smaller digitalizing tablet, an ink-jet printer, and a hand-held Global Positioning System (GPS) unit will provide most groups with sufficient GIS capability to produce maps and carry out basic ecological analyses.
43. A number of high-tech and powerful GIS options that will analyse large satellite images and carry out advanced modelling routines have existed for more than a decade. This high-end technology has been extremely valuable for global, continental, and regional analyses. However, another level of GIS is now emerging that allows field-level managers and conservationists with minimal computer skills to apply the same types of analyses to the protection and management of a wetland site.
44. Simpler systems exist that require only a few days, rather than months, to learn, cost a few hundred, rather than thousands, of dollars, and can provide most of the functions required by users in the natural resource conservation and management field. The scope of the project and the analysis and presentation needs should guide investment in computer hardware and software. Nevertheless, managers or researchers themselves can execute many of the basic functions, especially at the level of the reserve or research site, with standard equipment.
45. Five general ways in which a user-friendly GIS can help conservation professionals protect and manage wetland resources are: (1) communicating a situation or causal relationship; (2) carrying out simple analyses such as measuring and intersecting map elements; (3) analysing distributions of species and habitats; (4) modelling potential variations in habitat including the flow of water-borne pollutants; and (5) assisting with resource and land use planning, by answering management questions through data layering.
Technical session 3. Practical steps for applying the Vision for the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance
46. There is no clarity in the designation process of shared or trans-boundary wetlands of international importance in Central America. It was recommended that the Ramsar Convention should develop general guidelines for establishing these kinds of sites in all the regions.
47. Central America offers a regional work potential that makes easier the endorsement and acceptance of shared or regional initiatives. This is an advantage that can be used to strengthen co-operative activities on wetland ecosystems in Central America.
48. The projects and initiatives shared between two or more countries require effort, commitment, dedication, and most of all, political will of all parties.
49. When potential Ramsar trans-boundary sites are proposed, current policies of the Administrative Authorities in each country must be taken into consideration in order to avoid delaying the processes.
50. For the Central American region, based on the results of a meeting held in July 1999 - Regional workshop on priorities and methodologies for management and conservation of wetlands in Central America, organised under the auspices of CCAD, IUCN and PROARCA Coasts - the following sites have been identified as potential shared (transboundary) Ramsar sites:
- River basin of the San Juan River: it is possible to begin the process incorporating the geographical zone included between Los Gatuzos Wild Life Refuge in Nicaragua, and the Wild Life Refuge Caño Negro in Costa Rica. Both are Ramsar sites at the moment.
- River basin of the Sixaola River: which includes part of La Amistad International Park between Costa Rica and Panama. Likewise, establishing another bi-national Ramsar site between Guandoca - Manzanillo in Costa Rica and San San-Pond Sak in Panama can be facilitated.
- Gulf of Fonseca: considering the existence of a Ramsar site in the South Pacific region of Honduras, the existence of a shared project, financed by Danish co-operation, and with the interest of the governments in the conservation and management of this region, it should be possible to promote a process aimed towards establishing a shared Ramsar site in the area.
- Mesoamerican Reef System of the Caribbean: due to the ecological and socio-economical importance, as well as the strategic importance of this geographical area, besides the existence of a regional project financed by the World Bank in the zone; this system represents an important potential as a shared Ramsar site.
- Chetumal Bay: between Mexico and Belize.
- Gulf of Honduras: between Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.
- Guija Lake Complex: information sheet elaborated by El Salvador, it could be completed with information on the Guatemalan part of the wetlands system.
- Paraíso la Barrona-Barra de Santiago, between Guatemala and El Salvador. The information sheets have been prepared through joint efforts for both national sites.
Technical Session 4. Managing wetlands for sustainable use: lessons learned and new perspectives
51. The process used in Guatemala with local participation in the elaboration of management plans points out the importance of consultation with the representatives of each village and/or community, holding Participative Consultation Workshops with community representatives, institutions, organisations, and involved actors, consultation with experts, and on-site verification. The workshops took into consideration aspects such as population, services, sites of importance, maps, lists of flora and fauna, production and extraction activities, and prioritisation of activities and threats. Zoning and drafting of land-use regulations was undertaken through the description of the zone, the objectives and the land-use legislation for specific activities. Thanks to this process there are now consultations with support groups for the implementation of Master Plans for each area, and better decisions are made on the sustainable management of resources.
52. Wetland areas in Guatemala which were identified with potential for such participatory management approaches:
- The Multiple Use Monterrico, Santa Rosa Natural Reserve (together with the new Hawaii Chapeton proposal).
- Sarstun River Special Protection Area- Rio Dulce National Park-Chocon Machacas, Izabal Biotope.
- National Park Laguna de Hachuá, Alta Verapaz.
53. In the case study of the integrated management of Tempisque River Basin in Costa Rica, stress was laid on the fact that in order to achieve conservation of wetlands, it is indispensable to link it with integrated management of the associated river basin. Traditional protection and research activities have not been enough to achieve the conservation goals. Three years ago, activities to integrate the conservation of wetlands with the management of the Tempisque River Basin were initiated. The main actions have included the development of cartographic and bibliographic data for the region, and the development of training programmes for the agricultural, county and state sectors. Major achievements have probably been the establishment of multisectorial groups that meet to discuss problems, which directly or indirectly affect the wetlands of the region. The integrated management of water resources, "the quantity and quality", utilisation patterns, and the need to recognise the wetlands as legitimate users of water resources, are fundamental parts of the programme. It has become evident that the Tempisque region requires more information on and arguments for minimum ecological water flows, in order to advocate water allocation quotas for the river basin. The establishment of monitoring programmes for ground and surface water quality, as well as monitoring surface flows is priorities for the programme. The final objective is promoting the economic development of the region and the improvement of the quality of life in the area. Only through integration of economic and social concerns with conservation interests can the functions and services of the wetlands in the region be maintained.
54. In the case study on Protection and Conservation of the Mata Redonda Lagoon Wetland in Costa Rica, stress was laid on the importance of including local communities, the government and other relevant partners in preparing the management plans for wetlands and in the decision-making process for protection and wise use of natural resources. Due to its great richness of biodiversity it is considered important to designate this wetland as a Wetland of International Importance.
55. The case study of Ría Lagartos, Yucatan, Mexico, on the recuperation of the pink flamingo population has illustrated the importance of conservation, restoring and monitoring activities for the management of wetlands, and highlighted community participation and co-ordination between the Mexican Government and the non-governmental organisations. The rescue operation of breeding flamingos has provided a flagship species for the protection of their wetland habitat. The co-operation between Ría Lagartos and Ciénaga de Zapata, Cuba, was initiated before Cubas accession to the Convention, and has resulted in the twinning of these two protected areas. Several technical exchanges of personnel have taken place between the two countries, in the framework of the management of the sites.
56. The Mesoamerican Reef System (SAM) is the second largest barrier reef in the world, of which the Belice barrier reef and the Sian Kaan, Yucatan, Mexico have been declared World Heritage Sites. This is the most diverse reef in the Atlantic, with 60 coral species, 350 different molluscs, 500 kinds of fish, as well as the areas largest population of manatees. The objective of the program is to promote the conservation of the reef system through its sustainable use, through support to the enforcing of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (CBM) incorporating the Mesoamerican Reef System (SAM) as the marine complement; establishing work links between the Biological Corridor, national authorities, communities, and interest groups; and promoting the development of programs and projects of co-operation with regional and international agencies. The specific objectives of the program are strengthening of marine protected areas, establishing a standardised system of ecosystem monitoring, promoting the sustainable use of SAM, and strengthening local, national and regional capacity for environmental management.
57. It is expected that this Mesoamerican Reef System program will generate the following benefits: reduction of poverty, reduction and mitigation of disasters, access to high-value socio-economical natural resources, promotion of environmentally friendly industries, and an increase in the opportunities to invest in eco-tourism. The main goal of the programme is to generate a sustainable development model as a socio-economical transformation tool at the regional level.
Technical Session 5. Cultural aspects of wetlands as a tool for their conservation and sustainable use
58. The case study presented on the indigenous people Malekus and Caño Negro, Costa Rica illustrated the cultural richness of the region in terms of the relationship between traditional cultures and the conservation of wetlands. It was recommended that all countries in the region should make contributions of case studies on this theme to share with the Bureau and Parties at COP8.
How to improve the services of the Secretariat
59. All countries agreed that the priorities are training and expertise through the initiatives already existing, such as Wetlands for the Future, the Western Hemispheric Programme of the Wildlife and Fishery Service and the Ramsar Centre in Panama (In process of establishment). To provide support and follow-up is the high priority. Panama offered to keep all countries and the Bureau informed on the achievements regarding the national and regional actions to establish the Regional Wetland Centre in the City of Knowledge in Panama.
60. Improving bi-directional communication between the Bureau and the countries was also pointed out as a priority.
61. A recommendation was also made that the Bureau should prepare summaries of large documents, and make them available to all countries.
62. The Bureau was encouraged to continue and strengthen the synergy work with the other conventions. Within the process of synergies, it was requested to study the possibility of supporting countries with the development of national or regional environmental funds that may allow having sustainable funds for the support of projects, through the World Bank or the Inter-American Development Bank, or other donors. This would help all countries in the region to implement their international commitments with the different conventions.
63. There was a suggestion to prepare annual programs of periodic visits to the region by the Bureau, with support from the regional representatives of the Standing Committee of the Convention.
64. It was recommended that all regional representatives to the Standing Committee should use regional fora to promote accession to the Convention by the rest of the island states of the Caribbean.
65. The countries of the Caribbean region consider that the International Organization Partners of Ramsar should be more active in this sub-region: IUCN, WWF, and Wetlands International were mentioned. Synergies with other regional organisations should be promoted, such as with the Caribbean Ornithological Society, the Caribbean Conservation Association (CCA) and others. It was stated that WWF Canada is providing substantial support for wetland management in Cuba.
66. The countries in the region urged co-ordination between NGOs and Governments regarding the activities they are carrying out in the region.
67. The CCAD and the Ramsar Bureau should strengthen their links to support the implementation of the Convention in Central America. The participation of Ramsar staff at the meetings of the Central American Technical Wetland Committee was requested.
68. The regional expert directory must be constantly updated, covering all the technical themes related to the Ramsar Convention.
69. The updating of the Ramsar Procedures Manual is considered a high priority, since it helps new officers within the Administrative Authorities, as well as other new partners that deal with tasks of the Convention on a daily basis.
70. The continuity of the commitments of the Administrative Authorities and their representation in the Conventions committees and bodies are fundamental to the successful implementation of the Convention.
71. The media must be active partners in explaining the objectives of the Convention and in promoting the conservation of wetlands at the regional level.
72. It is also necessary to have regional databases, centralised and with free and easy access, which will cover all aspects related to wetlands in the region, Ramsar sites, areas that require special attention, etc.
73. It was requested that for COP8, necessary arrangements are made so that the regions have meeting rooms specifically designated for the regional meetings.
Roles of the representatives in the Convention Committees
74. Article 5 of the Convention, which contains the requirement for international co-operation, stipulates that "the Contracting Parties shall consult with each other about implementing obligations arising from the Convention especially in the case of a wetland extending over the territories of more than one Contracting Party, or where a water system is shared by Contracting Parties. They shall at the same time endeavour to co-ordinate and support present and future policies and regulations concerning the conservation of wetlands and their flora and fauna".
75. It is within this general co-ordination and support framework that the Regional Representative must carry out his/her relations with the other Contracting Parties in his or her region. Before the Standing Committee, the fundamental role of a regional representative can be defined as that of the spokesman who takes before other Representatives of the Convention in the region, as well as to the other members and observers that make up the Standing Committee, the feelings of the countries included in his or her region.
76. In the same way, the regional representative may act as a link between the Standing Committee and the member countries of his/her region, communicating from the point of view of the member country of the Ramsar Convention, the results of the Standing Committee meetings, and the feelings of the other regions and the other members of the Committee on the subjects addressed at the meeting.
77. Interpreting part of Article 5 of the Convention, the Regional Representative shall also maintain a continuing and regular contact with the other Parties of his/her region, in order to co-ordinate, and proactively support the development and implementation of the current and future policies and regulations related to the conservation of wetlands and their sustainable use at the regional level. It seems desirable, as part of this task, to particularly promote the organisation of consultation and discussion forums, as well as education, training, and experience exchange activities in different areas related to the integrated management of wetlands, and the application of resolutions and recommendations adopted during the Conferences of the Parties. As a member of the Standing Committee, the Regional Representative should act as a natural channel to extend invitations to other regions and their member countries to the processes of sharing experiences, both positive and negative, in terms of wetlands management, river basin management, integrated management of water, community participation, assessment of wetlands, and sustainable development of people, particularly those communities that are more closely related to these types of environments.
78. During the last three-year period the United States acted as Regional Representative for North America in the Standing Committee, with Canada as an Alternate Representative. Mexico has also acted as co-ordinator and rapporteur of Ramsar regional activities; a unique and novel co-operation between the Ramsar regions, which shows the commitment of the three Ramsar member countries in this region for working in a joint way for the conservation of the wetlands of North America.
79. The role of the Regional Representative before the Standing Committee has very particular features for the North American Region, owing to the small number of countries (3) in this region. Of the six regions in the Ramsar Convention, only North America and Oceania have such a small number of member countries (Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, respectively), with the difference that in North America this represents the total of the countries in the region. Nevertheless, these countries, due to their geographical, ecological, socio-cultural and economic features, cover very wide and diverse ranges in terms of the types of wetlands, water volume, biological and cultural diversity, levels of development, institutional capacity, technical knowledge, human resources development, and social and political awareness about wetlands topics. Besides this, historical, cultural, biological, and increasingly economic bonds of North America with the member countries of the Neotropical Ramsar Region, constitute a unique opportunity and a challenge to promote the development of joint or similar schemes of application of the Ramsar Convention at the level of both regions, which allows foreseeing the beginning of a concentrated hemispherical vision, and furthermore, probably a unified vision in terms of the protection of our biological diversity and our ecosystems, including wetland conservation actions and programs at the regional level.
80. It is the role of the Parties in each Ramsar region to propose to the COP the election of their representatives on the Standing Committee. In the period between COPs the Bureau supports Parties in organising regional meetings. It is the role of the Parties to propose the themes to be discussed, the responsibilities in COP7 Resolution VII.1 concerning the roles and functions of the representatives of the Standing Committee, who have 7 key functions, and each representative must be sure that he/she can carry them out:
- It is very important that the delegate to the Standing Committee shall have continuity and consistently attend meetings.
- Funds are available through the Convention to support the active participation of the representatives of developing countries.
- Regional representatives should keep in touch regularly and contact the representatives of each Contracting Party within their area of responsibility.
- Regional representatives must represent the interests of all the countries of the region and not only their own interests.
- Regional representatives should advise the Bureau on matters concerning preparation of the agenda for the meetings.
- Regional Representatives are charged with making efforts to encourage the accession to the Convention of countries in their region.
- The work of the representative and the Contracting Parties shall be continuous, for 365 days of the year.
Other relevant issues for the Parties
81. Bahamas suggested reopening the discussion that had been started in the Pan-American meeting in 1998 in relation to regionalization in the Americas under the Convention, and presented a proposal in which Central America and the Caribbean would form a joint region with North America, such that the current Neotropics region would become a South American region.
82. The United States advised that it has serious reservations about this proposal since the differences between the three North American countries and the Island States of the Caribbean and the Central American countries are significant, particularly because of the fact that the North American countries are extremely large and have federal Government systems. Also, because regional boundaries were just agreed at COP7, the US would like to see that States concentrate on making the current system work before again redrawing the boundaries.
83. It was suggested that the Standing Committee should note this issue and the dialogue on this topic should continue in the next regional meeting.
84. The Central American countries will submit the proposal from Bahamas for consideration to their authorities and they will advise on their opinions during the next Standing Committee and regional meeting.
Close of the Meeting
85. Nick Davidson, on behalf of Ramsars Secretary General, closed the meeting, thanking the Governments of Canada, Honduras, Sweden and the United States of Americas for their in-kind and financial contributions to the meeting.
86. Margarita Astrálaga, Americas Regional Co-ordinator, thanked all participants for their important contributions to the meeting, the staff of the Biodiversity Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment of Honduras for their hard work in the organisation of the meeting, and the interpreters for their excellent job.
87. Eric Carey (Bahamas), on behalf of all participants, thanked the Ramsar Bureau for an excellent meeting and the Government of Honduras for its hospitality.
88. Jose Antonio Fuentes, on behalf of the Minister of Environment of Honduras, thanked the Ramsar Bureau for organising the meeting in Honduras, and the Governments of Canada, Norway, Sweden and the United States of America for their financial support and closed the meeting.
-- This meeting was hosted by the Ministry of Environment of Honduras and financially supported by the Ministry of Environment of Canada, the Directorate for Nature Management of Norway, the Swedish International Development Agency, and the Department of State of the United States.