The Convention’s CEPA Programme


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Ramsar and Wetland Link International

Ramsar Resolution VII.9 defines the Outreach Programme of the Convention and it has identified wetland education centres as key locations for promoting the principles of wetland conservation and wise use through CEPA activities, and it has also identified WLI as the key organisation to assist the Contracting Parties in this area of work. A full description of the roles in this area of work of WLI, the Ramsar Contracting Parties, the CEPA Focal Points (Government and NGO), as well as the Ramsar Bureau, are laid out in paragraphs 47-49 of the Resolution guidelines (

Doug Hulyer, who heads up WLI, is in the preparatory stages of  re-shaping the WLI programme and further developing a highly effective wetland centre network. This is good news indeed for the Outreach Programme  – here's what you can do to help. Please read Doug's discussion paper below or download a Word 6/95 version and give him your feedback about his vision for  WLI.

With the professional expertise of WLI in developing wetland centres, the exchange of experiences and support between centres that the WLI network can deliver, along with the combined supportive efforts of the Bureau and the CEPA Focal Points, I think our collaborative efforts will see wetland education centres delivering an effective wetland message on a global scale.

Developing the Wetland Link International (WLI) programme of The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust – a discussion paper from The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust

Doug Hulyer, Director of Conservation Programmes & Development, WWT

June 14th 2001

1. Introduction - a brief history of WLI

In 1990 The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), a U.K. based NGO, created the Wetland Link International (WLI) programme.

The objectives of the programme:

  1. To encourage and support the exchange of information and expertise internationally between those involved in wetland education programmes, particularly those operating from wetland education visitor centres and similarly targeted sites e.g. field study centres, nature reserves, etc.
  2. To advocate for, and assist in, the development of new wetland education centres and associated programmes throughout the world;
  3. To improve the effectiveness of operations at wetland education centres through sharing, training and expertise exchange;
  4. To lobby for the greater inclusion of communications, education and public awareness (CEPA) programmes within wetlands and related conservation initiatives and instruments, and develop frameworks for subsequent implementation at national, regional and global levels.

Beginning with a core group of wetland centres from the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Trinidad, U.S.A., Singapore, France and Italy, the WLI network of contacts grew to over 900 individuals, groups and organisations from over 100 countries.

A twice-yearly newsletter acted as the main means of mass-communication within the network. Many projects on a centre-to-centre basis were organised over the 11 years including training and expertise-exchange, centre development (from concept to build and operation) and broader education and public awareness programmes. The founder group and WWT team played a leading role in raising the level of debate about the importance of the education and public awareness process in the creation of sustainable futures and the establishment of the wise-use principle. As a consequence of this, Wetland Link International has been recognised as an important delivery mechanism for the Ramsar Convention’s Outreach Programme (Resolution VII.9 and its annexed guidelines), adopted at COP7 in 1999 (see particularly paragraphs 47-49).

The initial three-year funding for the WLI programme came via a sponsorship from British Petroleum plc. and other in-kind support from British Airways e.g. international flights (the latter sponsorship continues to the present).

From 1994 to 1998 WWT supported the administration of WLI financially including the salary and other costs of its full-time coordinator. Since the loss of the coordinator in 1998, the major casualty within the programme has been that of the network itself, with the last newsletter being produced in 1999. Despite this, a number of WWT bilateral initiatives have proceeded under the programme and via the consultancy arm of WWT, the Wetlands Advisory Service. Most of these relate to advocacy and centre development and include new centre developments in Hong Kong, Korea, the USA, Belgium and the U.K. Direct advice and support has also been provided to projects in Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy and Ghana whilst projects in the pipeline include those in Kenya and Chile. From the evidence of the folk at Slimbridge (WWT’s headquarters), it could be argued that there are more new centres under development at the present, linked to the programme, than at any time in WLI’s history.

In 1999 WWT carried out a survey of all members of the network. The response to this included the affirmation that the WLI concept and network satisfied a real need and had the potential to deliver far more. As a result, WWT continues to recognise the importance of WLI in the delivery of its own conservation objectives and those of the wider wetlands community. This has been re-affirmed in the current planning cycle where the Wetland Link International initiative is one of the key programmes in the WWT Corporate Strategy (2002-2011). Some funding has been earmarked for spending by WWT in 2001 to re-establish the network and the organisation is actively pursuing further development funding to enable a financially sustainable programme to be put in place for the period of the WWT Corporate Strategy.

In developing the proposals for the programme from 2002 onward, discussions have been held with key members of the network over the past few months. I would like to record WWT’s thanks for those that have helped, particularly Christine Prietto from the Wetland Centre, Shortlands, Australia, Lew Young from WWF-Hong Kong (Mai Po) and Ed Delany of Horsehead Centre, Maryland, USA. Also, the results of the 1999 consultation have been fed into the planning process. The major issues that require wider consultation are outlined below.

We now wish to engage the assistance of the wider wetland CEPA community in helping to shape the future of the programme.

2. What would we like you to do now?

In planning for the future a small team has identified a number of key issues.

In Section 3 below, five issues are introduced and each section includes a resume of our current thinking and plans for the future. We would welcome any thoughts on and reactions to these proposals. Your responses will help inform our detailed planning as we complete the three-year plan for WLI over the coming months.

Please e-mail your thoughts and responses to these five issues directly to me at by July 31st 2001

3. What next?

Following collation of all the responses a draft three-year programme plan (for the period 2002 – 2004) will be produced and distributed. This will be published on the Ramsar CEPA-list and also sent direct to all who responded to this consultation (target date: September 30th 2001).

Planning for the future of the Wetland Link International (WLI)

Programme of WWT

Consultation June 2001

Please return your comments to the issues below by July 31st to

Title the response: WLI Consult

…. And thank you, in advance, for your help.

Your name:___________________________________________________________

Address (including organisation or affiliation):



Contact e-mail:________________________________________________________


Question 1. Is there a need for the Wetland Link International programme?
Question 2. What are the objectives of the WLI programme?
Question 3. Who is WLI for, and what is a ‘wetland education centre’?
Question 4. What mechanisms will support, and activities take place within, the network?
Question 5. How will WLI be structured?

Question 1. Is there a need for the Wetland Link International programme?

Background: Since the formation of WLI in 1990 there have been significant changes in the global conservation agenda; these include the outcomes of the 1992 Rio agenda (Convention on Biological Diversity, Sustainable Development Commissions, etc.) and the development of flyway agreements related to wetlands (e.g. the Africa-Eurasian and Asia-Pacific agreements). All new instruments and agreements make reference to communications, education and public awareness (CEPA) activities. Over the same period of time the Ramsar agenda (Convention on Wetlands 1971) has moved onward to embrace CEPA, culminating in the adoption of the Outreach programme in 1999.

With the development of information technologies (particularly that of the world-wide-web and e-mail/list-serves) there has been a complementary growth of exchange networks including those within the CEPA world. One such instrument, recently launched, is the CEPA mini-website and list-serve run by the Ramsar Bureau itself.

WWT view: There are tremendous opportunities for the network to play a significant role in the development and delivery of CEPA activities related to many of the new agendas and instruments, in addition to the ‘traditional’ Ramsar focus. The role and quality of individual centres in the delivery of the Ramsar Outreach/CEPA programme can be better developed and served as part of a specifically focussed, coordinating and sharing network.

WWT continues to receive many requests from individuals, organisations and agencies wishing to be associated with the network – whilst there remains an identifiable and considerable need, WWT will continue to operate the programme within the bounds of its resources.

Your comment:




Question 2. What are the objectives of the WLI programme?

WWT believes that the bringing together of wildlife and people for the benefit of both remains a powerful tool in the CEPA process. The development of new and innovative methods of doing this, managing the interaction in ways that minimise impact and are sympathetic to both landscapes and natural systems, all deserve special attention – at a global level, the revised network will focus upon these processes and imperatives and the CEPA programmes associated with them.

WWT re-affirms the following objectives for the programme:

  1. To encourage and support the exchange of information and expertise internationally between those involved in wetland education programmes, particularly those operating from wetland education centres and similarly targeted sites e.g. field study centres, environmental education centres, zoos, botanic gardens, aquaria, etc.
  2. To advocate for, and assist in, the development of new wetland education centres and their associated programmes throughout the world;
  3. To improve the effectiveness of operations at wetland education centres through sharing, training and expertise exchange;
  4. To lobby for the greater inclusion of communications, education and public awareness (CEPA) programmes within wetlands and related conservation initiatives and instruments, and support the development of frameworks for subsequent implementation at national, regional and global levels.

Your comment:




Question 3. Who is WLI for, and what is a ‘wetland education centre’?

Background: The WLI idea developed from a range of desires. These include:

  • a desire to reduce the feelings of isolation of those involved in on-the-ground CEPA activities at centres;
  • a desire to share knowledge and practical expertise around the world;
  • a desire to raise the status and importance of CEPA activity in the achievement of conservation and sustainable development objectives
  • a desire to produce solutions

Those who became involved ranged from wardens and rangers to administrators/educators and policy makers. In the absence of anything else, the WLI network became an unofficial CEPA network for wetlands largely, but not exclusively, focussed upon the classic notion of a wetland centre (i.e. visitor and educational facility on a nature reserve or protected area).

A recurring problem was how to define the term ‘wetland education centre’.

WWT View:

WLI – for whom? We expect the primary interest to come from people who are planning, designing or operating places where there is people and wildlife/wetlands interaction with an educational or interpretative objective. i.e. those engaged in the act whether on a professional or amateur, paid or voluntary basis.

As e-communications will be the main organ of the network, participation will occur at many levels, beginning with simple membership of a list-serve.

The number of secondary audiences would include policy-makers, potential funders, wider environmental professionals (beyond education/interpretation), etc.

Anyone that needs or can share practical advice on activities related to the core objectives outlined above would be welcome to join the network as a participant.

What is a ‘wetland centre’?

For the purposes of the WLI network only, WWT defines a wetland education centre as:

Any place where there is interaction between people and wildlife and CEPA activity occurs in support of wetland conservation objectives.

This definition would include nature reserves with a wide range of visitor facilities on wetland sites (e.g. those of WWT and similar organisations), environmental education centres, field study centres, zoological and botanical gardens, many interactive museums of natural history and a variety of community site-based projects and programmes.

The functions of such centres should include:

CEPA for wetlands delivery
Capacity building for CEPA
Venues for training

It is planned to develop a set of clear criteria based upon these three functions by which a venue can be recognised as a member of the Wetland Link International programme. A small working group will be convened by WWT, in the first year of the three-year plan, to produce these criteria and discuss other structural issues (see below); wider consultation will occur through the WLI e-list (see 4 below).

Your comments:




Question 4. What mechanisms will support, and activities take place within, the network?

 WWT Proposal:

The following is planned:

A. Creation of the Wetland Link International web-site. It is planned to create the WLI web-site in trial form by the end of October 2001. The site, when fully developed, will include:

  • News and views (also acting as a mechanism for cross-informational exchange between other networks and from key international players e.g. Wetlands International and its specialist groups, IUCN, WWF, Birdlife International)
  • On-line training and core materials (e.g. interpretative planning modules, education programme modules, strategy documents and templates, centre development process)
  • A shop-window for wetland centres and associated organisations/agencies (i.e. live and other links to member centres). Links to key partner organisations and agencies.
  • On-line support services. Examples of such services could include centre design and development advice, graphics/illustration database, down-loadable educational materials. It is possible that such services would be available through subscription or as sales items in order to generate income for the whole programme.
  • Database of educational and other reference materials that support wetland centre development and operations (which may, inevitably, overlap with elements of the Ramsar CEPA site).

B. Creation of the WLI e-list.
To be created on the same time-scale as the web-site, this will perform functions similar to those of the Ramsar CEPA list but be focussed upon the specific needs of the network i.e. sharing problems and solutions – an open forum for any network member.

C. Organisation of international meetings – conferences and workshops.

The bringing together of those involved in wetland education centre development and operation – it is planned to organise the first of such meetings in 2002 in advance of the COP8 of the Ramsar Convention (Valencia, Spain).

D. Shared policy and strategy for wetlands CEPA.

The development of shared policy and strategy targeted at international agendas e.g. international conventions and agreements.

E. The development of bilateral and multilateral projects between members.

F. The production of an annual printed review of activities and progress

G. Advocacy and lobbying

Production of advocacy materials (development of and support for wetland education centres and the WLI network); attendance by network members at key international meetings e.g. convention COPs.


Although unlikely in the short-term, it will be an aim to produce all materials in additional languages to English.

Your comments:



Question 5. How will WLI be structured?

Wetland Link International is a programme of WWT and the core coordination and operation of the programme and its associated global network will remain the responsibility of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.

It is clear that the number of wetland education centres as defined in Question 3 above varies enormously from country to country. For countries where there are a good number of centres (e.g. Australia, USA and U.K.) it has been suggested that national networks could play a major role in delivering the CEPA plans for Ramsar and other initiatives. Likewise, the creation/identification of regional hubs (i.e. a lead wetland centre for that region), possibly based upon the existing Ramsar division, could encourage the development of projects and programmes specific to the needs of that region. Use of the Wetland Link International brand could help consolidate and unify these ideas as three levels of engagement.

It is WWT’s intention to identify partner organisations, institutions or agencies to operate and develop the WLI programme in a phased manner at the regional and national levels. A working group of interested parties will be formed in 2001 to develop the concept and the necessary protocols required further. It is hoped that this process will be completed well in advance of Ramsar COP8 and be officially launched and promoted in Valencia in 2002.

Your comments:




Appendix 1.

Brief resume on The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT)

The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) is a United Kingdom-based organisation, created in 1946 by the painter and naturalist, Sir Peter Scott. WWT operates nine wetland visitor centres throughout the United Kingdom – five of these are on Ramsar designated sites.

The mission of WWT is ‘to conserve wetlands and their biodiversity – for both wildlife and for people’.

WWT organises its work under four main themes – Species/populations, Habitats/ecosystems, People and Support. It operates a large biological research unit, plays a leading role in the global waterbird threatened species programme and is a leader in the design, creation, restoration and management of a wide variety of wetland types.

Heightening public awareness of, and education about, the values and benefits of wetlands is a key objective of the organisation. As a consequence, WWT has developed a number of community-based programmes including the Pondwatch and Waterlands campaigns (1988-94), Explorer programmes for schools, the interpretative/exhibit development programmes (including the creation of discovery centres, learning through play centres, etc.). It is currently working on a major initiative for schools-based learning – the WISE Up to Wetlands programme – with funding from HSBC bank.

In 2000 WWT opened the state-of-the-art Wetland Centre in the heart of London (WWT’s ninth centre) and created the new visitor building and discovery centre at its headquarters at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire. Up to 750,000 people visit WWT Centres each year and this number is expected to rise to above 1 million within three years. WWT has a growing membership of 80,000 and a staff of approximately 200. Many thousands of volunteers are engaged in the work of WWT including over 2,000 who regularly monitor waterbird populations within the UK as part of the global Wetland Birds Survey.

Since its foundation WWT has helped a large number of individuals, organisations and agencies develop their own wetland centres throughout the world. In response to the growing demand for advice and assistance in doing so, WWT created the Wetland Link International (WLI) programme in 1990.

Visit our web site at

Or contact

Doug Hulyer, Director of Conservation Programmes & Development, WWT
Slimbridge, Glos. GL2 7BT, U.K.
Tel: +44 (0) 1453 891921
Fax: +44 (0) 1453 890827

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