Proceedings of the 6th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties

31/01/2013

6th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties
to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
Brisbane, Australia : 19-27 March 1996

CONFERENCE REPORT

Acknowledgements
25th Anniversary Statement
Participating States & Organizations
Resolutions of COP6
Recommendations of COP6


FIRST PLENARY SESSION

19 March 1996, 14:00-17:30

    Agenda Item I: Opening Remarks

1. Louise Lakos of Hungary, the chair of the Standing Committee, welcomed the participants.

2. Peter Bidgewater, Head of the Australian Nature Conservation Agency, welcomed the participants on behalf of the host country.

    Agenda Item II: General Statements

3. Welcoming and policy statements were made by:

Mr Neville T. Bonner, elder of the Jagera aboriginal country, including Brisbane and its watershed.
Mr Eddie Hegerl, Australian Wetland Alliance, on behalf of Australian non-governmental Organisations.
Mr John Campbell, Acting Mayor, on behalf of the Lord Mayor and people of Brisbane.
Mr Brian Littleproud, Minister of Environment for Queensland.
Senator Robert Hill, Federal Minister of Environment, Sport and Territories.
Dr Calestous Juma, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Mr David McDowell, Director General of IUCN - The World Conservation Union.
Mr Chris Kalden, President of Wetlands International.
Dr Claude Martin, Director General of WWF International.
Mr David Pritchard, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, for BirdLife International.
Mr Delmar Blasco, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands [The texts of these Opening Statements will be published in the Conference Proceedings.]

    Agenda Item III: Adoption of the Agenda

4. The agenda, circulated as DOC.6.1, was adopted by consensus.

    Agenda Item IV: Adoption of the Rules of Procedure

5. The Rules of Procedure, circulated as DOC.6.3, were adopted by consensus.

6. The Netherlands expressed the wish to suggest amendments to the Rules for future Meetings and was invited to convey suggested amendments to the secretariat.

    Agenda Item V: Election of Chairperson and Vice-Chairpersons

7. The Government of Australia proposed Dr Peter Bridgewater for consideration as Chairperson of the Conference, and the Conference Committee recommended acceptance of this proposal. Dr Bridgewater was elected Chair by acclamation.

8. The Conference Committee proposed Ms Emma Diaz de Gordillo of Guatemala and Mr Ban-Ymary Daboulaye of Chad for election as Vice-Chairpersons, and they were elected by acclamation.

9. Dr Bridgewater succeeded to the Chair and made several announcements concerning the conduct of the Meeting. Interventions from the floor should be as brief as possible. Written notes should be transmitted to the rapporteurs, especially when exact wording is considered important. To ensure smooth flowing of the Meeting, particularly sensitive issues should be discussed in advance with the Conference Chair, the Vice-Chairs, or the Secretary General.

    Agenda Item VI: Appointment of the Credentials Committee

10. According to Rule 3.3, the Credentials Committee shall consist of five members. The Conference Committee proposed Australia, Bulgaria, Chile, the People's Republic of China, and Uganda.

11. It further proposed Norway and the USA as additional ad hoc members, so that all regions will be represented. These Contracting Parties were elected by consensus.

12. The Conference Committee recommended the election of Bulgaria as Chair of the Credentials Committee. This was approved by acclamation.

    Agenda Item VII: Admission of Observers

13. There were no objections to the list of observers circulated in DOC.6.4, and this became the official list of observers.


SECOND PLENARY SESSION

20 March 1996, 09:00-17:30

    Agenda Item VIII a): Report of the Convention Standing Committee

14. Hungary (Chair of the Standing Committee) reported on the history and composition of the Standing Committee, and summarized its activities in the 1993-1996 triennium, as outlined in DOC.6.5.

15. The Committee was mandated to compile the draft Strategic Plan 1997-2002, which proved to be a most challenging task. The draft submitted was of course widely discussed at regional meetings and by NGOs as well. The Committee's intention was to make a firm recommendation on the budget for the next triennium, but the Subgroup on Finance has been unable to reach a conclusion because of insufficient feedback from the Parties. This issue will be discussed at regional meetings during this Conference, and hopefully the Committee will be able to make a recommendation later.

16. The Standing Committee recommends adoption of RES.VI.6 on changes in the name and procedures of the Wetland Conservation Fund and RES.VI.7 on new STRP members.

17. In the search for a new Secretary General, the Standing Committee had no procedures to go by. Thanks are due to Dan Navid, the former Secretary General, to Jim McCuaigfor filling in as Interim Secretary General during the search, to Delmar Blasco, the new Secretary General who has already proved his abilities, to David McDowelland IUCN for assistance, and to the Canadian Wildlife Service for releasing Mr. McCuaig.

18. Thanks are also due to the countries that hosted Standing Committee, STRP, and regional meetings, Argentina, Australia, Bulgaria, France, Hungary, India, Kenya, Panama, and Switzerland; to the four partner organizations, to Anderson Koyo (Kenya), the Vice-Chairperson, to Graham Donald (UK), Chairperson of the Subgroup on Finance, and to the Bureau for its assistance.

19. Trinidad & Tobago moved a vote of thanks to Louise Lakos for her excellent work as Chairperson throughout the triennium. Adopted by acclamation.

    Agenda Item VIII b): Report of the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP)

20. Mihály Végh (Hungary) reported on the work of the STRP throughout the triennium, as outlined in DOC.6.5.

21. He thanked the other STRP members for their work: Tom Dahl, Max Finlayson, François Letourneux, Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu, Roberto Schlatter, Mohammad Shatanawi.

22. The STRP is making several recommendations to the Conference, which are found in DOC.6.5.

    Agenda Item VIII c): Introduction of the Strategic Plan 1997-2002

23. Anderson Koyo (Kenya), Vice Chair of the Standing Committee introduced DOC.6.14, Draft Strategic Plan 1997-2002, and described its eight General Objectives. He thanked all Parties and individuals who made valuable contributions to the Plan.

24. The Chair paid tribute to Anderson Koyo for his work in chairing the Strategic Plan Drafting Subgroup. Any further input to the Draft Plan should be communicated to the secretariat or to Mr Koyo.

    Agenda Item IX: Report of the Convention Bureau

25. The Secretary General referred to DOC.6.6, the Report of the Convention Bureau, and made the following corrective and supplementary points:

  • The practice of assigning regional responsibilities to the Technical Officers, rather than thematic ones, is working well and should be continued. The Technical Officers are increasingly overworked, with more and more Contracting Parties requiring assistance.
  • He re-emphasized the excellent working relationships with the Convention's four partner organizations; there has been a very recent meeting to plan for the COP and will be a follow-up meeting in July. He would welcome still further partnerships.
  • The Convention's communications work requires more attention and the Secretary General will be reviewing this important area closely after the Conference.
  • Denmark should appear together with Sweden and India as having contributed support for the forthcoming book on wetland biodiversity.
  • The budget surplus of SFR 41,000 for 1995 should be amended to SFR 28,891, which is still better than the deficit projected in September 1995.
  • He urged Parties to pay their contributions for 1996 on time.
  • The cost of living adjustment in Bureau staff salaries should be corrected to 1% (not 2% as shown).
  • Although the staff structure is working and effective, some refinements may be made following the Conference.


26. The Secretary General, referring to DOC.6.6, Annex 1 (Wetland Conservation Fund), noted that the total funding of approximately SFR 1.7 million since the WCF's inception is not sufficient -- to make the fund really useful, the Conference must examine how to reach the Kushiro target of US$ one million per year.

27. He sought the Parties' help in improving the data in the Ramsar Database, so important an instrument of the Convention.

28. Scott Frazier, the Ramsar Database/Wetlands Officer, Wetlands International summarized the recent thematic and regional analysis of information in the Database, to be found in the Overview of the World's Ramsar Sites , and called for improved reporting of data from the Parties, including adequate maps.

    Themes for the Future: Special Intervention 1

Dr Geoff Howard, IUCN, presented "Reconciling water resources management and wetland conservation: a key challenge for Ramsar in the 21st century".

29. Dr Howard observed that, as the 21st century approaches, domestic, industrial and agricultural demand for water will rise and put increased pressure on resources. Assessment of the degree to which wetlands perform hydrological functions relies upon accurate data, which are, however expensive to collect. The Convention needs to work in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization and others to improve the reliability of data worldwide, and should strengthen its hydrological expertise so that it can help ensure that beneficial hydrological functions are considered by decision-makers. Ramsar should encourage the study of traditional systems of water management and should continue its current work on guidelines for the economic valuation of wetlands for policy makers. The Convention should ensure that wetland users participate directly in decision-making and should strengthen its support for multi-disciplinary training. [The full text of this presentation appears in Volume 9/12 of the Conference Proceedings.]

    Agenda Item X: Review of Implementation of the Convention in each region

    Overview of the Implementation of the Convention in the Asian Region

30. Swarn Singh Boparai (India), Regional Representative for Asia, presented an overview of the implementation during the triennium, including a summary of the national reports. With the latest site, Mai Po, there are 57 Ramsar sites in the region and more are expected. Several nations are expected to accede soon: Cambodia, South Korea, Thailand, Bhutan, North Korea, Israel, Kazakhistan, Mongolia, Myanmar, and Uzbekistan. Increase within the region in including sites in the List has been slow: of 13 Parties, 7 have only one site. Pakistan has notified the removal of three sites and will add three, and India wishes to remove three sites from the Montreux Record. Most Ramsar sites in Asia have some sort of legal protection.

31. The Asian region expresses concern about any possible reduction of Bureau activities resulting from budget discussions during the Conference. If contributions cannot be increased, the same budget would stretch further if the secretariat were lodged in a developing country; Asia would be prepared to match the facilities now available in Switzerland.

32. He offered his thanks to Mr Al-Zu'bi (Jordan) for his assistance as Alternate Member, and expressed his best wishes for  Dr Satoshi Kobayashi of the Bureau in the future.

33. Mr Zhibao Wang, Vice Minister of Forestry (China), spoke of his country's commitment to the importance of conservation and wise use and reported on recent activities in support of implementation of the Convention since its accession in 1992.

34. Malaysia noted that the important International Conference on Wetlands and Development, in October 1995, requested that he convey to this Meeting the Kuala Lumpur Statement, which is available. Having joined in 1994, Malaysia has only one site, but thanks to US$ 1.5 million in assistance from the Danish Government improvements are being made to its management.

35. Japan announced the designation of one new site and is considering the creation of a National Wetland Committee.

36. Jordan thanked the Australian Government for its hospitality and the Bureau for its arrangements. A new branch of the Department of Environment has been tasked to carry out monitoring of wetlands and implement education and public awareness of Ramsar values in the schools.

37. Indonesia noted that it has signed an MoU with the Australian Nature Conservation Agency (ANCA) especially regarding wetlands. It is cooperating with Australia and Papua New Guinea and has established a National Wetland Committee, with a national strategy and a national action plan. It has added sites and now designates another site.

38. The Islamic Republic of Iran observed that the beautiful city of Ramsar in Iran would very much like to host another such meeting as the one in 1971. It has established a national committee for sustainable development and now has a national strategy, for biological diversity in general and wetlands in particular. Iran urged greater cooperation between Ramsar and the Convention on Biological Diversity, and recommended that the core budget be increased to allow for more assistance from the Bureau. The developed countries should take the lead in greater transfer of technology.

39. Nepal observed that, with assistance from the Netherlands, it has identified 51 sites, 36 of which have special value for diversity, and 10 of which need conservation measures. Nepal is designating 3 new sites. Fourteen percent of Nepal is protected land, and most of its wetlands lie within that area.

40. Bangladesh observed that its national report was completed and sent through channels but not received by the Bureau. Bangladesh is carrying out studies on its lone Ramsar site, the Sundarbans, with the help of UNDP, and seeks donor assistance to implement the recommendations. It plans to add 2-4 new sites, but did not receive WCF funding for assistance with that process; if approved next year, the number of sites will be increased.

41. Sri Lanka has a National Strategy for Wetland Conservation, and a National Wetland Steering Committee including all relevant agencies. It has site reports on 26 wetlands, of which 10 have management plans, including that of its Ramsar site at Burdala. It has been improving this site based on the management plan, upgraded to a national park with a visitor centre to be opened soon, and is in the process of designating a second site.

42. Cambodia stated that the Ministry of Environment has proposed accession to the Convention to the Government and hopes for a favorable answer by the end of 1996. It appealed to the international community for assistance in reconstruction following its 25 years of war.

43. Bhutan expressed its gratitude for help in attending the COP and said that it is presently in the final stages of joining the Convention.

44. WWF supported the goal of as many new sites as possible but observed that the quality of listed sites is more important and was not mentioned in the report. Many sites are experiencing change and have no management plans. WWF asked all Parties to prepare management plans, including stakeholders and communities, with a catchment approach, and to report on these to the 7th Conference of the Parties.

    Overview of the Implementation of the Convention in the Oceania Region

45. Janet Owen (New Zealand), Regional Representative for Oceania referring to INFO.6.12, cited progress in listing sites and in management, and congratulated Papua New Guinea on the listing of Tonda Wildlife Management Area. As part of her overview of progress in the region, she mentioned the launch of the Directory of Wetlands of New Zealand and of the 2nd edition of the Australian Directory of Important Wetlands at this Meeting. She urged aid agencies to pay particular attention to education and training programmes, especially those which used traditional practices by indigenous peoples. She made special mention of the Brisbane Initiative's East Asian-Australasian Shorebird Network and the Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy.

46. Australia explained the importance of the Brisbane Initiative, establishing a network of listed and non-listed sites as urged in REC.C.4.4. Following earlier flyway initiatives, the Brisbane Initiative will cover the remaining one-third of the globe. Australia urged the Conference to reaffirm the importance of the flyway approach and called upon the Parties to nominate more sites that lie along the flyway.

47. It noted that the Brisbane Initiative will be launched on Tuesday, 26 March, and invited all delegations wishing to make inputs to join the drafting group on 21 March at 19:00.

48. Japan thanked Australia for its efforts on the Brisbane Initiative, in which it has been deeply involved. It supports the Initiative but wishes for a few amendments, which it will convey later.

49. Papua New Guinea thanked the Australian Government for assisting PNG's participation. It thanked Ms Owen for her report. It expressed its gratitude to the Wetland Conservation Fund, WWF, and AusAID for funding the important workshop that produced the Port Moresby Statement; the proceedings are now available.

50. Fiji thanked the Australian Government for assisting Fiji's participation. Fiji is presently considering joining the Convention.

51. Western Samoa thanked the Australian Government for enabling Western Samoa's participation. Western Samoa is considering joining the Convention and will be looking to the Ramsar Bureau for a lot of support.

    Themes for the Future: Special Intervention 2

Ms Barbara Rutherford, WWF International, presented "Taking Toxins out of Wetlands"

52. Ms Rutherford remarked that toxins in wetlands is an emerging issue for Contracting Parties to consider in their future work to conserve wetlands and water resources. Many Contracting Parties are already experiencing degradation of their water resources, and of their Ramsar and other wetland sites due to agricultural run-off and industrial discharges. An understanding of how toxic pollution damages nature, including humans, is an imperative to prevent pollution in the first place, as many of the impacts we are now beginning to understand are long term and irreversible in nature. New evidence that even low doses of toxic chemicals can permanently effect the fundamental endocrine systems of humans and wildlife, which control development and reproduction, requires renewed vigilance about keeping toxics out of wetlands. Ultimately this means keeping toxics out of the environment. [The full text of this presentation has been reprinted here.]

    Overview of the Implementation of the Convention in the African Region

53. Mr Anderson Koyo (Kenya), Regional Representative for Africa reported that the number of Contracting Parties and listed sites have increased. Application of the wise use concept is making steady progress across the region, but wetlands in the region are among the most threatened in the world. Management plans are in operation at a few sites and others are being developed. The first Ramsar African Regional Meeting was held in Nakuru, Kenya, in August-September 1994.

54. Most countries have developed national plans or strategies which incorporate wetland conservation. National Ramsar Committees are either in place or are in process of forming in a number of countries. Many Contracting Parties are participating in international cooperation on shared wetlands and species, and there are numerous bilateral agreements between African countries and numerous international governmental and non-governmental bodies.

55. There is need for the creation of more wetland reserves in Africa. Almost all Contracting Parties are engaged in training and public awareness activities. Factors hindering implementation of the Convention include lack of adequate legislation, financial resources, qualified personnel and technical capacity, and effective land use policy.

56. The Secretary General announced that UNESCO has advised that Côte d'Ivoire has become the 93rd Contracting Party.

57. Hon. Besueri Mulondo, Minister of State, Ministry of Natural Resources (Uganda) noted that Uganda launched its National Policy for the Conservation and Management of Wetlands in 1995 (copies of which are available at the Conference) and is ready to assist other Contracting Parties to formulate national wetland policies. A National Environment Statute was also enacted in 1995 and provides for the protection of wetlands and the formulation of guidelines on wetland management. Pilot activities demonstrating the wise use of wetlands are being undertaken at local community level. Invasion by water hyacinth has caused considerable damage to water transport, fisheries, water supplies and power generation, and is transforming the ecological character of shoreline wetlands. Uganda is collaborating with Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi in research, management and control of water weeds, in particular water hyacinth, on Lake Victoria.

58. Ghana observed that five of Ghana's six Listed Sites are being managed under the Ghana Coastal Wetlands Management Project with funding of US$7.1 million from the GEF. However, this does not include funding for a transboundary Ramsar site as noted in the report on the Africa Region. Negotiations are in progress with Côte d'Ivoire over the joint management of the Abby Lagoon, which also lies partly in Ghana. Ghana's wise use strategy seeks to empower local communities to manage their wetland resources, but this is not without problems created by poverty and the need of local people to exploit wetlands to satisfy social and economic needs. To overcome these problems it is important to adopt a multidisciplinary programme approach, as outlined in the Strategic Plan 1997-2002. There is a need for international donor institutions to coordinate their policies, projects and activities where wetland rehabilitation, development and management are concerned. Ghana has halted an encroaching housing development in the Densu Delta Ramsar site.

59. Senegal noted that thanks to financial support from the Government of the Netherlands and assistance from IUCN, a five-year management plan is now operating at the Djoudj Ramsar Site. Cooperation is important for transboundary sites and a Memorandum of Understanding will soon be signed with Mauritania on the National Park of Djoudj and the National Park of Diawling. With international assistance in carrying out waterbird counts, a national network of wetlands, including Ramsar sites, has been established thanks to IUCN. Technical matters and training were the subjects for a subregional workshop held at Djoudj.

60. South Africa announced that after seven years of debate and environmental impact study, no mining will be allowed in the St Lucia Ramsar site, and requested that the site be removed from the Montreux Record. An integrated development and land use planning strategy will be undertaken for the entire Northern Kwa-Zulu/Natal region, as recommended by the 1992 Monitoring Procedure mission. South Africa acknowledged the valuable support given by the Ramsar community through the Montreux Record mechanism and the Monitoring Procedure. A further three wetlands are to be designated in the Ramsar List, two of which could be expanded into Mozambique and Lesotho once these countries have acceded to the Convention. South Africa also expressed appreciation for the Ramsar Bureau's help in debates over the Langebaan site.

61. Zaire noted that it had joined the Convention shortly before the Conference. Forty-seven per cent of Zaire is covered by dense tropical forests. There are seven National Parks, including the Virunga Ramsar Site. In collaboration with UNDP a national environmental management plan is being developed. Zaire seeks to benefit from its Ramsar status in drawing up a national inventory of wetlands to help prepare a National Policy.

62. Kenya thanked the Government of the Netherlands for providing support for the Wetland Conservation and Training Programme, which will lead to the development of a National Wetland Policy. Thanks also go to the Government of Japan for the expansion and rehabilitation of the Nakuru town sewerage plant. A further project in partnership with WWF focuses on the Lake Nakuru catchment, and a community based management plan is being developed at Lake Naivasha. A tripartite agreement with Uganda and Tanzania concerning the conservation of Lake Victoria is benefiting millions of people.

63. Guinea-Bissau observed that help will be needed from the Wetland Conservation Fund if sites are to be designated. IUCN has been providing assistance, especially with coastal management, since 1988. With additional help some existing National Parks could become Ramsar sites.

64. Gabon noted that its implementation of the Convention has been timid until now. Legislation ratified in 1987 is still being considered. WWF has helped to establish wardens at three Ramsar sites. Management plans are being implemented at two sites thanks to technical support from WWF, GTZ (Germany) and the Government of France.

65. Togo has recently joined the Convention and seeks to benefit from the expertise within the Ramsar family. Resources are lacking for training and education programmes, as well as for monitoring to evaluate potential wetlands for the Ramsar List. Togo thanks the Bureau for funding inventory and mapping work at its two existing sites.

66. Côte d'Ivoire thanked the Bureau for its efforts since Regina in 1987 to help Côte d'Ivoire become a Contracting Party. Eight National Parks and three Nature Reserves cover 6-8% of the country's territory. The new Ramsar site merits international attention and international assistance will be required to list further sites.

67. Mauritania referred to the Banc d'Arguin as the jewel of the world's wetlands, an important and highly productive fishery and waterbird site, and Mauritania thanked Mr Luc Hoffman, NGOs and governments for the conservation help it has received. Three new sites will be designated for the Ramsar List.

68. Tanzania described two wetland sites and further announced that arrangements are nearly complete for accession to the Convention.

69. Ethiopia noted that it was attending the Conference in order to understand Ramsar better and to evaluate the obligations and convey the many benefits of joining. The Government is ready to consider its joining positively, and potential sites have been identified.

70. Cameroon observed that IUCN, WWF, and GEF are helping to fight threats to its wetlands, and it supported the Strategic Plan as the best way to tackle these daunting tasks. It expressed its intention to join the Convention soon.

71. Dr Manuel David Mendes, Secretary of Environment (Angola) noted that, after 30 years of war, an era of peace is emerging. It is not possible to manage wetlands because of land mines. War has destroyed all infrastructure, and most roads to wetlands were very dangerous, as lawlessness impeded efforts to solve the land mine problem. Angola asked the Conference to provide help to undertake an inventory of the present state of wetlands and their biodiversity.

72. Zimbabwe supported the aims of the Ramsar Convention and has already decided to accede; the paperwork is in progress and Zimbabwe is certain to be a Contracting Party before the 7th COP.

73. Mali noted that Mali places importance on wetland conservation. Lacking the human and financial resources to study and designate new sites, Mali took this opportunity to ask colleagues at this Meeting for assistance.

74. Zambia mentioned the importance of its many wetlands, particularly as the source of two major African rivers, the Zambesi and the Congo or Zaire. Zambia has established a Wetlands Task Force under the Environmental Council charged with formulating a National Wetlands Policy, which should be ready by the end of 1996. Zambia expressed its gratitude for Wetland Conservation Fund support for establishing the status of the natural resources of the Lukanga Swamp earmarked as a Ramsar site, and recorded its appreciation for other wetlands-related assistance from the European Union, the Netherlands, WWF and IUCN . Zambia emphasized its intention to strive to achieve all or most of the Recommendations and Resolutions of this COP before the 7th Conference of the Parties.

    Overview of the Implementation of the Convention in the Neotropical Region

75. Roberto Cal (Uruguay), Regional Representative for the Neotropics, explained the strong commitment of the Region as shown by the number of new sites listed since Kushiro, whilst at the same time he explained the great conservation challenges due chiefly to poverty, as well as erosion, industrial activity and tourism. The region as defined by Ramsar is varied in many ways and may someday have to be split into two. The wise use concept has helped in many ways. Jeannette Kawas in Honduras lost her life in defense of the conservation and wise use of wetlands. He highlighted the importance of the Wetland Conservation Fund throughout the region, though its resources are insufficient to satisfy all needs and it should be strengthened. He drew attention to Wetlands for the Future, financed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Department of State, within the 25th anniversary efforts. He noted the Uruguay round of GATT and its mention of sustainable development. The committee within the WTO on the relation between trade and environment may help to break down trade and non-trade barriers to trade in sustainable wetland products. He thanked the member states in the region.

76. Argentina acknowledged the need to strengthen Ramsar in its country; its National Committee will set up a national programme for wetlands which will result in a Strategic Plan. Argentina approved of the Secretary General's emphasis upon sustainable use and especially on the scarcity of water. It is committed to meeting the challenges arising from this Conference.

77. Bolivia noted that Laguna Colorada is no longer on the Montreux Record, because the geothermal project has been stopped. There is a national system of 15 protected areas, with eight more soon, several with management plans. There is an agreement with indigenous people for management of one area. With Bureau support, another three potential sites are being worked on, one of them with Peru: Lake Titicaca should soon become a Ramsar site.

78. Brazil reiterated that free trade is vital for the good of wetlands, as it removes barriers to trade in wetland products. Brazil urged the Conference to send a message to this effect to the Committee on Trade and Environment of the World Trade Organization.

79. Sr Marco Antonio Gonzalez, Vice Minister of Environment and Energy (Costa Rica) noted that twenty-five percent of Costa Rica's area is conservation area, in 116 protected areas; it has five Ramsar sites and is now presenting one more, its 6th Ramsar site. They are transboundary sites with Nicaragua and Panama. Costa Rica has a vision of a national network of wetland areas in partnership with their communities. With the help of IUCN and financial support from the Netherlands, a national strategy for the conservation of wetlands has been developed.

80. Peru has three sites and has submitted data sheets for four more, thanks to assistance from the Wetland Conservation Fund. A strategic plan and an action plan have been adopted. Thanks are due to the US Department of State for financial assistance in developing a plan for Paracas.

81. Trinidad and Tobago explained the recent Monitoring Procedure at Nariva Swamp and recommended use of this instrument to other Parties, following their positive experience of its application.

82. Chile is now drafting a national wetland policy, with a National Wetland Committee. It plans to designate five highland sites, thanks to funding from the Wetland Conservation Fund, and another two forested sites and one on Easter Island.

83. Dr Carlos Medina, Minister for the Environment (Honduras) announced that Honduras is designating its third Ramsar site. He proposed that the Convention revise the definition of wetlands to make humans as prominent as flora and fauna. It is hard to convince people to conserve wetlands because of animals when they are living on the border of misery. Poverty is the root cause of wetland loss. No Ramsar site should be without a management plan; the wealthier countries should form partnerships with developing countries, and the Convention should have guidelines on such help.

84. Panama has made great progress in drafting policies to include wetlands in land use planning, in partnership with local communities. The regional meeting in Panama was very important, and Panama would welcome initiatives for cooperation from Contracting Parties and organisations.

85. Suriname noted that it has one listed site and two others in the final stages of designation. It thanked the French Government for development assistance for a management plan for its Ramsar site, and the Canadian Wildlife Service for other assistance.

86. Guatemala observed that at its second site, the role of women in local management has been significant. Women have a major role everywhere. Guatemala is designating its third site, in consultation with local communities and with similarly significant participation of women. It urged more joint cooperation in the region.

87. Venezuela announced four new sites, making five in all. The National Ramsar Committee has studied 36 protected areas and chosen these four because they are the best managed, already having plans.

88. Ecuador agreed that poverty, trade barriers, and insufficient technical and financial assistance are real problems.

89. Colombia noted that only recently has it had a Department of Environment with strength. It applauded the fact that in this Convention, unlike many others, governments and NGOs seem like members of the same family.

90. Nicaragua expressed its full intention of signing the Convention soon, as its wetlands are key, bridging diversity between South and North America, the Atlantic and the Pacific. It promised to be a Contracting Party before the 7th COP.

91. WWF noted that Río Cruces in Chile may be threatened by change in ecological character because of a planned cellulose plant upstream, involving reforestation with exotic species. WWF called for greater reflection and the cessation of this industrial development.

    Overview of the Implementation of the Convention in the North American Region

92. Humberto Berlanga (Mexico) summarized information from the national reports and INFO.6.11, noting that the region's nine sites added since Kushiro brought the total to 52. Ría Lagartos, thanks to improvements due to a GEF-supported management plan, should be removed from the Montreux Record.


THIRD PLENARY SESSION

21 March, 09:00-17:30

    Agenda Item X: Review of the Implementation of the Convention in each region (continued)

    Overview of the Implementation of the Convention in Eastern Europe

93. Louise Lakos (Hungary), Regional Representative for Eastern Europe noted that six States have acceded to the Convention since Kushiro (Albania, Armenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), bringing the total to 16 Contracting Parties with 97 sites. Many sites are threatened by human activity. Management plans exist for many sites; those prepared with international assistance seem often to work best.

94. There are three keys to success: a) an explicit commitment from the entire government, so environmental authorities need to involve the ministries for finance, privatization, etc. as well; b) appropriate financial incentives for the private sector; c) cooperation and partnerships in communications, including with NGOs. Technical and financial assistance is necessary.

95. Public awareness activities are best carried out in the national languages, and Ramsar materials need to be intelligible to local people. Ramsar is seen in the region to be an effective instrument, an international standard to which reference can be made.

96. The Ramsar division into Eastern and Western European Regions is neither geographical nor political, though economic differences exist. Further thought is needed, which might lead to a review of Ramsar's whole regional system.

97. Romania noted that a National Strategy and Action Plan on biodiversity and sustainable use is being finalized, supported by the World Bank and the GEF, and it will include all necessary actions for conservation and wise use of wetlands. There has been progress on legal mechanisms. Romania has 30 significant wetlands besides the Danube Delta, and most would qualify for Ramsar status. Romania plans one designation soon, and others are likely.

98. Armenia reported that economic circumstances constitute the main problem, as elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The use of water to generate electric power has led to a drop of 1.2m in the level of Lake Sevan. The Ministry of Environment is attentive to bilateral cooperation opportunities and beginnings have been made, especially with neighboring countries.

99. Croatia reported on recent steps to solve problems in several Ramsar sites. Crna Mlaka has been privatized, but contacts with the new owner are progressing. Kopacki Rit is still inaccessible to Croatian authorities because of the political situation, but there are hopes for resolution soon.

100. Hungary highlighted the special problems of countries with economies in transition, particularly privatization. Some of the best Ramsar sites are fish farms; it is necessary to fight to keep privatization agencies from selling to entrepreneurs, or to educate farmers, and for these purposes Ramsar is a good tool. A National Ramsar Committee was formed last year. A number of new sites were proposed in January and are now being debated by the Government; if accepted, Hungary's sites would grow by 40% in area and number.

101. Poland noted that Siedem Wysp, which has been on the Montreux Record since 1990, has seen very positive progress. Last year three new site designations and one site extension were achieved.

102. Bulgaria has been a Party for 20 years and has four sites. Bulgaria expressed its appreciation for the help of its partners on several projects, Switzerland, Monaco, France, the World Bank, and the Ramsar Bureau, and highlighted the development of its 1993 National Action Plan with support from France and the Bureau. In its dealing with private owners, Ramsar status is a facilitator. One new site designation was announced, Lake Shabla.

103. Latvia (speaking also on behalf of Lithuania) expressed its readiness to work cooperatively for wetland conservation and wise use.

104. Albania described the inherited environmental problems in the move from centralized planning to a market system, and the present need for an integrated management plan for the coastal zone. It highlighted several projects funded by UNEP and the World Bank, and described management planning efforts at Albania's first Ramsar site. GEF funding has enabled continuing cooperation between Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on shared sites, an approach that is being extended to wetlands shared with Greece and Yugoslavia.

105. Ukraine announced that the Cabinet had identified 22 wetlands as potentially important, of which four sites have been chosen for the Ramsar List. Ukraine has the strong intention of signing the Convention as a new independent state.

106. The Czech Republic invoked the memory of Jiri Janda, who died in May 1994. The five new Czech sites since Kushiro are due chiefly to his work. The nine Czech sites show a good balance: 3 peatlands, 3 floodplains, and 3 fish farms. The Czech Republic shares the problem raised by Hungary, that of privatization. English translations of Czech law dealing with nature and landscape protection may be helpful to other Contracting Parties.

107. Azerbaijan described two important sites and their threats, emphasizing the need for multilateral assistance. Since 1978 the Caspian Sea has risen, and there is a strong need for basic equipment. All nations are invited to help; Azerbaijan would like to participate in Ramsar but without financial assistance it will be impossible.

108. The Australian Marine Conservation Society made the point that the thematic structure of national reports makes it very difficult to assess the status of individual sites. The Society recommended restructuring so as to keep all the present information but also allowing evaluation at the site level. It suggested that a working group could be established to address this problem and offered to assist.

109. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia noted that from 1976 to 1991 it was part of Yugoslavia and there was no implementing authority. Since then it has created a National Ramsar Committee (1994), with the help of the Bird Study and Protection Society of Macedonia at the initiative of BirdLife International.

110. Australia supported the Australian Marine Conservation Society's proposal and urged the Standing Committee to review the structure of national reports, especially so as to include the views of NGOs, and report to the 7th COP in 1999.

    Overview of the Implementation of the Convention in Western Europe

111. Dr Fritz Dieterich (Germany), Regional Representative for Western Europe described the situation in Western Europe since the Kushiro COP and emphasized the cooperative spirit existing within Europe, especially in cases of cross border management. Examples included the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat, agreements between Germany and Poland on sites along their common border, and management arrangements for sites along the Rhine, Danube, and Elbe Rivers.

112. Iceland summarized developments since submission of its national report. A new Ramsar site has been decided upon and is now being processed by the Foreign Ministry. In a new conservation policy, the decision has been made to restore several wetlands, through collaboration of the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Nature Conservation Council of Iceland, and the Icelandic Society for the Protection of Birds.

113. Switzerland announced its new publication on Swiss Ramsar sites, coordinated with the 25th Anniversary, and reminded the delegates of the photography exhibition on Swiss mires.

114. France described its involvement with the MedWet programme: Phase I (funded by the EU ACNAT and LIFE programmes), defining methodological tools and involving Southern European Governments, NGOs and the Ramsar Bureau, is passing into the next phase, funded by the LIFE project, which will bring in other Mediterranean nations. France has been particularly involved in the public information and training parts, with the Station Biologique de la Tour du Valat heading this work, and has produced a set of brochures for the public at all Ramsar sites. Nine new Ramsar sites will be named in the very near future, and wetlands will soon have a priority in French law.

115. Italy noted that it too is participating strongly in the MedWet initiative and will be hosting a major conference in Venice in June, where a Draft Strategic Plan for Mediterranean Wetlands based on Ramsar's Strategic Plan will be discussed.

116. Malta announced a new site earlier this year, and presently has two.

117. Belgium noted that it has not yet ratified the Paris Protocol and Regina Amendments but hopes to do so soon. New sites are in preparation, and there has been positive action along the Scheldt, a Montreux Record site. Belgium is particularly concerned about threats to wet grasslands and recommends that the Convention pay further attention to it. It announced a supplementary and voluntary contribution of SFR 8,000.

118. Portugal pointed to its two present sites and announced that on 15 March it had sent through diplomatic channels the data sheets for seven new sites.

119. Austria has begun preparations for a National Wetland Policy. Step I will be publication of an inventory of national wetlands. WWF Austria will be commissioned to develop the strategy. LIFE aid will help to study all potential Ramsar sites. One new site will be listed before the end of 1996 and a further two sites in 1997. Austria invited nearby states and the Bureau to attend the Standing Committee meeting of its National Wetland Committee.

120. Austria supported the restructuring of national reports outlined in a previous intervention, especially concerning the inclusion of the views of NGOs.

121. Israel announced that ratification is in the final stages and should be finalized by June, with two sites, including the recently restored parts of Lake Hula drained in the 1950s.

122. Turkey announced completion of a national wetland inventory, which found 81 potential wetlands of international importance. Establishment of a National Committee is being considered, as a mechanism for coordinating agencies and allowing participation by the universities. Turkey seeks opportunities for international cooperation and will host a MedWet meeting in 1996.

123. The UK observed that since its national report in August 1995, its number of sites has increased from 91 to 102, including Mai Po in Hong Kong. The Government's response to the Monitoring Procedure report on the Dee Estuary shows well the great extent to which it is aware of its obligations under the Convention.

124. Greece apologized for the delay in its national report. Recommendations have been made concerning Greek sites at earlier Conferences: maps have now been submitted for seven sites and the rest will follow by the end of 1996. There is now management of three sites through a Joint Ministerial Decree and three more are in the signing process. A management agreement has been signed for surveillance and visitors' centers at eight sites, including an advisory role for local populations.

125. Every effort has been made to ensure that the Acheloos project will not diminish the conservation values of the Messolonghi wetlands; it has been decided to divert only half as much water to Thessalia plain as first planned. Greece has been involved in the MedWet project. It is including public awareness as part of national policies, financing NGO efforts from proceeds of a petrol tax. A National Ramsar Committee is being established which will include NGOs and universities. Greece and Bulgaria have signed an MoU concerning the Nestos. Greece hoped that the Conference would recognize that Greece has made significant progress and will multiply its efforts over the next three years. Greece announced that in honor of the 25th Anniversary it will make a contribution of SFR 8,000.

126. Norway announced that nine new sites had been submitted to the Bureau from the embassy in Berne three days ago, a 300% increase in area. Two of the new sites are peatlands, one of them transboundary with Russia. At Åkersvika, adjacent to the site of the Winter Olympics, decisive steps were taken to ensure the safety of the Ramsar site.

127. Germany described its interesting project in conjunction with France to establish a Ramsar site along 190km of the upper Rhine, a densely populated and used area but still very important for migratory species and biological richness.

128. WWF argued that Austria's naming of the Neusiedlersee, Seewinkel & Hanság site would seem to suggest a much wider area than is actually covered by the site.

129. WWF acknowledged that Greece has taken positive steps at all eleven sites but that all are still under serious threat and are degrading. It welcomed the provision of site maps but would wish to see management plans. It expressed the belief that the recent EIA on the Acheloos project, which favors the dam, lacks all reliability and objectivity. The WWF report on Greek wetlands will be distributed later in the Conference.

130. BirdLife International argued that it is impossible to measure progress if Parties' national reports are not submitted by their deadlines. Greece, Ireland, and Spain all failed to send their reports in time for inclusion in the regional overview. Greece thus robbed the Conference of the chance to judge whether the Kushiro recommendation had been addressed. The Greek ministerial declarations have expired, leaving a legal vacuum. National reporting is vital, and the system is not working. BirdLife International urged the Standing Committee and the Bureau to address this problem.

131. The Secretary General sympathized with the frustration of receiving some reports late, but noted that for the first time, all Contracting Parties have submitted reports, even if some were late. There is a long way to go, but encouraging progress has been made in this regard.

132. Republic of Korea mentioned that it was seeking to involve local communities and will accede to the Convention after procedures have been carried out.

133. Canada also expressed concern about the effects of the present structure of national reports and about the difficulty of using them, especially on individual sites. Canada urged revision of the structure so as to highlight the evolution of each site.

134. Morocco thanked the Contracting Parties which have given support for its conservation work, with the European Union, BirdLife International and The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) as well, and asks for their continuing support.

    OECD Guidelines for Aid Agencies

135. Dr Horst Breier, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development described the recently published OECD Guidelines for Aid Agencies, one concerning wetlands and another on marine and coastal zones. It represents the views of donors but includes input from experts and NGOs; the wetlands guidelines were authored principally by IUCN with input from Ramsar staff. He commented that aid agencies must not work against conservation values. The guidelines are aimed at a wide, non-specialist audience. Copies are available, and a fuller briefing will be held during the Conference.

    Themes for the Future: Special Intervention 3

Ms Diane Tarte, Australian Marine Conservation Society and Mr Richard Lindsay, International Mire Conservation Group presented "Wetlands in the Coastal Zone and Peatlands - A Key Role for Ramsar".

136. Ms Tarte spoke of the degrading impacts on the world's coral reefs: up to 10% of all reefs have been degraded beyond recovery and scientists predict that 20-30% may be lost by 2020; sixty per cent of the world's 5.6 billion people live in coastal areas. The International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) has four main themes which are the basis for regional strategies: integrated coastal zone management; capacity building; research and monitoring; and review and evaluation of management action. However, ICRI cannot provide the framework of a governmental convention under which a range of policy and programme initiatives and funding options can occur. Ramsar, which explicitly includes coral reefs, can provide this and Draft Recommendations 7 and 8 before the Conference, if adopted, will see coral reefs and tidal wetlands take their rightful place in the family of Ramsar wetlands.

137. Mr Lindsay reported on the findings of a pre-conference workshop on peatlands. Although peatlands cover 400 million hectares in total and represent 50% of the world's terrestrial and freshwater wetlands, only 75 of the 778 Ramsar sites listed by December 1995 have peatland as their dominant habitat; totalling 3 million hectares compared with 52 million for all listed Ramsar sites. The workshop identified an area to which Ramsar can usefully devote particular attention. Draft Recommendation 6.1 highlights that peatlands have been under-represented in both site lists and actions of Ramsar, but there is explicit recognition, under Action 6.2.3 of the Draft Strategic Plan, of the need for greater effort in this area.

    Agenda Item XI: Strategic Plan, Programme, and Budget [Note: The Strategic Plan had been introduced earlier; see paragraphs 23 and 24 above]

138. The Secretary General introduced the Triennial Programme 1997-1999, DOC.6.15. The Programme was based on the optimistic view that the there would be an increase of 49%. This would allow the recruitment of the additional staff post of Development Assistance Officer. The document indicates the resources required for each of the actions assigned to the Bureau in the Programme. The Programme will change in line with changes made to the Budget and the Draft Strategic Plan.

139. Heexplained the rationale behind the costing of the Bureau's actions in carrying out each part of the Draft Strategic Plan. The figure of SFR 100 per hour was calculated from the total budget divided by the total weeks in the year and does not merely represent salary: travel, facilities, photocopies, all other overheads were included. This is not a scientific document but a method for costing priorities roughly and allocating staff time.

140. Malaysia noted that there seem to be a lot of overlaps in the organization of the tasks and suggested the formation of a new small group to prioritize and rationalize some of these costs in the hope of bringing them down somewhat.

141. Austria queried the real cost of a working hour and was reminded by the Secretary General that these "hours" included all overhead costs as well as salaries. The relative cost of the tasks is more important than any rough estimate of the real costs.

    Discussion of the Draft Strategic Plan

142. Romania requested technical information on data reporting requirements under the Draft Strategic Plan, as it is currently setting up data collection parameters. It asked the Bureau for EPA information and materials to serve as models for Romanian visitors' centers.

143. Netherlands found all of the Plan valuable but cited four General Objectives as higher priorities than the others: Objective 2 on wise use, 4 on capacity building, 5 ensuring conservation, and 7 on cooperation and assistance.

144. Belgium missed the word "research" from the Plan's objectives and wondered whether it was included under training.

145. Norway wished to have seen more attention paid to national cooperation within various sectors, spelling out how wetland policies can be integrated into biological diversity policies. Also, more advice on how to cope with the forces of destruction at national level. It urged that a group be established at this COP to make these changes.

146. Brazil was pleased to see efforts to integrate the Rio conclusions and welcomed the Plan's emphasis on transfer of technology and resources to developing countries, and it wished to prioritize Objectives 2, 4 and 7. It sought more emphasis on cooperation with the Convention on Biological Diversity, especially concerning equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of natural resources.

147. Ecuador felt that the text does not fully fit the purposes of the Ramsar Convention and is more like a convention with new purposes. If the aim is an ideal Ramsar Convention, amendments would be needed. There is not enough clarity or precision to the budget and no proposal on how to capitalize the sums involved. Ecuador suggested that each Party establish a counterpart fund so as to match assistance financing, thus showing commitment.

148. Islamic Republic of Iran observed that Objective 4 needs more emphasis. Moreover, the Plan should give priority to transfer of financial resources and appropriate technology the developing countries require for implementation of the Strategic Plan at the national level. More coordination between Ramsar and the CBD is needed.

149. Tunisia noted that Objective 5 calls for conservation of all sites on the List, which would be hard to guarantee, and recommended a change in the wording.

150. Venezuela echoed what Brazil had said earlier and stressed that the future of Ramsar exists only insofar as this Plan comes up with financial backing; otherwise it is all just wishful thinking. Thus Objective 7 is the most important one.

151. East African Wildlife Society thanked the Netherlands for enabling it to be present and urged the need for empowerment of local environmental NGOs in particular, which are better able to concentrate on environmental problems than the local people can.

152. Indonesia offered other amendments to the wording of the Plan.

153. The Chair concluded that more fine tuning was required on the draft text and proposed that the Conference Committee nominate a group including one country from each region to further refine the text, based on written and oral comments received, in time for the Bureau to produce a final draft on 24 March. It would be unwise to open it up too much, as so much consensus has already been painstakingly built. The Plan should not exactly match the budget; it should be somewhat larger, but not smaller.

154. Brazil urged that in order to be democratic, an open-ended small group discussion might be better than a closed subgroup, and accepted the Chair's suggestion that the working group's meeting time would be announced so that others might attend if they wished.

155. Peru noted that Objective 1 seeks universal membership but felt that conservation and wise use should rather be number one. The Plan should provide for when an action is finished and how much it cost, with monitoring, follow-up, and evaluation.

    Budget Matters

156. Mr Graham Donald (UK), Chair of the Subgroup on Finance explained the approach adopted by the Standing Committee, which will be proposing the application of the terms of reference agreed at the 1993 COP for the financial administration of the Convention in 1997-1999. He reported progress on the core budget negotiations and the level of subscriptions required to finance such a budget.

157. The establishment of a Reserve Fund had been recommended by the Convention's auditors, Price Waterhouse. Three sources of income for the Reserve Fund were proposed: any surplus achieved by efficiencies; any subscriptions received from Contracting Parties previously written off as bad debt; any interest on funds received, with the donor's approval.

158. The auditors had also recommended accounting on an accruals basis, which enables both income and expenditure to be allocated against the financial year to which they relate.

159. The establishment of a Finance Subgroup as a permanent feature can relieve the Standing Committee, carefully scrutinize the Convention's accounts, and provide guidance on the operation of the Reserve Fund.

160. If Contracting Parties are able to pay contributions in Swiss francs, savings on administration can be made and exchange losses avoided, though the laws of some Contracting Parties may not permit this.

161. The Standing Committee and Finance Subgroup were working hard to achieve the maximum level of consensus on the budget. There was still no consensus on the minimum contribution. Mr Donald outlined some of the considerations which, he believed, should be taken into account in deciding the budget.

162. Following a study of the best means of allocating contributions, the Standing Committee will be recommending that the United Nations scale should continue to be the basis of calculation.

163. Friends of the Earth International expressed strong concern about the difficulty of reaching consensus on meeting basic needs of the Convention. The sums involved are very, very modest compared to other conventions or even many NGOs. It requested that all Parties try much harder, as the result would benefit everybody, in both developed and developing countries. It urged the Parties to make the greatest effort possible to accept the 49% increase in the core budget or as near as possible. FOE felt that the Ramsar Convention has been proved a reliable and effective convention and deserves better support.

164. Islamic Republic of Iran noted that the UN scale of assessments is recalculated on a different timetable than Ramsar's invoicing, to which the Secretary General explained that 1997 invoicing would be exact while exact amounts for the next two years would not be known until UN recalculations were announced. But the total amount budgeted would be decided at this COP, though each Party's share for 1998 and 1999 might be altered slightly.

165. Trinidad and Tobago suggested that the possible relocation of the Bureau should be considered by the Standing Committee.

166. Shortland Wetlands Centre noted that the NGOs are concerned that support would be insufficient for the Strategic Plan and the Wetland Conservation Fund. Ramsar gets less than any other such body, and the Centre extended its sympathy to the Bureau for having to do so much with so little. It commended the Australian Government's pledging initiative.

167. Brazil, with support from Venezuela objected that the application of the UN scale to Ramsar's contributions put a heavy burden on some developing countries and requested the Standing Committee to continue to search for alternatives to be brought to the next COP.

168. Uruguay pointed out that this had been studied at great length and no viable alternative to the UN scale had been found. The search for good alternatives will continue, however.

    Themes for the Future: Special Intervention 4

Mr Lew Young, WWF-Hong Kong presented "Education and Public Awareness - New Meanings in a New Era"

169. Mr Young noted that at previous conferences on wetland conservation there have been calls for a shift of emphasis within the wetlands conservation world toward activities concerned with raising awareness, knowledge and understanding, and community-based action. As information technology develops, it is clear that a structure and organization is needed to take advantage of such opportunities for the benefit of wetland conservation. The Draft Strategic Plan for the Ramsar Convention clearly proposes that a concerted programme of education and public awareness for wetlands is developed. The actions proposed in Objective 3 are the results of workshops and discussions held since Kushiro, designed to raise awareness of wetland values and functions throughout the world and at all levels.

    Announcement of pledges to the 25th Anniversary Funds

170. In August 1995, the Australian Government invited the Governments of all Contracting Parties to join with Australia in pledging funds at this Conference for the achievement of the objectives of the Strategic Plan. It has been decided to set aside part of this Plenary Session for the announcement of these pledges.

171. The Netherlands expressed its appreciation for the establishment of the 25th Anniversary Fund to pursue the objectives in the Draft Strategic Plan, and later this year will host Wetlands International's regional headquarters and global coordination unit. The Netherlands pledged one million Dutch guilders per annum for three years, to fund projects in developing countries and those with economies in transition. In addition, the Netherlands will double its contribution to the Wetland Conservation Fund from 30 thousand guilders to 60 thousand per annum over three years.

172. The USA pledged an additional $1 million over its core budget voluntary contribution over the next six years, to be invested in the Wetland Conservation Fund. Over the past two years a programme to commemorate the Ramsar 25th Anniversary, Wetlands for the Future, has begun training Latin American wetland managers. This fund will total $750,000 when fully funded.

173. Caddo Lake Institute has pledged more than $100,000 to its Ramsar-based initiatives. The Institute will create the first US regional academy of wetlands science education and the first US regional Ramsar centre, to be located adjacent to the Caddo Lake Ramsar site.

174. The US Agency for International Development will invest more than $5 million in 1996 to support the principles of the Ramsar Convention, largely towards coastal zone and coral reef management and the link between freshwater and coastal ecosystems.

175. A number of in-country initiatives, based on Ramsar principles, will also benefit from additional funding, including the Cheyenne Bottoms State Area and the Florida Everglades that will receive US$ 1.5 billion for its restoration.

176. Switzerland pledged SFR 500,000 over probably two years, specifically to help implement the Strategic Plan and to fund projects recommended by the Bureau. Switzerland is honoured to host the Ramsar Bureau and, in addition, since 1988 has made contributions five times its compulsory amount.

177. WWF will make available immediately SFR 25,000 to the Wetland Conservation Fund.. WWF has contributed SFR 50,000 to the WCF over the years, as well as spending SFR 50 million a year on wetland and freshwater issues in 60 countries.

178. Denmark pledged 1 million Danish crowns (SFR 220,000) towards implementation of the Draft Strategic Plan, although Denmark takes the view that the Global Environment Facility (GEF) should remain the only financial mechanism for funding global environment conventions. The one-off contribution must be channelled through the 25th Anniversary Fund, probably in support of objectives 2.6 and 2.7 of the Draft Strategic Plan.

179. Iceland has paid ten times its annual contribution to the Wetland Conservation Fund since Kushiro. In support of the 25th Anniversary, Iceland pledged three times that amount to the WCF.

180. The UK pledged £30,000 to support implementation of the Draft Strategic Plan, specifically to help assess the world's wetland resources. The UK also announced a additional grant of at least £1 million for work at Indonesia's Danau Sentarum Ramsar site, to be managed by Wetlands International Asia Pacific.

181. Hungary, despite the burdens of economic transition, pledged SFR 25,000 to support the communications and awareness-raising objectives in the Draft Strategic Plan.

182. France pledged FF10 million (SFR 2.5 million) towards multilateral and bilateral projects, and will carefully examine GEF wetland projects to ensure that they respect the goals of the Draft Strategic Plan. France already provides communications support and support to the WCF in addition to its compulsory contribution.

183. Sri Lanka has committed 500,000 rupees per annum to strengthen Ramsar objectives in its territory, and pledged to allocate an aggregate sum of funds from grants and the national budget to the value of US$ 0.5million for implementation of programmes identified for its Ramsar site and for the conservation and wise use of its other wetland sites.

184. Hon. Brian Schumacher, High Commissioner for Canada pledged CA $1 million to support activities in pursuit of the Convention's Draft Strategic Plan during the 1996-2002 period, to be delivered in association with government and non-government partners involved in wetland conservation in Canada. The contribution will focus on the application of innovative wetland technology to habitat programmes and restoration, to wastewater treatment, and to national wetland policy, particularly in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe.

185. Pakistan committed itself to raise its spending on wetland conservation activities from $500,000 to $1 million over three years, to be spent in-country on wise use and educational and public awareness activities.

186. Bulgaria, despite the pressures of economic transition, pledged SFR 20,000 annually over the next six years to achieve Draft Strategic Plan goals in Bulgaria, especially transboundary and coordination activities within the region.

187. India pledged SFR 25,000 for wetlands-related work in other developing countries.

188. Japan announced a contribution to help implement wise use programmes under the Strategic Plan. International programmes would receive at least approximately 60 million yen and national programmes 40 million yen in FY 1996.

189. BirdLife International and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds announced the pledge of UK£ 4000 to assist in financing the Monitoring Procedure.

190. Dr Kwabena Adjei, Minister of Lands and Forestry (Ghana) expressed the desire to demonstrate the extent to which Africans wish to take care of wetlands by traditional means as they always have, and to work together in implementing the Strategic Plan; as part of the 25th Anniversary, he pledged $5000 to help implement the Strategic Plan.

191. Australia indicated that its initiative had been amply rewarded by the aforementioned pledges and that the Minister of Environment, Sport and Territories would announce Australia's 25th Anniversary pledge at the evening's gala celebration. Australia thanked those countries that had responded to its initiative.

    At the 25th Anniversary Gala Celebration Dinner (that evening)

192. Senator Robert Hill, Minister of Environment, Sport and Territories (Australia) pledged AUS 2 million in support of the objectives of the Draft Strategic Plan, particularly for projects involving the Asia and Oceania regions.

[Pledges made by Australian non-governmental organizations and Ducks Unlimited at the opening of the Sixth Plenary Session, see paragraphs 266 and 267 below.]

    [Discussion of Agenda Item XI: Strategic Plan, Programme, and Budget was continued in the Fourth Plenary Session, beginning at paragraph 196.]


FOURTH PLENARY SESSION

25 March, 09:00-17:30, and 26 March, 09:30-10:30

    Themes for the Future: Special Intervention 5

193. Mr Alessandro Russi (Italy) introduced "MedWet - A Mediterranean Blueprint for Regional Wetland Cooperation". He gave the background to the MedWet programme, Phase I of which ends in June 1996 with a major conference in Venice, which will provide the catalyst for further action. MedWet has been the stimulus to Italy's National Wetland Policy and the developing network of wetland sites.

194. Mr Thymio Papayannis (MedWet Coordination Group) indicated that Phase II of MedWet, with funding from the European Union, would concentrate on implementation of many aspects of the Ramsar Strategic Plan. Lessons from Phase I were that wise and sustainable use of wetlands could not occur until the grass roots causes of the loss and degradation of wetlands had been addressed; that success could only be achieved by long-term action over 10-30 years; that collaboration of all concerned was essential; and that to be effective it was necessary to be flexible, direct and efficient. The MedWet initiative would only work if local people can be convinced that such actions will be to their own benefit.

    Agenda Item XIII: Reports of Technical Sessions

195. Reports were given by Ms Nadra Nathai-Gyan (Trinidad & Tobago) - Session A on Wise Use of Wetlands; Dr Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu (Ghana) - Session B on Ecological Character and Change in Ecological Character; Mme Monique Barbut (France) - Session C on Cooperation with the Biodiversity Convention, World Bank and GEF; Mr Antonio Fenandez de Tejada (Spain) - Session D on Management Planning; Mr Abdoulaye Ndiaye (Senegal) - Session E on Ramsar Criteria; and Mr Anderson Koyo (Kenya) - Session F on Community-based Wetland Management.

[Volume 10/12 of the Conference Proceedings contains the full texts of these reports as well as abstracts and texts of many of the presentations made during the Technical Sessions.]

    Agenda Item XI: Strategic Plan, Programme, and Budget [continued from the Third Plenary Session, paragraphs 138-192]

196. Mr Veit Koester (Denmark), Chair of the Strategic Plan Drafting Group established by the Conference Committee introduced the final draft of the Strategic Plan [DOC. 6.14 (Rev. 1)]. While retaining the main thrust of the Plan, the Group considered many suggestions for amendment and addition, except those introducing new issues at a late stage and those that were deemed not to be in the spirit of the Plan. Many valuable contributions had been made by NGOs, and they were thanked for their understanding and willingness to accept that not all proposals could be included. The Plan in its revised form was a package not to be unwrapped, full of compromises and fragile consensus.

197. Action 6.1.5 on identifying transfrontier wetlands was wrongly included, as having introduced new issues at a late stage, and will be deleted. No amendments were made from the floor to the final draft of the Strategic Plan.

198. Mr Graham Donald (UK), Chair of the Conference Committee Subgroup on Finance introduced draft Resolution VI.17 (Rev. 1). A budget increase of 25% had been agreed and those not supporting it have indicated they would not block consensus. There had been no consensus on a minimum annual contribution of SFR 1,000, but the Standing Committee and the Conference may come back to it at a future occasion. The 1997-1999 core budget did not include an amount for the Monitoring Procedure and project funds would be needed for this; some funds were already available. An amount of SFR 70,000 was included in the core budget for the Wetland Conservation Fund (WCF). The UN Scale of Contributions for funding the Convention in 1997, 1998 and 1999 would be applied, and further efforts would be sought to find an alternative, more acceptable method.

199. The Caddo Lake Institute was concerned about external perceptions of the Convention over the lack of funding for the Monitoring Procedure and low level of funding for the WCF. It was urged that a note be made that the Contracting Parties are not abandoning those ideas.

200. Uruguay preferred the term "unrecoverable debt" to "bad debt" and suggested a fixed period of time be introduced to establish such a debt. The Secretary General and the Subgroup on Finance were urged to reassign and channel funds to the Monitoring Procedure, a key component of the Strategic Plan.

201. Austria was not delighted by the 25% increase, following cuts in the Austrian Ministry of Environment's budget, from which Ramsar contributions are paid, but will accept it if that is the consensus.

202. Ecuador suggested a line of text to explain how the Reserve Fund would be spent.

203. Greece expressed its readiness also to accept the 25% budget increase.

204. Mexico expressed its preference for no increase in the Convention budget, because of budgetary limitations at home; in order not to impede a consensus, however, Mexico accepted the resolution with reservation.

205. The USA had to oppose any budget increase, as it does not have its own budget yet and may have to reduce its traditional level of support for the Convention. This by no means implies a judgment on the Convention's work or any loss of confidence in the Bureau. The fact that the USA has always paid more than its share would have been if it had been obligatory shows its strong support. The USA hoped that it would still be able to contribute more than it would if calculated by the UN scale. The USA will not in any way seek to block any consensus. The Subgroup on Finance was unable to fund some items the USA would have liked, and the WCF is less than optimum; the USA will do everything possible to obtain more funds for the WCF and the Monitoring Procedure, and encourages other Parties to do the same.

206. Germany indicated it would have welcomed a lower budget increase in line with cuts being made by national governments and international organizations, but would do its best to fulfill its obligations.

207. France reiterated its firm and continuing support for the Convention but noted that this further large increase, following on the 100% increase at Kushiro, and in light of general budgetary limitations, might lead to unpaid contributions.

208. Belgium, Canada and Italy would do their best to meet the 25% increase in the budget despite similar cuts in national budgets.

209. Denmark would not block consensus despite its preference for the 49% increase option.

210. Venezuela expressed its wish not to oppose the consensus but wished to record that because of budgetary restrictions it had not been able to pay its contributions until now and would be even less able with the proposed increase. Venezuela supported the suggestion that the Standing Committee be instructed to reassess the scale of assessments.

    Agenda Item XIV: Considerations of Conference decisions

211. DOC.6.4 addendum I: Admission of Observers. There were no objections.

212. DOC.6.15 rev. 1: The Bureau Work Programme. As a result of recent budget discussions, the proposed Development Assistance Officer has been removed from the core budget, and the work programme has been adapted to the 25% increase option. The Netherlands sounded a note of concern that the recommendations and resolutions assign many new tasks as well; the Programme will need to be revised again and reported to Standing Committee. The USA saw ways to accomplish some of these tasks with less manpower; changed priorities can reduce some of these costs. The USA hoped for flexibility over the triennium; the Secretary General must have full discretion to allocate staff time to accomplish mandated tasks, but the USA sees the work programme as a preliminary indication that will constantly be adjusted. In particular, Objective 7 does not seem worth this priority.

213. Resolution VI.1 rev.1 on change in ecological character. Australia, Brazil, Ghana and WWF suggested amendments.

214. Resolution VI.2 rev.1 on criteria for identifying sites based on fish and fisheries. The Working Group on fish criteria has submitted a revised text in which references to fisheries have been removed, in order to maintain the resolution's focus on conservation and defer aspects related to human economic activity to be picked up under studies related to RES VI.3. Thus Criteria 4(a) and 4(b) have been retained, but 4(c) and associated guidelines have been deleted.

215. Kenya strongly urged that 4(c), though removed from this resolution, should be referred to the STRP for possible future adoption, and this was noted as a mandate for the STRP. Norway cautioned that future discussions involving an expansion of Ramsar criteria beyond conservation would need to be considered from the legal standpoint as well. New Zealand clarified its reasons for urging deletion of 4(c), in that it favors integrating thought on human activities more generally elsewhere. Iceland made an intervention. There were no further amendments.

216. Resolution VI.3 rev.1 on review of Ramsar criteria for identification. Australia and BirdLife International made amendments.

217. Resolution VI.4 rev.1 on population estimates for operation of waterfowl criteria. New Zealand offered a suggestion for improvement.

218. Resolution VI.5 on subterranean karst wetlands. There were no amendments.

219. Resolution VI.6 on the Wetland Conservation Fund. This is intended to change the name of the Fund to something less misleading and to streamline the approval procedure. Uruguay, representing a consensus of the 14 States in the Neotropics Region, recorded strong opposition to giving the Secretary General discretion over allocation of grants; while in no way casting aspersions upon the Secretary General, it felt that this gives him a great deal of discretion that should belong to the Standing Committee. The STRP, not the partner organizations, should carry out scientific and technical reviews. Canada expressed the view that the Standing Committee's workload is too great for such small grants; it supported the resolution, noting that the Secretary General will report to the Standing Committee. This view was endorsed by the United Kingdom, the Russian Federation, and Switzerland. Uruguay argued that the Fund is one of the Standing Committee's basic tasks and should not be given over. The question was left for the Conference Committee.

220. Following redrafting, the Secretary General introduced the Conference Committee's proposed changes. References to a new procedure for approval of projects were removed, but the Standing Committee will be asked to review the functioning of the Fund, including its mechanism for deciding on grant allocations, and to implement any changes it feels may be indicated. There were no further amendments.

221. Resolution VI.7 on the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP). Uruguay, Hungary, Australia, Trinidad & Tobago, Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Italy, and WWF made interventions, chiefly concerning the proposed network of experts. Dr Max Finlayson was nominated as the alternate member for Oceania. Croatia opposed the presence of a representative of Yugoslavia on the proposed network to support this body. Following deliberations overnight, new language was introduced concerning the network of experts. Switzerland recommended that the network of experts should receive timely news of STRP activities. Bolivia suggested that the English phrase "work through correspondence", which embraces e-mail and other forms of communication but excludes meetings, is restricted to postal mail in Spanish and needs a new term. The list of proposed experts will be removed from the resolution. Brazil added a note on views and priorities established by the previous COP. There were no further amendments.

222. Resolution VI.8 on Secretary General matters. There were no amendments.

223. Resolution VI.9 rev. 1 on cooperation with the Convention on Biological Diversity. Denmark expressed concern about the COP of the CBD being asked to discuss wetlands when there is already a specialized convention to do that. Switzerland suggested wording that would solve that problem.

224. Resolution VI.10 rev. 1 on cooperation with the GEF and its implementing agencies. There were no amendments.

225. Resolution VI.11 on consolidation of Recommendations and Resolutions. There were no amendments.

226. Resolution VI.12 on National Wetland Inventories and candidate sites. The UK, Denmark, Malta, USA, and BirdLife International made interventions. Denmark and Malta produced an agreed final draft.

227. Resolution VI.13 on information on designated sites. There were textual emendations from Malta. Belgium queried why recommendations should be necessary for what the Parties have already agreed to do by virtue of signing the Convention. The Chair remarked that this was not only true of the Ramsar Convention.

228. Resolution VI.14 on the 25th Anniversary and the Strategic Plan. There were no amendments.

229. Resolution VI.15 on rules of procedure. The UK and Hungary made suggestions which had no objections.

230. Resolution VI.16 rev. 1 on accession procedures. Wetlands International and Ecuador suggested textual amendments. Peru asked for inclusion of a phrase requiring boundaries to be set in accordance with rules set by the United Nations.

231. Resolution VI.17 rev. 1 on financial and budgetary matters has been reported above.

232. Resolution VI.18 on the Ramsar Wetland Conservation Award. There were no amendments.

233. Resolution VI.19 rev. 1 on education and public awareness. The UK explained the motivation behind this resolution and its importance, and suggested textual amendments. Ireland, Italy, and WWF suggested amendments, to which the UK agreed. The Nature Conservation Council encouraged greater use of national and local NGOs, the critical link between national policy and grass roots implementation, and wished to see clearer structures for ensuring NGO participation.

234. Resolution VI.20 on thanks to the host. Ecuador urged giving thanks to "the people and governments of Australia".

235. Resolution VI.21 on reporting on the status of wetlands. The Netherlands, Denmark, Ecuador, Iran, Uruguay, and Wetlands International suggested improvements in the wording.

236. Resolution VI.22 on cost reduction and relocation of the secretariat. Switzerland thanked Trinidad and Tobago for its willingness to find compromise language, and the USA wished to see an emphasis on IUCN support; wording was added to the effect that studies of relocation should be done in close conjunction with IUCN.

237. Recommendation 6.1 rev. 1 on peatlands. Australia urged an addition concerning alternatives to peat-based horticultural products, with responses from Canada and New Zealand. Switzerland and Hungary put forward amendments, and the Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales found this a weak resolution.

238. Recommendation 6.2 rev.1 on environment impact assessment. Australia should be listed as co-sponsor. Brazil and Hungary suggested improvements.

239. Recommendation 6.3 rev. 1 on local people in wetland management. The Netherlands, Uruguay, the USA, and the Islamic Republic of Iran suggested new wording. Ecuador wished to replace "local people" for "local communities" and "indigenous peoples" in order to avoid encouraging social divisiveness. Friends of the Earth expressed disappointment that the needs and aspirations of indigenous peoples were not better addressed in the text. Italy and Bolivia made further textual suggestions. Sweden observed that there are places where representation by indigenous peoples is appropriate, e.g. on delegations to meetings, and others where it is not; it suggested the formulation of a nomination process. WWF expressed a willingness to assist the Bureau. Australia was instructed to meet with interested Parties and redraft the text.

240. The text was redrafted overnight and agreement was reached by all involved Parties. The UN has formally adopted the term "indigenous people" instead of "indigenous peoples" and that change should be made. There were no further amendments.

241. Recommendation 6.4 rev. 1 on sites along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. There were no amendments.

242. Recommendation 6.5 on management training programmes. There were no amendments.

243. Recommendation 6.6 on regionally based Technical Officers. There were no amendments.

244. Recommendation 6.7 rev. 1 on coral reefs. The Netherlands made a suggestion for improvement, and there were no more amendments.

245. Recommendation 6.8 rev. 1 on strategic planning in coastal zones. Denmark noted that this recommendation adds nothing to what has already been decided at the COP2 of the CBD.

246. Recommendation 6.9 rev. 1 on National Wetland Policies. Brazil and the Philippines made suggestions for improvement.

247. Recommendation 6.10 rev. 1 on economic valuation of wetlands. The amendments growing out of Technical Session A are not reflected in this draft, due to technical errors; Canada read the alterations aloud and, with one suggestion from the USA, there were no further amendments.

248. Recommendation 6.11 on collaboration for Mediterranean wetlands. Egypt is also a co-sponsor, and Tunisia, Croatia, and Israel voiced support for the recommendation. Friends of the Earth International felt that it should also address a request to Mediterranean Contracting Parties to list more sites that meet the Ramsar criteria, especially along flypaths.

249. Recommendation 6.12 rev. 1 on private and public funded activities. Australia offered one amendment.

250. Recommendation 6.13 on the Kushiro guidelines on management planning. Pakistan, the Netherlands, and Germany suggested alterations, and Canada observed the frequent appearance of new tasks for the STRP.

251. Recommendation 6.14 on toxic chemicals. Italy joined the co-sponsors, and Australia and Canada wondered again about the danger of overloading the STRP with new tasks. Iceland, Denmark, New Zealand, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Greece, Peru, Ireland, Denmark, Kenya, Ecuador, and the United States suggested improvements to the text. It was sent for redrafting and tightening.

252. Recommendation 6.15 on restoration of wetlands. New Zealand is also a co-sponsor. The Netherlands, Greece and Belgium suggested changes.

253. Recommendation 6.16 on bilateral and multilateral development cooperation. The Netherlands introduced amendments agreed by the redrafting group, and Italy and Norway strongly supported the proposed recommendation. Brazil, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Venezuela thought it premature, however, to invite Contracting Parties to use or recommend the use of OECD Guidelines with which they cannot yet be familiar. There was a feeling that, rather than simply withdraw the recommendation, the Parties should at least acknowledge that the OECD Guidelines had been introduced to the COP. A working group was charged to bring a new version of the recommendation to the Plenary.

254. Recommendation 6.17 on individual sites. A great body of material has been received for inclusion, and the draft text will be distributed before consideration in the next Plenary.

255. Recommendation 6.18 on Ramsar and water. Hungary asked to be removed from the list of co-sponsors. Canada observed that this was a resolution rather than a recommendation; it was renamed Resolution VI.23.


FIFTH PLENARY SESSION - OCEANIA DAY

26 March, 09:00-17:30

"Paradise under Pressure: Conservation and Wise Use of Coastal Wetlands in the South Pacific"

256. Janet Owen (New Zealand), Chair announced that the special focus of Oceania Day would be on coastal zone wetlands. These contain some of the most important wetlands for some countries in the region, in particular coral reefs, mangroves, and estuaries. In all countries of the region, coastal zone wetlands are vital for provision of food resources and make substantial contributions to their economies, particularly for fisheries. They are subject to intense development pressures. The presentations would focus on the biological values of these places, as well as the management of their use and development.

257. The Secretary General observed that the countries of the vast Oceania region are places of particular beauty and significance; they might not be immensely powerful nations in the geopolitics of the world, but they are unique.  He very much hoped that most of them will become Contracting Parties to the Convention before the next COP.  He considered that this will be beneficial to each country in particular but also to the Convention, since the Oceania region countries will bring with them their perspectives and experience to enrich the work of the treaty.

Presentations

[The full texts of these presentations appear in Volume 11/12 of the Conference Proceedings.]

  • "Living on the Edge," presented by Sue Miller , South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme
  • "The Biodiversity of Coastal Zone Wetlands in Oceania," presented by Joanna C. Ellison , Australian Institute of Marine Science
  • "Wetlands, Fish, and Fishing Communities: Protecting and Restoring Habitats for the Future," presented by Duncan Leadbitter , Australian Seafood Industry Council
  • "Moreton Bay, Australia: Multiple-use Planning and Management for a Ramsar-listed Coastal Wetland," presented by David Perkins , Queensland Department of the Environment
  • "Local People's Activities and Rights in the Moreton Bay/Stradbroke Island Area," presented by Penny Tripcony and "Uncle" Bob Anderson , Aboriginal Council
  • "Managing Tourism to Protect Coastal Wetlands in Oceania," presented by Birandra Singh , National Trust, Fiji
  • "The Management of Coral Reefs and Mangroves in a Pacific Island Community: The East Hiri Integrated Conservation and Development Programme - a Community Developed Project," presented by William Asigau , UNDP Small Grants Coordinator, Papua New Guinea


258. The Federated States of Micronesia described its composition of over 600 islands, with their barrier reefs, mangrove forests, and seagrass beds. The population depends upon wetlands for agro-forest cultivation and fishing, and complex land and marine tenure issues require effective partnerships among local communities. Institutional and monetary resources are limited, and accession to the Convention must be weighed carefully. Micronesia supports the Convention's efforts to encourage technical assistance and hopes the Oceania Region will remain a priority in the Convention's work.

259. Fiji expressed appreciation for the assistance of Ramsar's partner Organisations and other agencies in wetland conservation work in Fiji and is drafting new legislation on sustainable development with the help of the Asian Development Bank. The "wise use" concept has always been part of traditional Fijian communities and will be embodied in the new legislation. The newly established Department of Environment is developing integrated coastal management plans which should assist in meeting Ramsar obligations after accession to the Convention. Fiji welcomed the Australian training initiative for the region.

260. The Solomon Islands provided background on the establishment of the Arnavon Marine Conservation Area, in which three ethnically, culturally, and economically diverse communities were brought successfully together in common aims through a long process of consultation and awareness raising carried out by the Government, SPREP, and an NGO (The Nature Conservancy).

261. Western Samoa described its wetland resources and its recent efforts towards their conservation and wise use, especially with regard to community participation.

262. New Zealand described its mechanisms, under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, for bilateral and multilateral assistance for wetland and sustainable development activities in the South Pacific region. Bilateral aid is increasingly directed towards capacity building in local NGOs. The Resource Management Act of 1991, which was designed to fit into a new system of local government and embodies negotiated principles for the relationship between the Maori people and the Government, identifies consideration of wetlands as a matter of national importance. These measures are having very beneficial impacts on the management of natural resources in New Zealand.

263. Tonga described its wetland situation and commented on the recurring conflict between conservation and the demand for development, especially residential development in light of its traditional system of land tenure. The minister responsible for the environment is also charged with the allocation of land to every male citizen. Tonga observed that the concept of wise use, in such a tightly constricted range of options, could often result in the complete destruction of the wetlands' ecological characteristics.

264. Vanuatu described the physical and demographic make-up of its republic and the great diversity of its wetland types. Most land, including fringing reefs, is in customary ownership and difficult to set aside as protected areas. Wise use is by no means new to the people of Vanuatu, but population increase and economic development have brought significant threats. The national conservation strategy gives high recognition to coastal wetlands, and there are important local community initiatives. Financial and technical resources are in short supply, however, and Vanuatu welcomes partnerships with multilateral agencies and international NGOs.

265. Papua New Guinea introduced draft Recommendation 6.18, adoption of which was warmly endorsed by Australia, New Zealand, and Chile.


SIXTH PLENARY SESSION

27 March, 09:00-12:00

266. Mr Eddie Hegerl, Australian Marine Conservation Society & Australian Wetlands Alliance observed that the organization of the present COP was the result of a partnership of local, state, and national government agencies and non-governmental organizations. On behalf of 42 NGOs present, he pledged to work together in partnership with the Bureau and Parties in several areas of implementation and report on achievements to the 7th COP. The NGOs have agreed upon the text of this statement and have pledged AUS$ 1750 for the operation of the Monitoring Procedure. Moreover, sales from the Art Exhibition and the Ramsar Shop have yielded a further AUS$ 3000 for the Wetland Conservation Fund. Other NGOs around the world are invited to sign the NGOs' Brisbane Pledge of Support for the Ramsar Convention. [The text of this "Brisbane NGO Pledge"has been published as document 2/12 of the Conference Proceedings .]

267. Ducks Unlimited, noting its previous financial commitments to Ramsar sites in several countries, pledged on behalf of Ducks Unlimited organizations in Australia, Canada, Europe, Mexico, New Zealand and the USA, to commit at least SFR 3.1 million in fiscal year 1996-97 for habitat protection, restoration and management, wetland education and training programs at 21 Ramsar sites worldwide and in support of National Ramsar Committees and proposed listings of new sites, in addition to its US$ 68 million earmarked in 1996/97 for other wetland initiatives outside of Ramsar sites but in support of Ramsar objectives.

268. The UK (chair of the Subgroup on Finance of the Conference Committee) explained further amendments that have been made to RES.VI.17 on financial and budgetary matters. The UK also announced the designation of its 103rd Ramsar site.

    Agenda Item XII: Report of the Credentials Committee

269. Bulgaria (Chair of the Credentials Committee) reported that the Committee was composed of Australia, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Uganda, as well as Norway and the USA on an ad hoc basis to make up the seven regions. In pursuing the Kushiro recommendation that all credentials must be unambiguous and in proper form, the Committee has confirmed the credentials of 86 Contracting Parties for this COP. The Committee recommended that in future all delegates must present a statement signed by the Head of State or Minister of Foreign Affairs or an acting authority clearly so designated, or signed by an ambassador or permanent representative explicitly authorized to do so by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, sealed or on letterhead clearly issued with the personal name of the delegate clearly and unambiguously named. If the statement should not be in English, French or Spanish, it should be accompanied by an official translation.

270. Australia expressed its view that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is not the automatic successor to the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia and is thus not entitled to represent the Contracting Party Yugoslavia at this Conference. The USA supported Australia's position, citing United Nations precedents. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia later presented a written rebuttal to the Bureau.

271. The report of the Credentials Committee was accepted by acclamation. [The report of the Credentials Committee and the Australian and Yugoslav statements are appended to this report.]

    Agenda Item XVI: Adoption of Conference Report and Decisions

272. Draft Resolutions VI.1 through VI.23 as revised, with the exception of Resolution VI.20, were adopted by acclamation.

273. Brazil moved the adoption of Resolution VI.20: Thanks to the People and Governments of Australia, which was adopted by acclamation.

274. Mr Mike Smart, the Senior Policy Adviser described the development of Recommendation 6.17 on individual sites and accepted several amendments to 6.17, as well as several corrections to the Spanish translations, put forward by Peru and Argentina.

275. WWF congratulated the Government of Australia on significant wetland conservation initiatives but regretted that specific Ramsar sites at risk of ecological changes had not been named in Recommendation 6.17.4 so that progress can be monitored. WWF requested that Australia place high value on environmental concerns when assessing proposed uranium mining within Kakadu National Park, and that it consider alternatives to: coral mining in Moreton Bay, the proposed location of a chemical facility on the western shore of Port Phillip Bay, an expansion of petroleum shipments through Western Port Bay, discharge of saline effluent into the Coorong from a drainage scheme, and proposed irrigation schemes that would divert water from Pittwater-Orielton Lagoon and the Coongie Lakes. WWF requested that Australia expand the Ramsar boundaries of Macquarie Marshes, Gunbower Forest, Barmah Forest, Moreton Bay and the Peel-Yalgorup System. WWF expressed the belief that 30 of the 49 Australian Ramsar sites are at risk of ecological change but are not listed in the Montreux Record, and called on Australia to include sites like Towra Point and Lake Toolibin in the Montreux Record.

276. The Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales supported WWF's statement and urged the Government of Australia to place Towra Point in the Montreux Record and designate Wingecarribee Swamp for the Ramsar List as a matter of urgency.

277. Draft Recommendations 6.1 through 6.18 as revised were adopted by acclamation.

278. INFO 6.24, proposed agenda for the work of the Scientific and Technical Review Panel was introduced and received minor amendments from the floor. The Chair noted that there was no opposition from the floor to adoption of this document with these amendments.

279. Canada confirmed that the Governments of Hungary and Canada had jointly invited the new STRP to a first meeting to be held in June 1996 in Hungary with financial support from Canada.

280. Document INFO 6.25, the Conference Report was introduced as a compilation of notes on Plenary Sessions 1 through 4 which had been overseen by the Conference Committee through Daily Reports prepared throughout the COP. The Bureau will undertake to clean up any typographical errors which may remain and to append a record of the 5th and 6th Plenary Sessions to the final Conference Report. The Contracting Parties recorded, both by oral intervention and in writing to the rapporteurs, the additions and changes they wished to see made in the text of the Conference Report.

281. Document INFO 6.25, the Conference Report, with the amendments, was adopted by acclamation .

    Agenda Item XVII: Election of Members of the STANDING COMMITTEE

282. The following Parties were moved, seconded, and approved by acclamation for membership in the Standing Committee until the close of business of the next ordinary session of the Conference of the Contracting Parties.

Standing Committee Regional Representatives

  • Africa -- Senegal
  • Asia -- Malaysia
  • Eastern Europe -- Hungary
  • Neotropics -- Uruguay
  • North America -- USA
  • Oceania -- Papua New Guinea
  • Western Europe -- Germany

Standing Committee Alternate Members

  • Africa -- Uganda
  • Asia -- Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Eastern Europe -- Russian Federation
  • Neotropics -- Panama
  • North America -- Canada
  • Oceania -- New Zealand
  • Western Europe -- France

Note: Australia, as host of the 6th Conference of the Contracting Parties, and the host of the next Conference will also be voting members of the Standing Committee during the same period.]

    Agenda Item XVIII: Next Ordinary Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties

283. The Chair explained that two invitations had been received, from India and Costa Rica, and that discussions had been ongoing in the Conference Committee throughout the week.

284. India expressed its continuing commitment to hosting a Ramsar Conference of the Parties, but wished to defer to Costa Rica for the 7th COP in 1999 in acknowledgment of the fact that heretofore there has never been a Ramsar COP held in the Neotropical Region. India reiterated its firm offer to host the following COP.

285. Costa Rica acknowledged the good will of the Government of India for arriving at this harmonious solution and expressed its commitment, on behalf of the people of Costa Rica, to work hard to continue the great tradition of organization and hospitality that has been exemplified by the Government of Australia.

286. The offer of Costa Rica to host the 7th Conference of the Contracting Parties in 1999 was accepted by acclamation. The Standing Committee and Costa Rican authorities will determine the exact place and dates after further discussions.

287. The Chair, on behalf of all the delegates, expressed his appreciation for India's offer to host the 8th COP and noted that this offer should receive priority consideration by the 7th COP.

    Agenda Item XX: Close of the Meeting

287. India, on behalf of the Asian Region; the Contracting Parties from Scandinavia; Zambia; and Canada expressed appreciation to the Chair and the Australian authorities for a well organized meeting.

288. Shortland Wetlands Centre, on behalf of Australian NGOs and volunteers expressed appreciation to the Government of Australia for the opportunity to contribute to the National Report and to the organizing of the COP, and commented on the strong cooperative relationship between NGOs and governments throughout the Ramsar Convention's COP.

289. Councillor John Campbell, Acting Lord Mayor of Brisbane thanked the delegates for their participation in the Conference and for their impact on the city of Brisbane.

290. Mr Des Boyland, on behalf of Mr Brian Littleproud, Queensland Minister of Environment and Heritage, congratulated the delegates on a successful Conference and pledged continued cooperation.

291. Mr Delmar Blasco, Secretary General of the Convention, paid tribute to the Australian authorities, organizers, and volunteers, to the staff of the secretariat, and particularly to Dr Peter Bridgewater, the Chair, for a successful and well-run Conference.

292. The Chair expressed his appreciation to the delegates and to the volunteers and staff and adjourned the 6th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

Rapporteurs: Dwight Peck (Ramsar) and Tim Davis (WWF-International)


REPORT OF THE CREDENTIALS COMMITTEE

(adopted by the 6th Conference of the Contracting Parties, 27 March 1996)

1. The Conference elected the following members to the Credentials Committee: Australia (Ms Lynette Tomlin), Bulgaria (Dr Jeko Spiridonov), Chile (Ms Nancy Cespedes), China (Mr Yuan Liu), Uganda (Ms Jane Kavuma), [with Julia Tucker representing the secretariat], naming Bulgaria as Chair

2. While Rule 3.3 of the Rules of Procedure provides for a five-member Credentials Committee, the Conference elected two additional ad hoc members to ensure that all seven Ramsar regions were represented, namely: Norway (Mr Olav Nord-Varhaug), the USA (Dr Bruce Beehler).

3. In the course of its work, the Committee referred to Rule 3.1 of the Rules of Procedure, which provides that "The Delegate or any Alternate Delegates of a Contracting Party shall, before exercising the voting rights of the Contracting Party, have been granted credentials in proper form, enabling him/her to represent the Contracting Party at the Conference and to vote on its behalf".

4. In accordance with these requirements, the Committee confirms the credentials submitted by delegates of 86 Contracting Parties.

Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela, Yugoslavia, Zaire, Zambia.

5. Because of the difficulties encountered at the 5th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties, held at Kushiro, Japan, in 1993, the Committee strove to apply the Kushiro Committee's recommendation that credentials be unambiguous and in proper form.

6. Draft Resolution VI.15 on Amendment of the Rules of Procedure as of the 7th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties "requests the Standing Committee to conduct a thorough review of the Rules of Procedure of the Conference of the Parties in the forthcoming triennium, with a view to proposing to the 7th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties a revised set of Rules of Procedure in harmony with those of other international environmental conventions".

7. The Brisbane Credentials Committee therefore proposes that the Rules of Procedure be amplified to specify the following:

  • The Statement of Credentials must be signed by the Head of State or Government, or the Minister of Foreign Affairs. In the absence of that Authority, the Statement may be signed by the Acting Authority clearly so designated.
  • Alternatively, the Statement of Credentials may be signed by an Ambassador or Permanent Representative explicitly authorized to accredit the Delegation by the Head of State or Government, or Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • The Statement must bear a full signature of the appropriate Authority or else be sealed and initialled by that Authority. In combination the seal and/or letterheading should clearly indicate that the Statement of Credentials has been issued by the appropriate Authority.
  • A delegate may not exercise the right to vote unless his/her name is clearly and unambiguously listed in the Statement of Credentials.
  • The original of the Statement must be presented to the Credentials Committee at the Conference of the Parties.
  • If the Statement of Credentials is submitted in a language other than one of the three working languages of the Convention (English, French, and Spanish), it is necessary to provide a suitable translation to permit efficient validation of the Credentials by the Committee.


Annex I

RESPONSES TO THE REPORT OF THE CREDENTIALS COMMITTEE

Australia (delivered from the floor and in writing to the secretariat, 27 March 1996)

1. The Australian delegation wishes to record its views on the credentials of the Delegation from Belgrade. The Australian Delegation fully understands the complexities of the issue of the former Yugoslavia.

2. The Australian Delegation, and a number of other delegations here, cannot at this time accept that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) is the continuing state of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

3. The legal opinion of 29 September 1992 from the former United Nations Legal Counsel remains the definitive opinion on the issue indicating that the FRY is not the automatic continuation of the SFRY. The position of the FRY in the United Nations (UN) remains the same, namely, that as the FRY cannot automatically continue the membership of the SFRY in the UN, the FRY should apply for UN membership. As the FRY has been excluded from participation in the General Assembly, representatives of FRY cannot participate in the work of the General Assembly, its subsidiary organs or conferences and meetings convened by the United Nations. In respect of treaty bodies not covered by General Assembly Resolution 47/1, the meetings of States Parties to treaties have adopted a similar approach to that adopted by the General Assembly in all meetings of treaty parties since 1992.

4. Mr Chairman, the Australian Delegation requests that its view be recorded in the report of this meeting.

Yugoslavia (delivered in writing to the secretariat, 27 March 1996)

1. Referring to the intervention of the Australian delegation about the legal status of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the delegation of the FRY at the 6th Meeting of the Contracting Parties of the Ramsar Convention in Brisbane has to draw the attention of the Standing Committee, the Bureau, and the Conference Committee to the following:

2. Yugoslavia is among the first signatories and Contracting Parties of the Ramsar Convention;

3. At preparatory Regional Meetings for the 6th Conference in Budapest (Hungary) and Varna (Bulgaria), the Contracting Party position of the FR of Yugoslavia as well as the credentials of its delegation were confirmed;

4. In the meantime, UN sanctions against the FR of Yugoslavia were suspended. Recently, legal experts of the UN Secretary General (Treaty Section of the Office of Legal Affairs) issued their legal opinion that Resolution 47/1 of 22 September 1992 is without effect on the capacity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to participate in treaties, including those deposited with the Secretary-General, and furthermore that this Resolution was adopted within the framework of the UN and the context of the Charter of the UN, and not as an indication that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was not to be considered a predecessor State;

5. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as Contracting Party was invited to the 6th Conference, registered the participation of its delegation on time, sent its National Report on time, and its delegation orderly and in proper form submitted its credentials of Contracting Party. The Ramsar Bureau even paid all expenses for two members of the Yugoslav delegation;

6. Australia (the Federal Minister for the Environment), as the host of the 6th Conference and a Contracting Party, sent two letters to Yugoslavia (Federal Minister for the Environment) as Contracting Party, asking support for the Australian initiative;

7. The Yugoslav delegation bona fide came to the Conference, orderly registered its attendance, took its seats in the Conference hall and with all other delegations of Contracting Parties and participants of the Conference enjoyed full Australian hospitality;

8. In numerous contacts with the Chair of the Standing Committee and representatives of the Bureau of the Ramsar Convention and during the first part of the Conference, there was not any warning that the position of the FRY as Contracting Party would be disputed; and

9. The credentials of the delegation of the FRY were confirmed by the Credentials Committee.

10. The delegation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is concerned that this unfortunate, needless and legally groundless intervention of the Australian delegation was against the spirit, principles and honourable mission of the Ramsar Convention. This Conference, fortunately, was only unsuccessfully misused for unclear political goals. The delegation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia requests that this statement be included in documents of the 6th Conference of the Ramsar Convention.

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