Ramsar East Asian Subregional Meeting, 2001 -- report of the meeting
Ramsar East Asian Subregional Meeting
Report of the Meeting
Summary of outcomes from Day One, 1 October
Two aims of this meeting:
- To take stock of the implementation of the Convention in the region, including the application of the National Planning Tool / National Report Format; and
- To carry out early consultations with Contracting Parties in the East Asian region regarding the proposed agenda for Ramsar COP8 in a years time.
1. Currently has three Ramsar sites and is implementing the following actions and initiatives to manage the countrys wetlands:
- Preparation of a draft national biodiversity strategy related to poverty reduction and preparation of a socio-economic development plan. Both of these address the Ramsar Convention and the CBD Convention.
- Reforming the Forestry law, Wildlife Law, Fisheries Law, Land Management Law, and Water Management Law.
- Placing priority on activities relating to transboundary wetlands with Lao PDR, and also economic evaluation of wetlands.
- Inventory of wetlands along the Mekong River in two sites in Stung Treng and Kratie Provinces.
- Creating reserves for endangered birds.
- Pilot project in Kampong Cham Province.
- Donor coordination: five projects are being run at the moment with a range of donor contributors (e.g., Wetland biodiversity and sustainable use project, UNDP/GEF/IUCN, Coastal Zone Management, and Critical Wetlands in the Lower Mekong Basin).
- Will continue to assess and inventory Cambodias wetlands
- Will look for new Ramsar sites.
- Working on National Environmental Action Plan
2. Cambodia has very limited funds to manage wetland natural resources, and hopes that in the near future UNDP, GEF, IUCN will assist in updating the draft of the National Wetland Action Plan to be submitted to the Council of Ministers for approval. Through this Plan, the National Wetland Committee will be established to consolidate all existing project steering committees.
3. China is implementing the following actions and initiatives to manage the countrys wetlands, through the National Ramsar Work Plan. To date, China has:
- produced draft national regulations on wetland conservation
- produced regulations on wetland conservation in two provinces
- produced management plans in many Nature Reserves
- included wetland conservation in national planning
- carried out research on economic value of wetlands and incorporated in environmental planning
- implemented EIAs in important wetlands
- developed national program planning on wetland conservation and identified key wetlands projects for wetland restoration ($1.5million)
- involved local people in making policies
- developed policies on objectives to encourage participation from different organizations such as Wetlands International, GEF, etc
- developed and encouraged national programs of wetland EPA targeted at a wide range of people
- encouraged partnerships between government, NGOs, and communities
- developed institutional capacity, especially through the establishment of the office of Ramsar Implementation within the State Forestry Administration
- identified training needs (e.g., by cooperating with WWF training in Mai Po, Hong Kong)
- For the six Ramsar sites that have management plans, actions at these sites will be based on these plans
- Will submit to the Ramsar Bureau another 16 Ramsar sites in 2001, aiming at having 80 sites by 2010
- Will increase the area of some wetland sites through restoration
- Will strengthen linkages between international organizations dealing with wetlands.
4. National Ramsar targets in China are to:
- establish a network of wetland sites
- enhance infrastructure of sites
- strengthen government offices that implement the Ramsar Convention
- complete the compilation of a National Wetlands Inventory (1997-2001)
- establish 224 monitoring stations across the country by 2010
- establish 10 educational centres in the next 10 years
- develop 10th five-year scientific program
5. National Wetlands policies in China include:
- Implementing a national wetland policy for integration into the national legal instrument.
- There is currently no specific Ramsar Committee but the Chinese Government is planning to establish one.
- China would like the Ramsar Convention to assist Parties in implementing the treaty, including extending financial and technical support.
6. Post-1997 background information on implementation of the Convention includes:
- Political and economic crisis\large forest fires 5.2 million hectares of land in 1997/98.
- Rampant illegal encroachment and logging.
- 1.6 million hectares of forest lost per year since from 1985-1997
7. In 1996 Indonesia produced a National Wetland Strategy, with guidelines for the implementation of the Convention.
8. Indonesia is implementing the following actions and initiatives to manage the countrys wetlands:
- Review of existing laws and promulgating new laws to accommodate the reform movement, such as Law 41, Law 22 and Law 25.
- The impact of the new laws means that districts have been given greater autonomy, and there is increased acknowledgement of indigenous people, whereby the community can claim against the government for the loss of access to natural resources.
- Several government institutions are closely related to the management of wetlands State Minister of Environment, Ministry of Forestry, and the Department of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (new department).
- State Minister of Environment is currently drafting laws on sea grass beds.
- There has been a strengthening of the management of wetland areas, including Lorenz National Park becoming a World Heritage site and two Ramsar sites also designated as National Parks. Both Ramsar sites have developed management plans.
- Important karst areas have been identified. Indonesia wants to nominate significant karst areas as World Heritage Sites.
- Maintenance and development of partnerships with international organizations.
- Support from the private sector has increased.
- A range of activities including biodiversity surveys, spatial planning, community development and awareness campaigns have been implemented.
- In May 2001 UNESCO held a transboundary World Heritage Sites meeting, and since this meeting Indonesia has identified a possible site as well as other SE Asian countries present in the meeting (Thailand, Philippines, and Malaysia).
- Developing co-management and decentralization of fiscal management at Bunaken National Park, and resource valuation at Siberut NP.
- Transboundary cooperation established three wetland programs Kakadu NP (Australia), Tonda Wildlife Management Area in PNG, Wasur NP in Irian Jaya.
- Ramsar Small Grant Fund Indonesia received first grant for Berbak NP in 1996. More assistance for Berbak is needed as illegal logging has damaged the site.
9. The national priorities for Indonesia are:
- stop illegal logging
- stop forest fires
- review laws and regulations
- strengthen partnerships with international and national NGOs, universities and research institutions to implement co-management
- strengthen coordination with local government
- promote importance of wetlands to target groups (e.g. school children)
- strengthen management of Ramsar sites and important wetlands
10. Japan is implementing the following actions and initiatives to manage the countrys wetlands:
- A legal framework for implementation many laws guide the management of wetlands, including Japans 11 Ramsar sites.
- Wetlands included in the National Biodiversity Strategy, now under revision.
- A National Wetlands Committee established, which includes local government entities related to Ramsar sites, Wetlands International Japan, and relevant Ministries and agencies. The Committee is supported by a secretariat.
11. Priority actions in Japan since COP7 included:
- To develop a national work plan.
- Translation of the Ramsar Work Plan (developed at COP7) into Japanese.
- Resolutions from COP7 placed on an Internet website.
- National Wetlands Strategy is in the process of revision. Trying to develop a fuller wetland section in it, which should be finalized by 2002.
- There is no comprehensive national inventory kept by the Government, however NGOs have some inventories, and Government is working to compile a single national inventory. Japan hopes to finish this next year before COP8.
- Designation of new Ramsar sites trying to establish as many as possible by 2005.
- Wetland restoration: conducting surveys starting next fiscal year (2002). Are considering some sites in the heavily developed coastal zone.
- International Cooperation increase the cooperation between countries within the region.
- Supporting the Asian Wetlands Inventory project and Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy.
- Training course in wetland and biodiversity conservation.
12. Malaysia is implementing the following actions and initiatives to manage the countrys wetlands:
- A draft National Wetlands Strategy has been prepared, but needs to be updated with current developments.
- A draft integrated coastal zone management plan has been prepared.
- A River Basin Management Steering Committee has been formed. This will need to work with other international organizations involved in water management.
- Peat swamps are being viewed as increasingly important and requiring protection.
- A regional symposium on wetlands was organized.
- Administrative Authority capacity building is under way. Capacity is still very low at the regional level.
- There has been much development in Malaysia, and a resultant information / data explosion. Malaysia would like guidance on how to manage all this info with available resources (which were identified as insufficient).
- Malaysias sole Ramsar site has a management plan in place, but due to resource restrictions its implementation is slow.
- Malaysia plans to designate five new Ramsar sites by August 2002.
13. The Ramsar Convention came into force in Mongolia in 1998, and the National Committee was established at the end of that year. Mongolia is has implemented the following actions and initiatives to manage the countrys wetlands:
- Organized an international workshop on Wetland Conservation in Mongolia and NE Asia, and published the proceedings.
- Included six sites in the Ramsar List.
- Added Mongol Daguur to the NE Asia Crane Site network.
- Organized activities to implement the East Asian Anatidae Action Plan for protecting migratory species of ducks and geese.
- Organized international workshop on shorebirds in 1999.
14. The following activities were carried out in 2001:
- Information printed in a National Newspaper on the Ramsar Convention and Mongolias implementation on World Wetlands Day (2 February).
- Mongolia participated in the Shorebirds Workshop, building capacity and knowledge within government. A research study on Protection and Management of Rare Species of Cranes in Eastern Mongolia is being carried out by a scientific research organization.
- Research and production of information sheets on possible future Ramsar sites. Information sheets to be delivered to the Ramsar Bureau upon completion.
- The Minister of Nature and Environment presented report on the implementation of the Ramsar Convention to the meeting of the Council of Ministers.
15. In the Philippines, several Departments are concerned with wetland and wetland related activities: the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Interior and Local Government, among others. Non-governmental organizations and the academy do their share in conducting wetland activities.
16. In the preparation of the National Report of the Philippines, the National Report format was distributed to many concerned entities for them to accomplish. A workshop will also be organized to be sure that the report will capture the information at the national level. All information gathered will be collated by the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, the Ramsar Administrative Authority.
17. Other major activities and initiatives of the Philippines on wetland conservation are:
- Design of a monitoring system for natural biological resources and their utilization for wetland protected areas. This encourages the participation of local communities. It is also being implemented in two Ramsar sites.
- Creation of a multi-sectoral committee to review policies related to wetlands, to propose plans and programs on wetlands, etc.
- Continuously rehabilitating major wetland sites e.g. Manila Bay, Laguna de Bay, Pasig River, etc.
- Conducting the yearly Asian Waterfowl Census.
- Establishing and continuously maintaining linkages and coordination with non-government organizations, academy, peoples organizations and other government entities concerned with wetland conservation.
18. Thailand is implementing many activities formulated during COP7, including the Resolutions and the Strategic Plan. These activities include the following:
- Review of laws and institutions relating to wetlands, to be completed by April 2002.
- Development of a National Policy, Measures and Action Plan on Wetland Management for 1998-2002, including 43 projects from 14 related agencies, totaling 472.5 million Baht.
- Inclusion of wetland issues in the next 5 year plan (2002-2006) within the national Policy Measures and Action Plan for Biodiversity, Conservation and Sustainable Uses, which is based on the joint work plan of CBD and Ramsar.
- National Wetlands Inventory first surveyed in 1997, and was published in 2000. Based on the results, Cabinet approved additional measures for conservation of internationally important and nationally important wetlands.
- Assessment to identify priority wetlands for restoration and rehabilitation has been completed and the National Wetlands Management Committee has proposed a list of wetlands for the Cabinets consideration.
- Active involvement of local communities and indigenous people in wetland management in several areas.
- Promotion of an outreach program to local wetland communities through handing out leaflets in Thai on the Ramsar Convention.
- Organization of a seminar on wetlands management on World Wetlands Day every year.
- Announcement of five new Ramsar sites in Thailand.
19. The Lao PDR is not yet a Contracting Party, but is a signatory to the CBD. DANIDA is assisting the Science, Technology and Environment Agency in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in preparing a national biodiversity strategy and action plan for a period of 19 months. This is highly relevant to the work of the Ramsar Convention. An Inventory of Wetlands is already published, and in 1993 IUCN assisted with producing a report on wildlife in the Lao PDR.
20. The Ramsar Convention is not widely known amongst government officials in Lao PDR. In order to increase awareness, especially amongst government officials, Lao would like assistance from NGOs and international organizations in explaining the benefits of joining the Convention. Lao PDR would like to learn more from the experiences of Contracting Parties in SE Asia, so that they can consider ratifying the Convention as soon as possible.
21. Myanmar started wetland conservation and restoration in the 1970s. Wetlands are covered by the Protected Areas system. The Ramsar Bureau explained the Ramsar Convention at a workshop, so Myanmar has a reasonable understanding of its benefits and implications.
22. The Ministry of Forestry is submitting a proposal to join the Ramsar Convention in the near future. It has also identified a wetland for inclusion in the Ramsar List, and is sure that there are many more, including marine and mangrove areas. Myanmar would appreciate learning from the experience of existing Contracting Parties.
23. Some Contracting Parties had concerns about having to actively invite non-signatories to join the Convention. These Parties were concerned about being seen to pressure other countries to sign. It was the view of the Ramsar Bureau that CPs should actively take on this role as it is beneficial for all countries to manage water and wetlands in the same manner, under the same Convention, especially given the inter-connectedness of water and wetland systems across national boundaries.
Feedback on National Reporting Format
24. The National Report Format was supposed to be used as a planning instrument, but it is being used only to prepare the National Report for COP8. How could it be turned into a more useful and practical tool for planning, and not just as a reporting tool in preparation for the COP?
25. The questions in the National Report format are set up in a certain way, whereby an answer requires a yes/no or a black/white answer. This leads to inflexibility in explaining grey areas or different stages of implementation. It was thought that the objectives of the questions were excellent, and a useful guide, but the main problem was the format. Ramsar hoped that people, after having replied yes or no, would elaborate upon these grey areas, and that there was room to explain beyond a yes/no answer. If room is insufficient, additional sheets can be attached. These explanations will be incorporated into the computerized analysis system that is currently being developed.
26. Ramsar strongly encourages Contracting Parties to consult with all agencies involved with water and wetland management in order to report in a comprehensive and accurate manner.
27. Difficulties with language were raised. The form contains acronyms and cross-references, and the language is quite technical, making it difficult to read for people with English as a second language. Translation to other languages, a glossary of terms, and consolidation of questions to eliminate cross-referencing were suggested as possible solutions.
28. The Ramsar Bureau encourages countries to send in documents in local languages to keep on file in case opportunities arise to have them translated. For extremely important documents, a summary in English should be included.
29. The National Report format may be much too long and time-consuming to complete.
30. The question arose as to what Ramsar will do with the national reports that they receive. It would be helpful to be able to access information about other countries policies and progress in wetland management. The Bureau responded that the Secretariats primary means for information dissemination is its Web site. All National Reports will be posted there as soon as they have been received. In addition, the Bureau will analyze them in order to develop a region by region and a global picture concerning the implementation of the Convention. These analyses will also be posted on the Web site.
31. Suggestions were made regarding the electronic format of the document. Colored fonts create difficulties while photocopying. When questions make reference to previous objectives, electronic links to the text for those objectives should be provided so that scrolling back and forth is unnecessary.
32. Filling out the national report can be a formidable task. Perhaps the Secretariat can assist countries in this task by providing examples of successfully completed reports, or provide guidelines for the completion of the report, including recommendations for consultations and workshops.
33. Suggestions were offered on how the National Report might be made more useful as a planning tool. Because the format for reports has changed quite a bit over the years, countries may be reluctant to use it as a basis for planning. Once it is in circulation for a few years, it may be more readily integrated into the planning process.
34. The format could also be modified so that it includes forward thinking questions, i.e. "Based on what has been achieved already, what are future targets." This would also aid in the process suggested by the Bureau, of countries outlining preliminary targets for COP8. It is the Secretariats hope that at the COP, national targets can inform global targets for the Convention, making these targets the vision of the countries involved rather than COP-adopted suggestions from the Secretariat itself.
35. The Bureau asked for suggestions on how to strengthen institutional capacity to deal with Ramsar and how countries would react to the concept of having a Secretariat established in each country to deal with all the international environmental conventions on a cluster by cluster basis, ratified by that country. Many country delegates explained that in their countries coordination existed among government offices responsible for international conventions.
36. The Bureau also mentioned the concept of a common funding mechanism for all the international environmental treaties within a particular cluster, particularly where projects drawing upon that source would be working to achieve goals common to more than one convention.
37. In some cases, human resources were a problem, as government officials had many other responsibilities besides implementation and administration of conventions. There was discussion about the importance of placing certain areas of water management under the control of the environment authority. Water management often comes under the mandate of infrastructure or public works departments, whose policies do not always take into account environmental objectives.
Ramsar Strategic Plan 2003-2008
38. Additional comments about the Plan should reach the Ramsar Bureau by the end of November 2001, so as to convey them to the Standing Committee at its meeting from 3-7 December. This will be the last chance for Contracting Parties to add their input to the document before COP8.
39. Questions were raised about the sources of funding for Ramsar Convention implementation as listed in Section 1, under achievements of Ramsar. There are many organizations that fund Ramsar projects besides those listed. The Bureau responded that the sources of funding listed in this section are those secured by Ramsar itself. It would be inappropriate to classify the contributions of other donors under the heading of Ramsars achievements.
40. Concerns were raised about the complexity of the Plan. A simpler document was suggested, leaving specific details to national and local level governments. The Ramsar Bureau said this was a matter for the COP to decide upon, but thought that a more detailed Plan was appropriate.
41. The question arose of why there appears to be a special emphasis in the Strategic Plan on the importance of wetlands as habitat for waterfowl, when the role of wetlands extends far beyond this. This was explained to be a reference to the history of the Convention, which was originally initiated largely in response to concerns over waterfowl habitat. The official title of the convention makes reference to this, but because of the tremendous bureaucratic and diplomatic procedures associated with changing the name of an international convention, the original name has been retained on official documents.
42. Conversely, concern was also raised that Ramsar is expanding beyond wetlands of international significance (for waterfowl habitat) and therefore will lose sight of the original intent of the Convention. The rationale is that Ramsar, in recognition of the more holistic values of wetlands, and with consideration of wise use principles and sustainability principles, has begun to be implemented much more broadly.
43. All targets in the Strategic Plan are without reference to previous achievements of CPs. It would be good if targets in the Strategic Plan explicitly build upon what has already been achieved. The Bureau explained that after the Secretariat analyses the National Reports, global targets can be developed which build upon national achievements. These targets will be incorporated into the Strategic Plan.
44. It may be useful for the COP to consider trade as a new element under General Objective 3, paragraph 70, sub-paragraph E. Trade in wetland resources and species has not received much attention before and the COP may be a good opportunity to examine this. The development of a Ramsar label for wetland trade is a possible implication of such discussion. The Bureau predicted that some countries might object to such a labeling system, perceiving that it would interfere with their trading.
45. Query over the definition of a wetland regarding artificial reservoirs (e.g., water supplies). It is important to clarify whether artificial wetlands/reservoirs can be designated as Wetlands of International Importance, as this has implications for how the site can be used and which management agencies will manage the site. The Bureau explained that artificial reservoirs can be considered as wetlands and that Ramsar status will simply be judged on the merits of the wetland.
46. It may be important to qualify the role of wetlands in contributing to water supply. It is important that wetlands not be seen as a water supply, as this could lead to commercialization.
47. Reference to modern convention should be deleted in the final version of the Plan.
48. One of the challenges of the Strategic Plan is to convert the text into practical guidelines on ground action to enhance and protect wetlands and assist in their sustainable use.
49. The Strategic Plan is designed to incorporate outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held two months before COP8.
50. The issue of differing needs at national and local level was raised as a reason for making the Strategic Plan a more general document while leaving specific details to national and local governments.
Summary of Outcomes for Day Two, 2 October 2001
Technical session 1: Wetlands: Major challenges and emerging opportunities in the new century
51. Mr Faizal Parish identified three new key areas of focus for the Convention. These are: a) wetlands and water; b) wetlands and climate change; and c) linkages with other Conventions and institutions.
Wetlands and water
52. Mr. Parish stressed the linkage between water resource management and wetlands. Recognizing these linkages, Ramsar COP7 adopted guidelines for integrating wetland conservation and wise use into river basin management.
53. Mr. Parish also introduced the River Basin Initiative (RBI), which was established as part of the Joint Workplan between the CBD and Ramsar. This initiative recognizes the shared interest of both conventions in integrating the management of wetlands, biodiversity, and river basins. A questionnaire survey was sent out to all CPs of CBD and Ramsar, to determine national needs and contributions that could be met by or made to the RBI. Mr. Parish encouraged CPs present to return the survey responses from their countries.
54. Guidelines on water allocation were requested at COP7 and are now in their initial draft. These guidelines address how to go about management interventions to ensure that both the necessary quantity and quality of water are allocated for effective wetland functioning.
55. The Ramsar Bureau recognizes that many of the CP representatives present are not responsible for water management in their countries. However, it encourages delegates to involve water management agencies in their countries in reviewing the draft guidelines before COP8.
56. CPs had the following comments on the topics Mr. Parish presented:
a) reference had been made to South Africas new Water Law which ranks priorities for water allocation placing human basic needs as a first priority, ecosystem requirements second, and then agriculture and industry. Attention was drawn to the designation of human needs and ecosystem requirements as two separate entities, suggesting that we should examine what we mean by the term "ecosystem" and whether or not this term includes human resource requirements;
b) the delegate from Indonesia mentioned that in Indonesia water management comes under different agencies, but national wetland strategy involves integration of planning between these agencies. She would be happy to share these experiences with the Bureau and the CPs. She also suggested using the disaster which followed drainage of peatlands in Kalimantan as a case study for water allocation. In addition the impact of illegal logging in reducing river flows could be a case study. Indonesia would also like the RBI to provide assistance in how to cope with traditional mining systems which use mercury.
c) the delegate from the Philippines shared the following comment:
i) Wetlands should be clearly classified either as a resource asset or an economic asset. If classified as a resource asset, the document should highlight the vital functions of wetlands in terms of:
- ecological function this should focus on the environmental values of wetlands;
- subsistence functions this should focus on the economic values of wetlands and raw water pricing schemes become an important issue; and
- recreational function this provides wetlands with social benefits;
ii) if wetlands are classified as an economic asset, the document should emphasise "Raw Water Pricing and Tradeable Rights";
iii) the following levels of information are very important:
- level 1 Prioritization In the Philippines during the water crisis, the guidelines/prioritization were as follows: domestic use, agricultural use, industrial use;
- level 2 Quantity/availability Depletion premium and raw water pricing for groundwater resources are vital issues/concerns;
- level 3 Quality This highlights environmental polluters payment scheme.
iv) he also referred the meeting to a recent report prepared by UNESCAP on water allocation priorities and procedures in countries in the region.
In a further written submission, the Philippines further suggested that the Ramsar Bureau set, formulate, or provide a standard "thematic" classification scheme for wetland types (for at least Level 1) as a unified "mapping" input/output of the COP. In this way, the Ramsar Bureau/COP could establish its own "identity" as an "organization." Levels 2, 3, and 4 can be delegated to individual Ramsar COPs where they are best fitted. The AWI scheme appears appropriate and worth adapting. It should be emphasized that a Ramsar unified classification scheme shall serve as a "reference guide" only.
Climate Change and Wetlands
57. Climate change has been recognized by Ramsar Contracting Parties as a priority issue for the future wise use of wetlands. The Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) has produced a review entitled Climate Change and Wetlands: Impacts, Adaptation and Mitigation which discusses the values and functions of wetlands in the context of climate change. The review will form the basis for developing further joint activity between Ramsar and UNFCCC. Mr Parish used peatlands as an example of wetlands that had a large impact on climate change. He stated that there are two funding mechanisms established under the Kyoto Protocol for projects aimed at mitigating global climate change: the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and the Adaptation Fund which may provide funds in the future for rehabilitation of wetlands.
58) CPs had the following comments:
- the need for additional protection of peatlands by Parties was proposed, including placement on the Ramsar list. The chair responded that the Ramsar Convention currently recognizes peatlands as wetlands. However, it is the countrys responsibility to designate relevant peatland areas as official Ramsar sites.
- Thailand queried whether projects aimed at the protection of peatlands should be eligible for funding under the CDM. Peatlands that are forested are eligible for funding for afforestation or reforestation. Peatlands that are not forested are not currently eligible for funding under CDM; however, negotiations on CDM are ongoing. Currently CDM does not provide funding for projects that prevent deforestation.
- on the question of availability of CDM, it was indicated that this funding will only be available when the Kyoto protocol negotiations are completed. There are other bilateral funding mechanisms available in the meantime, and the Bureau can provide information about these.
Indonesia will request funding under the CDM to improve the quality of present land in central Kalimantan.
Cooperation with other Global Environmental Conventions/activities
59. Harmonization of and linkages between relevant conventions such World Heritage, Biological Diversity, Migratory Species, Desertification, Climate Change and the Regional Seas Conventions have been identified as a high priority by Ramsar. Such cooperation is being developed through Memoranda of Cooperation and joint work plans between Conventions. Of particular significance is the Joint Work Plan with the Convention on Biological Diversity.
60. The following comments were made:
- there is an agreement between the Convention on Migratory Species and Ramsar. The representative from CMS pointed out that a joint work program is being developed which will be ready by the end of the year. This should be compatible with the Ramsar / CBD framework;
- GEF Operation Program 12 supports integrated ecosystem management to secure multiple benefits such as biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation. Wetlands should be eligible for funding under GEF. Projects related to wetlands, including peatlands, are being funded by GEF. An adaptation fund under UNFCCC, of approximately 500 million US dollars, may become part of the GEF;
- the ADB representative enquired about linkages between the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) and the international conventions. The MA has been developed primarily to serve the needs of Ramsar, CBD and the Desertification Convention. A key innovation of the MA is its linking the natural and social sciences in evaluating the status and trends in ecosystem use and conservation.
Technical Session 2: Wetland inventory and assessment
61. Mr Alvin Lopez gave a presentation on why wetland inventory is important and gave an introduction to the STRP proposed framework for wetland inventories and outlined the Asian Wetlands Inventory programme.
62. Comments on this framework follow:
- an independent observer from Malaysia stressed the importance of identifying rare and endemic species in each country. He also suggested that the inventory cover species at the microscopic level, including viruses. He stressed that the inventory should not just focus on economically valuable species;
- the delegate from the Philippines suggested that if the main objective of the inventory is to inform management practices, then local people should be incorporated into the process as they are often the primary users and managers of wetlands at the ground level;
- the delegate from Japan expressed her countrys support for the Asian Wetland Inventory project (AWI). She also recommended that already completed national inventories should be incorporated into the AWI;
- the delegate from Malaysia inquired whether there would be a funding mechanism to support new methods required by the AWI. Many countries may need technical support as well as funding. It was said that if Contracting Parties show great interest in implementing AWI, they will be assisted in seeking for funds. But it is also hoped that eventually CPs will include wetlands inventory initiatives in their budgeting. Also, international donors have been called upon to contribute to wetland inventory efforts and it has been requested that such efforts receive priority in Ramsars Small Grants Fund.
- the representative from Thailand emphasized the importance of having all countries in the region participate in the AWI. Assistance and encouragement should be given so that all countries participate, and none fall behind. The protocol provides guidelines for all countries to conduct inventories, based on established methods, so they are not left on their own to "reinvent the wheel." Also, to ensure that a larger picture is constantly being produced with the participation of ALL Parties in the region, a system is being developed that will feed all national results into a regional database;
- the delegate from China pointed out the need for very clear criteria for national inventories, which countries can easily incorporate into their own national criteria. The Ramsar Bureau responded that a Ramsar framework is being developed for adoption at COP8, and one of its aims is to harmonize national procedures;
- the representative of ADB commented that Ramsar should consider how the data collected in the inventory will be used. He pointed out that there is already a great deal of environmental data in existence that is not used. The representative from Thailand also echoed this point. The Bureau emphasized that one of the aims of AWI is to conduct a review of all existing data;
- the representatives of ADB and Indonesia both commented on the need for incorporating socio-economic and cultural data into the inventory. The Bureau assured that socio and cultural information, including traditional water management systems, will be gathered at level 4 of the AWI;
- the delegate from the Philippines suggested that resource accounting and valuation should be addressed in the AWI;
- the representative from ICLARM the World Fish Centre, drew the meetings attention to the inventory of the Mekong River Commission. This inventory recorded that 60-80% of the wetlands in the region surveyed were planted with floodplain wet rice. If AWI comes up with similar results, what will be the management implications of such findings? The representative also stated that the Mekong inventory can provide good lessons for AWI;
- the chairman commented on the opportunity presented by the Mekong survey to link country level information to the global inventory. He also explained that it is up to each country to determine how it will manage its wetlands based on the findings of AWI. The purpose of AWI is simply to provide baseline information for the management of wetlands;
- the representative of UNEP commented that, although the web of environmental inventories may seem confusing and repetitive, each inventory plays a unique and essential role in the overarching effort to create a comprehensive picture of wetlands at all levels. The AWI fills an important gap by addressing priorities and providing basic standardized information at a regional and national level. A challenge for the next COP is to create synergies amongst these various assessment initiatives, including the MA and the Global Water Assessment (GWA).
Technical session 3: Practical steps for applying the vision for the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance
63. Mr Manu Omakupt outlined the state of wetlands in Thailand and the methodologies of identifying these as Ramsar sites. The Strategic Framework for the Ramsar List was discussed, an approach designed for identifying gaps in representation of wetlands included by each country in the Ramsar List.
64. The following issues are related to the countries experiences with utilizing the Strategic Framework:
- concerns were raised about a lack of a single set of unified international standards (methodology and criteria) for defining wetland types. There is also some confusion about wetlands within different geographic regions, and how to define these regions. These multiple approaches are leading to confusion about what is the correct approach;
- Thailand replied that their own experience was that they adapted relevant classifications from around the world, whereby they chose the most logical and relevant approaches for the Thailand context;
- Japan has had similar experiences to Thailand with this adoptive approach, whereby the system is different to that in the Ramsar guidelines, but highly relevant and applicable in the Japanese context;
- the Ramsar Bureau explained that Contracting Parties should adopt their own definition of wetlands, wetland typology and biogeographical regions, as the Ramsar guidelines on these three questions are only indicative. The Convention can not force CPs to adopt a particular definition, typology and biogeographical system;
- the suggestion was made that the issue of a standardized system for classification should be raised at COP8.
65. The STRP proposal for additional guidance for inclusion in the Ramsar List of mangroves, peatlands and coral reefs was discussed. In discussion on the guidelines on mangroves, it was suggested that they were under-represented on the Ramsar List, and that CPs need guidance on site selection and designation for this wetland type. The question was posed, will these guidelines help?
66. A specific comment regarding the mangrove guidelines was that all the examples in the draft guidelines were from South America, and that examples should be more globally representative. Also, these guidelines are meant to be a guide to help countries designate mangrove sites, however section 23 is not particularly clear. There are also conflicting statements within the document such as comments on the ideal size of wetlands. One delegate felt that the guidelines should be simplified.
67. CPs should examine the broader ecosystem network, instead of simply the core mangrove site (e.g., in a coastal/marine context rather than just a mangrove area context) this thinking should be reflected in the guidelines. This ecological area approach could be easily used, such as within watersheds.
68. The need to educate users within the wider area of a wetland was identified, as stakeholders need to be aware of concepts such as downstream effects.
69. The STRP Proposal for the Guidelines for Global Action for Peatlands was discussed. This may be the last chance for East Asian CPs to make additions before COP8. Feedback from delegates included:
- the guidelines appear to be much more relevant to Temperate peatlands than they are to Tropical peatlands, both of which are substantially different and necessary adjustments should be made;
- it was raised that each countrys experience with managing and nominating peatlands could be usefully included in the guidelines;
- Prevention of fires in peatlands, especially in the context of climate change will become an increasingly critical issue (following the large fires that have occurred in the region in the past few years);
- better water management will also be important, especially regarding preventing these peat fires;
- it was noted that a global database on peatlands has been proposed, and the question was raised of how does this relate to the proposed global wetland inventory? This has not yet been considered, and it was agreed that such issues of related databases should be addressed, whereby different databases could augment each other;
- it was also raised that instead of having a set of generic guidelines (which may or may not be applicable), it would be far more useful to have a collection of experiences in management of peatlands from different countries and to support exchange at the sub-regional level;
- it was noted that the peatlands guidelines calls for the formation of another committee, and that consideration should be given to putting the limited funds into on the ground projects rather than supporting yet another committee. The chair suggested that both were needed.
- the question of the definition of boundaries for different wetland types was raised. Are there any set definitions? It was suggested that perhaps boundary definitions could be found in the general guidelines.
Technical session 4: Managing wetlands for sustainable use: lessons learnt and new perspectives.
70. Dr. Hans Friedrich presented the draft for the New Guidelines for Management Planning of Ramsar sites and other wetlands; the Ramsar guidelines on invasive species and wetlands; and principles and guidelines on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM).
Proposed New Guidelines for Management Planning
71. Dr. Friedrich outlined the guidelines for management planning, emphasizing the functions of management planning, stakeholder participation, the precautionary principle, and the ongoing process for management planning.
72. Comments on the guidelines for management planning follow:
- The Ramsar Bureau noted that the guidelines seem to be too much oriented towards management of wetlands as protected areas, not including enough references to the management of wetlands for sustainable use. This is particularly problematic for Southeast Asia considering that countries like Laos and Cambodia are almost entirely wetland areas as defined by Ramsar. Also, while the guidelines address the conservation of natural features, they fail to sufficiently account for socio-economic and cultural factors. The Bureau asked those present to offer suggestions for experts who could aid in further developing the guidelines in this direction;
- The representative from UNESCO asked if the multi-layered aspects of zonation outlined in the guidelines allow for the mechanisms of the various international conventions to come into play. The Bureau responded that the zonation for large Ramsar wetlands is mostly related to natural features, and other characteristics of wetlands should certainly be taken into account;
- Concern was expressed by several present about the degree of stakeholder participation and consultation. It was stressed that stakeholders, particularly local people, should participate in the development and implementation of management plans, starting from the very beginning of the process;
- Malaysia expressed concern over how the management plan will deal with different stakeholders, particularly in different government agencies with varying visions of appropriate water resource management. Dr. Friedrich stressed that dialogue between different agencies of government is implied under the guideline of stakeholder consultation. By inviting the participation of all management agencies in the formulation of the management plan, countries can achieve one "multi-agency agreed-upon" plan for a particular wetland that considers the objectives of all parties involved. Such a plan would be more likely to be adhered to, since the parties responsible for its implementation have also been involved in its development;
- Dr Taej Mundkur from Wetlands International and a delegate from the Philippines both offered examples of country experiences where integrated management plans, developed with the participation of all relevant stakeholders, were quite successful;
- The delegates from the Philippines raised the question of how these guidelines relate to the guidelines developed by the World Commission on Dams. Among the WCD guidelines are ones dealing with stakeholder consultation and strategic assessment. It was noted that the WCD guidelines confined consultation to on-site stakeholders. Are the Ramsar guidelines consistent with the WCD guidelines? The Bureau indicated that COP8 will receive for its consideration a draft resolution on the relevance of the WCD report for Ramsar;
- The representative from ICLARM asked what the connection was between the wetland inventory and the management plans. Was a wetlands inventory a necessary precondition for the development of a management plan? The Bureau responded that while a preliminary inventory is preferable, it is by no means a prerequisite for the development of a management plan for particular wetlands. When asked how countries should prioritize these two initiatives if they do not have resources to achieve both, the Bureau responded that a management plan should take priority over an inventory. However, Philippines delegates stressed that there is an important link between the two initiatives as an inventory helps to inform and improve the effectiveness of a management plan. A representative of Wetlands International pointed out that a management plan requires at least a baseline survey before implementation. A representative from Thailand emphasized that both the management plan and the inventory were very important for both the short and long term.
- Management Plans should be simple, realistic, and must be user-friendly for the wetland managers.
- As a guideline the Plan should be integrated to the existing regional planning.
Guidelines on Invasive Species and Wetlands
73. Dr. Friedrich emphasized the principles guiding the prevention, eradication, and mitigation of problems caused by invasive species.
74. Comments on these guidelines follow:
- the question was raised as to whether these guidelines are related to the CBD guidelines on invasive species. The Bureau responded that these are the CBDs guidelines and hopefully will be adopted at CBD COP6 in April 2002, and the STRP proposals should be endorsed by Ramsar COP, with guidance on how to apply them to wetland ecosystems;
- issues were raised about the Cartagena Protocol and how it relates to the CBD and Ramsar guidelines. The Bureau responded that the CBD guidelines on invasives cover issues not included in the Protocol.
Integrating Wetlands into ICZM
75. Dr. Friedrich presented the proposed guidelines for ICZM and comments on these guidelines follow:
- the Philippines delegate raised the question as to how the Ramsar guidelines relate to previously developed guidelines for coastal management developed by ESCAP and CCOP. The Bureau indicated that the STRP Working Group that is working on this issue has taken into consideration the many guidelines that are in existence about ICZM. The intention is to fill the gaps that exist in them concerning wetlands, not to produce yet another set of ICZM guidelines.
Technical session 5: Cultural aspects of wetlands as a tool for their conservation and sustainable use.
76. Matt Wheeler gave a presentation on wetlands and cultural heritage, covering the definition of wetlands and their importance for cultural aspects. The Ramsar Bureau then introduced the draft Cultural aspects of wetlands: Rationale and guidelines, and asked for comment on these. It was noted that this was an early draft to be submitted to the Ramsar Standing Committee in December 2001.
77. Delegates had the following comments:
- The delegate from the Philippines asked if they could nominate a specific Ramsar site that has historical values, while the Cultural Guidelines are being developed. The Ramsar Bureau affirmed that the Philippines could move ahead with work on the nomination, since the guidelines on cultural aspects will not become part of the Ramsar criteria for identifying wetlands of international importance, but rather a complement to the management planning guidelines;
- There was a view that cultural/historical/archaeological values should be covered by the World Heritage Convention. The example of Maros was raised, that it is a wetland with cultural values, but was being nominated as a WH site. It was felt by some that Ramsar sites should be recognized and protected primarily for their natural/ecological values;
- The Ramsar Bureau reiterated that the proposed guidelines are meant for CPs to recognize cultural values for inclusion in management plans of Ramsar sites, and NOT as criteria for identifying Wetlands of International Importance. However, the recent Ramsar Regional Meeting in Buenos Aires requested that Argentina, in its capacity as Regional Representative in the Standing Committee, bring a formal proposal to the Standing Committee for developing criteria for nomination of Ramsar sites on cultural and socio-economic grounds, for adoption at COP8. It was noted, though, that the STRP has previously suggested that socio-economic aspects not be used as criteria;
- The participatory approach was recognized as important, whereby stakeholders should have a say in all activities regarding wetlands. Minority groups were identified as an important stakeholder group. One view was that consideration of cultural values should be considered in this context. Local people often have a long-standing association with the wetland (through proximity and use of resources) and any Ramsar listing must consider their continued use of these areas and the issues of alternative livelihoods and poverty alleviation;
- Particular concerns were expressed about points 15.5 and 15.6 in the draft paper;
- There were specific concerns over using cultural and socio-economic values as criteria since they could fluctuate with world markets (e.g. important fisheries resources contributing to economies). It was thought that Ramsar should transcend these sorts of issues. Also, judging internationally significant wetlands on cultural criteria may mean amending the Convention (article 2.2 was mentioned);
- One delegate resisted the use of the expression "cultural heritage", and it was felt that the term did not encompass the important holistic cultural/social and natural values that can be present. "Cultural aspects" was identified as a more suitable term;
- A query over changes in traditional practices was raised what would happen if these changed would it affect the listing? A reply was that traditional practices were often based on resource conservation (e.g., fishing practices used technology that would not lead to over fishing);
- There was concern raised by Philippines delegates about using the River Basin Initiative if Ramsar would not consider cultural values (as this is a strong component of the river basin approach). An integrated river basin approach is flagged under point 15.2 of the guidelines, and this should be further expanded and examined
- It was noted that the CBD has had many workshops on incorporating traditional knowledge in that convention, and that lessons could be learned from these;
- Traditional/wise use practices and principles should be supported and encouraged, and consideration of cultural values would be an ideal mechanism to do this.
78. The Ramsar Bureau reminded delegates about the high quality photographic book on wetlands that is under preparation and requested the assistance of delegates in providing suitable high quality photographs. Preferably, they should portray the relationship between wetlands and people, more than only the beauty of wetlands. Photographs should reach the Bureau by 31 October 2001.
Summary of outcomes from Day Three, 3 October 2001
Key issues for the work of the Convention in East Asia
Implementation of Article 3.2 (ecological characters), 2.5 and 4.2 (urgent national interest and compensation) of the Convention.
79. Mr David Pritchard presented the issues raised at COP7 in relation to the implementation of these articles of the Convention. In concluding, Mr Pritchard asserted that fundamental questions are posed by some of the Articles of the Convention concerning listed sites, and that it is perhaps surprising that interpretations of these have not yet being agreed. There are now prospects of COP8 adopting guidance on these matters which could fill gaps in Ramsars toolkit and make existing tools more effective. Some new procedures would also be desirable.
80. The delegate from Malaysia was uncomfortable with language in the presentation that implied that the Ramsar Convention was legally binding. He also asked whether Ramsar would consider external evaluation to assess the condition of wetlands in CPs. The Bureau replied that, while Ramsar does not have a sanctions mechanism, the convention is legally binding in line with the nature of all intergovernmental agreements. It is subject to the international rules that govern all international treaties and is therefore above national law. Mr. Pritchard commented that external evaluations can be achieved through extended application of the Ramsar Advisory Missions adopted by the COP.
81. In response to a related question, the Bureau indicated that in countries where the mechanism exists to do so, people can take their governments to court for failure to comply with the Convention.
82. The Philippines delegates commented that their country has the National Integrated Protected Area Systems (NIPAS). Areas or Ramsar sites declared under this act will be legally protected against unwanted development. The Bureau also added that while the Convention obligations are above national law, the designating countries do not lose any sovereignty over their Ramsar sites. However, the country is obligated to protect the ecological integrity of these sites.
83. The representative from ICLARM asked how Ramsar works to assure and evaluate compliance among CPs. The Bureau replied that compliance is encouraged and monitored by constantly maintaining as much as possible a strong relationship and understanding with the Administrative Authority in each CP of the situation in the country. Because Ramsar has no mechanism for imposing sanctions, compliance is mostly ensured through peer review and pressure. The main method for evaluating compliance is through the countrys national reports. Mr. Pritchard added that Ramsar maintains a friendly and constructive relationship with NGOs, who also assist in monitoring country compliance.
84. A delegate from the Philippines asked whether countries must report all ecological change that takes place at a site. The Bureau replied that this is necessary only if the ecological change is negative, and reporting should also include measures taken to mitigate or avoid this change.
85. The representative from ICLARM commented that verification is key to ensuring compliance. Has there been discussion on the evolution of the spirit of the Convention since its was first adopted? Has there been a similar evolution of the mechanisms for verification and compliance under the Convention? The Bureau replied that compliance is evolving in accordance with the resolutions adopted at the COPs. Since these resolutions are adopted by consensus, they are assumed to be in line with both the letter and spirit of the Convention.
86. The delegate from Indonesia drew attention to sites that have been listed on the Montreux Record shortly after designation, and asked the Bureau to comment on how the likeliness of ecological change should factor into the designation of Ramsar sites. The Bureau commented that the nature of certain countries dictates that wetland sites may always be subject to human pressure. The Bureau is encouraged by countries requests to place sites on the Montreux Record as this indicates a willingness to address problems they are facing. The Bureau added that countries should not be reluctant to designate wetland areas that face problems as Ramsar Sites. It is fine to simultaneously designate a new Ramsar site and place that site on the Montreux Record. A representative from Wetlands International echoed this sentiment, emphasizing that most good sites are in close contact with people, and should not be excluded from Ramsar designation on this basis. The representative offered an example in Chilka Lake in India where designation as a Ramsar site, and subsequent listing on the Montreux Record, helped to mobilize interest and resources that have since helped to rehabilitate the site.
87. The representative from UNESCO inquired whether the compensation required under Article 4.2 covers compensation for loss of livelihoods and culture. The Bureau replied that currently compensation is only required for loss of ecological character, since this is the sole basis for designation as a Ramsar site. Mr. Pritchard added that it is not only the loss of wetland area that requires compensation, but also the loss of wetland value and function.
Ramsar Handbooks and how to make the best use of the guidelines
88. The Ramsar toolkit is the result of guidelines and policy instruments adopted by the COP. This toolkit includes nine wise use handbooks and should be used by countries to implement the three main obligations under the Convention. These handbooks are provided free of charge to CPs and will be revised following COP8.
89. CPs were asked to seek assistance from the Ramsar Bureau if they have any difficulty with interpretation. A question from the floor asked if there would be scope for the Ramsar Bureau to translate the toolkit into local languages. The response was that there are no provisions to give money to all countries to assist with translation, but the Bureau has assisted certain countries, such as China, on an ad hoc basis. CPs are welcome to approach the Bureau and the Bureau will consider this on a case by case basis, dependent upon resources.
90. A request was directed to the Ramsar Bureau that the toolkit documents be placed on the Ramsar Web site. The Bureau responded that they are in the process of doing this, with assistance from the United Nations University.
Ramsars Outreach Programme: Goals and next steps
91. The Outreach Programme was adopted by the Contracting Parties in 1999, under Resolution VII.9. It aims to raise awareness of the values and functions of wetlands throughout the world at all levels and to promote the conservation and wise use of wetlands. This is done through CEPA (Communication, Education and Public Awareness). CEPA uses Focal Points, Web sites, email lists and training services.
92. The Bureau asserted that peoples attitudes and level of awareness of the values of wetlands will be the critical issue for the continued maintenance and protection of these areas. Communities need to value these areas and work with and lobby governments to conserve wetlands. Education was recognized as a local issue whereby Government and NGOs at all levels must work to spread information about wetlands. It is not the sole responsibility of the Bureau to do this.
93. One delegate appreciated the excellent work done by the Bureau in assimilating information and disseminating this for information and education purposes. However, he thought that the focus of the values of wetlands was too narrow. At present, it seems that the message is to conserve wetlands by excluding humans and human use. However, this does not recognize the fact that wetlands are extremely important to humans who use and interact with wetlands all over the world. Human use of these areas must be recognized, and their wise use must be promoted. The Bureau responded that a clear effort has been made for several years now for incorporating these lines of thinking; in fact, sustainable human uses of wetlands and their resources constitutes the core principle of the Ramsar "wise use" philosophy. In addition, the Bureau is presently working to incorporate the cultural values of wetlands as a tool for their conservation and wise use.
94. In response to a query on the number of contact focal points for CEPA in each country, the Bureau said that it preferred to work with one contact, due to time and resource issues, but that countries can have multiple focal points that can pass information through the nominated focal point.
95. The Indonesian delegate asked the representative of the Asian Development Bank for assistance in disseminating outreach materials in Indonesia. The ADB responded that they may be able to put together a project to support this.
96. The point was raised that there does not seem to be an emphasis from Ramsar for different government agencies, institutions, organizations and NGOs within countries to work together in a coordinated manner. The Bureau responded that this issue should be addressed by the creation of National Ramsar Committees and through national wetland policies (policy instruments). In particular, a good national wetland policy can only be formulated with input from every single stakeholder in wetlands in each country.
97. The Bureau was queried about the role of NGO and Government CEPA Focal Points, and should they work together? The Bureau replied that the two have separate roles, but that they should certainly work together to achieve common ends. It is up to the Government of each country to decide how Focal Points should work.
98. The Philippines said they have a limited amount of staff capacity to do the amount of education and information dissemination required, so they use the extensive network of NGOs in the country to assist them in this.
99. Thailand works closely with NGOs through a National Committee where a nominated NGO can attend. This NGO then feeds information back to the wider NGO network.
100. Japan has a national CEPA Action Plan and National Working Group, whereby the NGO Focal Point is included through this National Working Group. Municipalities in Japan are very proud of their Ramsar sites and a meeting of mayors of cities where there are such sites occurs once a year to discuss wetland issues. This is an excellent way to educate people on the values of wetlands and engenders a sense of ownership by local people.
101. In the Philippines there is a Civil Societies Action Group, or network of NGOs with which the Department of Environment and Natural Resources works in close cooperation.
102. Indonesia related that it is working with UNESCO on the establishment of a program to educate on a variety of environmental issues including World Heritage and Ramsar. Indonesia requested that the Bureau may wish to be a part of this process. The Bureau requested contact and other details for follow-up.
Key Issues for the work of the Convention in East Asia
The Asia Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy: 2001-2005: A model for promoting International Cooperation in Wetland and Waterbird Conservation.
103. Dr. Taej Mundkur presented the Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy. He first outlined the framework and achievements of the 1996-2000 plan, and then presented the elements for the 2001-2005 plan. The strategy brings together various actors to promote the conservation of different sites along the flyways of migratory birds in the Asia Pacific region and raise awareness of the importance of waterbird and wetland conservation.
104. The delegate from Indonesia thanked the APMWCS for the many posters and informative documents her country had received, and expressed her hope that they will receive more. Dr. Mundkur reiterated that the strategy gave high priority to education and awareness raising. He hopes that the informative material distributed through the APMWCS will act as a stimulus for countries to produce their own materials. He also stated that translating these materials into national languages is a very high priority of the strategy.
105. The delegate from Indonesia asked why there was no specific provision in the strategy for the protection of raptors (birds of prey). Dr. Mundkur replied that while raptors are not specifically highlighted as a target of the strategy, the strategy certainly does not exclude them. The Strategy coordination committee welcomed country representatives to submit suggestions for plans or priorities.
106. A delegate from Malaysia asked whether the CMS or APMWCS is more important, and why there were so few sites protected by the APMWCS. Dr. Mundkur concurred that there were still not sufficient sites, and assured the meeting that APMWCS is promoting the need to undertake surveys and is conducting surveys of important sites and working to increase the number of network sites. He gave the examples of new sites in the Gulf of Thailand and the Mekong Delta. Dr. Mundkur also highlighted the role of APMWCS in relation to the other international conventions. The legal implications of CMS and Ramsar designations limit the number of sites protected under these conventions. The APMWCS offers a simpler mechanism for designating sites for protection, thus facilitating a more rapid increase in the number of protected sites in the region.
107. The delegate from Japan commented on her countrys support of the APMWCS since 1996. She also pointed out that many countries in Asia are not contracting parties to CMS. One of the strengths of APMWCS is its ability to reach these countries.
108. A representative from Thailand mentioned that countries that are partners with Birdlife International already are implementing initiatives to identify and protect Important Bird Areas. The IBA initiatives can be usefully integrated into the APMWCS.
Cooperation and exchange of experiences in capacity building
109. Dr. Hans Friederich gave a presentation on the Lower Mekong Biodiversity and Sustainable Use Project, a 5-7 year, US$30 million dollar project in the Lower Mekong Basin including the countries of Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.
110. The delegate from the Philippines informed the conference that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources launched in September 2001 an "Adopt a Creek" program with the objective of cleaning and revitalizing polluted rivers and waterways in urban areas. The delegate asked how IUCN could assist the Philippines with this project. IUCN responded that the Philippines was a member of IUCN, and that IUCN, although not having in-country representation in the Philippines (and thus being unable to promise an immediate response) would give consideration to this request. Dr. Friedrich said a request for assistance has to be officially submitted to the IUCN regional office for consideration.
111. Indonesia had two questions regarding the project. First, what are the indicators for success, and second, how will success be ensured after the completion of the project? Root causes of the problems to be addressed by the Project were identified at the beginning of the process. Indicators are linked to these root causes, and addressing these indicators will be the measure of success. New national and regional / bodies / organizations will be established and existing structures such as local and national governments and institutions will be reinforced through capacity building. These will collectively ensure that the projects objectives are continued.
112. The upper Mekong extends into China how can the project adequately address issues in the Lower Mekong where the Upper Mekong (part of the river basin) is not being involved (and thus downstream effects could impact upon the project area)? IUCN responded that negotiations are planned with the Chinese authorities to address this gap.
Third World Water Forum
113. Mr Yamaguchi Hiroshi outlined the 3rd World Water Forum planned for Japan, March 2003. This will include a virtual water forum, world water action report, regional conference and a ministerial conference. The Ramsar Bureau informed the conference of its plans to run two virtual forums one on the River Basin Initiative and one on wetland management.
Conclusion and closing session
Discussion: How Ramsar could improve Ramsars COP and how it services the region
114. The Ramsar Bureau gave an outline of the upcoming COP8 in Spain. One specific concern that has been expressed by some Contracting Parties has been the duration of the COP (8 days). Some feel that this is not long enough (some other COPs last 12 days), while some feel that it is too long (5 days duration was suggested). If the COP were shortened, one suggestion was for longer regional meetings. The Ramsar Bureau thought that a reduced COP would not be feasible with 1000+ people and the amount of work that needs to be achieved during this time. A working group will be established at the beginning of the next COP to discuss these matters and present recommendations to the plenary. It was noted that the agenda for the next COP had already been distributed.
115. Malaysia expressed the view that more time was required to review many of the proposals that come from the Ramsar Bureau. Proposals such as establishment of a Ramsar Trust Fund require careful consideration within national governments. Malaysia also wished to receive more guidance from the Ramsar Bureau on the role of the CEPA NGO Focal Point. The Bureau indicated that CPs are being consulted on many of the issues for discussion at the next COP already now, and that official working documents will be distributed three months in advance, as required by the Rules of Procedure. Concerning the role of CEPA NGO focal points the COP7 Resolution has not specified their roles, so it is up to each country to define it. The Bureau could assist with examples of how the NGO Focal Point is working in some countries.
-- Financial support for the meeting was generously provided by the Government of Japan and the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).