Ramsar Address to the launch of the Tri-National Wetlands Initiative, World Environment Day 2002


Gift to the Earth Ceremony
On World Environment Day 2002

Tri-National Wetlands Initiative:
Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea
Bali, 5 June 2002

Statement by

Delmar Blasco
Secretary General of the
Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)

The Hon. Dr. Prakosa, Minister of Forestry, Republic of Indonesia;
The Hon. Dr David Kemp, MP, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Commonwealth of Australia;
Dr Wari Iamo, Secretary in the Department of Environment and Conservation, representing the Minister for Environment and Conservation, of Papua New Guinea;
Representatives of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF);
Invited guests, ladies and gentlemen:

I am honoured to join you today to recognize the achievements of the governments and people of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Australia in agreeing on a Memorandum of Understanding between the three countries related to an area of 3 million hectares of wetlands.

Most of this wetland area is already included in the List of Wetlands of International Importance kept by our Convention, and I understand that the Indonesian designation of the remaining wetlands, such as the Wasur National Park, is in progress.

The Convention on Wetlands was established in 1971. In celebrating World Environment Day today, as Secretary General it gives me great pleasure to see three governments whose States are Contracting Parties to the Convention (in fact, Australia was the first State to ratify it after its signature in 1971), and their communities and indigenous people, working together to manage these 3 million hectares of wetlands in a cooperative manner, to provide sustainable livelihoods for their people and conserve significant biodiversity.

The initiative is especially impressive in that the work on the ground is already underway. I commend you for the practical activities you have commenced, including invasive species control, sustainable tourism and other small scale industry development, and fire management.

Also notable in this initiative is the constructive and practical relationship forged between the governments, WWF - the conservation organization - and local people.

The Convention is a commitment by Contracting Parties, among other things, to:

- Conserve important wetlands in their territories;
- Use wetlands wisely to alleviate poverty and provide sustainable livelihoods; and
- Cooperate with other nations to manage shared wetlands and aquatic systems.

In so doing, Contracting Parties are expected to forge partnerships between stakeholders and to involve the local communities and indigenous peoples in wetlands management. The initiative that we are highlighting in this ceremony is the epitome of the ideals of the Convention being implemented in practice.

These ideals are also part of the agenda of the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The need for sustainable management of freshwater is well reflected in the draft text being negotiated, even though I hope that Ministers will add more emphasis on the need to use the ecosystem approach in the management of freshwater and coastal ecosystems, as a pre-requisite to ensuring the quantity and quality of water that is required for human use.

The Ramsar Convention stands ready to work with our 131 Contracting Parties to implement key decisions from the World Summit, which will be reviewed at our Conference of the Parties at its meeting due to take place only two months after the Summit, in Valencia, Spain.

Yet we need to ask whether our ambitions in the World Summit process are being set high enough to mitigate the degradation of our freshwater wetlands.

I would like to challenge other governments to emulate the example of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Australia at the World Summit in less than two months' time:

- What could be done to set and achieve targets to sustainably manage freshwater ecosystems to benefit people and nature?

- What partnerships could be established with organizations like WWF to achieve large-scale conservation results?

- What pledges could be made at the World Summit to support wetland and river basin initiatives?

I also understand that ongoing management funding has not been secured for all of the wetlands that are part of the Tri-National Wetlands Initiative that we are celebrating here today. This is a good opportunity for the donor governments to fund a model project in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to their greater credit in Johannesburg.

Again, congratulations to the governments and people of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia on this outstanding initiative between the three countries. You are setting a good example that I very much hope will be followed by other Parties to our Convention.

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The Convention today

Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

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