Ramsar Address to the 6th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity

08/04/2002

Convention on Biological Diversity

Sixth Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties

The Hague, The Netherlands, 7-19 April 2002

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Statement to the Plenary Session, 8 April 2002
by Delmar Blasco, Secretary General,
Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)

Mr. President,

It gives me great pleasure to be present once more in my capacity as Secretary General of the Convention on Wetlands, the Ramsar Convention, at the Conference of the Parties of this sister Convention. And this is even more so because since your last COP5 in Nairobi our working relations with the CBD Secretariat have greatly improved, in substance and intensity. I am grateful to my colleague Hamdallah Zedan and his staff for this effective level of cooperation, which is been reflected in our abilities to serve more efficiently the Contracting Parties to both Conventions and the overall cause they have been established for.

As reported in the documents prepared for this meeting, we have made good progress in the implementation of the Joint Work Plan between Ramsar and CBD that you adopted at COP5 in Nairobi. Now you have in front of you a proposal for the 3rd Joint Work Plan between the two Conventions. This new proposal is more significant than the previous one on three counts: one because it covers a wider range of issues, in particular cross-cutting issues; two because it foresees joint development of tools for both Conventions, for example in the area of rapid assessment of inland water biodiversity and ecological characteristics in general; and three because the new Joint Work Plan covers a longer period -four years instead of only two years-to allow a more reasonable span of time for implementation.

Our Standing Committee has endorsed the draft 3rd Joint Work Plan. I very much hope that you will be able to adopt it, with the appropriate amendments that you may consider necessary.

There are other two areas of work in which the collaboration of the two Conventions is significant at present: our involvement in facilitating the review of the implementation of your programme of work in relation to inland waters biodiversity and the work in the area of marine and coastal protected areas. Ramsar is also ready to make an important contribution to the work of SBSTTA8 in preparation for one of the main themes for your COP7: protected areas. We think that our experience with the development of the List of Wetlands of International Importance, which at present includes 1148 sites with an area of almost one hundred million hectares, will be of particular help to you.

CBD and Ramsar have also continued to work together in relation to the River Basin Initiative. Progress has been a bit slow mainly because of funding problems, but we hope that during this week we will be able to advance in this issue, as well as on aspects of the management of the Initiative that still require some tidying up. The Initiative continues to have great potential, in my view, to integrate biodiversity and wetland conservation concerns into river basin management. Those interested are cordially invited to attend a side event that will take place today, Monday 8 April, at 6 p.m.

Ramsar, CBD, and the Convention on Desertification are also closely associated in the implementation of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Project. We very much hope that the assessment process and its findings and recommendations will constitute yet another opportunity for reinforcing the joint implementation on the ground of the three Conventions.

As you will be aware, Ramsar will have its triennial meeting of the Conference of Parties next November, in Valencia, Spain. If you look at the agenda and at the list of documents for our COP8, which are already available in our three official languages on the Ramsar Web site, your will notice two important features in relation to CBD. On the one hand, Ramsar is planning to take on board two sets of the guidelines that hopefully you will adopt at this meeting - those related to impact assessment and the ones on exotic invasive species - with additional guidance on how to apply them more specifically to wetland ecosystems. On the other hand, our COP will be considering and hopefully adopting a significant body of guidance in areas of interest to CBD, including guidance related to water allocations to ensure ecosystem functions, inventory, assessment, management planning, restoration, wetlands and agriculture, and the incorporation of cultural aspects in ecosystem management.

Finally, let me refer briefly to the preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. I am concerned that the biodiversity Conventions have not been encouraged to come together to bring to the preparatory process of the Summit a set of proposals on how to use the Conventions in a coherent and coordinated manner as an important tool for sustainable development. Unfortunately, in my view, the UNEP-led process on International Environmental Governance ended up, in relation to the synergies among the multilateral environmental agreements, with a series of generalities that do not represent real progress towards a harmonised implementation of the Conventions and their use as sustainable development tools. Personally, I still hope that this issue will be incorporated in a more significant manner at the last preparatory meeting for the Summit to take place in Bali, Indonesia, at end of next month. You have an opportunity at this COP to make an important contribution towards this end.

The challenges are many for both CBD and the other biodiversity-related conventions. But the opportunities for them to work together in the common effort are also there. I hope that you, the Focal Points for CBD, will look closely at the opportunities for joint implementation in each of your countries, where the real challenges lie and the opportunities exist to use our instruments to leave a healthier planet to the future generations.

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