Secretary General's address to the Ramsar Subregional Meeting in Beirut, Lebanon, 7 October 2002


Subregional Meeting for the Middle East

in preparation for the

8th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to
the Convention on Wetlands

Beirut, Lebanon, 6-9 October 2002

Statement by Mr. Delmar Blasco
Secretary General of the Convention

First of all, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to H.E. Minister Michel Moussa and his staff at the Ministry of the Environment for having agreed to invite this subregional meeting in preparation for the 8th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Wetlands, to be held next month in Valencia, Spain.

To some, it may seem too late to organize a preparatory meeting only 40 days before the COP, but in many ways this might be the right time. Now, practically all conference document are available, in particular the draft resolutions, and consequently you have all the elements to use this opportunity here in Beirut to discuss the proposals for the COP in the light of this region's needs and expectations.

Another important element to take into account is that you also have now at your disposal the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held last month in Johannesburg.

Paragraph 2 of the Plan of Implementation adopted by the Summit says that "Poverty eradication, changing unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development are overarching objectives of, and essential requirements for, sustainable development."

In my view, all existing international instruments in force, including the Convention on Wetlands, should be reviewing their operations to see how best they could respond to these overarching objectives established by the Summit.

In addition, a considerable number of sections in the Plan of Implementation are of direct relevance to our Convention, including, inter alia, the development of integrated water resources management and water efficiency plans by 2005; the establishment of marine protected areas consistent with international law and based on scientific information, including representative networks by 2012; and the achievement by 2010 of a significant reduction in the current rate of loss of biological diversity.

I am preparing a detailed analysis of the Plan of Implementation and its relevance to Ramsar, which will be distributed as a COP document. In addition, we will have the benefit of H.E. Minister Valli Moosa of South Africa addressing the COP on the first day to convey his views on the results of the Summit and how they could be incorporated by the Convention in its future action.

Preparations for Ramsar COP8 are progressing well, with the drafts of most of the technical documentation already distributed to Parties in August, and the second and final mailing of documents going out in 10 days' time.

As you are aware, the Conference will have as its general theme "Wetlands: Life, Water and Culture", thus continuing to put emphasis in this manner on the strong linkages that exist all over the world between people and wetlands.

Immediately before the COP, IUCN--The World Conservation Union will organize a session of the Global Biodiversity Forum to deal with a number of key issues in the agenda of the COP, and during the COP, in addition to the official sessions, there will be some 50 side events organized by Parties, international organizations, and NGOs.

I should stress that Ramsar COPs are not routine meetings devoted merely to reviewing the implementation of the Convention. On the contrary, the necessary administrative aspects are allocated very limited time and the meeting will focus on challenges for the future, concentrating on five critical subjects to be treated during the technical sessions. All of them will be related to the conservation and sustainable management of wetlands and their resources, for biodiversity conservation and the sustaining of human life.

The key document for discussion and approval at the COP will be the Strategic Plan 2003-2008. The draft of the Plan was prepared through an intensive consultation process, and the final version to be considered by the COP has been circulated to Parties several months ago. Thus, we hope that Parties will come prepared to improve the draft, even though it will be too late, because lack of sufficient time at the COP, to entertain proposals for drastic changes in the structure and/or the content of the document.

But in addition to this key document, the COP will be considering some 40 resolutions, many of which contain significance new guidance to the Parties on key issues, such as water allocation, coastal zone management, wetland inventory, wetland restoration, and management planning.

On the financial aspect, the COP will be considering a proposal to establish a Ramsar Endowment Fund, which, if well resourced, should become a regular and secure source of funding for the small grants that the Convention has been giving to Parties for more than 10 years, even though always with not enough resources to satisfy the demand.

I very much hope that you can use this meeting, as I said before, to identify the issues which are of most significance for your countries and this region, so that your delegations can come to Valencia well prepared.

Unfortunately, due to the heavy demands on my time so near to the COP, I will not be able to stay in Beirut for more than today. I will be happy to respond during the whole day today and this evening to any pressing questions that you may have. Otherwise, I am sure that my colleagues from the Bureau who will be present for the rest of the meeting will be in a position to clarify issues and to assist you in all matters.

I reiterate my sincere appreciation to the Government of Lebanon for hosting this meeting, and I wish you very successful deliberations during the next days.

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