World Summit on Sustainable Development -- Report on Ramsar side event and events of 28 August
Ramsar/WWF side event, partnerships, plenary on water (28 August), Ramsar exhibition
In a side event of the World Summit on Sustainable Development presided over of South Africa's Minister of Environment and Tourism, Valli Moosa, a representative of the Minister of Water, Ramsar, and WWF recognized nine Contracting Parties that in the course of 2002, the year of the Summit, have designated 22 million of hectares as Ramsar sites, thus contributing to achieving the symbolic mark of 100 million hectares in the Ramsar List. The event was held in the IUCN Center (established for the Summit) in a packed house with the presence of several other ministers, representative of developing assistance agencies, and journalists.
In another side event organized by Consumer Unity and Trust Society of India, Ramsar was invited to bring the views of the biodiversity-related conventions in relation to a partnership that is being launched with UNEP on a "Network of people and their representatives for action on atmospheric issues". The aim is to get Southern NGOs more actively involved in the implementation of environment-related treaties. It was agreed that the connection between atmospheric treaties and biodiversity treaties should be made explicit and that Ramsar should also be part of the partnership. In a related development, the Nairobi-based Environment Liaison Centre International has indicated that they are planning to make Ramsar the second convention to work with (after CBD), also with the intention with the aim of involving Southern NGOs more actively in the implementation of the treaty.
The plenary session at the Summit on the morning of 28 August was devoted to water and sanitation. It is encouraging to see that the international community is more and more engaged on water issues and apparently ready to make a renewed effort to get clean water to the millions that are not yet benefiting from this essential element. The same with sanitation, with even larger numbers of people around the world lacking these facilities. Yet it was very worrisome to see that, with very very few exceptions, the speakers made no connection to the need to safeguard the ecosystems and the aquifers that provide water. The issue was raised by the chair of the World Water Partnership, the South African Minister of Water, IUCN, and Ramsar, but no more. It was heartening, though, that these four interventions aroused the applause of the back benches, where the NGOs and major groups are sitting.
The Ramsar exhibition was mounted yesterday at the Water Dome, a huge spherical building where a large number of very interesting exhibitions related to water have been displayed. The Water Dome was officially opened in the evening by Nelson Mandela, accompanied by the Prince of Orange of the Netherlands and Ambassador Salim Salim, former Secretary General of the OAU and at present the Water Ambassador for Africa. There will be numerous events at the Water Dome and Ramsar will be present in several of them.
-- reported by Delmar Blasco, Secretary General