World Summit on Sustainable Development -- Ramsar report on events of 30-31 August

The Secretary General, Mr Delmar Blasco, reports on WSSD events of 30-31 August from the Ramsar perspective:

Summiteers do not have a free weekend. A Minister who has been heavily involved in the Summit process (and a good friend of Ramsar) told me yesterday that on Saturday ministers have made significant progress on the pending issues under the able leadership of South African Minister of Environment Valli Moosa. Minister Valli Moosa wanted to finalize the text by Saturday evening but my source said that most likely the text will be finalized only today (Sunday). There seems to be a more optimistic atmosphere around the Summit, in spite of the fact that many voices are still raised to express concern about the quality and relevance of the outcomes.

Ramsar was present on Thursday in the multi-stakeholder dialogue on the EU Water Initiative at WSSD. Ramsar reiterated its interest in being an active partner in the Initiative, one to contribute to a better integration of issues related to ecosystems conservation and management in the Initiative, and also to try to open a wider space in its implementation for the Ramsar Administrative Authorities in the Contracting Parties. They are often left out from the table discussing and taking decisions on water management, on the misconception that water management is only about water distribution and sanitation.

In an interesting development, the event was interrupted by a group of some 15 NGO representatives that entered the room with placards and chanting "Water is a human Right! Water is not for sale!" In an a statement they accused the EU of double standards because at the Summit the EU is launching the Water Initiative and in GATT is supporting the consideration of water as a commodity. The EC Chair of the session, Fritz Barth, entered in a dialogue with the NGOs to explain the EU positions. After some 30 minutes of active exchanges the NGOs left the room.

Ramsar was also present at the launching by the UNEP Collaboration Centre of Water and Environment (UCC-Water, hosted by DHI in Denmark) of the Partnership Linking Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM). Ramsar's presence was acknowledged and welcomed. The Convention expressed its interest in being part of the partnership, since this is perfectly in line with the developments that hopefully will be adopted at COP8.

The Convention was also present at a panel discussion organized by IUCN at the centre stage of the Water Dome, together with the GEF, ICLARM, IUCN, WWF International, and the Danone Group. The issue under discussion was water management and nature. Ramsar reiterated its concern about the false dichotomy that seems still to be widespread between "water for people" and "water for nature". Since the concept of IWRM seems to have failed to fully incorporate the questions related to ecosystem conservation and management (including the costs of doing so), perhaps there is a need for further evolution to a concept of "Holistic Water Resources Management (HWRM)".

On Saturday evening, the Swiss Agency for the Environment, WWF International, and Ramsar hosted an event to launch the policy paper entitled "Sustainable management of water resources: the need for a holistic ecosystem approach" (already announced on this web site). The event at the Water Dome was well attended, and the paper well received. The event was also the occasion to announce a partnership between Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania for the Ramsar listing of the transboundary Lake Malawi/Nyaza/Niansa with technical support from the Ramsar Bureau and financial support from Switzerland and WWF's Living Waters Programme.

-- reported by Delmar Blasco, Secretary General

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