29th Meeting of the Ramsar Standing Committee -- Opening statements

29th Meeting of the Ramsar Standing Committee
Gland, Switzerland, 26-28 February 2003


29th Meeting of the Standing Committee


by International Organization Partners

by David Pritchard of BirdLife International, on behalf of BirdLife International, IUCN, Wetlands International, and WWF International

Madam Chair, ladies and gentlemen: it's a pleasure to welcome you on behalf of the four Ramsar International Organisation Partners - BirdLife International, IUCN, Wetlands International and The World Wide Fund for Nature.

Some of you have heard us make aspirational opening statements at dozens of these meetings by now! This is an important part of charting a course and rising to global challenges together, in this unique partnership that we have in Ramsar. I want to mention a couple of those challenges.

But I also want to emphasise the human dialogue that starts it all, and drives it all. Especially if you're new to the Committee, please use this opportunity to talk to us in person, and get to know us! We all, governments and NGOs, hold the mission of the Convention in common; so let's join our efforts in the best way we can. As your Partners, we renew our commitment to this joint effort.

So now we need to make the COP decisions and the Strategic Plan a universal, constantly remembered agenda for the widest number of people to work to. Of course, other things compete for that constant attention. You could respond by trying to be all things to all people. But you're here because you know specific things about why wetland ecosystems, their healthy functioning, their biodiversity and so on, are vital to everything else. That focus is Ramsar's strength. Collectively we're the guardians of a value-set that doesn't just look for quick material gain, but goes deeper. Surely even some of the roots of preventing human conflict lie here.

From our foundations in concerned civil society, as well as our role as technical collaborators, the Partners see many ways in which this Convention is a means of empowerment to countries and groups of people who couldn't tackle global challenges on their own. We see a growing proliferation of needs, demands, awareness, competition and opposition. But we need to be smart; and somehow not simply build more complicated paper-mountains in response to that.

Well, you have a technical powerhouse in the STRP as a knowledge-base, and you have a key responsibility here in relation to its priorities, and in relation to the mix of skills needed to deliver those priorities in as "policy-relevant" a way as possible.

You have a unique centrepiece in the List of Ramsar sites, that's already been mentioned. Are we getting enough out of the potential of what that represents? Perhaps not.

You have a concept of "ecological character", that we hope will become a much more serious benchmark for what we all care about - let's really put that to work this triennium!

You have a vital support and outreach role as Standing Committee delegates for Parties in your regions, and we want to work with you on doing more with that in future.

We all have a debt of gratitude to an outgoing Secretary-General, who has taken the Convention from the twentieth century to the twenty-first in more ways than one. There will be other occasions to pay a proper tribute, but formally here, Delmar, your Partner Organisations salute your massive achievements, and say a heartfelt thank you.

Despite the mass of routine business and reactive demands up ahead, let's never lose our thirst for further innovation and imagination; and let's remember the human dialogue at the heart of it all.

I wish you an excellent week.

Thank you.

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