IUCN and Ramsar Bureau memorandum of cooperation, September 2003


Memorandum of Cooperation


The Bureau of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)


IUCN - The World Conservation Union


Since its inception in 1971, the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) has provided the single most important intergovernmental forum on wetland conservation issues. According to the Convention's mission statement, the Contracting Parties agree to "the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local, regional and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world".

While the Convention has three pillars of promoting wise use of wetlands, developing international cooperation, it is the conservation of wetlands through the designation of wetlands for the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, especially the obligation to maintain the ecological character of designated sites, which deserves recognition. This obligation recognizes the importance of wetlands for the maintenance of healthy and productive inland freshwater and coastal systems. By mid 2003, over 100 million hectares had been included on the List. The Convention on Wetlands addresses issues which guide Parties on ways to achieve sustainable development.

Within the general obligations set out by the treaty, Contracting Parties identify priorities for action through six-year Strategic Plans.

The six commissions are: Commission on Ecosystem Management, Commission on Environmental Law, World Commission on Protected Areas, Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy, Commission on Education and Communication, and the Species Survival Commission.

Created in 1948, IUCN - The World Conservation Union brings together 74 states, 106 government agencies, over 700 NGOs, 35 affiliates, and some 10,000 scientists and experts in six commissions in a unique worldwide partnership. IUCN's mission is "to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable". IUCN is the world's largest environmental knowledge network and has helped over 75 countries to prepare and implement national conservation and biodiversity strategies.

With regard to wetlands and water resources management, IUCN works towards developing approaches that yield clear benefits to people and biodiversity and build the capacity of national, regional and global institutions to adopt these approaches more widely. In particular, IUCN carries out field projects to provide direct technical support to IUCN members and the development assistance community to address priority conservation problems. Policy initiatives build upon this work to raise awareness among governments, and bilateral and multilateral agencies of the importance of conserving and restoring wetlands and water resources. The IUCN Programme, including activities on wetlands and water resources, is implemented through a network of 50 regional, national and coordination offices in Africa, Asia, Europe, America, and the Mediterranean.

The Convention on Wetlands and IUCN recognize the fundamental role played by wetlands in regulating and providing water, in supporting maintenance of cultural and biological diversity, in ensuring high ecosystem productivity, and in providing services and benefits for people and the planet.

The Convention on Wetlands and IUCN share similar conservation goals and the positive cooperation between the two institutions to date has been expressed through the recognition of IUCN as a Ramsar International Organization Partner (confirmed through COP7 Resolution VII.3 on Partnerships with international organizations). Turning to the future, it would be ideal to establish specific mechanisms for enhancing synergies and partnerships to achieve common goals, whilst avoiding the duplication of efforts, especially since the joint implementation of the Ramsar Convention Strategic Plan (2003-2008) also contributes to the programmes of other major environmental agreements.

Therefore, the Bureau of the Convention on Wetlands (the Ramsar Bureau) and the secretariat of IUCN - The World Conservation Union (the IUCN secretariat) agree the following:

Article 1. Mechanisms for Programme Cooperation

A - The Ramsar Bureau and the IUCN secretariat will develop a collaborative programme for sustainable wetland and water resources management by increasing current consultation and cooperation between their respective technical and administrative networks.

B - The Ramsar Bureau and the IUCN secretariat will inform their focal points at regional and national levels of their cooperative activities. For general matters, the respective focal points for the Ramsar Bureau and the IUCN secretariat are the Secretary General and the Director General, or their assigned delegates. For regional matters, the focal points for the IUCN secretariat shall be the Regional Directors, or their assigned delegates.

C - The focal points, or their assigned delegates, will meet from time to time to assess the implementation of this Memorandum, exchange documents and review on-going activities.

Article 2. Joint Conservation Activities

A - Common areas for joint conservation activities, as identified in the Annex to this Memorandum of Cooperation, relate clearly to the Ramsar Strategic Plan (2003-2008) and will be reviewed annually or at the request of either party.

B - IUCN and the Ramsar Bureau will communicate agreement on common areas with their respective networks, and the IUCN secretariat will endeavour to mobilise the expertise available on wetlands and water resources within its commissions and membership in support of these activities.

C - The Ramsar Bureau and the IUCN secretariat will provide each other with details of their annual work programmes to ensure harmonisation of activities at global, regional and country levels.

D - The extent to which the collaborative programme and the joint conservation activities are implemented will be subject to the availability of resources.

Article 3. Obligation, Review and Termination

A - This Memorandum of Cooperation constitutes an expression of a shared objective and vision. However, each party's actions will be considered to be that party's sole and separate action, for all purposes, and neither party shall claim to be acting on behalf of, or as agent for the other party to this Memorandum of Cooperation.

B - The term for this Memorandum of Cooperation is six years. The agreement may be reviewed at the request of either party and may be terminated by either party subject to one year's notice in writing.

Peter Bridgewater
Achim Steiner
Secretary General
Director General
Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)
IUCN - The World Conservation Union



Taking into account the areas of work highlighted in its own Intersessional Programme (such as management planning and wetland restoration, the allocation and management of water resources, climate change adaptation, alien invasive species), IUCN will direct the majority of its support to the following General Objectives of the Ramsar Strategic Plan 2003-2008: A - The wise use of all wetlands, B - Wetlands of International Importance, and C - International cooperation.

In addition to supporting the Ramsar Strategic Plan itself, and in accordance with the Memorandum of Cooperation between the CBD and IUCN, IUCN will also facilitate implementation of the 3rd Joint Work Plan (JWP) of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on Wetlands, covering the period 2002-2006. IUCN will target its activities under the following headings of the JWP:

A. Thematic Areas
2. Inland water ecosystems
3. Marine and coastal ecosystems
5. Agricultural lands
6. Dry, Mediterranean, arid and semi-arid, grasslands and savannahs
7. Mountain ecosystems

B. Cross-cutting areas
8. Invasive alien species
10. Environmental impact assessment
11. Inventory and assessment
14. Ecosystem approach
15. Protected areas
16. Sustainable use of biological diversity
18. Incentive measures
19. Traditional knowledge
20. Communication, education and public awareness
21. Law, governance and capacity building

Within this broad framework, IUCN will devote particular attention to the specific activities highlighted below under each Operational Objective of the Strategic Plan.

Operational Objective 1. Inventory and assessment

  • The IUCN Species Survival Commission aims to develop networks for rapid assessment methodologies of freshwater biodiversity, in support of Resolution VIII.7 on Gaps in and harmonization of Ramsar Guidance on wetland ecological character, inventory, assessment, and monitoring.
  • As requested, IUCN will contribute to global, regional and countries' inventories of freshwater and coastal resources as part of its work on land use and coastal planning.

Operational Objective 2. Policies and legislation, including impact assessment and valuation

  • IUCN Regional, Country and Project Offices will continue to provide targeted assistance to States preparing National Wetland Policies, Plans or Strategies, and will endeavour to establish linkages with institutions developing water resources policies and development plans.
  • When requested to do so, the IUCN Environmental Law Centre, working with the Commission on Environmental Law - Wetlands Specialist Group, will continue to provide legal advice on wetland conservation issues to Parties, the Standing Committee and the Ramsar Bureau.
  • Working in close partnership with the Ramsar Bureau, IUCN will periodically update the tools and information on impact assessment contained in the IUCN Biodiversity Economics web site and referred to in Resolution VIII.9 on "Guidelines for incorporating biodiversity-related issues…" to reflect information received from Contracting Parties and others.

Operational Objective 3. Integration of wetland wise use into sustainable development

  • IUCN supports this Operational Objective through implementation of its regular portfolio of wetland and water (e.g. the Water and Nature Initiative) activities, which aims at demonstrating the benefits of applying the ecosystem approach to river basin management.
  • This will also involve contributing to implementation of Resolution VIII.1 on Guidelines for the allocation and management of water for maintaining the ecological functions of wetlands, playing an active role in implementing Resolution VIII. 2 on Report of the World Commission on Dams and supporting the Ramsar / CBD River Basin Initiative.
  • IUCN continues to support the Global Action Plan for Peatlands (GAPP) endorsed by COP7 Recommendation 7.1 on A global action plan for the wise use and management of peatlands and taken forward by Resolution VIII.17 on Guidelines for Global Action for Peatlands.

Operational Objective 4. Restoration and rehabilitation

  • IUCN will support implementation of Resolution VIII.16 on Principles and guidelines for wetland restoration through the continued provision of experience and lessons learned from its portfolio of projects implemented in cooperation with IUCN members.

Operational Objective 5. Invasive alien species

  • IUCN will consider developing web-based sources of information and advice for wetland managers in support of Resolution VIII. 18 on Invasive species and wetlands.

Operational Objective 6. Local communities, indigenous people, and cultural values

  • Through its own policy and field work, IUCN will foster implementation of all principles and guidelines included in COP7 Resolution VII.8 on Guidelines for establishing and strengthening local communities and indigenous people's participation in the management of wetlands and Resolution VIII.19 on Guiding principles for taking into account the cultural values of wetlands for the effective management of sites.
  • IUCN continues to be an active partner (with the Ramsar Bureau and WWF International) in the Participatory Clearinghouse Mechanism (PCM).

Operational Objective 7. Private sector involvement

  • As part of their respective strategies to raise awareness of the private sector, IUCN and the Ramsar Bureau will collaborate towards supporting or promoting establishment of public-private ventures for environmentally-sustainable water allocation and wetland resource protection.

Operational Objective 8. Incentives

  • IUCN aims to improve its web-based resource kit on incentive measures to support implementation of COP7 Resolution VII.15 on Incentive measures to encourage the application of the wise use principle and Resolution VIII.23 on Incentive measures as tools for achieving the wise use of wetlands.

Operational Objective 9. Communication, education and public awareness (CEPA)

  • IUCN Headquarters and Regional, Country and Project Offices will actively promote activities and events to mark World Wetlands Day.
  • IUCN's Commission on Environmental Education will endeavour to fulfil specific Ramsar requests for CEPA experience and expertise from the IUCN network.

Operational Objective 10. Designation of Ramsar sites

  • Where requested to do so, IUCN Regional, Country and Project Offices will continue to provide targeted technical assistance to States preparing Ramsar site designations.

Operational Objective 11. Management planning and monitoring of Ramsar sites

  • IUCN Regional, Country and Project Offices will maintain a "watching brief" on many Ramsar sites and draw attention to any major problems identified, including warnings about actual or potential threats to their ecological character and the provision of advice on possible remedial measures.
  • Assistance with the preparation of Ramsar site management plans will be provided within the framework of specific projects (e.g. the Okavango), in all regions where IUCN is represented.

Operational Objective 12. Management of shared water resources, wetlands and wetland species

  • IUCN's support for this Operational Objective will be delivered through its participation in the River Basin Initiative and work in support of CITES. Special attention will be paid to supporting COP6 Resolution VI.23 on Ramsar and water, COP7 Resolution VII.18 on Guidelines for integrating wetland conservation and wise use into river basin management, and Resolution VIII.1 on Guidelines for the allocation and management of water for maintaining the ecological functions of wetlands.

Operational Objective 13. Collaboration with other institutions

  • IUCN continues to support collaborative actions between Ramsar and other global environmental conventions, especially CBD (through the 3rd Joint Work Plan), UNFCCC (through IUCN's work on implementing Resolution VIII.3 on Climate change and wetlands: impacts, adaptation, and mitigation, CITES (through IUCN's work on Red List assessments), World Heritage (through IUCN's work on behalf of the World Heritage Committee) and Biosphere Reserves (through IUCN's work in support of the UNESCO MAB Programme).

Operational Objective 14. Sharing of expertise and information

  • IUCN will contribute information, expertise and experience from its network, notably through ongoing contribution to the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) and its Work Plan for 2003-2005.

Operational Objective 15. Financing the conservation and wise use of wetlands

  • Through its own programme, IUCN will continue to mobilise significant resources for the sustainable use of wetlands and water resources in regions where IUCN and its donor partners are represented.

Operational Objective 18. Institutional capacity of Contracting Parties

  • IUCN Regional, Country and Project Offices will continue to assist targeted Ramsar Administrative Authorities with increasing their technical capacities to implement the Convention, notably through provision of training courses and seminars, and involvement in specific field projects.

Operational Objective 19. International Organization Partners and others

  • IUCN will work with the Ramsar Bureau and other International Organization Partners to establish and review regularly a programme of joint work in the framework of the Strategic Plan 2003-2008.

Operational Objective 20. Training

  • IUCN Regional, Country and Project Offices will continue to organise and support training opportunities that contribute to the conservation and wise use of wetlands at different levels (decision-makers, government institutions, NGOs, wetland managers, community representatives).

Operational Objective 21. Membership of the Convention

  • IUCN will continue to provide assistance to a number of countries in preparation for accession, particularly in Africa (e.g. Angola, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Sudan and Zimbabwe), Asia (e.g. Lao PDR), and the Americas (e.g. Barbados, Dominica, Guyana and Haiti).

Last but not least, the IUCN secretariat and the Ramsar Bureau will continue to foster improved stakeholder involvement in dialogues on the conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of natural resources, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from this use, through organization of sessions of the Global Biodiversity Forum (GBF), as per the Memorandum of Cooperation signed in 2000 by the Director General of IUCN and the Secretary General of the Convention on Wetlands.

Done in Durban, South Africa, on 13 September 2003.

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Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

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