IUCN and Ramsar Bureau memorandum of cooperation, September 2003

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IUCN and Ramsar Convention Bureau sign new cooperation agreement

Durban, South Africa, 13 September (IUCN) - IUCN-The World Conservation Union and the Ramsar Convention Bureau today sign an agreement of cooperation to save wetland ecosystems.

"The result of this agreement will be more effective international policy and local action to conserve some of the world's most valuable and beautiful wetlands", says Dr. Peter Bridgewater, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has 138 Member States. At its core is the List of Wetlands of International Importance - wetlands that have been declared protected areas for their unique biodiversity, cultural and economic values. Currently, 1308 wetlands covering a total area of 110 million hectares are protected.

At the latest Conference of Parties (Valencia, 2002), the Member States approved a Strategic Plan for the Convention. The cooperation agreement outlines IUCN's programme of work in support of the Convention.

"Over the past 32 years, IUCN has played a significant role in the development and implementation of the Convention. Now, our contribution will be much more targeted to protect wetlands and link water resources management to ecosystem health and livelihoods", says Achim Steiner, Director General of IUCN.

IUCN contributes to the Convention by assisting countries to designate and manage wetlands. Currently underway, for instance, is the development of improved management of the world's largest Ramsar site, the Okavango Delta, in cooperation with the Government of Botswana. The Delta covers 15,000 square kilometres and holds 2500 plant, 65 fish, 20 herbivore, and 450 bird species. Its biodiversity is essential for the 150,000 people who live in the Delta.

"The Ramsar Convention makes an important contribution to protected area management and international cooperation on water resources, which is reflected in regional and national policies, for instance in Uganda, Central America, or Vietnam. It shows Ramsar's strength as an environmental agreement", says Dr. Jean-Yves Pirot, Coordinator of IUCN's Wetlands and Water Resources Programme.

IUCN assists Member States in the development of such policies and develops scientific knowledge on emerging issues, such as climate change, agriculture, or dams, which is then used by the Member States to protect wetlands.

"IUCN's work on climate change, for instance, is finding practical ways to reduce impacts on biodiversity, and protect the livelihoods and culture of wetland-dependent local people. It is vital to move the Convention forward", says Bridgewater.

The new Memorandum of Cooperation proposes a concrete set of activities for better programmatic collaboration at the global level, targeted collaboration between IUCN and Ramsar officers at the national level, and joint management of wetland sites.

"The Ramsar Convention is one of the most practical international agreements for sustainable development. Further increasing its status and effectiveness is vital to create a platform for international cooperation on water issues", says Steiner.

For more information contact:

Elroy Bos, Sr. Communication Officer, IUCN - The World Conservation Union. Elroy.Bos@iucn.org; http://iucn.org

For more information on the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, please visit http://www.ramsar.org

Text of the new Memorandum of Cooperation

-- Small photos courtesy of Earth Negotiations Bulletin,
larger ones courtesy of IUCN

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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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