Programme cooperation agreement between IUCN and the Ramsar Bureau


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International Cooperation for Wetland Conservation

Agreement between IUCN and the Ramsar Convention Bureau for Programme Cooperation (1991)

I) Background

Wetlands are being lost world-wide at an alarming rate with a consequent decline in biological diversity and in the goods and services which these ecosystems provide to human society. Much of this wetland loss is the result of widespread ignorance of the importance of wetlands. However, even where efforts are made to conserve wetlands, there is limited national capacity to manage these on a sustainable basis; there are still very few examples of sustainable wetland use, and very few national institutions which have the staff able to design and oversee such initiatives.

In the face of this challenge, it is essential that the conservation institutions concerned with wetlands seek to coordinate their efforts and work in a catalytic fashion, so that the various strengths of each institution are targeted at those parts of the problem which they can best address. The present Agreement concerns such programme cooperation between IUCN and the Ramsar Convention Bureau.

II) The Complementary Roles of IUCN and the Ramsar Convention Bureau

IUCN - The World Conservation Union - is the world’s largest, most representative union of conservation agencies and interest groups. Its more than 650 members include Sovereign States, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations with national and international scope and influence.

IUCN provides leadership in the formulation of global conservation priorities and assists in the implementation of selected conservation actions on the ground. Development assistance activities form a central part of the IUCN programme with considerable attention being given to wetland conservation requirements in tropical countries. Notably, IUCN carries out field projects, providing direct technical assistance to IUCN members and the development assistance community in addressing priority conservation problems.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar, 1971) is the first of the modern global intergovernmental agreements for nature conservation, and is the only such agreement to deal with a particular habitat type. Pursuant to the terms of the treaty, the 63 Member States to the Convention from all areas of the globe undertake, interalia, to manage and make ‘wise use’ of a wide variety of areas, including lakes, rivers, and coastal zones. Member States designate internationally important wetland areas to the global ‘Ramsar List’ and observe significant conservation obligations for these sites.

International cooperation is also fostered for the joint management of shared water systems and for migratory species dependent upon wetlands, as well as for development assistance activities between the Member States. The critical role played by wetland areas for sustainable development is a major thrust of the Convention. A triennial programme has been adopted by the Contracting Parties, which sets priorities for action within the framework of these Convention obligations.

The Secretariat, or Bureau, for the Ramsar Convention is an independent unit hosted by IUCN in Gland, Switzerland. The Member States to the Convention requested IUCN to assist in providing a home for the Bureau in recognition of the conservation benefits which would result from a close coordination of efforts between the two Secretariats. IUCN also realizes practical and political advantages from its association with an intergovernmental body such as the Ramsar Convention.

Since the development of its Wetlands Programme in 1984, IUCN has focused special attention upon the development of approaches to wetland management which yield benefits to people and wildlife, while working through programme staff in regional offices in Central America, and West, East and southern Africa, as well as in Southeast Asia, to build the capacity of national and regional institutions to apply these approaches more widely. A series of policy initiatives have drawn upon this work and are designed to build greater awareness among governments and the development assistance community of the importance of wetland conservation and the ways through which this can be achieved. In pursuing this catalytic approach, IUCN has recognized the need to work closely with the Ramsar Convention Bureau, to use the intergovernmental structure of the Convention to build greater awareness of the urgent need for international action to conserve wetlands, and of the approaches through which this can be best achieved.

The Ramsar Convention has, since its inception in 1971, provided the single most important intergovernmental forum for review of wetland conservation issues, a role which has grown in importance since the establishment of its permanent Secretariat in 1987. In recognition of the central role played by development assistance agencies in both conserving and destroying wetlands, the Ramsar Convention Conferences of Parties in 1987 and 1990 called upon the Contracting Parties and the Bureau to work to build greater awareness of the importance of wetland conservation among development assistance agencies and to encourage these agencies to devote greater resources to wetland management.

The Convention Bureau, as a small service body, is not designed to implement field projects. It pursues its mandate by seeking to influence governments and development assistance agencies, by seeking funding for projects, and by using as examples field activities of IUCN and other institutions engaged in wetland management.

In view of their close association, IUCN and the Ramsar Convention Bureau have considered that it would be helpful to prepare this note so as to clarify working arrangements for joint programming activities.

III) Programme Cooperation

Drawing upon their complementary strengths, IUCN and Ramsar will address wetland conservation priorities through a coordinated programme of activities. Programme areas include:

1. Wise Use. The Wise Use requirement is one of the most significant undertakings made by Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention. It, therefore, receives a high profile in the Ramsar Programme. Similarly IUCN’s Wetlands Programme is working in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to assist governments to develop and apply national wetland programmes and policies, and to prepare technical manuals and training materials on the environmentally sound management of major wetland ecosystem types.

IUCN will support the work of Ramsar’s Wise Use 0fficer by drawing upon its network of field activities and advisory network to ensure that a wide range of expertise is drawn upon in refining the Wise Use concept as required under Ramsar Programme area A.l.II.a. Specifically, IUCN will coordinate preparation of up to eight case studies under the Bureau’s Wise Use project, and distill from these lessons learned for discussion by Ramsar’s Wise Use Committee.

In addition, IUCN will in due course (1992) provide Ramsar with drafts of the manuals on tidal wetland management and tropical peatland management which are currently in preparation in order that these may be examined and endorsed by the Bureau and Ramsar’s Wise Use Committee.

Building upon this work and, in particular, upon its ongoing portfolio of field projects, IUCN will take the lead in assisting Contracting Parties to implement the Wise Use concept (B.l.II.b). This support may take the form of assistance in organizing national workshops to review issues and identify priorities, technical guidance in the design and implementation of pilot projects exemplifying wise use, scientific management studies, and legal/policy initiatives on legislative and legal requirements.

2. Wetlands and Protected Areas. Ramsar Parties are required to list and protect at least one wetland of international importance, and undertake to establish and manage wetland reserves in other sites. The Ramsar Bureau has appointed a Technical Officer to assist Ramsar Parties in this work. IUCN’s Commission on National Parks and other Protected Areas is the foremost body of international expertise in protected area management, while IUCN’s Wetlands Programme is engaged in assisting governments and NGOs in the establishment and management of wetland protected areas in over 20 tropical countries.

IUCN will provide assistance to the Ramsar Bureau in the development of guidelines on the conservation and management of listed sites (A.l.I.d), and support Contracting Parties in their implementation.

IUCN will assist the Bureau in implementing the Monitoring Procedure (B.l.I.c) and will play a leading role in those regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America where IUCN has regional and national offices.

IUCN will also assist the Bureau to formulate concepts for the establishment of nature reserves on wetlands (A.l.III.a), in doing so, drawing upon the network of IUCN field projects which address this issue in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and the extensive protected area network.

3. Communication on wetland conservation. Through its Secretariat, scientific network, regional offices, and field projects, IUCN already plays a major role in promoting wetland conservation. In support of the Ramsar Bureau, IUCN will seek to use this work to promote better the Ramsar Convention and the work of the Bureau (A.2.I.a). Where appropriate, special attention will be given to the Convention’s significance for shared wetlands and species (B.2.I.b). Through regular liaison and participation in the bi-annual meeting with IWRB, IGBP, and WWF, the Ramsar Bureau and IUCN will keep these and other international partners fully informed of programme developments and identify opportunities for further collaboration with these partners.

4. Development assistance agencies. The aid community has long been regarded as one of the major forces driving wetland loss in the developing world. Since the start of the Wetlands Programme in 1984, IUCN has, therefore, given particular attention to the need to increase awareness among aid agencies of the importance of wetlands, provide them with guidance on how wetland conservation can contribute to socio-economic development, and assist developing nations in obtaining aid agency support in the pursuit of wetland conservation. In pursuit of this work, IUCN has prepared policy papers for selected aid agencies, provides technical assistance in the design of aid agency programmes for wetland conservation, and is currently engaged in managing over 25 aid-agency-supported wetland conservation projects and programmes in the tropics. The Ramsar Programme emphasizes the need to work more closely with the aid community in order that it increases its contribution to wetland conservation.

IUCN will assist the Ramsar Bureau in promoting the Convention to bilateral and multilateral development assistance agencies (A.2.II.a), in particular by drawing upon the experience and results of IUCN’s field projects to demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of sustainable wetland use. IUCN will also serve as the principal source of technical guidance for the Bureau in its contacts with the development assistance community and will play a central role in designing, reviewing, and implementing development assistance projects which are carried forward under the auspices of the Bureau.

5. Provision of support to developing nations. Central to IUCN’s Programme is the decentralization and regionalization of the Union’s work in order to respond more effectively to the needs of its members. Accordingly, IUCN’s regional programmes and offices work to assist governments and NGOs in the pursuit of their conservation priorities through the provision of technical guidance and assistance in securing international funding for their work. Similarly, the 4th Conference of Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention established a Wetland Conservation Fund designed to increase support available for wetland conservation in the developing world. IUCN will assist the Ramsar Bureau in reviewing proposals submitted to the Fund. In addition, IUCN will draw upon its field expertise to assist the Bureau and the Contracting Parties in implementing the projects, in particular in those countries where IUCN has national or regional offices.

IV) Mechanism for Cooperation

1) IUCN and Ramsar Bureau staff will meet on a regular basis to discuss programme priorities.

2) IUCN and Ramsar Bureau staff will work together to develop cooperative annual workplans, to be reviewed every six months, with a view to implementing this Agreement.

3) Financial requirements for the implementation of this Agreement will be considered in connection with the review of the cooperative workplans and as required. Contracts will be developed for the provision of specific services from one party to the other pursuant to this Agreement.

For and on behalf of IUCNFor and on behalf of the Ramsar Convention Bureau
Martin W. HoldgateDaniel Navid
Director GeneralSecretary General
17 September 199117 September 1991
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