30th Meeting of the Ramsar Standing Committee -- Opening statements

30th Meeting of the Ramsar Standing Committee
Gland, Switzerland, 13-16 January 2004
Statement by Achim Steiner, Director-General of IUCN-The World Conservation Union Statement by Peter Bridgewater, Secretary General of the Ramsar Covention on Wetlands Statement by Andreas Wurzer, WWF Living Waters, on behalf of the International Organization Partners

Opening statement

Achim Steiner, Director General of IUCN

Dear Delegates and Colleagues,

At the World Parks Congress in Durban last September, the IUCN and Ramsar Secretariats decided to give new impetus to a long-standing and mutually beneficial undertaking by signing a new Agreement for Programme Cooperation.

The new Memorandum of Cooperation highlights IUCN's clear commitment to assisting and supporting Ramsar on subjects such as wetland management, water allocation, invasive species, climate change, and wetland restoration. It also underlines IUCN's support in making the Joint Work Plan between Ramsar and CBD a more tangible reality in the field.

The new Memorandum of Cooperation brings IUCN and Ramsar closer together. It is an expression of our common efforts to make wetland and water resources management contribute more effectively to biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation. More importantly, this cooperation will foster our shared vision that the Ramsar Convention should gradually play a more central role in international cooperation on water resources issues.

The Ramsar Convention is widely recognised as an important component of, and tool for world-wide action to conserve biodiversity as well as valuable freshwater and coastal ecosystems. Still, we should find ways to further strengthen the Convention's role as an advocate for marshes, rivers and lakes, which are all too often overlooked in the debate on development and water management.

The Ramsar Convention's network has now become the single largest protected area network in the world, with a total area of 112 million hectares, as highlighted at the World Parks Congress last September. Moreover, since Ramsar wetlands often cut across boundaries from upland to lowland, and terrestrial to marine, they link the upstream and downstream users and the States of shared river basins. This is why the Convention can play a beneficial role in the international water debate and has the opportunity to become a tool for international cooperation on water issues.

Today, we are facing the demands and opportunities arising from the global community's commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and its drive towards integrated water resources management. The Convention is asked to demonstrate the positive effect of well-managed wetlands on livelihoods, as well as to engage in the debate on water allocation, sanitation and management. Thus, the challenge is to ensure that improved management of wetlands within river basins can contribute significantly to water security, which is one of IUCN's main preoccupations.

We believe that the Ramsar Convention can, and should play an important role in these issues, and in fact may in future grow to have the same relevance for wetland and water resource managers alike.

Thus, the Convention and its International Organisation Partners must engage even more proactively on basin-wide issues with major international and regional partners, scientific networks, professional associations, grass roots institutions, and the private sector, to address the growing scarcity of water resources and incremental environmental degradation.

The new agreement gives the Ramsar Convention and IUCN a more coherent framework for joint action, at local, regional and global level on both wetlands and water issues. We anticipate that future key meetings, such as the 12th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, the IUCN World Conservation Congress next November, and your COP9 in Uganda, will become further celebrations of the results achieved under this renewed partnership.

Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you every success in the coming days and I am pleased to say that I will see you all on Thursday.

Thank you.

Note: This is the text of Achim Steiner's remarks as prepared in advance for the interpreters -- it is not a transcript of his remarks as actually delivered, though it's substantially the same.

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