III Panamerican Regional Meeting, November 2004, Mexico

10/02/2005



MEETING REPORT

III Pan-American Meeting of the Ramsar Convention Merida, 7 to 12 November 2004

1. Mr Manuel Fuentes, the mayor of Merida, welcomed the delegates and participants.

2. Mr Trevor Swerdfager, Director of the Canadian Wildlife Service, welcomed the participants and thanked the governments of Mexico and Yucatan and the organizers. He described some of the key opportunities of the meeting and invited all to focus on common goals. He recalled that the ecological diversity of ecosystems and threats to our wetlands are as enormous as our vast difference of cultures and societies and although we have many differences we also have common interests, as we are the guardians of these resources that include the migratory birds that unite us in conserving our wetlands from southern Argentina to Alaska. This is a resource not only of ecological but also economic importance since much of the tourism of the region is based on it.

3. He also stated that we have made a lot of progress but that is not enough. Greater action is needed to protect migratory birds, which means protecting access to water and its quantity and quality. He invited the participants to discuss the strategic aspects of protecting water during this meeting, and how to integrate Ramsar with water. He stressed that the question is not whether to integrate those two elements but how and when. He stated that it is imperative that we prepare for the meeting in Kampala by defining our common priorities. The Conference of the Parties is an important moment for that definition and that the following points should be kept in mind:

(a) Joint programmes such as research, management and key wetlands;
(b) Alliances such as the Ramsar Regional Centre in Panama (CREHO) and the organizations associated with Ramsar and their important contributions; how to maximize these contributions and establish new alliances;
(c) Enough is not said about people. It is important to remember that people form our agencies. Exchanges and communication among people that work with wetlands are necessary.

4. Mr. Alberto Cardenas, the Secretary for the Environment and Natural Resources of Mexico, welcomed the participants on behalf of President Fox. He thanked the United States and Canada for their contributions that made this meeting possible. He pointed out the importance of the wetlands in Yucatan and of the Ramsar sites and the Biosphere Reserves in that state and mentioned the 34 Ramsar sites that were designated on 2 February 2004. He spoke of the creation of the national wetlands committee and surveys being undertaken. Likewise, he mentioned that on 28 October 2004 Río Lagartos and Ría Celestun were integrated into the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere programme.

5. He pointed to the importance of the preservation and sustainable use of wetlands at the regional level, given their role in recovery of the environmental health of our planet. He recalled that at COP6 the importance of wetlands in recharging aquifers and protecting against floods was already recognized and that the integrated management of water basins was mentioned at COP7. He urged that this meeting stress the importance of integrating water management, taking into account the social perspective and the search for sustainable human development, which is everyone's task. Working together as a team, we can take great strides.

6. Mr Patricio Patron Laviada, Governor of the state of Yucatan, welcomed all the participants. He stressed the importance of wetlands for the state of Yucatan and referred to the change in perception that has occurred regarding their value. He pointed out the creation of the El Palmar state reserve as a Ramsar site and declared the meeting officially opened.

7. Mr Ernesto Enkerlin, requested nominations for vice-chairman. Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Uruguay and others supported Argentina as vice-chairman. Nicaragua proposed that the Dominican Republic act as rapporteur, and Panama seconded that motion along with Cuba, El Salvador and others. The officers having been chosen, the agenda was adopted allowing work to begin.

8. Dr Peter Bridgewater expressed his great pleasure to be in Mexico for the second time this year to attend the first of the preparatory regional meetings for COP9. He reported on progress regarding accession of new parties to the Convention, including Lesotho, the Marshall Islands, Mozambique and the Seychelles and estimated that there will be 150 Parties for COP9.

9. In relation to the scope of the Convention, he indicated that global discussions are currently being held on water basins, namely in Tokyo in December 2004, the 13th session of the Commission for Sustainable Development to be held in New York and the World Water Forum to be held in Mexico in 2006. He also announced that the International Water Decade would begin in 2005.

10. With regard to preparations for COP9, he mentioned the support given by Sweden for holding the next preparatory regional meetings that will be held in Europe (Armenia in December 2004), Asia (India in March 2005) and Africa (Tanzania in April 2005).

11. He reported that the meeting of the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) will be held from 1 to 4 February 2005, the COP9 subgroup will meet from 1 to 3 March 2005 in Kampala or in Gland and the standing committee will hold its 31st session from 7 to 10 June 2005 in Gland.

12. He also pointed out that the Scientific and Technical Review Panel will make simple, short and easily understood recommendations. The recommendations should not exceed 15 pages and will include a framework for key topics such as wise use, ground water, surveys, monitoring, site designation and ecological indicators to measure the Convention's success.

13. He referred to the COP9 subgroup, which will discuss issues related to technical resolutions, national reports, non-technical issues (the budget for which a frank and sincere discussion is suggested), the name of the Secretariat, synergies with other international environmental agreements, promotion and development of the Convention and the strategic plan (the current strategic plan is too extensive, requiring outlined goals and strategies and should be revised and made a useable tool).

14. With regard to the name of the Secretariat (Bureau), which is referred to as a Bureau in the text of the Convention, he stated that this should be standardized as Secretariat, which is used in all the other international agreements.

15. Regarding the budget, he mentioned that realistic lines of inputs should be discussed. The budget needs to be adjusted at least in line with what was agreed on at COP8 and adjusted for inflation. Likewise, it will be necessary to redistribute budget allocations in light of current necessities. With regard to the services provided by Wetlands International for the Scientific Review Panel, these will be discontinued and will be absorbed by the Secretariat.

16. He stated that part of the agenda for this meeting is discussion of progress made since COP8, subregional priorities, the High Andean Wetlands Strategy, preparations for COP9 and the Ramsar Regional Centre for the Western Hemisphere (CREHO), for which the Secretariat expresses its pleasure that it has been established.

17. With regard to topics of synergy, he commented that it is necessary to improve coordination between focal points at the national level.

18. He also stressed the need to prepare more management plans for the Ramsar sites, carry out surveys, strengthen regional and global networks, designate under-represented wetlands and reduce the number of sites included on the Montreux Record. He stated that the health and management status of sites is more important than their number.

19. He added that recurring issues are the establishment of clear procedures for environmental impact studies, the preparation and implementation of national educational strategies and promotion of public awareness and the urgent need for some countries to pay their quotas for which all participants were invited to encourage their governments to make these payments as soon as possible.

20. With regard to national issues, he stressed the importance of wetland strategies and policies, multidisciplinary and participatory national wetland committees and wetland rehabilitation whenever possible.

21. Dr Bridgewater mentioned additional events that will be held during the meeting, namely a meeting of the board of directors of the Regional Ramsar Centre (CREHO), review of the Mangrove Code of Conduct (World Bank) and the training course on wetlands management organized by CREHO for the Spanish-speaking focal points participating in the Pan-American meeting.

22. Regarding the future, he called attention to the Western Hemisphere Migratory Species Initiative, which is an initiative that is complementary to Ramsar and the EcoFilm Festival 2005, which will award a prize to the best film on water and wetlands.

23. He also requested that it be noted that the Secretariat has requested the help of the national focal points to distribute materials for World Wetlands Day in 2005.

24. In conclusion, he stated that there is much to do and there is less than one year to prepare presentations for COP9.

25. Ms. Margarita Astrálaga presented a summary of progress in the region since COP8, describing the current status of the member countries with 27 Parties out of the 35 countries in the region. She pointed out the work of Antigua and Barbuda, which is about to adhere to the Convention.

(a) Five contracting Parties have national policies and 14 more are preparing policies;
(b) There are three subregional strategies;
(c) There are 15 Ramsar national committees;
(d) There are 226 sites: 47,852,576 hectares (39 per cent of the area of all sites);
(e) North America: 45 new sites (44 in Mexico);
(f) Wetlands biodiversity (We can exchange information on strategies);
(g) Areas of low coverage are the Orinoco, San Francisco, the River Plate basins;
(h) Management plans: 96 sites in the Americas have management plans (42.4 per cent);
(i) Bring up to date the Ramsar Information Sheets (RIS);
(j) There have been no changes in the Montreux Record since 2002. This tool is not being used as it should be.

26. With regard to recurring issues at Ramsar sites, she pointed out projects for infrastructure, dams, drainage, desertification, tourism, over-fishing, aquaculture, water pollution, climate change, urbanization and invasive species.

27. As regards direct support to the Parties, she pointed out the Small Grants Fund and urged donors to continue to contribute since it is a very important initiative for developing countries. In 2003-2004, 6 of the 32 projects submitted for the region were approved.

28. She added that the Wetlands for the Future Initiative is the most important tool in the region for in-site conservation and training. In 2002, 16 out of 21 projects were approved, and in 2003 16 out of 32 projects were approved. For 2005, 25 proposals have been received. The United States contributed $695,000 in 2002-2004.

29. The regional adviser reported that the agreement to establish the Ramsar Regional Centre in Panama (CREHO) has been signed and the Centre began operating with the recruitment of the executive director in January 2004.

30. In compliance with Resolution VIII.39, there has been important progress in the preparation of a high Andes wetlands strategy. A first draft of that strategy is now being discussed that will be revised during this week and later during a meeting in Salta in February 2005.

31. She also reported that Ramsar has actively participated in discussions on a regional strategy for the conservation of migratory species in the Western hemisphere along with several countries in the region, namely Colombia, Costa Rica, Saint Lucia, Uruguay and the United States.

32. The Secretariat also participated in the White Water 2 Blue Water Initiative involving the Greater Caribbean countries aimed at promoting alliances between the private sector and national and international organizations that work with coastal marine issues.

33. Likewise, she pointed out that the Secretariat has formed an alliance with Coastal America and Gillette in order to obtain support for worldwide wetlands recovery projects. The first project that has been financed is in Sian Ka'an in Mexico.

34. The associate organizations IUCN, WWF, Birdlife International and Wetlands International have supported several activities at the regional level, such as the naming and management of Ramsar sites and the preparation of a high Andes wetlands strategy.

35. The challenge of communications between the Secretariat and the administrative authorities was emphasized and the Parties were requested to communicate any changes to the Secretariat as soon as possible.

36. Mention was also made of the status of contributions from the Parties to the Convention and all were urged to cancel outstanding balances due quickly in order to ensure that the Secretariat can fulfil its functions.

37. All countries that are Parties were reminded of the need to present national reports before 28 February 2005.

38. Mr Trevor Swerdfager reported that the Standing Committee meets every year, including a finance subcommittee currently presided by Canada. He stated his satisfaction with the frequency and type of financial reports submitted by the secretary-general to the Standing Committee, which is a demonstration of the Secretariat's transparent financial management.

39. He mentioned that significant funds had been collected for COP9, however more contributions were required. With regards to the budget for 2006-2008, he suggested discussing options for increasing the budget in preparation for COP9 and perhaps other options could be explored.

40. Mr Herb Raffaele referred to Resolution VIII.45, which requests that the Contracting Parties explore whether any Ramsar resolutions and guidelines are effective and efficient. A subgroup has been formed to implement that Resolution with the United States as chairman and representatives from all the regions. A questionnaire has been sent to the focal points for evaluation of the effectiveness of the resolutions and guidelines. So far, only 40 countries have replied, while an answer from a greater number of Parties and actors involved with Ramsar is needed for an objective analysis. The conclusions of this study are important for the strategic plan, the budget and other basic considerations for the Ramsar Convention.

41. The delegates made several recommendations on how to obtain answers to the questionnaire, and they agreed to participate actively in its distribution and prompt return.

42. Mr Herb Raffaele described the Western Hemisphere Migratory Species Initiative that follows on the call for a hemispheric strategy to conserve migratory wildlife, coming out of the 2001 Summit of the Americas Plan of Action. The first phase was a conference in Chile in October 2003 that identified 21 priorities. An interim steering committee was created that includes governments, NGOs and conventions. This committee met in Costa Rica in August 2004, where draft terms of reference for the initiative was prepared for circulation to the governments in the region. Dr. Raffaele indicated that the proposed initiative could provide a mechanism for delivering on-the-ground conservation activities.

43. The plenary session divided into two groups: one for the Caribbean, Central America and North America and the other for the South American subregion.

44. During the meeting of the subgroups, all the country delegates made presentations on the status of implementation and priorities at the national level. (A copy of those presentations was included on the CD distributed to all the delegates before they left Merida.)

Tuesday, 9 November 2004

45. The plenary session opened with the presentation by the Dominican Republic as rapporteur of a brief summary of the inaugural session, including references to the welcoming speeches made during that ceremony and emphasizing the most important points of the presentations of the Ramsar Secretariat, Canada and the United States.

46. Next, Nicaragua and Uruguay presented the reports of the subregional working groups, including an analysis of progress so far in the identification of priorities at the subregional level. Afterwards, the plenary session again divided into the two subgroups in order to assign priorities to the initial list. The following list of priorities by subregion was established.

North America, the Caribbean and Central America

47. The following priorities have been determined by the subregion with an indication of the number of votes.

47.1 Training for sustainable management of wetlands (Regional Centre, participation of universities, exchanges) 20
47.2 Monitoring and evaluation (establishment of criteria and biological indicators) 20
47.3 Local community participation in planning and management 20
47.4 Financing (fund and endowment) 19
47.5 Institutional capacity building at the local, national and regional levels 19
47.6 Surveys and evaluations (especially in wetlands and the monitoring of natural disasters and restoration) 17
47.7 Economic surveys 17
47.8 Coordination among conventions (greater synergy with wetlands and Integrated of Water Resources Management (IWRM) and integrated of coastal zone management (ICZM) 16
47.9 Public information, environmental education, promotion of public support and awareness 15
47.10 Regional communication networks 13
47.11 Wise use (sustainable use) 12
47.12 Cross-border sites 7
47.13 Cooperation in conservation and management of migratory species 6
47.14 Under-represented sites 3
47.15 Integrated management of ecosystems 3
47.16 Study of the causes of the loss of wetlands 3
47.17 Invasive species 2
47.18 Policies and regional strategies for wetlands 2
47.19 Creation of model legislation 1
45.1 Consideration of wetlands as another water user 1

South America

48. The region of South America established the following priorities:

48.1 Development of national and international financial mechanisms for the management of wetlands;
48.2 Regional strategy for conservation and sustainable use of the high Andean wetlands;
48.3 Capacity building for human resources;
48.4 Promotion of implementation of trans-national projects;
48.5 Drafting of management plans and exchange of good practices;
48.6 Establishment and strengthening of Ramsar national committees;
48.7 Development and implementation of national wetland policies;
48.8 Promotion of studies for the economic use of wetlands and identification of alternatives of sustainable use of products from wetlands for the benefit of communities and the reduction of poverty;
48.9 Promotion of the control of exotic invasive species;
48.10 Completion and adoption of a South American wetlands strategy;
48.11 Integrated management of water basins and wetlands in coastal areas;
48.12 Preparation and up-dating of the wetlands survey;
48.13 Creation and strengthening of communications, education and promotion of public awareness groups promoting the ecological, social, cultural and economic values of wetlands;
48.14 Raising of seed money;
48.15 Strengthening of alliances and exchange of experiences for the conservation and sustainable use of mangroves;
48.16 Promotion and exchange of information for the restoration of wetlands;
48.17 Identification of indicators of effective management in order to evaluate the Convention's success in the management of resources and conservation.

The current status of implementation of the subregional strategies and other pertinent on-going initiatives

49. The representatives of the Contracting Parties from each of the subregions (Caribbean and Central America, South America) and the region of North America presented a 15-minute update on sub-regional strategies.

50. Before beginning this session, there was an exchange of ideas about the need to incorporate the topic of joint management of cross-border wetlands into the list of priority issues, given the interest of a large number of countries in this issue. The importance of activities related to cross-border wetlands was emphasized as an important instrument for strengthening regional integration.

51. Ecuador spoke of the progress made in preparing the high-Andes wetlands initiative and described its main characteristics. A first draft of the strategy with its general guidelines was presented, including its mission and a ten-year vision aimed at all interested users. It was stated that this is seen as a guideline for the management of strategic ecosystems. The main means for implementing this strategy (a workshop in Salta, Argentina, and a draft resolution for COP9) were also described. It was emphasized that it is especially important to develop a financial strategy for implementation.

52. Argentina described progress achieved in the preparation of a South American subregional strategy that was presented in 2002 in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and reported that until now no flexible way has been found to ensure cooperation among the countries in the region. It was stressed that new forms of coordination must be found. The general goals were briefly described that could be incorporated into that strategy in order to complete it.

53. The Bahamas presented on behalf of the Caribbean countries a report on progress country by country because the region does not have a regional strategy as such. A summary of the main activities carried out in the Caribbean was given, including national surveys, activities for protecting wetlands, education, promotion of public awareness, government declarations, videos, guides and other similar tools. It was mentioned that an effort is being made in the region to increase the participation of NGOs and, of equal importance, efforts are being made to improve self-evaluation programmes and to create synergies and national wetland policies, among others. He pointed out the obligation stated by the Caribbean region to prepare a draft strategy for the Caribbean for COP9 and increase the number of its Ramsar sites.

54. Canada reported on regional strategies for the North American region. He underlined that while there is no wetland strategy as such, there are a series of joint initiatives that have an impact on wetlands and their biological diversity. Among them are the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI), the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), the Important Bird Areas programme (IBA) and Waterbird Conservation for the Americas initiative (WCA), among others.

55. Canada also reported that in North America the Trilateral Committee for Wildlife and Ecosystem Conservation Management and its six working groups are coordinating the efforts of the three governments in the broad context of natural resource management. Many of these initiatives focus on ecoregions, seeking to eliminate administrative borders and finding common focuses for conservation of biological diversity in North America. He stressed the importance of building alliances with all groups of interested parties and using birds as a tool for habitat conservation and large-scale ecological processes, including wetlands as the priority target in many activities, especially for the promotion of awareness among users.

56. The Canadian delegate also spoke of the idea of using the Western Hemisphere Migratory Species Initiative (WHMSI) as a mechanism for the conservation of biodiversity at the regional level.

57. Wetlands International (South America) congratulated the focal points participating in the preparation of the high Andes wetlands strategy for their efforts and reiterated the commitment of that organization to continue supporting implementation of that strategy.

58. The Fundación para la Gestión Participativa (FUNGAP) announced a project of good practices for participatory management of wetlands in the Americas supported by IUCN Netherlands. It described the three main activities of that initiative, namely collecting of 10 good practices in that field, from which five will be chosen to be developed in detail and donation of funds so that two local leaders can attend COP9 and in an event parallel to COP9 can make known these cases of successful participatory environmental management (Resolution VIII.36).

Future challenges of subregional strategies-Towards a Pan-American strategy?

59. A stimulating and enriching discussion on the needs and concerns discussed until now, led to questioning by several countries of the need to create a Pan-American wetlands strategy. The topic of migratory birds and ongoing initiatives for their protection and their habitats are, from the perspective of several countries, a tangible point of union for the countries in the Pan-American region. It was reiterated that there is a need to concentrate on topics of shared interest for the region and it was stated that perhaps the use of the term strategy might have diverted attention from what in reality could be a strategic mechanism for joint activities, based on the identification of a certain number of points on which all the countries in the region agree.

60. Several countries added to the discussion of this issue, expressing a range of positions in terms of the need for a possible Pan-American strategy and the use of migratory birds as a possible focus for activities at the level of the hemisphere. The discussion then turned to the suggestion to concentrate attention on the consideration of shared priorities that the region can take to COP9. It was clear that there are several areas of shared interest at the Pan-American level. The question is whether the countries wish to deal with those areas in common as a group.

61. It was decided that only several of the identified priority issues are relevant for COP9. From the priority issues identified, it was decided to select five for the South American region, five for the Caribbean, Central America and North American region, and five of interest to the hemisphere together as priority topics that the region wishes to raise at COP9.

62. The countries accepted that it is important to determine the essence of the needs of the countries in the Americas related to the sustainable development of its wetlands.

63. In the spirit of providing orientation to the Parties, the Ramsar Secretariat suggested the need to develop a global strategic plan for the Convention with regional components in the near future. While one of the substantive goals of this meeting was to identify key subjects that the Pan-American region could collectively take to COP9, it was also necessary to take to Kampala the concerns of individual countries and those of each of the subregions.

64. Several countries expressed their concern that the prioritisation of issues at the Pan-American level could run counter to the possibilities of obtaining assistance for issues of subregional and national interest or even divert attention from those issues at COP9.

65. It was proposed that the plenary prepare a document identifying five or six of the topics identified by each of the subregions and five priority issues of common interest at the Pan-American level combining the lists of priority issues produced during the subregional working groups for presentation of strategic and priority guidelines for the Americas at COP9.

66. As a counter proposal, the South American block selected 16 priorities for action in their respective countries and proposed that all be included.

67. Discussion returned to the need to support a single proposal from the Americas at COP9 and to translate individual country interests into a common vision with common shared elements.

68. The Secretariat recalled that there would be other actors at COP9, which can help bring to fruition the desires of the Contracting Parties.

69. It was considered necessary to continue discussion of this issue, and it was agreed to continue discussions the next day.

Ramsar Regional Centre for Training and Research on Wetlands in the Western Hemisphere (CREHO)

70. The Director of the Centre, Rosa Montañez, made a presentation on the work of the Centre and progress until now as well as future priorities.

71. She informed the meeting that the board of directors is made up of the government of Panama as host country, the Secretariat of the Convention, Contracting Parties representing the subregions (Argentina, Canada and Nicaragua), IUCN representing the international organizations associated with the Convention, the Smithsonian Institution representing the global research centres and the United States representing the donors. Ms. Montañez also indicated that with the accession of 1 more Caribbean country, Bahamas would be appointed as a member of the board, thus having full subregional representation.

72. She stressed that CREHO sees itself as an integrator of initiatives from the subregions with four lines of operational activities. It meets many of the needs of the countries in terms of research, training, promotion of awareness, synergies and exchanges related to wetlands. As a site of convergence, the Centre facilitates an environment for training and exchange. She also described the activities in which the centre has already participated in several countries in the region, including the first workshop that was held during this meeting. She described several other activities related to the financial solvency and financial reporting for the centre. During its brief existence, the Centre has made significant progress in achieving its goals: building a bridge between the Americas for ideas, birds and wetlands.

73. Several of the progress mentioned

73.1 Establishment of a presence
73.2 South America: the high Andes wetlands
73.3 Comisión Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarrollo (CCAD) (Wetlands technical committee)
73.4 National Wetlands Symposium in the United States
73.5 Study of the needs requiring strengthening in the region
73.6 Establishment of a baseline for the Centre
73.7 Legal status
73.8 Panama's budget allocation
73.9 Establishment of administrative and financial systems
73.10 Planning of a strategy and work plan
73.11 Agreement on strategic alliances (CIDES, CATHALAC, IUCN)
73.12 Study of needs that need strengthening
73.13 First regional course for focal points on wetlands management

74. Regarding ongoing activities

74.1 Web page
74.2 Electronic newsletter
74.3 Contracting support staff
74.4 Cooperation with organizations that work at Ramsar sites
74.5 Preparation of initiatives
74.6 Agreement with the "Ciudad del Saber"
74.7 Agreements with other initiatives (WET Project)

75. Several countries commented on the presentation. The Bahamas asked how the centre would work with countries in other languages, and it was stated that the centre would work in English and Spanish.

76. It was also stated that the board of directors requested that there be a geographic balance both at the centre and in the provision of training.

77. Costa Rica asked about financing and was informed that Panama had granted US$500,000 for 10 years and that the United States and Canada also provided financial support. The Dominican Republic asked about the training of trainers that can cooperate with the Centre and whether it is possible that the Centre's staff provide training in other countries.

Wednesday, 10 November 2004

78. The plenary meeting was chaired by Mr Enkerlin (Mexico) and discussions focused on issues of shared interests with the Bahamas as rapporteur. The chairman urged the group to attempt to reach agreements by compromising. He emphasized that it was important to identify issues of shared interest to take to COP9. He also suggested that the Pan-American strategy be discussed a bit more.

Integration of Results

79. The country delegates made several suggestions of how to integrate results, and there was useful discussion about the viability of defining a Pan-American strategy. The South American countries considered that it is too early to enter into this discussion and recommended that work continue on defining a South American strategy before embarking on a new regional initiative.

80. The delegates of the North American countries and several from the Caribbean and Central America expressed their interest in developing a Pan-American strategy.

81. After considerable discussion, it was agreed to prepare a Pan-American position that reflects the shared priorities identified by the subgroups and to separate the priorities of subregional interest.

82. On behalf of the South American subgroup, Ecuador stated that the group's position was the following:

82.1 There was a need to consolidate the South American strategy before embarking on the development of a new strategy;
82.2 South America agrees with the Pan-American priorities and is willing to work to produce a document that reflects these shared concerns;
82.3 The South American strategy would be first within the priorities of that subregion.

83. Responding to a question of Cuba, the Secretariat explained that priorities had been identified by the Secretariat for the previous Pan-American meeting based on the studies of the national reports submitted by all the countries in the region and this was the list that had been submitted at COP8. However, it was impossible to finance all those priorities during the three-year period. She explained that although the exercise would identify the Pan-American priorities, in the final document would be reflected all the priorities identified by the two working groups.

84. A drafting group was created composed of Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States to prepare the common document for presentation to the plenary.

85. The plenary session resumed its work at 11:35 a.m. with the Dominican Republic as rapporteur.

86. The chairman opened the meeting and gave the floor to the secretary-general of Ramsar.

87. The secretary-general described the work to be carried out from then until COP9. He pointed out that the Parties could registrar by e-mail and invited all to do so using the Internet. He also stated that all the documents would be placed on the Ramsar Web site and asked the delegates to download them and print them because there will be no distribution of documents again in Kampala.

88. He stated that the national reports should be presented at the latest by 28 February 2005 and if they were not presented by then there would be no feedback.

89. The secretary-general thanked all the delegations present for providing information that will make the meeting in Kampala a success and thanked the support team for their work.

Guidelines for the Americas: Towards COP9

90. During the Pan-American meeting, the North America and the Neotropical regions identified issues of interest in common for the Contracting Parties that guide the Secretariat and the Parties in the preparation of activities, technical documents, resolutions, recommendations and fund raising for achievement of the identified needs.

91. This should not, however, preclude the subregions or the Contracting Parties from establishing and carrying out their own priorities within the framework of the strategic plan, which can also have access to financing.

The Americas

92. Development of national and international financial mechanisms for the management of wetlands

92.1 The region has identified a need to ensure financial resources for the conservation and wise use of its wetlands. The Secretariat and other international organizations were requested to support the establishment and operation of subregional, regional, national and international financial mechanisms that guarantee the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.
92.2 The Secretariat was requested to search for mechanisms to attract all types of financial resources and to consolidate information about existing experiences regarding financial mechanisms and exchange of experiences among countries.
92.3 The region will promote partnerships among countries and investment in the management of wetlands derived from payment for ecosystem services.

93. Capacity Building and strengthening of human resources

93.1 Recognizing the importance of building up human resources, the region agrees that it is necessary to support a draft resolution on CREHO to be presented to COP9 in order that resources from the Ramsar budget for regional initiatives and other sources are directed to this Centre within the framework of Resolution VIII.30.
93.2 The countries in the Western Hemisphere will make all possible efforts to provide the resources necessary for the centre to reach self-sufficiency.
93.3 The region recognises also that there are other ways to build capacity through university programmes, exchanges and others that can be used in the region.
93.4 It will promote training programmes at the community level for conservation and sustainable use of natural resources in wetlands.

94. Promotion of partnerships for implementation of trans-national and trans-boundary projects for technical cooperation and bilateral and multilateral agreements

94.1 Taking into account that wetlands extend beyond administrative limits, wetlands should be subject to integrated management. The Parties agree to promote the identification and selection of trans-border sites and trans-national initiatives for the conservation of wetlands and development of joint projects and requests that the Secretariat encourage the administrative authorities and regional organizations to facilitate cooperation among countries.

95. Identification of alternatives for the wise use of products from wetlands

95.1 Recognizing that wetlands provide multiple resources that are used by local communities and villages, it is necessary to promote their participation in the identification of proposals for planning and management of wetlands in order to improve their living conditions and reduce poverty. The Parties are urged to use existing guidelines and documents and the Secretariat is encouraged to promote the exchange of experiences in this regard.

95.2 Carry out studies on economic valuation or other methods of valuation

95.3 Recognizing the importance of the environmental services provided by wetlands, the Secretariat is urged to support the management of resources and identification of approaches that can help the Parties to develop policies that incorporate economic valuation and the internalisation of costs.

96. Public information and environmental education

96.1 The Parties are urged to develop information and mechanisms for dissemination to the public as well as specific programmes of environmental education aimed at raising public awareness in order to increase the support of all society for conservation activities and the wise use of wetlands.

South America

97. Complete and adopt the South American wetlands strategy

97.1 The countries recognize the important work of Argentina in preparing a draft strategy. The Parties consider that this strategy is a framework for the subregion. There is a preliminary document and the countries agree to complete it for adoption at COP9. The Ramsar Secretariat and international cooperation were requested to support this process in order to complete preparation of the South American strategy and its implementation.

98. Regional strategy for conservation and sustainable use of the high Andes wetlands

98.1 The Parties agree that this represents significant progress towards the establishment of trans-national and trans-border initiatives and is an important element of the South American strategy. The version that will result from the meeting in Salta in February 2005 will be studied to produce a final document for presentation at COP9 for formal adoption. The Ramsar Secretariat and international cooperation were requested to support the process of implementation of this strategy.

99. Drafting of management plans and exchange of good practices

99.1 The countries agree to support each other mutually and exchange good practices in order to ensure that all Ramsar sites in the region have management plans and to harmonise and make compatible plans for cross-border wetlands.

100. Establishment and strengthening of Ramsar national committees

100.1 The South American countries agree to share experiences and provide mutual support for the creation and strengthening of national committees.

101. Develop and implement national wetland policies

101.1 The countries agreed to support each other and exchange successful experiences in order that all of the Parties in the region have national wetland policies.

102. Promote the control and eradication of exotic invasive species

102.1 The countries agreed to promote mutual cooperation and programmes for the control and eradication of exotic invasive species in wetlands. The Ramsar Secretariat and international cooperation are requested to provide support for implementation of the operational goal 5 of the Ramsar strategic plan (2003-2008). The Contracting Parties in South American are requested to review the Convention's resolutions that might be in conflict with the goal of combating exotic invasive species.

Central America, the Caribbean and North America

103. Research, monitoring and evaluation (establishment of criteria and biological indicators)

103.1 The Parties will carry out research, monitoring and evaluation in wetlands in order to establish ecological criteria and indicators to measure the effectiveness of the management, administration, conservation and restoration of wetlands. The Secretariat is requested to assist in the identification of financial and technical assistance to support training efforts in the subregion.

104. Participation of the local communities in planning and management

104.2 In order to fulfil the principles of the Convention, local communities must be involved. The Parties will strengthen mechanisms for active community participation in the management of wetlands through exchanges of information and experiences among the countries in the subregion.

105. Surveys and evaluations (especially in wetlands and monitoring of natural disasters)

105.1 The Parties will try, depending on the availability of funds, to carry out national surveys in order to establish a baseline of the status of wetlands in order to (1) serve as a management and control instrument, (2) evaluate the impact of natural disasters, (3) identify gaps in representation and (4) decide on the designation of new Ramsar sites. The Secretariat is requested to identify financial and technical assistance that improve these efforts in the subregion.


106. Coordination among conventions, namely greater synergy with wetlands and integrated management of water resources (IWRM) and integrated coastal zone management (ICZM)

106.1 Recognizing that it is necessary to make efficient and effective use of the resources and efforts for integrated management of water resources and management of coastal areas, the subregion will promote synergetic activities with the other environmental conventions and all initiatives related to the management and conservation of wetlands. . The secretariat was called to work jointly with other convention secretariats to identify the synergies to prevent unnecessary burdens being placed on states.

107. Regional communication networks

107.1 The Parties should carry out joint activities to develop networks for the exchange of information, databases, organization of workshops, events, etc., that contribute to sharing successful experiences, dissemination of lessons learned, strategies, and projects, which can be useful for the Parties in the subregion. Support is requested for the Ramsar Regional Training Centre in Panama in order to facilitate this type of mechanism.

108. Nicaragua presented a draft resolution for the Ramsar Regional Training Centre in Panama and the delegates agreed to support that resolution at COP9 and provide any specific comments or changes of the draft to Rosa Montañez as soon as possible so that she could circulate a new revised version. Brazil said that it could not support any proposal which implies additional financial commitments by Parties to the Convention, as Resolution VIII 30 (to be used as a basis to obtain funds to the Ramsar Regional Training Centre) seemingly requires. Argentina informed that she did not agree with any proposal which implies additional financial commitments towards the Regional Training Centre.

109. The Secretariat explained that it is necessary to have a resolution in order to obtain funds from the operational budget of the Convention in accordance with Resolution VIII.30. Furthermore, all the resources in the budget line for regional initiatives went to the Mediterranean at COP8.

110. Canada presented a draft of the Declaration of Merida, which was discussed and changed with contributions from the delegates (see annex 1).

111. Mexico presented a draft resolution on Ramsar and water, and it was agreed that in principle all the delegates supported the initiative, but for a resolution approval of the foreign offices of each country is required. It was thus decided that the delegates would circulate this draft, and Mexico will circulate the official request for support through the ministries of foreign relations (see annex 2).

112. After a break, the meeting was closed by Luis Jorge Morales Arjona on behalf of the government of Yucatan, with Ernesto Enkerlin as chairman of the meeting and by Margarita Astrálaga who in the name of the Ramsar Secretariat congratulated the participants for their dedication and excellent work during the meeting and thanked the governments of Mexico and Yucatan for their hospitality and extensive logistic support.

Annex 1: MERIDA MESSAGE

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

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