Ramsar address to COP7 of the Convention on Biological Diversity

13/02/2004

Convention on Biological Diversity
Conference of the Parties, 7th meeting
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Working Group I, Thematic programmes of work: inland waters

Friday 13 February 2004

Intervention by Peter Bridgewater, Secretary General of the Convention on Wetlands

Mr. Chairman, I have pleasure in making some introductory remarks on the Inland waters proposed programme of work from the perspective of the Ramsar Convention. Particularly because I believe this shows well the exemplary way our two secretariats have been able to interact in drawing up a joint work programme to help implement this activity. The success of work in this thematic area is surely one clear example of good global governance for the environment! And the recent publication of CBD Technical Series 11 on Status and Trends of Biodiversity of Inland Waters Ecosystems is a good example of this activity.

Of course our work plan goes to many thematic and crosscutting areas, but inland waters is our heartland. Indeed, just as well functioning inland waters are central to the functioning of other thematic areas, and cross-cuts such as protected areas. Although this session deals with inland waters I draw attention to the key role of the Ramsar Convention in marine and coastal systems, and the urgent need to link river basin management with integrated coastal management. Mr. Chairman, we need good examples of what works well in this area - Ramsar has some, and this is maybe where we can develop some joint demonstration actions - and it is actions we urgently need. Ensuring integrated management also means ensuring that protected areas exist, but are set in a wider landscape/seascape context, a point I tried to make yesterday afternoon.

The Convention has increasingly recognized that wetlands not only play a vital role in the hydrological cycle, but that to secure their conservation and wise use it is essential that they are managed in the wider context of basin-scale and water resource management. One challenge is to find ways of securing appropriate allocation of water to wetlands in the face of increasing water demand by people. This action is covered by several elements in the proposed programme of work - and again we need to ensure our two secretariats are working in a complementary, not parallel, way. Discussions at our recent Standing Committee suggested that Contracting Parties to Ramsar will be looking for ways to increase our effectiveness in this arena. Adoption of outcome related and complementary targets will be essential to measure our success.

Mr Chairman, there are several elements in the programme where actions already in place and underway through the Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel, actions undertaken by the Secretariat and, of course, activities at national level among Contracting Parties. Let me touch on one or two.

Inventory and Monitoring are key elements to improving our knowledge of the systems, and enabling us to put in place adaptive management strategies. Here is an area where collaboration is strong among all institutions, and where we must strive to ensure there is convergence and not confusion between methods and terminology!

Managing biodiversity change, including gains as well as losses, and understanding the overarching role of climate change in forcing some aspects of biodiversity change is a critical need for both our conventions. Again the complementary roles of both our subsidiary bodies will be important here. But we must move beyond wise words to actions on these issues - the global plight of wader birds was recently highlighted, and the situation is worse than previously thought. Wetlands can be created as well as destroyed, and we must strive, together, to start the process of not only conserving but also rebuilding the world's wetlands.

Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) is an essential adjunct to all our actions. For if we cannot communicate well to the wider public what we are doing and why we need to do it, our actions may be in vain. In this sense the CEPA programme of the CBD and that of Ramsar are complementary. And nowhere more than in ensuring we are treating issues of traditional and indigenous knowledge sympathetically in our understanding of the earth's wetland and watery systems. Understanding, clarifying and communicating the issues of the mutual re-inforcing roles of cultural and biological diversity is paramount. Again both our conventions have made tentative steps in the CEPA field - these must become strides!!!

When Ramsar COP9 meets next in Kampala, Uganda, in 2005, Contracting Parties will have before them the outcomes of your deliberations, and I am sure will build on them. And meanwhile our secretariats and technical advisory structures will continue to collaborate and work together even more effectively than thus far.

Right now the world is poised to cope with the issue of ensuring enough freshwater for all - which also means ensuring enough water for wetlands and other ecosystems. The Ramsar Convention of course deals with protection, production and natural purification of freshwater - as well as the near-shore marine environments. Yet both of our conventions, even working together, still have a very long way to go to realize the objectives enshrined in our respective texts. This, Mr. Chairman, is the challenge that we jointly and severally face. I sincerely hope that Kuala Lumpur will be remembered as a start of a new, reinvigorated dynamic of action at global, regional and national level to reverse loss of wetlands, slow, if not stop, the loss of biodiversity, and certainly reduce the gain of undesirable biodiversity. That reinvigoration will surely continue in Kampala!

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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