UNEP Global Ministerial Environment Forum, March 2004
Comments to the Global Ministerial Environment Forum, Jeju, Republic of Korea, 30 March 2004
Peter Bridgewater, Secretary General of the Convention on Wetlands
As I read the documents for this item, especially document VIII/2, I regret not finding reference to the Convention on wetlands - even though many of our partners are mentioned! But maybe this is our fault, so this intervention strives to set the record straight, and propose positive partnerships for the future. In fact, Minister Brende identified us clearly this morning when speaking of the key need to address the problem of vanishing wetlands.
The Ramsar Convention was the first intergovernmental treaty to promote integrated management practices for wetlands and river basins and for Integrated Coastal Zone Management, all essential in ensuring sustainable water resources, and survivable ecosystems, in the future. Similar to the Convention on Biological Diversity's ecosystem approach, Ramsar's wise use principle recommends a holistic approach when establishing management schemes, including not only ecological or biological factors, but also social, institutional, economic and cultural aspects. The Ramsar Convention has, since 1971, been a key global force in promoting wise use of wetlands - which in the last 10 years has meant more focus on water, its protection, production and purification. Membership of the Environmental Management Group (EMG) helps us work synergistically with other agencies and MEAs on these themes.
The principle thus is based on establishing or re-establishing the link between people and nature. Application of "wise use" is crucial to ensuring that wetlands can continue fully to deliver their ecosystem services in support of human well-being.
Some 33 years of experience allows Ramsar to be, today, one of the most practical conventions to help reaching the targets established during the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg (2002) and key Millennium Development Goals. By covering Water and Biodiversity we are the alpha and omega of the WEHAB process!
The water issue has been one of Ramsar's thematic areas for a while now. In the context of the new paradigm of integrated ecosystem management, wetlands are one of the vital elements which help to sustain the waterways that provide our food and drinking water. But the Convention is also addressing the key issue of how to provide water for people, while ensuring ecosystems also receive water to enable them to continue to provide ecosystem services on which we all depend. The Convention is shifting thus from the original concept of "wetlands for birds" to the one of "water for people", and the global implementation of integrated wetland and water management.
To achieve all this, the Convention works closely with other environment-related global and regional conventions. It has Joint Work Plans or other collaborative arrangements with the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Conventions on Biological Diversity, Combating Desertification, Migratory Species, and UNESCO. Here the issue of the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development is important, and all MEAs will need to integrate their CEPA activities within this broad framework.
We are a convention strongly based on science, and our subsidiary science body helps prepare material for consideration by Parties when they meet. We believe that not only do we need mapping of the assessment landscape; we also need mapping of the science base for environment in the broad multilateral system. Our science base could, and perhaps should, be better integrated with UNEP's broader initiatives, and I would be happy to see how that could be achieved.
Madam President, I know most nations here are Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention, but I am happy to discuss assistance to those countries on the road to accession. Our next conference of the parties will be in November 2005, in Kampala, Uganda, with the theme of "Wetlands and Water -- Supporting Life, Sustaining Livelihoods", and I am sure I speak also for Uganda in saying we look forward to welcoming all the delegates here present to Kampala, to really advance global efforts in ensuring functioning wetlands, as well as ensuring water for people!