The 9th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties


"Wetlands and water: supporting life, sustaining livelihoods"
9th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties
to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)
Kampala, Uganda, 8-15 November 2005
Agenda item XV
Ramsar COP9 DR 22

Recognizing Wetlands of International Importance for their traditional cultural values

Submitted by: Samoa, endorsed by Oceania Contracting Parties

Explanatory note by the Secretariat

1. This draft Resolution was submitted by the Government of Samoa under Rule 5 of the current COP Rules of Procedure, concerning the deadline for the submission of such proposals of 60 days before the opening of the COP, and it has subsequently been endorsed in this amended form by the Oceania Regional Preparatory meeting (Fiji, 29-30 September 2005).

2. Contracting Parties should note, in relation to the implementation of Resolution VIII.45, that the draft Resolution contains operative paragraphs with matters of a technical nature and includes annexed technical guidelines which have not yet benefited from the review and advice of the Scientific and Technical Review Panel.

3. This draft Resolution contains guidance concerning the application of the Criteria for the designation of Wetlands of International Importance, in particular in relation to Criterion 1. In relation to Criterion 1 of the Strategic Framework and guidelines for the selection of Ramsar sites, the STRP was asked, through Resolution VIII.10 and CBD Decision VI/4, to establish ways and means of reflecting, inter alia, the cultural and socio-economic importance of wetlands in the suite of Ramsar Criteria. In reviewing this issue (see COP9 DOC. 17), the Panel recognized that the current guidelines for the application of Criterion 1 cover some hydrological regulating services and biodiversity supporting services, but not all types of ecosystem services recognized in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment's Conceptual Framework. In the light of this, the Panel has concluded that it is most logical and appropriate to expand the Criterion 1 guidelines in order to cover all types of ecosystem service (sensu MA) - provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting - rather than seeking to establish additional separate Criteria. This approach is also consistent with aspects of the guidance for the application of Criterion 1 which were originally adopted by COP4 in 1990 (Recommendation 4.2). The STRP's proposals are included for COP9 consideration in COP9 DR1 Annex B.

4. This draft Resolution should therefore be considered in conjunction with COP9 DR1 Annex B and the discussions foreseen in the COP9 Technical Session on cultural values in wetlands. This draft Resolution will thus be referred to the 32nd meeting of the Standing Committee, in line with Resolution VIII.45, so that the Committee can provide advice to COP on the sequence of its presentation and discussion in relation to consideration of COP9 DR1 and the Technical Session. In addition, at the request of the Chair of the Standing Committee, the draft Resolution will be circulated to the STRP so that the Panel, if it so wishes, can provide advice on the technical matters contained within it to the 32nd meeting of the Standing Committee and to the COP.

COP9 DR 22

Recognizing Wetlands of International Importance for their traditional cultural values

1. RECOGNIZING that from its very beginnings the Ramsar Convention has acknowledged the great cultural significance and values that many wetlands have to the local and indigenous peoples that have lived near and relied on them, in some cases for several centuries;

2. AWARE that wetlands and water resources in all parts of the world are focal points for civilizations, providing vital services and places where local communities have developed strong cultural connections and developed sustainable use practices;

3. APPRECIATING that the wise use of wetlands, the foundation of the Ramsar Convention, embodies these cultural values, and that they therefore warrant greater recognition by the Convention;

4. RECALLING that the 7th meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP7) adopted Guidelines for establishing and strengthening local communities' and indigenous peoples' participation in the management of wetlands (Resolution VII.8) and ALSO AWARE that at present Parties are requested in the Ramsar Information Sheet describing Wetlands of International Importance to record details of the social and cultural values of their designated sites;

5. FURTHER RECALLING that Resolution VIII.19 adopted Guiding principles for taking into account the cultural values of wetlands for the effective management of sites and associated with it paragraph 30 of Resolution VIII.10, which sought to have brought forward for consideration at this COP "additional criteria and guidelines for the identification and designation of Ramsar sites concerning socio-economic and cultural values and functions that are relevant to biological diversity…which would be applied on each occasion in conjunction with one or more existing criteria for the identification and designation of Ramsar sites"; and

6. MINDFUL that the Ramsar Convention needs to work in cooperation with multilateral and regional agreements and other bodies addressing cultural heritage issues, in particular the Convention on Biological Diversity in relation its work on Article 8(j) and the maintenance of knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities;


7. ADOPTS methods for assisting Parties in recognizing the traditional cultural values of their Wetlands of International Importance, as included in Annex A to this Resolution;

8. EMPHASIZES that these methods are only to be applied once a site has qualified for the Ramsar List against one or more of the ecologically-based criteria;

9. REAFFIRMS that the qualification of a site for the List against one or more of these methods does not alter the obligation of Parties to "formulate and implement their planning so as to promote the conservation of the wetlands included in the List", as embodied in Article 3.1 and since interpreted by the Convention to be synonymous with retaining the ecological character of listed sites;

10. URGES Parties to note and apply these methods as appropriate, taking into consideration the Guiding Principles adopted in Resolution VIII.19 (included as Annex B);

11. REQUESTS the Ramsar Secretariat to establish for the next triennium (until COP10) a regionally-based Cultural Values of Wetlands Task Force comprising suitably qualified experts to develop detailed guidelines for applying the cultural methods;

12. FURTHER REQUESTS the Ramsar Secretariat to seek from Contracting Parties, experts, practitioners, the secretariats of relevant multilateral and regional agreements, local communities and indigenous peoples around the world, case studies to illustrate the range of cultural values associated with Ramsar and other wetlands, so that these examples can be used to inform the development of more detailed guidelines by the Cultural Values of Wetlands Task Force and provide an information and education resource for Parties to access;

13. CALLS UPON all Parties to review their Ramsar Information Sheets for existing Wetlands of International Importance and, where appropriate, submit revised forms that now include reference to these methods;

14. ENCOURAGES Contracting Parties to increase their efforts to recognize cultural values relating to wetlands in their existing heritage protection, legal frameworks, and policies; and

15. RECOMMENDS that Parties include relevant aspects of cultural heritage in the design and implementation of wetland management plans and seek the active participation of indigenous peoples, local communities, and other stakeholders in the development and implementation of these plans.

Annex A

Methods for identifying the traditional cultural values of Wetlands of International Importance

*The following methods should only be used once a site has qualified for the Ramsar List against one of more of the ecologically-based Criteria 1-8[9].

Method A: Assess how the wetland provides an example of how past or present local or indigenous peoples applied the Ramsar wise use principle for sustainable harvesting of living wetland resources.

Explanatory notes:

The types of sites that are of interest here are those where the natural living resources of the wetland have been exploited sustainably for many years or even centuries by local or indigenous communities and this is apparent through structures or harvesting methods, the latter having been documented. While there is potential overlap between this method and B and C below, the emphasis here is on wise use and building a 'library' of real life examples of this fundamental Ramsar principle being applied at Wetlands of International Importance. This method could also be equated to the concept of cultural landscapes/seascapes that illustrate traditional production or harvesting systems. Examples include fish traps or fishing methods, agricultural methods, traditional irrigation systems, water mills, methods for extracting resources like salt, rice, reeds, etc.

Method B: Assess how the wetland includes material signs, such as structures or artefacts, that give the site great cultural significance for past or present local or indigenous peoples.

Explanatory notes:

The distinction between method B and C (below) is that B is focused on material signs of cultural significance and C on non-material. Material signs could be visible now or be shown through archaeological investigations. For method B the types of material signs could include:

  • historical structures or housing that may utilise wetland-derived products in their construction;
  • water mills or wheels and distribution systems;
  • fish traps;
  • boats, canoes, etc., and the tools of their construction;
  • hunting or gathering tools for wetland-dependent biota; or
  • material signs or artefacts of religious or spiritual significance at the site, such as burial sites.
Method C: Assess how the wetland represents a place of significant non-material culture, through, for example, folklore, music, mythology, oral traditions, customs, and traditional knowledge.

Explanatory notes:

As indicated above, the distinction between method B and C is that B is focused on material signs of cultural significance and C on non-material. Some forms of non-material signs can also be indicated under method A, especially when they relate to wise use harvest or exploitation systems. For method C some of the forms of non-material cultural values as referred in the text of the criterion itself.

Annex B

Guiding principles for taking into account the cultural values of wetlands for the effective management of sites
(as adopted by Resolution VIII.19)

General principles

1. This document proposes a number of general principles for identifying, preserving and reinforcing the cultural values of w

etlands, which could be supplemented with additional ones at future meetings of the Conference of the Parties as more knowledge and experience are obtained. Some of them may overlap, but this is only natural as cultural values are often related and require an integrative approach.

2. There is a strong link between wetland conservation and benefits to people. In addition, a positive correlation between conservation and the sustainable use of wetlands has been repeatedly demonstrated. Therefore, conservation requires the involvement of indigenous peoples and local communities and cultural values offer excellent opportunities for this.

Guiding principle 1 - To identify the cultural values and relevant associated partners.

Guiding principle 2 - To link the cultural aspects of wetlands with those of water.

Guiding Principle 3 - To safeguard the wetland-related cultural landscapes.

Guiding principle 4 - To learn from traditional approaches.

Guiding principle 5 - To maintain traditional sustainable self-management practices.

Guiding principle 6 - To incorporate cultural aspects in educational and interpretive activities in wetlands.

Guiding principle 7 - To take into account culturally appropriate treatment of gender, age and social role issues.

Guiding principle 8 - To bridge the differences of approach between natural and social sciences.

Guiding principle 9 - To mobilise international cooperation in matters of culture issues related to wetlands.

Guiding principle 10 - To encourage research on palaeoenvironmental, palaeontological, anthropological and archaeological aspects of wetlands.

Guiding principle 11 -- To safeguard wetland-related traditional production systems.

Guiding principle 12 - To protect historical structures in wetlands or closely associated with them.

Guiding principle 13 - To protect and preserve wetland-related artefacts (mobile material heritage).

Guiding principle 14 - To preserve collective water and land use management systems associated with wetlands.

Guiding principle 15 - To maintain traditional sustainable practices used in and around wetlands, and value the products resulting from these practices.

Guiding principle 16 - To safeguard wetland-related oral traditions.

Guiding principle 17 - To keep traditional knowledge alive.

Guiding principle 18 - To respect wetland-related religious and spiritual beliefs and mythological aspects in the efforts to conserve wetlands.

Guiding principle 19 - To use the arts to promote wetland conservation and interpretation.

Guiding principle 20 - To incorporate recognition of cultural values, where available, in the designation of Wetlands of International Importance and the associated Ramsar Information Sheet (RIS), whilst ensuring the protection of traditional rights and interests.

Guiding principle 21 - To incorporate the cultural aspects of wetlands in management planning.

Guiding principle 22 - To include cultural values in wetland monitoring processes.

Guiding principle 23 - To consider the use of institutional and legal instruments for conservation and protection of cultural values in wetlands.

Guiding principle 24 - To integrate cultural and social criteria into environmental impact assessments.

Guiding principle 25 - To improve wetland-related communication, education and public awareness (CEPA) in the matter of the cultural aspects of wetlands.

Guiding principle 26 - To consider the possibility of using quality labeling of sustainable traditional wetland products in a voluntary and non-discriminatory manner.

Guiding principle 27 - To encourage cross-sectoral cooperation.

For reasons of economy, this document is printed in a limited number, and will not be distributed at the meeting. Delegates are requested to bring their copies to the meeting and not to request additional copies.

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