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 6

Designation and management of [transnational] [transboundary] Ramsar sites

Explanatory note by the Secretariat

1. It is widely recognized that a coherent national and international network of Ramsar sites (through the implementation of the Strategic Framework and guidelines for the further development of the List of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Handbook 7) and their sustainable management (Ramsar Handbook 8) can provide a powerful demonstration and important contribution to countries in achieving their sustainable development goals, through the recognition and maintenance of the wetland services they provide in water and food security and poverty eradication, especially for local communities and indigenous people.

2. What has not been so well developed is the issue of transnational Ramsar sites, their "status", and importantly their management, beyond the brief guidance on these issues adopted by Resolution VII.19 (Guidelines for international cooperation under the Ramsar Convention - Ramsar Handbook 9). "Transnational Ramsar sites" could be defined as those internationally important wetlands which cross international borders and have been designated as Ramsar sites by at least two Contracting Parties within whose territories they lie.

3. During recent years, a number of new Ramsar sites particularly in the European region have been formally declared jointly as "transboundary sites", i.e., through a common letter of designation, signed by the two national administrative Authorities, and sometimes also complemented by a common Ramsar Information Sheet (RIS) covering both parts of the site, specifying the wetlands components, processes and services on each side of the border. Such sites may carry the same name or different names, for reasons of overriding importance of local names, different languages and alphabets used, etc. A detailed paper on this matter was presented to the European Regional Meeting (Yerevan, Armenia, December 2004) and is available at

4. Discussions at the Ramsar European Regional Meeting concerned ways of more clearly recognizing designated Ramsar sites which are transnational in nature in the Ramsar List, and further encouraging Contracting Parties to cooperate for their sustainable management. The Standing Committee's Subgroup on COP9 considered this matter and requested the Secretariat to prepare a draft COP9 Resolution which was considered by the 31st meeting of the Standing Committee. Decision SC31-12 approved this amended version for COP9 consideration.

5. This draft Resolution focuses specifically on those integral wetland ecosystems of international importance which are transected by national borders. The only guidance yet provided on this issue is in Ramsar Handbook 9 (International Cooperation), paragraph 11. The term "transnational" is suggested in the DR as an alternative to the term "transboundary" so as to ensure clarity that the approach addressed in this DR specifically concerns development of cooperation between Contracting Parties and does not address, for example, wetlands of international importance which cross provincial or state boundaries within the territory of a single Contracting Party. The 31st meeting of the Standing Committee requested that these words be bracketed for discussion at COP9.

6. The draft Resolution and its annexed "outline framework" does not cover wetlands which are geographically separated but for which cooperation in their management is called for under the Convention, such as the establishment of what are called in Ramsar terminology "twinning" mechanisms and of flyway-scale site networks for migratory waterbirds, since guidance has already been adopted by the Convention on these approaches. For "twinning" mechanisms, see the Convention's Guidelines for international cooperation under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Annex to Resolution VII.19; Ramsar Handbook 9 (section 2.4.3), and for flyway-scale site networks see Resolution VII.19 - Ramsar Handbook 9 (section 2.2) and also, for example, Resolution VII.19, Recommendation 7.3, and Resolutions VIII.37 and VIII.38). For these mechanisms the guidance focuses on opportunities for information, expertise and resource sharing and for mobilising training resources.



Designation and management of [transnational] [transboundary] Ramsar sites

1. RECALLING that the preamble to the Convention text states that "the Contracting Parties [are] confident that the conservation of wetlands and their flora and fauna can be ensured by combining far-sighted national policies with coordinated international action" (emphasis added);

2. ALSO RECALLING that Article 5 of the Convention text indicates that "the Contracting Parties shall consult with each other about implementing obligations arising from the Convention especially in the case of a wetland extending over the territories of more than one Contracting Party or where a water system is shared by Contracting Parties. They shall at the same time endeavour to coordinate and support present and future policies and regulations concerning the conservation of wetlands and their flora and fauna" (emphasis added);

3. FURTHER RECALLING that Ramsar Wise Use Handbooks 7 and 9 provide, inter alia, guidance on the designation and management of shared wetland sites and river basins, on the "twinning" of geographically separated wetlands, and on shared (migratory) species and site networks, and that Resolution VII.11 encourages Contracting Parties "to be mindful, when identifying priority sites for designation, of their obligations under Article 5 of the Convention (and the related Guidelines for international cooperation under the Ramsar Convention, adopted by Resolution VII.19), and to ensure that suitable transboundary wetlands and those providing important habitat for migratory wetland-dependent species are given prominence in these considerations";

4. RECOGNIZING that Article 2.3 of the Convention text confirms that "the inclusion of a wetland in the List does not predjudice the exclusive sovereign rights of the Contracting Party in whose territory the wetland is situated";

5. AWARE that the UNESCO-MAB programme has adopted a recommendation for the establishment and functioning of Transboundary Biosphere Reserves, and ALSO AWARE that in Europe the Europarc Federation (of National and Nature Parks) has established a working group that elaborated basic standards for [transnational] [transboundary] cooperation in protected areas;

6. WELCOMING the increasing number of shared wetlands which are being designated by Contracting Parties in several regions as de facto [transnational] [transboundary] Ramsar sites, i.e. being designated as Ramsar sites and benefiting from a regular and formal cooperation of both sides, without necessarily being formally declared jointly as a "[transnational] [transboundary] Ramsar site"; and

7. RECOGNIZING that not all [transnational] [transboundary] wetlands lie wholly within the territories of countries which are Contracting Parties to the Convention;


8. INSTRUCTS the Secretariat to undertake consultations with Parties and the Standing Committee in order to develop procedures for recognizing [transnational] [transboundary] Ramsar Sites in the List of Wetlands of International Importance, using the attached annex as a framework for advancing this work;

9. REQUESTS the Secretariat to incorporate the elements of this annex as additional guidance to Contracting Parties in the Strategic Framework and guidelines for the future development of the List of Wetlands of International Importance, as revised in [COP9 DR1 Annex B];

10. REQUESTS Contracting Parties, as part of their establishment of a strategy and priorities for Ramsar site designation as called for by Resolution VIII.10, to identify and assess wetlands in their border zones with a view to designating them as [transnational] [transboundary] wetlands where feasible, where appropriate and where doing so will contribute to the development of the comprehensive List of Wetlands of International Importance;

11. URGES Contracting Parties with [transnational] [transboundary] wetlands and Ramsar sites to establish mechanisms, taking into account regional and national circumstances as appropriate, for cooperation in their management in order to secure the conservation and wise use of such wetlands;

12. RECOGNIZES the importance of encouraging all non-Contracting Parties with [transnational] [transboundary] wetland ecosystems shared with Contracting Parties to accede to the Convention, in order to facilitate the establishment of cooperative arrangements under Convention processes; and

13. REQUESTS the Secretariat to report to COP10 on progress with this issue.


An outline framework for the identification, designation and management of [transnational] [transboundary] wetlands and Ramsar sites

1. Identification of [transnational] [transboundary] wetlands. As part of their establishment of a strategy and priorities for the further development of the List of Wetlands of International Importance (Resolution VIII.10), Contracting Parties should identify wetlands and catchment basins shared with adjacent countries. This could be based on an inventory of the following broad categories of such wetland ecosystems:

a) shared river stretches and their floodplains,
b) shared lakes and related floodplains and rivers,
c) shared individual inland wetlands of any other wetland type,
d) shared individual coastal wetlands of any other wetland type, and
e) shared karst areas and their associated [transnational] [transboundary] underground water systems.

Such initial identification of sites and catchments should be followed by an assessment of their specific components, processes and services that fulfil their recognition for designation of Wetlands of International Importance according to the Ramsar Criteria.

2. Designation of [transnational] [transboundary] wetlands. Any wetland site or catchment which meets the Ramsar Criteria as being internationally important should have all its parts designated as Ramsar sites within the territories of the Contracting Parties concerned [note 1]. As a matter of priority, qualifying sites which so far have part of their area designated by only one Party should be identified for urgent listing of the remainder of their area by the relevant neighbouring country or countries. When designating parts of a [transnational] [transboundary] wetland, harmonisation of the Information Sheets on Ramsar Wetlands (RISs) of the respective parts of the wetland within each country should be sought, and if possible the within-country names of each of the designated parts of the wetland should be complemented with an additional agreed name for the whole wetland.

3. Steps in establishing cooperation for [transnational] [transboundary] wetlands. [Transnational] [transboundary] cooperation for shared wetland sites and catchments is a process. Possible steps in developing such a process are:

i) unilateral work on each side, by NGOs, local stakeholders, governmental authorities;
ii) establishment of contacts across the border(s), through regular consultations, joint actions and formal cooperation;
iii) establishing a formal agreement on [transnational] [transboundary] management at an institutional level under which establishment of a [transnational] [transboundary] task force or committee is foreseen;
iv) formal agreement and adoption of common principles or guidelines for harmonised management, as the basis for elaborating national management strategies and plans;
v) joint planning to elaborate common management strategies and plans;
vi) coordinated and common activities in the implementation of these strategies and plans, including monitoring of results; and
vii) formal joint administration and sharing of resources and personnel.

For each [transnational] [transboundary] wetland site or catchment, identifying which stage of cooperation is currently attained and what should be the next stage of cooperation to be attained would be useful, and regular meetings of any [transnational] [transboundary] platform or task force can facilitate the necessary exchange of information.

4. Recognition of [transnational] [transboundary] wetlands in the Ramsar List. Development of procedures for clearly identifying [transnational] [transboundary] Ramsar sites as such in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance could include the following:

For a Ramsar Site to be recognized in the List as ["transnationally-managed"] ["transboundary-managed"], the following criteria could need to be met:

a) the wetland ecosystem lies across national borders with functional links (hydrological or other) that are material to its management;
b) designation of their respective portions of the coherent wetland system as Ramsar sites or joint designation (under each national jurisdictional authority) has been made, and the [transnational] [transboundary] nature of the wetland is clearly stated in the Information Sheet(s) on Ramsar Wetlands (RISs);
c) both/all responsible authorities are engaging in active management cooperation; and
d) both/all responsible authorities confirm to the Secretariat their recognition of, and cooperation on, the [transnational] [transboundary] nature of the designated Ramsar site

Note 1: This is consistent with aspects of the Ramsar Criteria proposed by the 2nd International Conference on Conservation of Wetlands and Waterfowl (Heiligenhafen, 1974): 4 (ii) "A wetland of national value only may nevertheless be considered of international importance if it forms a complex with another adjacent wetland of similar value across an international border".

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

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