Venice workshop on practical implications of international conventions on wetland management


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What difference do international designations make? What are their practical implications on wetland management?

"Venice and its Lagoon" is a wetland selected for the World Heritage Convention List as a site of outstanding universal value, however so far only according to cultural criteria. But what would Venice be (or have been) without its lagoon? Does it make sense that the lagoon of Venice is hardly present among Italy's currently 46 Ramsar Sites, in fact, only for the small wildlife sanctuary Valle Averto (500 ha, 1% of the lagoon surface) declared as Ramsar Site N°423? How can international designations provide a framework for taking measures to solve the problems outlined in the report "The Lagoon of Venice as a Ramsar Site" published recently by the Province of Venice (cf. Can international designations be used at different levels and sectors to develop integrated planning systems and mechanisms for the long-term sustainable use and conservation of wetlands?

Such are the questions that brought the Province of Venice and the UNESCO Office in Venice, supported by the Italian Ministry of the Environment and Territorial Planning and the Veneto Region, in collaboration with the Ramsar Secretariat, to organize an international workshop on 21-23 November 2005 focusing on practical implications of international conventions on wetland management (cf. our earlier announcement at Deliberately, the theme was to be addressed from different angles and through experiences from different sites. Besides experts on the Venice Lagoon (from the CORILA research consortium and from local authorities), managers of Ramsar sites in the Italian Po Delta, in Spain (Doñana, Odiel marshes), Croatia (Kopacki Rit), Romania (Danube Delta), Tunisia (lake Ichkeul), Austria and Hungary (lake Neusiedl/Fertö), and a number of scientific experts from across Europe participated actively in the workshop's deliberations. The opening and closing sessions took place in Palazzo Zorzi in Venice, the work in three smaller groups on nearby San Servolo Island.

The workshop was opened with three keynote presentations on the territorial planning process (by Lucien Chabason, former coordinator of the UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan), on the implications of international designations for management planning at individual sites (by Peter Bridgewater, secretary general of the Ramsar Convention), and on the dynamic effects of international designations (by Juliet Fall, an expert to the UNESCO Man and Biosphere programme). Their presentations and other workshop documents can be found on the Province's website at:, and a version of the workshop conclusions is attached here.

The subject is of interest to wetland managers at all levels (national, provincial, local). The workshop participants identified a number of ways to harmonize existing international tools within governance processes at national level that could result in effective improvements in local territorial management. Similar reflections are arguably also needed for other parts of the world, including the management aspects of transboundary wetlands and aspects of multiple designations. The very fruitful cooperation between Ramsar and UNESCO's World Heritage Centre and Man and Biosphere Programme (cf. and can now be reinforced with the inputs from the Venice workshop and hopefully be expanded further to include other international instruments as well.

-- reported by Tobias Salathé, Ramsar

Conclusions of the Venice workshop on Practical Implications of International Conventions on Wetland Management

Views from the XIth century clock tower on Torcello island in the northern part of the Venice Lagoon with its small-scale vegetable gardens and medieval monastery, an important tourist attraction.

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