Report on Ramsar COP9 for the CBD SBSTTA Working Groups 1 and 2


Report on the outcomes of the 9th meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Kampala, Uganda, 7-15 November 2005)

Statement to CBD SBSTTA WGs 1 & 2 (28 November 2005)
Dr Nick Davidson (Deputy Secretary General) & Dr Gordana Beltram (former Chair, Standing Committee, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands)

Madam Chair, distinguished delegates,

Thank you for the opportunity to brief SBSTTA11 on the key outcomes of Ramsar COP9, which concluded two weeks ago in Kampala, hosted by the government of Uganda. Significantly, this was the first Ramsar COP held in Africa, with an overall theme of "Wetlands and water: supporting life, sustaining livelihoods".

In all the COP adopted 25 Resolutions on a wide range of topics, many of direct relevance to the matters you are discussing this week. In relation to the theme and location of the Conference these included Resolutions on "Wetlands and poverty reduction" and on "the role of the Convention in the prevention and mitigation of impacts associated with natural phenomena" (natural disasters).

During the COP the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment's synthesis report for Ramsar was launched. The report ("Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Wetlands and Water") confirms the vital role that wetlands and their ecosystem services play in securing livelihoods and human well-being, but issues a stark warning that past losses and present rates of loss and decline of inland and coastal wetland ecosystems, their wetland-dependent species and their capacity to deliver critical ecosystem services are even greater than those in marine and terrestrial ecosystems. The report concludes that if Millennium Development Goals are to be attained, much better attention to the maintenance and restoration of wetland services will be essential, and that to do this there needs to be an urgent shift to a cross-sectoral approach to decision-making and implementation.

Under Resolution IX.1 the COP approved a significant range of further scientific and technical guidance for convention implementation prepared by the Convention's Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP), which draws significantly on the work of the MA.

In particular the COP approved a set of overarching frameworks for convention delivery: for wetland inventory, assessment and monitoring; for the Convention's water-related guidance; and a "Conceptual Framework for the wise use of wetlands and the maintenance of their ecological character". Importantly, this last framework for these two key concepts of the Convention, recognises that the MA's Conceptual Framework provides a valuable tool for showing how and when to apply the suite of implementation guidance in the Ramsar Wise Use toolkit. Also importantly, within this conceptual framework the Convention has also adopted updated definitions of the "ecological character" and "wise use" of wetlands, which draw upon and take into account the work of both the MA and the CBD's ecosystem and sustainable use approaches.

However, in doing so, many Parties were not comfortable with fully adopting the MA's terminology of "ecosystem services", preferring to apply the term "ecosystem benefits/services" throughout the COP9-adopted decisions and guidances.

In response to requests from Ramsar COP8 and CBD COP7, the STRP prepared proposals for revisions to the Convention's Strategic Framework for Ramsar site designation designed to increase harmonisation of the Ramsar designation criteria with Annex I of the CBD text.

From this, Parties at COP9 adopted a new Ramsar Criterion (Criterion 9), which is a quantitative criterion for the designation of sites for non-avian wetland-dependent species (which can include mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and macro-invertebrates - essentially an "animals without feathers" criterion). Additional guidance on biogeographic regionalisation, and for the application of other existing Criteria was also approved, as were Resolutions on several other aspects of designation and management of Ramsar sites as protected areas.

However, the issue of designation of Ramsar sites for cultural features, and for other types of ecosystem service as defined by the MA, proved the subject of considerable debate during the COP. Parties agreed to adopt a Resolution which further strengthens recognition of the importance of taking into account cultural features of wetlands in the Ramsar site designation process, although not as a specific designation criterion.

On indicators, COP9 approved a set of eight "indicators of effectiveness of the implementation of the Convention", mechanisms for which will be further developed by the STRP next year. These indicators have been designed to be consistent with, and draw upon, the suite of CBD 2010 biodiversity indicators, but aim to go a step further in terms of their assessment against a number of the 'process-oriented' indicators within the Convention's national reporting system. This approach will place Ramsar well in terms harmonised indicator reporting in relation to its lead implementation role for CBD on coastal and inland wetlands.

Other more detailed guidance approved by COP9 concerns additional guidance on river basin management, on wetlands and groundwater, and on methods for the rapid assessment of biological diversity of inland, coastal and near-shore marine wetlands. This last is a consolidated text of the several materials jointly developed by CBD and Ramsar for inland waters and for marine and coastal ecosystems, and earlier considered by SBSTTA - a further demonstration of the effectiveness of implementation of the CBD-Ramsar Joint Work Plan in providing consistent and harmonised materials for application by our respective Parties.

COP9 established a set of 25 future scientific and technical priorities for the work of the STRP, to be delivered through a revised STRP modus operandi with an increased focus on access to and involvement of local, regional and international expert networks. Priorities include a major data and information needs review (related closely to the need for simplifying reporting burdens for Parties, including through national reporting on Strategic Plan implementation), indicator assessment mechanisms, further water-related guidance including on water quality issues, further review of Ramsar site designation criteria and guidelines, on wetlands and agriculture, on CEPA and as an emerging issue on wetlands and human health.

In relation to this last issue, Parties also adopted an emergency Resolution on "avian influenza" and its consequences for wetland and waterbird conservation and wise use.

As also reflected in the budget allocations for the next triennium, Parties at COP9 placed strong emphasis on the development of regional collaboration initiatives under the Convention (approving seven such initiatives to operate under the framework of the Convention), on CEPA and on scientific and technical implementation.

Considerable attention was also given to further improving synergies between conventions including on harmonised reporting amongst the biodiversity cluster of conventions and agreements. In relation to this, the importance of the Biodiversity Liaison Group, and the link with the Rio Convention's Joint Liaison Group, was strongly recognised, as was working with UNEP on further development of issue-based implementation modules as an underlying tool for simplifying reporting processes.

In summary, then, through many of these decisions, and others on cross-biome planning and management, on sustainable use of fish resources, on engagement with multilateral processes dealing with water, and on agricultural issues including welcoming the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) as the fifth of the Convention's International Organisation Partners, Parties at COP9 have recognised that it is essential to engage cross-sectorally in addressing the drivers of change to wetlands so as to secure wetlands' capacity to continue to deliver their ecosystem benefits/services.

In doing so, our Parties have strengthened their approaches to implementation so as to support their delivery of wetland conservation and wise use on the ground, in line with Ramsar's role as lead implementation partner of CBD for inland and coastal wetlands.

Madam Chair, thank you for your time.

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