A New Year's message for 2007

03/01/2007

A message from the Secretary General

As we start 2007, perhaps the first thought should be "its only 3 years to the realisation of the 2010 target to reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity…". It seems like we are not making the progress that was perhaps hoped for in 2002, when this target was enthusiastically embraced.

And yet it is a target which must be strived for, as while a global target, it is easy to make small local gains - indeed the global target can be achieved only by incremental action globally. In 2006 the other themes that increasingly capture world attention - climate change and freshwater availability - again took centre stage.

Climate change (as the CoP of the UNFCCC met in Nairobi to achieve some, but not great progress) and freshwater (as the fourth World Water forum met in México) continued to be a present issue in all global environmental discussions. Stockholm Water Week continued its development as a rather neutral but effective global market place for water discussions. Amongst the topics aired there were the nexus between water and agriculture, and the valuation of water and ecosystems.

Agriculture continues to be a major water user, but it also is not always given the recognition deserved for the gains in understanding made about the ways in which water use and agriculture interact positively. We look forward to further work being undertaken by our IOP IWMI and the FAO on this issue, and hope for useful results and a furtherance of understanding on the issue.

Our convention is the one place in international environmental governance where water, wetlands, climate change and human use interact. COP9 made advances in understanding through its work on poverty reduction and wetlands, the role of wetlands in mitigating against the effects of natural phenomena, including effects from climate change, and the broader issue of wetlands as the key ecosystem in managing and modifying the global water cycle. A meeting organized by UNEP-GRID Arendal brought together MEA's and Arctic politicians to discuss how to improve environmental governance in the Arctic, in part in recognition of the vulnerability of that region to climate change.

The role of wetlands in combating, or promoting, diseases for people also became a firm issue in 2006, through the (perhaps undue) attention given by the worlds press to HPAI. Here the issue of wetlands as disease sources became perhaps the key issue and that needs careful management by all involved in delivering the Conventions objectives: Parties, secretariat, IOP's and NGO's generally. Long term, the Convention must grasp the nettle on wetlands and human health as the most critical of all issues for the future of wetlands systems.

We must build on these outcomes, and refine actions and activity for COP10 based on these themes in the coming year…. by this time next year, certainly, we must be ready with a clear agenda for COP10 to consider and achieve!

And so, best wishes to all our readers for a happy, and hopefully wet 2007, and good luck for activities to be held in celebration of world wetlands day in a month's time!!!

Peter Bridgewater
Secretary General.

Waterfall at Jiuzhaigou Valley biosphere reserve - perhaps a Ramsar site in the next short period? Foreground is the Director, Sichuan Forestry Service.

Brugiuera mangroves line the shore at a potential new Ramsar site in Samoa.

The WWF Hong Kong managed Education centre at the Hong Kong SAR Ramsar site of Mai Po marshes - an excellent example of IOP-Party interactions in managing and helping the public benefit from a site.

The Rio Cruces site in Chile, subject of a Ramsar advisory mission by the secretariat in November, following the site being included on the Montreux record. The Mission was part of the process initiated by the Government of Chile to remove the site from the list.

Meeting in Sana'a, Yemen, with the Government EPA officials and the Environmental Committee of Yemeni parliamentarians, discussing the accession of Yemen to the Convention. Accession has been agreed since then, and it remains to finalise the work of site nomination for the accession to become final and official.

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