Ramsar capacity building for francophone Africa

17/07/2007

Programme de Renforcement des Capacités des Pays Francophones d'Afrique pour la mise en œuvre de la Convention Ramsar

The Ramsar Convention, in collaboration with the French Government through ATEN ("Ateliers Techniques des Espaces Naturels", a department in the French Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development), has completed the first draft of the training module for Ramsar National Focal Points (NFPs, "Administrative Authorities") and National Wetland Committees (NWCs) in French. This module targets Ramsar Contracting Parties in French-speaking Africa (Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Togo, and Tunisia) but would be extendable to other countries, regions and conventions. It would greatly contribute to realizing Recommendation 6.5 of the 6th meeting of the Conference of Contracting Parties (COP6, 19-27 March 1996 in Brisbane, Australia), which encouraged the establishment of wetlands manager training programmes, and contributes to the implementation of the Convention's Strategic Plan 2003-2008 through the key activity areas 14.1, 15.1, 18.1 and 20.1.

French-speaking Africa is endowed with a rich and diverse range of ecosystems, a good number of which are wetland ecosystems and well represented in the List of Wetlands of International Importance, ranging from mangrove ecosystems to river basins, lakes, lagoons, oases, estuaries, etc. These wetland ecosystems contribute significantly to the biodiversity of these ecosystems and are very symbolic in the livelihood and culture of the inhabitants of these countries. During the 8th meeting of the Conference of Contracting Parties (COP8, 18-26 November 2002 in Valencia, Spain), French-speaking Africans expressed the need for improved capacity building for actors involved in wetland management. In response to this need, the idea of a training package for wetland managers in French-speaking Africa was initiated with the aim of significantly contributing to improved sustainable management of wetlands in these countries through improved human and institutional capacity building at national level. This was done through the project on a training module for Ramsar National Focal Points and National Wetland Committees.

The present training module is based on the three implementation pillars of the Ramsar Convention (wise use, Ramsar site designation, and management and international cooperation) and stresses the main role of Ramsar National Focal Points, communication with the Ramsar Secretariat, and coordinating the implementation of the Convention at the national level. It makes use of many existing documents on the role of NFPs and combines them into a single instructive document, which would serve to make the existing information readily available, as a sort of code for NFP capacity building. This training module clearly defines who the NFP is, his or her role, the required qualification, working conditions, expected activities and how to carry them out, behavioral ethics and expected outputs, amongst others. Twelve major items of interest are addressed:

- The Ramsar Mission - Designating and updating Ramsar sites
- Typology of Ramsar information - NFP agenda/address book
- Milestones - Identifying training opportunities
- Ramsar manuals and technical reports - Fund raising
- The COP - Coordinating WWD
- Composition and functioning of National Wetland Committees - The Standing Committee

However, emphasis would be placed on activities which are subject to deadlines and which are presently a major drawback to the smooth functioning of the Secretariat. These include updating Ramsar information sheets every six years, National Reports every three years, preparation for the COP every three years, contribution to the Standing Committee meeting every three years, and preparation for World Wetlands Day annually.

This module was tested for the first time in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, during the NigerWet-ChadWet African regional initiative meeting organized by WWF, from the 10th to 13th of July 2007, which brought together a good number of French-speaking Ramsar NFPs. It will subsequently be considered for adoption at the Ramsar Convention African Regional Meeting which will take place from 16-19 October 2007 in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and officially presented by the French authorities at Ramsar COP10 in Changwon, Republic of Korea.

-- Evelyn Moloko Parh, Assistant Advisor for Africa

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