Ramsar regional initiatives in Africa
West Africa coastal countries launch WacoWet
Following Resolution VIII.30 (2002), which recognized the importance of regional initiatives in promoting the objectives of the Convention, the West Africa countries (all Ramsar Parties) which belong to the Gulf of Guinea ecological continuum (from Mauritania to Nigeria) decided to prepare a regional initiative to focus on marine and coastal wetlands in the region.
The government of Benin was given the mandate to lead the initiative and prepare the required documents, which were then discussed and approved at the COP9 Africa regional preparatory meeting held from 3-8 April 2005 in Arusha, Tanzania. The initiative was then submitted to COP9 and endorsed by Resolution IX.7.
After several consultations with the other countries, the government of Benin convened from 20-22 June 2007 a meeting to officially launch the WacoWet initiative.
The meeting brought together participants from Benin, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, and Togo, which reviewed and approved WacoWet's charter, protocol, strategic plan and rules of procedure [in French] and resulted in the official launching of the WacoWet initiative.
The last day of the workshop was devoted to a session on "the way forward" after the Cotonou meeting and included the following items (i) the WacoWet Secretariat, (ii) the role of Ramsar, (iii) the Work Program, (iv) the fundraising options, (v) collaboration with other similar initiatives and (vi) the next meeting of the Commission.
On the WacoWet Secretariat, participants agreed that there should be an interim period (no more than three years) during which it would be hosted and run by Benin's environment agency (ABE) before it becomes an independent regional organization. Regarding the role of the Ramsar Secretariat, it has been agreed that Ramsar will provide guidance (and funds for three years as approved by the COP) and will not play a key political and functional role in the initiative implementation.
Several sources of funds were proposed for a sustainable funding base of the initiative, ranging from the GEF to the Africa and European Water Facilities. While the Ramsar financial support might be available until next COP, the Parties were urged to secure alternative sources of funds to support the interim period of the Secretariat. Participants agreed that part of the resources that were allocated to WacoWet should be used to recruit a consultant who would produce a Work Program for 2007-2008 and the category C GEF project to be implemented under the framework of WacoWet. This is the most tangible action toward securing funding for the initiative. The draft documents produced by the consultant will be presented and approved at the Africa preparatory meeting for Ramsar COP10 scheduled to take place from 16 to 19 October 2007. The documents will be circulated to coastal West Africa Parties and the Ramsar Secretariat at least one month before the Yaoundé meeting.
The participants instructed ABE to contact IUCN, WWF, Wetlands International, Birdlife, PRCM and IWMI offices in the region as soon as possible to inform them and seek their collaboration (technical and financial) on the implementation of the initiative.
The next meeting of the WacoWet Commission will take place back-to-back with the Africa preparatory meeting in Cameroon. ABE, as the host of the WacoWet Secretariat, will prepare the agenda and relevant documents and circulate them to the members at least one month before the meeting.
WacoWet is one of the three regional initiatives currently going on in the region, together with ChadWet and NigerWet.
-- Abou Bamba, Senior Advisor for Africa