37th Meeting of the Ramsar Standing Committee

37th Meeting of the Standing Committee
Gland, Switzerland, 2-6 June 2008
Agenda item 8.9
DOC. SC37-26

Wetlands and human health

Action requested: The Standing Committee is invited to review and approve the attached draft Resolution for COP10 consideration.

Note by the Ramsar Secretariat

1. The attached draft COP10 Resolution has been prepared by members of the Scientific and Technical Review Panel's expert Working Group on Wetlands and Human Health and the Secretariat, based on the preliminary findings of the STRP's review report on these matters.

2. Further work on finalising the review report, including input from the World Health Organisation, is continuing, with a writing workshop held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in April 2008, and it is anticipated that it will be available as a Ramsar Technical Report later this year.

3. An Executive Summary, including key messages and recommendations from the full report, will be provided to Contracting Parties at COP10 as an Information paper.

Draft Resolution X.00

Wetlands and human health and well-being

(prepared by the Scientific and Technical Review Panel)

1. RECALLING that in Resolutions IX.14, IX.23 and [COP10 DRxx] Contracting Parties affirmed the relevance of wetlands and the Ramsar Convention to issues of poverty reduction and to disease, specifically Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), and that the theme for the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties is "Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People";

2. RECOGNISING that the concepts both of sustainable livelihoods and of human well-being include inter alia human health dimensions;

3. AWARE of the findings of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment's health synthesis, wetlands and water synthesis, and other reports, the IWMI-led Comprehensive Assessment of Water for Agriculture and its report to Ramsar being published as a Ramsar Technical Report, the second World Water Development Report, and the 4th Global Environmental Outlook concerning water, wetland ecosystems, human health, and livelihoods;

4. ALSO AWARE that the 1986 Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion recognises as pre-requisites for health inter alia food, a stable ecosystem, and sustainable resources; that the 2006 Bangkok Charter for Health Promotion in a Globalised World identified five major strategies for promoting health - building healthy public policy, creating supportive environments, strengthening community action, developing personal skills, and reorienting health services - and that the UN Human Rights Framework recognised a right at least to sufficient water to sustain [human] life;

5. RECOGNISING the relevance of the work of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on human health and ecosystems to the implementation of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands at local, national and international levels;

6. NOTING the conclusions of the Symposium on "Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People", hosted by Wetlands International and the People's Government of Shaoxing City, China, on 8 November 2007, to the effect that "an increased understanding of the functioning of wetland systems has led to the realisation that good wetland management benefits both wetland ecosystem health and human health" and that "immediate multi-sectoral action is essential in order to minimise risks and maximise the benefits to human health and well-being of good wetland management";

7. WELCOMING the Cooperation on Health and Biodiversity (COHAB) Initiative and its attention to human health and ecosystems issues, including on wetlands;

8. NOTING that much of the available information on the trends in interactions between human health and wetlands is derived from analyses of health and water inter-relationships, rather than on those between the wetland ecosystems themselves and human health, in particular the nature of ecological character and ecosystem services and the inter-relationships between ecosystem services, human well-being, and human health;

9. RECOGNISING that the changing climate is expected to continue to increase risk of human health matters associated with wetland ecosystems, including changing distributions of vectors and pathogens, reduction in water availability, unpredictability of physical hazards, and changing human population demographics associated with these;

10. AWARE that potentially conflicting responses to wetland wise use and to disease and human health risk management may arise, and CONCERNED that there is often little communication between wetlands and health sectors at local and national levels despite matters of common interest in the management of wetland health and human health issues;

11. ALSO AWARE that for many human communities, hunger, malnutrition, and a lack of access to clean water are the root causes of poor health and that health and well-being are in turn closely linked to people's livelihoods and to the basis for reducing poverty and vulnerability to poverty;

12. FURTHER AWARE that poor health can have a severe impact on the capacity of communities to maintain systems of sustainable resource management and wise use of wetlands;

13. FURTHER AWARE that unsustainable wetland use may both increase the occurrence of many diseases and introduce others, while conversely, sustainable management of wetlands, especially in a context of water supply and sanitation, can contribute to the reduction and eradication of water-related disease and to maintaining the health of people in general;

14. FURTHER AWARE that the high nutritional value of wetland food products contributes significantly to the human body's resistance and immunity to disease, and that many indigenous wetland plants and animals have significant medicinal values and are often the only source of medicine available to indigenous people and local communities;

15. FURTHER AWARE that in many societies the role of women in relation to family health issues, food preparation, and water collection, and thereby their potential exposure to diseases and contaminants in water and wetlands, gives them a particular role in relation to health in the community, and that they may also be at higher risk of ill-health due to their particular vulnerability, for example, during pregnancy;

16. CONCERNED that wetland ecosystems continue to be degraded; that when they are disrupted by human activities, particularly through increasing global water scarcity and deteriorating water quality, their capacity to deliver ecosystem services is diminished; and that this has direct and indirect effects on human health, including through loss of food production, loss of livelihoods, the emergence of infectious diseases and disease epidemics, and the resurgence and spread of water-related diseases previously thought to be under control;

17. RECOGNISING that there are a number of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) that can create human health problems associated with wetlands and water, and TAKING NOTE of the guidance on wetlands and HPAI in [COP10 DRxx]; and

18. THANKING the Scientific & Technical Review Panel for its preparation of its report "Healthy wetlands, healthy people - a review of wetlands and human health interactions" and for the provision of the draft executive summary of this report to this meeting (COP10 DOC. 00); ALSO THANKING the World Health Organisation for its contributions to that report; and FURTHER THANKING the government of Sweden for its financial support for its preparation;


19. CALLS UPON Contracting Parties and all those responsible for wetland management to take action to improve the health and well-being of people in harmony with wetland conservation objectives, in particular by identifying and implementing actions that benefit both wetland ecosystems and human health concurrently or, in case of any perceived conflict between these objectives, by applying as appropriate the guidance on wise use adopted under the Convention;

20. FURTHER CALLS UPON all those responsible for wetland management to address the causes of declining human health linked with wetlands by maintaining or enhancing existing ecosystem services that can contribute to the prevention of such declines;

21. URGES Contracting Parties to encourage all concerned to strengthen collaboration and seek new partnerships between the sectors concerned with wetland conservation, water, health, food security and poverty reduction within and between governments, non-government organisations, and the private sector;

22. ALSO URGES Parties to make the interrelationship between wetland ecosystems and human health a key component of national and international policies, plans and strategies, including by definition of specific wetland targets and indicators that link sustainable wetland management to the Millennium Development Goals;

23. ENCOURAGES those concerned with wetland conservation and management to bring information on the scientifically proven contributions that naturally-functioning wetland ecosystems make to good health and well-being to the attention of national ministries and agencies responsible for health, sanitation, and water supply;

24. URGES Contracting Parties, the human health sector, and all relevant stakeholders to collaborate in assessing the consequences of proposed responses to wetland and human health management, including the identification of appropriate trade-offs in decision-making for wetland and for human health management;

25. URGES Contracting Parties to ensure that decision-making on co-managing wetlands and human health issues takes into account current understanding of climate change-induced increases in health and disease risk and maintains the capacity of wetlands to adapt to climate change and continue to provide their ecosystem services.

26. ALSO URGES the wetland authorities in Contracting Parties, working with their health sector counterparts and others, to be vigilant to emerging and re-emerging wetland-linked diseases, to act preventatively and proactively in preparing for such diseases, and, if such diseases have been identified, to develop scientifically-based responses taking into account current good practices;

27. ENCOURAGES all concerned to dedicate resources to building capacity for more integrated approaches to wetland and water management and health, including the application of local and traditional knowledge;

28. REQUESTS the Ramsar Secretariat to work with the World Health Organisation to make available the findings of the STRP's report on "Healthy Wetlands, Healthy People" to the relevant parts of the human health community, and to discuss with the WHO ways and means of strengthening collaboration with the Ramsar Convention, including on technical issues of common interest;

29. INSTRUCTS the STRP, as a high priority, to further investigate the links between wetlands and health, in particular by:

i) developing from the STRP's report and other relevant sources further products for the human health sector concerning human health and wetlands;

ii) further assessing the interactions between wetland ecosystems and their services, and human health and well-being;

iii) developing interpretations and conceptual thinking in a Ramsar context of the applicability or otherwise of "health" to wetland ecosystems, the relationship of wetland ecosystem health to the concepts of ecological character and ecosystem services, and the implications for implementing and monitoring wise use and ecological character objectives under the Convention, taking into account both socioeconomic and ecological considerations;

iv) identifying gaps in knowledge and information on wetlands and human health for different regions, and identifying ways and means of filling such gaps;

v) identifying opportunities to promote the value of Ramsar sites which have high positive values for human health; and

vi) preparing guidance for wetland managers and the human health sector on processes for identifying appropriate responses to the co-management of wetlands and human health issues, including trade-offs and including application of health impact assessment approaches, increased transparency of information, representation of marginalized stakeholders, and engagement with the core business of other sectors such as water management;

30. INVITES the World Health Organisation and other relevant bodies concerned with human health and ecosystems to contribute to the STRP's work on these matters; and

31. FURTHER INVITES governments, NGOs, research institutions and others to make available, in appropriate forms including to the Secretariat and the STRP, the results of research and demonstration projects on good practice in integrated approaches to wetland ecosystem conservation and wise use and human health, with a view to demonstrating the practical value of such good practices for those directly involved with wetland management.

Back to top
Follow us 
Ramsar Awards 

The Convention today

Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
International Importance
2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

Ramsar Secretariat

Rue Mauverney 28
CH-1196 Gland, Switzerland
Tel.: +41 22 999 0170
Fax: +41 22 999 0169
E-Mail: ramsar@ramsar.org
Map: click here

Ramsar Forum: subscribe