Ramsar remarks to the CBD's SBSTTA-13, Rome, 20 February 2008


CBD STSTTA13, Rome, 20 February 2008

Agenda item 4.2 inland waters

Opening remarks by the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

Nick Davidson, Deputy Secretary General

Madam Chair,

Thank you for this opportunity to make few brief comments on progress in the continuing collaborative work between our Conventions, and on aspects of the document (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/13/5) you have before you.

As you have noted, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has acted as the CBD's lead implementation partner on wetlands (both inland and coastal) since CBD COP3. Our Parties value and recognize this important relationship as leading in continuing to demonstrate how such collaborations can work effectively, and it must continue to be developed and implemented if we are to be efficient in our use of resources for maintaining the biodiversity and sustainable use of wetlands - ecosystems which the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) advised us all have been and continue to be deterioriating faster than any other system, thus jeopardizing the huge range of services they provide to people and biodiversity.

So our joint activity has never been more important or urgent, in the light of an increasingly rapidly changing world.

In that respect, the Ramsar Standing Committee has recognized the importance of the framework for implementation of this relationship provided by our Joint Work Plan, and it welcomed this fourth plan, for 2007-2010, at its 35th meeting in 2007. But as this plan recognizes, whilst our collaborations at global level are working and progressing well, there is still much to do to enhance collaborative implementation through our respective focal points at national level, and we must all encourage ways of achieving this.

As your paper reflects, the Ramsar Convention has been placing increasing emphasis over the past 10 years on issues of water, its quantity and quality, in relation to wetland ecosystems. This is in recognition of the fact that increasing water needs, for example for irrigated agriculture, are a major driver of change to wetland systems, and that this pressure is predicted to increase if we continue to manage (or mis-manage) our increasingly scarce and unpredictable water supply as we currently do.

Our Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) has developed a considerable suite of guidance adopted by Ramsar Parties on different aspects of water management and wetlands, and this is available as a number of Handbooks in the Ramsar Wise Use Handbook series, the third edition of which was published in 2007, and available to all of you on CD-ROM and from the Ramsar Web site (http://www.ramsar.org/lib/lib_handbooks2006_e.htm).

The STRP is now preparing further water-related guidance for consideration by Ramsar COP10 in October this year, notably a further development of the "critical path" approach to river basin management and information on water quality and on environmental water requirements.

This guidance is relevant to CBD not just concerning implementation of the inland waters programme of work. Since water underpins (or perhaps better - under-flows) the maintenance of all ecosystems, this guidance can support implementation of all CBD's thematic programmes of work. For example, whilst water in wet lands is important, wetlands and water in dry and sub-humid lands are even more critical for maintaining such ecosystems and their services. Likewise the inter-relationship between water, wetlands and agriculture is crucial, given that almost all the water we use comes directly or indirectly from wetlands; and that 70% of available water is used by irrigated agriculture.

It is perhaps very surprising, therefore, that so little overt attention to water issues is given in your other ecosystem programmes of work. Water, and the wetland systems which process and provide this water, we feel needs to be considered as much more of a cross-cutting issue in all of these programmes.

The Ramsar STRP is now completing a substantial body of other additional guidance work, and technical reports, for consideration by Ramsar COP10 (28 October-4 November, Changwon, Republic of Korea), and of direct relevance to activities under the CBD/Ramsar Joint Work Plan.

This includes work on:

  • Review of the utility of Ramsar guidances;
  • Wetlands and climate adaptation, including review of knowledge on wetland carbon fluxes;
  • Wetlands and human health, and issues of wetland ecosystem health (speaking to the COP10 theme of "Healthy wetlands, Healthy people");
  • Wetlands, agriculture and water resource interactions;
  • Further development of the Convention's ecological effectiveness indicators, linked with the 2010 biodiversity indicators work;
  • Describing ecological character and detecting, reporting and responding to change in such character;
  • An overall framework for the Convention's data and information needs; and
  • Methodologies and advice, including biogeographic regionalization, for gap analysis of the Ramsar sites network

This last will further contribute to responding to CBD Decision VII/4 on Ramsar site criteria and guidance. In addition, we anticipate that, as part of follow-up work to several aspects of this current work, the Panel will recommend that it undertakes in the next triennium a further in-depth review and consolidation of the guidelines for applying Ramsar site Criteria and of the structure and content of the Ramsar Information Sheet used for site designation.

The Panel is also currently preparing its advice to COP10 on future scientific and technical priorities for work in the next triennium. This will include inter alia further attention to issues of climate change and of invasive species. The recommendations you agree here will also be taken into account in this future prioritization. We will also be discussing further the streamlining of our joint work when the chairs of our subsidiary bodies meet in Bonn in May (CSAB2).

Concerning the request in Decision VIII/20 for a Ramsar lead in developing a framework for harmonized reporting between Ramsar and CBD, we are most grateful to UNEP for supporting UNEP-WCMC to undertake work on this matter in the past year, as part of the UNEP Conventions' Knowledge Management project. A draft report on such a framework is in hand and will be reviewed at a project meeting next month. The good news is that the draft report finds that such harmonized reporting is a feasible proposition, but the report also raises a number of issues and pre-conditions which will need to be resolved if we are successfully to operationalise such an approach.

Finally, concerning enhancing information and resources on our CBD/Ramsar collaborations on our Web sites, I am pleased to report that Ramsar will during this year be initiating a major re-development of the Ramsar Web site, and the scope of this redevelopment will include considerations of such enhancements on our collaborations and the roles played by our respective processes.

The opportunity of the upcoming in-depth review of the CBD inland waters programme of work will offer us all an opportunity to address all these, and of course many more, matters so as to streamline our future operations and collaboration - not just on inland waters, but in relation to wetlands and water more generally, wherever they occur.

Thank you.

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