Report from the Asian Wetlands Symposium July 2011

The fifth in a series of Asian Wetland Symposium (AWS) was successfully held in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia from 18-20 July 2011. These symposia are aimed at providing a platform for discussing issues and sharing best practices relating to the conservation and wise-use of wetlands across Asia. The theme of this latest AWS was “Integrated Biodiversity Conservation: Linking Forests and Wetlands” in recognition that 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the Ramsar Convention and the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere, (MAB) Programme, as well as being the United Nations International Year of Forests.

AWS 2011 Sabah, Opening Ceremony

The State Government of Sabah hosted AWS Sabah 2011, in cooperation with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Malaysia, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Bornean Biodiversity and Ecosystems Conservation (BBEC) Phase II Programme, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, and the Ramsar Center Japan.

A key aim of this AWS was to discuss ways to enhance synergy in the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Ramsar Convention and other initiatives such as the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme and the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) Non-legally Binding Instrument on All Types of Forests, as a contribution to achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Millennium Development Goals.

Over 300 participants from across the region attended the event which was divided into six sessions. The topics of these sessions were ‘Ramsar and CBD’, ‘Regional approach to advance the implementation of Ramsar and CBD’, ‘Forests and Wetlands’, ‘Business and biodiversity for wetland conservation’, ‘CEPA for wetland and biodiversity’ and ‘Cultural heritage in forests and wetlands’. A special session highlighting the conservation efforts being carried out in Sabah by the government and NGOs occurred on the last day.

From the presentations and discussions, it quickly became clear that many of the international environmental conventions and initiatives had similar areas of work that would allow for natural synergies. For example, one of the common themes connecting CBD, the Ramsar Convention, MAB and UNFF is their work on the conservation and wise/sustainable use of biodiversity and ecologically important sites with the active involvement of local communities. 

Ramsar Secretary General, Anada Tiega

Closer cooperation between the Secretariats of the different international conventions and initiatives in a number of areas has already begun and this now needs to be repeated at the national government level, between the National Focal Points for these conventions and initiatives. One example where this can take place is with the revision of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (NBSAPs) that is currently taking place in many countries, and which should involve a wide a range of stakeholder as possible, especially including the Focal Points from the different international conventions and initiatives.

Partnership with the private sector was another point raised at the meeting since many businesses are now playing an increasingly important role in environmental conservation issues worldwide. This was highlighted in the presentation by Mr. Naotake Okubo, who is the Chair of the Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) Committee on Nature Conservation, who gave examples of the work done by some of the 1,300 Japanese businesses who are members of Keidanren.

At the end of the AWS, the ‘Sabah Call for Action: Integrated Biodiversity Conservation: Linking Forests and Wetlands’ was drafted and which summarized the main outcomes from the meeting.

During the meeting, early morning walks were organized to the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre, a small but unique area of mangroves at the edge of the city. On the morning of 19 July, Mr. Anada Tiega (Ramsar Secretary-General) and Mr. Nagae Tsutomu (Chief Representative in Malaysia, JICA), attended the first of these walks and launched a new set of Ramsar exhibition panels at the centre which were funded by JICA.


Ramsar Exhibition Panels

Mr. Nagae Tsutomu (Chief Representative in Malaysia, JICA), speaking at the launch of a new set of Ramsar exhibition panels at the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre.

Entrance to the Wetland Exhibition Centre

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2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

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