A new key to act at national level: the Association Ramsar France


The 3rd annual seminar of the activity leaders at French Ramsar Sites took place in the Camargue on 14-15 November 2011 (for brief reports about the earlier meetings see here). Nearly two hundred participants gathered, in the centre of France’s first Ramsar Site in the Mediterranean Rhone river delta, in the transformed 19th century sheep barn of Mas de Peint, a family enterprise for wetland agro-tourism. The highlight of the seminar was the signing of the “Charter for the management of Ramsar Sites” (PDF, here, text in French) by the French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transport and Housing, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the President of the Camargue Regional Nature Park for the Association Ramsar France, Hervé Schiavetti, and the Ramsar Secretary General, Anada Tiéga.

Anada Tiéga, Ramsar Secretary General
Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, French Minister of Ecology
and Hervé Schiavetti, Association Ramsar France
sign the French Ramsar Charter

The Charter recalls the legal link between the Ramsar Convention and the French Constitution. It lists the tasks and the roles of the French State, the Association Ramsar France and the Ramsar Convention Secretariat to cooperate for an improved implementation of the Convention at national level and to make use of the Ramsar Site quality label for the recognition and promotion of sustainable management activities at listed sites. The charter spells out the necessary tools and lists the responsibilities of the organisations in charge of Ramsar Site management. In his brief allocation, Anada Tiéga underlined the pioneering role played by France with the establishment of the new Association that brings together different stakeholders towards a coordinated management and sustainable development of Ramsar Sites. An innovative approach that is most likely to serve as an example for other countries to copy and to adapt to their own national context.

The Statutes of the Association (PDF text) were agreed earlier by its founding members during a meeting on 29 September. They list the objectives of the Association, notably to make known and to promote the Ramsar label and its wise use approach, to support the listing of additional Ramsar Sites, to improve the management and the intersectoral cooperation at site level, to become a think-tank for the development of new proposals and innovative solutions, and to make sure that Ramsar Sites become a quality label for sustainable development well-known among the general public, the socio-economic operators and the local communities.

Full house in the Mas de Peint sheep barn during the signature of the French Ramsar Charter

Prior to the signature of the Charter, the seminar participants--representing Ramsar Site managers, mayors, local and regional councillors, environmental education experts, public administration officers, NGOs, stakeholder groups and scientific wetland experts--discussed in four workshops different aspects of the work of the Association, notably how to develop governance mechanisms for Ramsar Sites, how to share experiences between managers of Ramsar Sites and other wetlands, how to promote the Ramsar label among local operators and the general public, and how to define the role of the Association within the framework of the French national wetland action plan.

Luc Hoffmann (right) offers Minister Kosciusko-Morizet
an egret sculpture, overlooking is Tour du Valat president Jean-Paul Taris

During the 40th anniversary year of the Convention, the Camargue was chosen as the locality for the annual meeting of the French Ramsar actors to commemorate the international conference of the project MAR (from “marshes, marécages, marismas”) that took place in the Camargue in November 1962. During this conference came the initial call for a List of Wetlands of International Importance and for an international treaty to involve governments in working together for their management. The MAR Conference was organized by Luc Hoffmann, the recipient of the special 40th Anniversary Honorary Ramsar Award and founder (in 1954) of the nearby Tour du Valat research centre for Mediterranean wetlands (www.tourduvalat.org). Throughout his life, Luc Hoffmann contributed scientifically, strategically and financially to wetland conservation and to the establishment and the further development of the Ramsar Convention--besides his many other involvements (read the Ramsar Award information here). It was therefore only natural that a special evening was set up in the Camargue during the seminar to pay tribute to his outstanding achievements. He was present and received a long, standing ovation from the French wetland community--a very emotional moment indeed.

Seminar participants visiting the coastal salt flats in the
Camargue, hosting France’s only flamingo breeding colony.

The Camargue Regional Nature Park, Tour du Valat, BirdLife France (LPO) and the Syndicat Mixte de la Camargue Gardoise are to be congratulated for having organised this very successful seminar and the remarkable tribute to Luc Hoffmann. For the 4th annual meeting in 2012, the Brenne Ramsar Site in central France announced its wish to invite the Ramsar actors, an opportunity to take stock of the first year results of the newly established Association Ramsar France. A very promising outlook.

Camargue temporary marsh on Tour du Valat Nature Reserve.

Reported by: Tobias Salathé, Ramsar Senior Advisor for Europe
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