Developing a wetland city accreditation scheme

Urban and peri-urban wetlands are increasingly recognized for the range of benefits they provide to people and the environment. Resolution XI.11, adopted during the Ramsar Conference of the Parties in 2012 (COP11), encouraged the Parties to explore a possible wetland city accreditation schemeto provide branding opportunities for settlements that demonstrate a strong and positive relationship with wetlands.

Initial discussions on the development of the scheme were held during a workshop kindly hosted by  the Republic of Korea from 24 to 25 February 2014 on the island of Jeju. Participants included representatives from the Ministry of Environment and the National Wetland Centre of the Republic of Korea and NGOs. Participants also came from two villages by the Upo Wetland and Dongbaekdongsan Ramsar Sites where the National Wetland Centre has already initiated a pilot village accreditation scheme. Overseas participants included representatives from the Ministry of Environment (Government of Japan), United Nations University (Japan), WWF Tunisia, Ramsar STRP and the Ramsar Secretariat.

Workshop participants: (l. to r.) Faouzi MAMMOURI (WWF Tunisia), Byeong-Gug YANG (Director, National Wetland Centre), Sun-Woo KIM (Vice-Governor, Jeju province), Jae-Yun KO (GREF)

The workshop began with case studies from Japan and Tunisia presenting  settlements connected with Ramsar Sites where  the local community is actively involved in promoting the wise use of the Site and its resources. The case studies from Japan were from the Lower Maruyama River, Biwa Lake and Sakata Ramsar Sites while the example from Tunisia was from the Ghar el Melah Ramsar Site. The Director of the National Wetland Centre, Mr Yang Byeong-Gug, also gave an update on the ‘Wetland Village’ pilot accreditation scheme in the Republic of Korea.

During break-out discussions, participants identified the objectives of the accreditation scheme, the criteria for selecting settlements, and the process under which the scheme would operate.

Objectives identified for the scheme include:  to work with communities whose lives and activities are linked to a Ramsar Site; to ensure the wise use of the wetland so as to maintain the ecosystems services and benefits that it provides to the community and the environment; to provide benefits to the community by improving their livelihoods;  and to promote the sustainable development of the settlement.

Dongbaekdongsan Ramsar Sites

On the criteria for selecting settlements, participants agreed that eligible settlements must have connections with a Ramsar Site, and that the community should show its intent to achieve the wise use of wetlands by establishing a governance system involving the local residents. Awareness programmes about the value and benefits of thewetland, as well as planning, policies and other processes would also be considered when selecting settlements. .

During the discussion on the operation of the scheme, workshop participants agreed on the need for an independent body to manage and monitor the scheme, and on the need to raise fundsto allow this body to operate effectively. Participants suggested to award accreditation only for a set period, e.g. 3-years, and then to review it. As such a monitoring system would have to be developed.

Local ladies from Seon-hul pilot village (Dongbaekdongsan Ramsar Site), preparing to welcome the participants

The Jeju workshop provided useful suggestions on the objectives, criteria and process for the wetland city accreditation scheme. Further discussions need to be held with input from a wider range of Contracting Parties and Ramsar partners from other regions, e.g. Europe and the Americas, who did not attend the workshop. These discussions will continue during the 47th Standing Committee meeting at the end of March 2014.

Report and photos by Lew Young, Senior Advisor for Asia-Oceania

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