The 6th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties


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Technical Session F:
Community-Based Wetland Management

Chair: Mr Anderson Koyo (Kenya)
Vice Chair: Mr Gaikovina Kula, Department of Environment, Papua New Guinea

Keynote Presentation

"Involving Communities in Wetland Management," Diane Buchan of New Zealand, with amplification by Tabeth Chiuta Dube, IUCN Zimbabwe

Presentations and Case Studies

    Diane Buchan
    presented the keynote paper, which was written under the auspices of the IUCN Social Policy Group and outlined the advantages and problems related to setting up collaborative management regimes for involving local people in participative management of their wetland resources.

    Tabeth Chiuta Dube, IUCN (Zimbabwe)
    illustrated those points by reference to the experience of IUCN's Southern African Wetlands Programme. It was found that, where public resources are scarce, local involvement can lead to effective management through monitoring, policing, and so on, as it is in the interest of local people to manage their resources wisely if they are made to feel that they have a stake in them. The projects described frequently became self-sustaining and therefore cheaper over time.

    Dwight Shellman, President, Caddo Lake Institute (Texas, USA)
    reviewed the evolution of the Caddo Lake Institute and the League of Ramsar Educators, outlining the principles upon which its successful initiatives are structured, including its "marginal cost" approach and the use of existing materials and volunteer personnel from educational institutions and the community. He stressed the great importance of local site-based NGOs to complement the work of governments and international NGOs.

    J. Marcio Ayres, CNPq and Wildlife Conservation Society (Brazil)
    presented a case study involving the Mamiraua Reserve in Brazilian Amazonia, where village political organization and involvement, with government guidance, is succeeding in managing a large tract of flooded forest area that is extremely rich in biological diversity.

    Biksham Gujja, WWF International (Switzerland)
    outlined philosophical and policy approaches to community-based wetland management, demonstrating why conceptual shifts were necessary in order to guarantee that the involvement of the local people may become an end in itself rather than a means to some other end. A case study from the Keoladeo National Park near Delhi illustrated the dangers and costs of ignoring the interests and abilities of the local people.

Further Discussion

    A number of speakers echoed the importance of community involvement in natural resource management and offered a number of other proposals:

  • IUCN should discuss the issue of access rights to national parks at its Ottawa meeting;
  • whereas fences can often be seen as preventing local people from enjoying the use of their heritage, at times they can encourage that enjoyment by managing access rationally;
  • though participation must be real and effective, there is no universal formula for achieving it.
  • there must be adequate provision made for the rights of small private landowners, who may be disenfranchised by conservation actions when in fact they often have the largest stake in sustainable use of the wetland's resources.

    There was a brief description of the organization and work of the Land Care movement in Australia.

    Mention was made by BirdLife International of the European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism, which focuses on the importance of traditionally managed farmland and its importance to wildlife. Sustainable farming by traditional means has tended to be eclipsed in recent years by a move to intensive farming. It was urged that the Draft Recommendations do not exclude local people who have traditional knowledge but are not necessarily indigenous.

    Ramsar Center Japan discovered that local participation in wetland management was actually NGO participation, and has been sponsoring the elaboration of methods to bring the wider population into greater involvement.

    It was also observed that traditional methods are not necessarily always good; slash and burn economies which may have been sustainable 200 years ago may be devastating in the present more populous era.

    Australia explained the motivation behind its proposed Recommendation 6.3, that local communities with close and long association with a local site can often contribution greatly to its management. The Convention was urged to seek specific ways to empower indigenous groups, and the Contracting Parties were urged to include indigenous people on their National Ramsar Committees.

    There was some concern that enshrining preferential treatment for local communities might discriminate against the universal rights of all citizens to enjoy wetlands. Though there was some expression of feeling for greater and preferential rights for indigenous people, there was also some doubt that a narrow focus on indigenous people would be inappropriate in many circumstances, and that the words "local people and in particular indigenous people" would be preferable. There were also reminders that indigenou peoples who had been alienated from their land and were no longer local should also be provided for.

    Australia accepted the suggestions made by Australian indigenous people's groups that their concerns be given higher consideration in the redrafting session. There were many suggestions for additions or amendments to the text, and a redrafting subcommittee was selected by the Chair.

Rapporteur: Dwight Peck

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