European Archaeological Council presents strategy for heritage management of wetlands
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Launch of A Strategy for the Heritage Management of Wetlands
Europae Archaeologiae Consilium, Brussels, 22 January 2002
Statement by Dr Tobias Salathé
Regional Coordinator for Europe, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)
It is a very great pleasure for the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands to be with you at the occasion of the launch of your "Strategy for the Heritage Management of Wetlands". This could not be more timely as an operational means for raising awareness of the important links between the conservation of biodiversity and archaeology and cultural heritage of wetlands - rightly recognised by both our organisations as the primary focus to achieve our goals.
Since 1971 the Ramsar Convention - the oldest of the modern global environmental conventions, and the only one to focus on a particular ecosystem - has been striving to help its, currently, 130 Contracting Parties (national governments) to achieve their commitments for the wise use (i.e. sustainable utilisation) of all their wetlands through many actions including the designation so far of over 1100 Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites) covering nearly 90 million hectares of inland, coastal and nearshore marine wetland ecosystems, both natural and human-made. Parties also commit to working together on a range of international cooperative activities.
The Ramsar Convention owes its origins in the 1960s to increasing recognition and concern of the urgent need to safeguard wetland habitats and the species, notably waterbirds, that depend upon them. But despite increasing awareness worldwide of the vital values and functions of wetlands, this challenge remains very great and likely to become even greater in many parts of the world in the face of accelerating desertification and increasing demand for shared water resources.
Joining forces to tackle this wetland challenge makes sense, and there is much common ground (or more accurately, water) in the biodiversity and heritage management of wetlands. Put at its simplest, we all need our wetlands to stay wet, - maintaining the hydrological integrity of wetlands is critical to our common objectives. Decision-makers and managers of the natural and of the cultural features of wetlands are, however, not always as fully aware as they could be of the benefits of working together to strengthen the safeguarding of this heritage.
The Ramsar Convention has long recognised the vital importance of people and their wetland heritage in all its forms as essential for achieving the sustainable management of wetlands. Indeed, the importance of people and the cultural significance of wetlands will receive a high profile at next week's World Wetlands Day. World Wetlands Day will be celebrated at many places in over 70 countries on Saturday 2 February, and this year's theme is the "Cultural Heritage of Wetlands". The Ramsar Convention Bureau has prepared a series of fact sheets on this theme which I invite you to take a copy before leaving.
Our next Conference of the Contracting Parties, to be held in Valencia, Spain in November 2002, has the theme "Wetlands: water, life and culture". This will include a major technical session on "the cultural aspects of wetlands as a tool for their conservation and sustainable use", which will include discussion of guidelines for incorporating cultural heritage in the assessment, valuation and management of wetlands.
Your initiative to focus on wetlands, as the most important ecosystem for the maintenance of cultural heritage, and to launch this fine Strategy today, is a tremendous step. It will do much to help raise awareness of the importance of managing wetlands for their cultural and archaeological richness linked with their natural values and functions - and to demonstrate to wetland managers how this can be best achieved on the ground.
I would urge you to play a strong and active role in the preparation and presentation of cultural issues at our 2002 Conference in Spain. As outlined in your Strategy, this could include:
- information sheets on the cultural heritage of wetlands and their management;
- case studies on management of cultural wetlands;
- guidelines on cultural wetlands management; and
- special EAC events during the Conference.
We are also greatly interested in your idea of developing a travelling exhibition on culture and wetlands. Taking this to Ramsar's next Conference in Spain would be a powerful way of raising awareness amongst our extended Ramsar family who will be participating.
If you have not done so already I encourage you to visit the Web-site (www.ramsar.org) - there is also a wealth of other material to be found there on wetland wise use and management.
Congratulations for the launch of this important Strategy. There is much in here directly about Ramsar, and all of it highly relevant of Ramsar's delivery of sustainable management of wetlands.