Ramsar address to the Beijing International Conference on Combating Desertification

22/12/2007

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Ramsar Secretary General's address to the International Conference on Combating Desertification

Beijing, China, 22-24 January 2008

Statement by Mr Anada Tiega, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

Honorable Minister Jia Zhibang, State Forestry Administration,
Honorable Sha Zukang, UN Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social affairs
Honorable Minister Nhema, Chairman of the Commission on Sustainable Development
Your Excellency, Mr. Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD
Honorable Ministers,
Your Excellencies, ambassadors
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

As Secretary General of the Convention on Wetlands, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to convey my message to this important Conference on Desertification.

I would like to express the appreciation of the Ramsar Secretariat to the government and people of China and the United Nations for organizing and hosting this important meeting in preparation of CSD16. I also take this opportunity to thank the Executive Secretary of the UNCCD for paying a visit to our Secretariat and for taking the time to discuss areas of common interest and collaborative work and mutual support to achieve common goals.

This is also a great opportunity to thank the government and the people of China for the progress regarding their implementation of the Ramsar Convention. During a recent visit in China, I was impressed by the quality and the coherence of the Chinese implementation policy, programme and activities. These strategic and operational tools and actions are important means and approaches to combat desertification, using wetland values to address land and water degradation trends.

Mr. President,
Distinguished delegates,

I am here to convey our message about partnership, joint activities and mutual support to combat desertification. The Ramsar Convention is committed to playing a role in the partnership that will address the issue of desertification, along with agriculture, land, water, wetlands, biodiversity, drought, and rural development.

The Memorandum of Cooperation between the Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention, and the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, particularly in Africa, recognizes:

  • the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands as regulators and providers of water, as habitats supporting characteristic flora and fauna, and which provide invaluable services and benefits for human populations around the world;
  • in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, combating desertification includes activities which are part of the integrated development of land, land meaning the terrestrial bio-productive system that comprises soil, water, vegetation, other biota, and the ecological and hydrological processes that operate within;
  • both UNCCD and the Ramsar Convention encourage research and the exchange of data as well as the development of training activities.

We strongly believe that river/lake basin management and integrated coastal management are key approaches to combating desertification. We also take part in the UN-Water process that recognizes Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) as an approach which can act as a framework for the adaptation of water management to climate change and the management of floods and droughts. The UN-Water process recognizes that improved development and management of water resources, based on a true and inclusive stakeholder involvement, provides a direct link to the Millennium Development Goals addressing poverty, hunger, gender equality, health, education and environmental degradation.

The role that the Ramsar Convention can play in contributing to sustainable development is becoming increasingly clear: As a matter of fact, much of the impact of poor land use is felt through the degradation of land and water, the key assets that support life and its diversity. Wetlands and the water they receive, transport, purify and store are important assets for food security, human health, energy production, conservation of biological diversity, climate change mitigation and adaptation, including drought and flood control.

What we call wetlands are areas where land and water meet, from the mountain to the sea, to glaciers, lakes, rivers, with their floodplains, deltas and estuaries; other types of inland wetlands include oases, peatlands, marshes and swamps. Coastal wetlands, including mangroves and human-made wetlands, are other important assets to combating desertification. As we are experiencing a changing world, there will be more and more instances of too much water in the wrong time and place and, elsewhere, too little or none where we need it. This is already leading to increasing frequency of natural disasters - notably floods and droughts and fires - in both the developing and developed world, and often affecting the poorest and most vulnerable people and communities

Yet whilst wetlands are - according to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) - amongst the most valuable ecosystems in terms of the benefits they provide to people, they are also still the most rapidly degrading ecosystems in the world. In our national and international decision-making we are clearly not yet paying sufficient attention to the role and importance of wetlands, both inland and coastal, when we take decisions for other purposes that lead to the loss of the valuable water-related and other ecosystem services they provide. Such wetlands include high mountain and riverine wetlands that are crucial for water retention, flood and drought mitigation and water supply for people; and coastal wetlands such as mangroves, invaluable for the resilience of vulnerable coastal communities to sea level rise and storm surges.

Distinguished delegates, what is essential is a much more effectively integrated and collaborative partnership approach, within nations and among nations, in order to apply all our respective knowledge and capacities to tackle these urgent matters.

Thank you.

Anada Tiega
Secretary General
Convention on Wetlands

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