Ramsar address to the 5th COP of the Convention to Combat Desertification


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Fifth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention to Combat Desertification, Geneva, Switzerland, 1-12 October 2001

 Statement by the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)

delivered 10 October 2001 by Mr Anada Tiéga, Ramsar Regional Coordinator for Africa

Mr President, excellencies, and distinguished delegates,

First, I wish to express the apologies of Delmar Blasco, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention, who is unable to attend this important meeting to personally deliver this statement. On behalf of Mr. Blasco, I thank you for the opportunity to briefly highlight for you some developments of mutual interest to the Parties to our conventions, in particular in relation to the practical implementation of the Memorandum of Cooperation signed in 1998.

Let me reiterate that our cooperation takes place within two global contexts:

  • First, developing closer inter-linkages among all the environment-related conventions, so as to assist countries which are parties to many conventions in harmonising and simplifying the delivery of these multiple commitments.

One concrete example of this is the cooperation that already exists between our two conventions and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Ramsar is in the process of preparing our Third Joint Work Plan with CBD, and we will ensure that issues of common concern to the three conventions are included in this Plan.

We are also actively participating in the UNEP-led process on International Environmental Governance, where the question of clustering of conventions is under consideration. Ramsar would like to ensure that our two conventions will be located in the same cluster, because we are convinced that wetlands in arid lands are of paramount importance and that we therefore must work together.

Finally, our two conventions and CBD are main partners in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, whose work will commence very soon. Related to that is the European Space Agency TESEO project for developing prototype earth observation tools for both Ramsar and the UNCCD.

  • The second area of common endeavour is, of course, our work at the country level. As indicated in our statement to your COP4, desertification and wetlands are intricately linked. Maintaining and, where possible, rehabilitating these wetlands - and particularly those in drylands - can contribute much to ameliorating the impacts of desertification and meeting the increasing demand for scarce water resources.

In the area of country-level cooperation, we would like to express our satisfaction with the initiatives taken by the UNCCD Secretariat to organize a series of National Workshops on Synergies of Sustainable Development Conventions at the National Level. We will be pleased to participate in a number of them because we consider that they make a very good starting point to bring together the different agencies that deal with the conventions in each country.

The other areas in which our joint efforts should continue are:

First: raising awareness.

We recognise the importance of raising awareness of the significance of wetlands – rivers, lakes, marshes, coastal areas and many others - for the UNCCD. Through Ramsar’s Outreach Programme we have been preparing information materials for our common constituencies. For World Wetlands Day 2001 we published an information pack describing the many different "Wetland values and functions". For World Wetlands Day 2002, we will soon distribute an information pack on the cultural aspects of wetlands, emphasising the many ways in which people around the world relate to these ecosystems through different aspects of their cultural heritage. These and other materials are at your disposal.

Our second area of common work is: scientific and technical cooperation.

The Ramsar Parties have adopted wide-ranging guidelines on the sustainable use of wetlands, published as eight Handbooks in English, French and Spanish. For our next COP, our Scientific and Technical Review Panel is preparing a series of additional technical guidelines that should be useful to the agencies responsible for the implementation of the UNCCD at country level. This includes the important issues of:

  • climate change - including early warning systems and the adaptive management of wetlands in mitigation of climate change impacts;
  • inventory, rapid assessment, indicators and monitoring; and
  • wetland management and restoration.

The important work of your Committee on Science and Technology, notably on early warning systems, indicators, and traditional knowledge, is likewise of great relevance to the Parties to the Ramsar Convention, and we hope that in future there will be a more active interaction between our two subsidiary bodies dealing with science and technology.

The third theme of common interest is: improving access to information and guidance.

We need to continue improving access by our Parties and focal points to all this information and expertise, through enhancing links between our respective Web sites, and through other dissemination tools.

Our fourth, and very important, theme is: assisting Contracting Parties in taking collective actions at national and local levels.

The work that has been done on International Environmental Governance includes an important component related to the need for an effective partnership at national and local levels. If national strategies and action plans on desertification control and wetland conservation and wise use are to be developed and implemented effectively, we need to encourage and support collective action among all players, including the focal points of our (and other) conventions, the civil society, and the many other ministries with different responsibilities that affect the environment.

Wetlands in drylands are as yet under-represented in the Ramsar’s List of Wetlands of International Importance. To help countries recognise key wetlands in their national planning process on desertification control, we are now compiling a directory of significant wetlands in arid and semi-arid areas, with an initial focus on Africa. We anticipate that these listings will also assist in your development of the "Network for the Integrated Management of International River, Lake and Hydrogeological Basins in Africa".

As reported last year, drylands are a priority in the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Living Waters Campaign, which is supporting countries in their further designation of Ramsar sites. Designation of important wetlands in dryland areas, notably in Algeria and the Lake Chad and Niger River basins, has progressed very well, in cooperation with the relevant River Basin Commissions – Algeria has designated 10 new Ramsar sites, covering almost two million hectares, and Niger has designated 3 new sites covering about 500,000 hectares. Moreoever, we are working to identify appropriate major wetland systems, possibly in southern Africa (Okavango Delta) and Central and West Africa (Lake Chad and the Niger River Basin), in which we hope to develop an ‘on-the-ground’ management demonstration of the delivery of national commitments to all environment-related conventions.

The Ramsar Convention wishes to reiterate its commitment to cooperate with you in your important work in addressing desertification issues all over the world. We look forward to making good progress in our joint efforts in the coming year.

Thank you.

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