25th Meeting of the Ramsar Standing Committee

28/09/2000

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25th Meeting of the Ramsar Standing Committee
Gland, Switzerland, 23 - 27 October 2000
Agenda item 7

DOC. SC25-3

Report and analysis on issues related to Resolution VII.12:
"Sites in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance: official descriptions, conservation status, and management plans, including the situation of particular sites in the territories of specific Contracting Parties"

Action requested: To consider: a) the evaluation made by the Bureau of the implementation of a number of paragraphs of Resolution VII.12 and to take and/or support action, as appropriate, to ensure effective implementation; and b) possible recommendations to COP8 to discuss mechanisms for the effective implementation of Article 3.2 of the Convention.

[See also DOC. SC25-3 addenda.]

1. The Report of the Secretary General contains information received by the Bureau on actions taken by a number of Contracting Parties in relation to the calls and requests by the Conference of the Parties contained in Resolution VII.12.

2. Nevertheless, the Bureau remains concerned by the fact that almost 18 months after the COP not enough action has been reported by a large number of Contracting Parties in relation to this important and very specific Resolution. The Bureau considers that it will be important, for the achievement of conservation and wise use on the ground and for the credibility of the Convention, to arrive at COP8 with a significant record of effective implementation of this Resolution. To this end, the Bureau invites the support of the Standing Committee as a body, and of each individual Regional Representative, the Permanent Observers, and the International Organization Partners. The operative paragraphs in the Resolution that in the view of the Bureau require particular attention are listed below.

3. Paragraph 12. The COP "WELCOMES the statements made in the National Reports or during this Conference concerning the impending, or planned, extensions to existing Ramsar sites, and designations of new Ramsar sites in the near future or during the next triennium, from the following 56 Contracting Parties: Albania (1 site), Algeria (4 sites), Argentina (1 site), Australia (4 sites), Austria (1 site), Bangladesh (1 site), Belgium (1 site), Brazil (2 sites), Canada (3 sites and extension of 2 existing sites), Costa Rica (2 sites), Ecuador (5 new sites and 1 extension), Estonia (10 sites), Finland (50 sites), France (3 sites), Germany (1 site), Guatemala (3 sites and 1 extension), Guinea-Bissau (2 sites), Honduras (7 sites), Hungary (4 sites), India (25 sites), Indonesia (3 sites), Islamic Republic of Iran (2 sites), Israel (4 sites), Ireland (19 sites), Kenya (1 site), Latvia (1 site), Madagascar (1 site), Malawi (2 sites), Mongolia (6 sites), Namibia (2 sites), Nepal (3 sites), Netherlands (27 sites), New Zealand (3 sites), Nicaragua (3 sites), Niger (1 site), Norway (12 sites), Panama (2 sites), Papua New Guinea (2 sites), Philippines (3 sites), Poland (5 sites), Republic of Korea (1 site), Romania (8 sites), Russian Federation (90 sites), Slovak Republic (2 sites), Slovenia (4 sites), Sweden (21 new sites and 9 extensions), Suriname (2 sites), Switzerland (2 sites), The Gambia (2 sites), Trinidad and Tobago (1 site), Uganda (3 sites), Ukraine (10 sites), United Kingdom (7 sites in Bermuda, 1 site in the British Indian Ocean Territory, 1 site in the British Virgin Islands, and 1 site in Scotland), Vietnam (3 sites), and Zambia (7 sites); and encourages these Contracting Parties, if they have not already done so, to forward completed Ramsar Information Sheets and boundary maps for these 13 site extensions and 398 new sites to the Bureau as soon as possible."

3.1. Status of implementation. The following CPs have already fulfilled their pledges in full or partially: Algeria (2 out of 4 sites); Argentina (2 out of 1 site); Australia (5 out of 4 sites); Austria (1 out of 1 site); Bangladesh (1 out of 1 site); Brazil (2 out of 2 sites); Costa Rica (1 out of 2 sites); Ecuador (2 out of 5 sites and one extension); Guatemala (1 site and one extension out of 3 sites and one extension); Iran (2 out of 2 sites); Philippines (3 out of 3 sites); Honduras (7 out of 7 sites); Papua New Guinea (1 out of 2 sites); and Slovenia (1 out of 4 sites). In summary, out of 398 new sites pledged, some 30 sites have been designated (7.5%), and one extension has been effected, out of 13 extensions pledged.

3.2 If the 398 sites pledged at COP7 were designated by the time of COP8 in November (to be confirmed) 2002, the Ramsar List would have 1404 sites. In order to achieve the approved target of 2000 sites in the List by COP9 in 2005, 596 new sites should be designated between COP8 and COP9. A concerted effort should be started now if these figures are to be realized. Particular attention should be given to assisting the 57 CPs that so far have designated only one or two sites. Some of them are new CPs, and some are small and/or arid countries with few or no additional sites that would qualify as wetlands of international importance, but a good number of these CPs have been Parties for as long as 15 years and are well endowed with wetland resources.

4. Paragraph 14. The COP "EXPRESSES DEEP CONCERN that there remain a number of Ramsar sites for which an official description has not been provided or updated, or has not been provided in one of the three official working languages of the Convention, and/or for which a suitable map has not been submitted."

Paragraph 15. The COP "CALLS UPON the following Contracting Parties, as a matter of the highest priority, to submit site descriptions conforming with the Ramsar Information Sheet format, and in one of the Convention’s three official languages, for a total of 54 Ramsar sites within their territories where no such descriptions have yet been provided (as indicated in Annex 1 of document Ramsar COP7 DOC. 13.3): Algeria (1 site), Belize (1 site), Gabon (3 sites), Germany (10 sites), Ireland (23 sites), Islamic Republic of Iran (1 site), Mauritania (1 site), Monaco (1 site), Netherlands (10 sites), Spain (1 site) and Yugoslavia (2 sites)."

4.1. Status of implementation. Algeria and Monaco have submitted the needed documentation.

5. Paragraph 16. The COP "FURTHER CALLS UPON the following Contracting Parties, as matter of the highest priority, to provide suitable maps for a total of 8 Ramsar sites where no such maps have yet been submitted (as indicated in Annex 2 of document Ramsar COP7 DOC. 13.3): Bahrain (1 site), India (4 sites), Netherlands (2 sites), and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1 site)."

5.1. Status of implementation. None of the required maps have yet been submitted by the CPs.

6. Paragraph 17. The COP "URGES the following Contracting Parties to provide to the Bureau as soon as possible Ramsar Information Sheets, in one of the Convention’s official working languages, for a total of 21 sites where only other language versions have so far been submitted (as indicated in Annex 3 of document Ramsar COP7 DOC. 13.3): Germany (18 sites) and The Netherlands (3 sites)."

6.1. Status of implementation. The two CPs have not yet submitted the RISs in one of the official languages.

7. Paragraph 18. The COP "FURTHER URGES the following Contracting Parties that have yet to provide updated Ramsar site descriptions, using the current Ramsar Information Sheet, to do so as a matter of priority for a total of 29 sites (as indicated in Annex 4 of document Ramsar COP7 DOC. 13.3): Bulgaria (2 sites), Denmark (11 sites), Ghana (1 site), Guinea-Bissau (1 site), India (6 sites), Ireland (1 site), Kenya (1 site), Mali (3 sites), Spain (1 site), Uganda (1 site), and the United Kingdom (1 site); and NOTES the statement of Denmark that the Greenland Home Rule Administration, which has competence for implementation of the Convention in Greenland, will complete the process of updating Ramsar Information Sheets for the 11 Ramsar sites in Greenland by the year 2000."

7.1. Status of implementation. Only Ghana has submitted the needed documentation.

7.2. In addition, it should be recalled that Resolution VI.13, paragraph 7, "URGES Contracting Parties to give priority to providing the Bureau by 31 December 1997 with maps and completed Information Sheets on Ramsar Wetlands for all sites designated for the Ramsar List, and to revise the data provided at least every six years (i.e. every second Meeting of the Conference) for monitoring purposes". Wetlands International reports that no updated RISs have been received since 1994 for 560 sites. Priority to this issue is reflected in the Bureau Work Plan for 2001.

8. Paragraph 19. The COP "AGREES to raise the Convention’s target for management planning at Ramsar sites, as set by Action 5.2.3 of the Strategic Plan 1997-2002, and URGES Contracting Parties to ensure that, by COP8 (2002), management plans are in preparation, or in place, for at least three quarters of the Ramsar sites in each Contracting Party and to seek to have these plans being implemented in full."

8.1. Status of implementation. The Bureau has not carried out a full survey of progress being made concerning management planning at Ramsar sites. The information received is contained in the Report of the Secretary General (General Objective 5 of the Strategic Plan). The general impression is that progress is slow, and most likely developing countries and countries in transition continue to require external assistance, and in particular financial assistance, to be able to do more.

9. Paragraph 29. The COP "NOTES WITH CONCERN that the Austrian Ramsar site ‘Donau-March-Auen’, referred to in Recommendation 6.17, cannot be removed from the Montreux Record owing to the plans for construction of a waterway linking the Danube, Oder and Elbe rivers, which could adversely affect the ecological character of this site, as well as additional Ramsar sites in Austria, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic."

Paragraph 32. The COP "ALSO NOTES that construction of a water way to link Germany, Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine may have significant impacts on wetlands and INVITES the States concerned to undertake a full review and assessment of these impacts, in accordance with international transboundary impact assessment procedures."

9.1. The Bureau has not received information indicating that the situations that raised the concerns of the COP in the two paragraphs above have changed.

10. Paragraph 33. The COP "REQUESTS those Contracting Parties with sites included in the Montreux Record, and which have not provided updates on the conservation status of these sites as part of their National Reports to this Conference or other appropriate means, to do so as soon as possible, and to advise on the likely time frame for the removal of these sites from the Record."

10.1. No updates have been received by the Bureau. In the Report of the Secretary General it is indicated that Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo have requested the inclusion of one site each in the Record and that two Ramsar Advisory Missions have been sent to Montreux Record sites, in Senegal and Tunisia.

11. Paragraph 37. The COP "EXPRESSES ITS APPRECIATION to those Contracting Parties which in their National Reports to this Conference provided information, in accordance with Article 3.2 of the Convention, on changes in ecological character that have occurred, are occurring, or may occur at one or more of their Ramsar sites, namely: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Comoros, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Germany, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Lithuania, Malta, Mexico, Mongolia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Peru, Sri Lanka, The Gambia, Togo, United Kingdom, Venezuela and Yugoslavia; COMMENDS in particular Australia, Germany, Ireland, Japan and the United Kingdom for the detailed advice provided on this matter; and URGES all of these Contracting Parties to consider, at the earliest opportunity, the possible inclusion of these sites onto the Montreux Record."

11.1. Status of implementation. No requests have been received for inclusion in the Montreux Record of any of the sites referred to in the above paragraph. The Bureau has requested most of the Contracting Parties listed in the above paragraph to provide information on the situation regarding the sites where change in ecological character has been reported and will send reminders at appropriate times. A report will be prepared with the responses received.

11.2. In the section dealing with General Objective 5 of the Strategic Plan, the Report of the Secretary General provides information about the complaints received by the Bureau, mostly through NGOs, concerning changes in the ecological character of Ramsar sites, including the action taken by the Bureau and the responses received from the Ramsar Administrative Authorities.

11.3. Article 3.2 of the Convention provides that Contracting Parties shall "arrange to be informed at the earliest possible time" if the ecological character of a Listed wetland has changed, is changing or is likely to change; and that information on such changes shall be "passed without delay" to the Bureau.

11.4. Some issues that flow from this Article have been examined by the Standing Committee, the STRP, and the Parties in the past. For example, definitions of "ecological character" and "change in ecological character" were adopted in Resolutions VI.1 and VII.10, and a "Wetland Risk Assessment Framework" was adopted in Resolution VII.10. The "Framework for designing a wetland monitoring programme" contained in the annex to Resolution VI.1 is also relevant.

11.5. The creation of the Montreux Record in 1990, and the associated procedure now known as the Ramsar Advisory Mission (RAM), are direct contributions to implementation of Article 3.2, even though they do not constitute a "direct mechanism" for implementation of this Article (if this was the case, all the sites referred to in paragraph 37 of the Resolution should have been automatically placed in the Montreux Record).

11.6. It has to be acknowledged that other tools devised under the Convention, such as the guidelines on management planning, the Small Grants Fund, a section in the national report format or "National Planning Tool" concerning sites facing change, and COP Recommendations on environmental impact assessment, all have a role to play.

11.7. There are, however, currently also some difficulties and gaps. RAMs have not been initiated in as many instances as might be desirable. As evidenced by paragraph 37 of Resolution VII.12, the Montreux Record mechanism is not a representative record of ecological change issues featuring in the Ramsar List, and while in some instances Parties find that it raises the profile of relevant cases and helps in giving political impetus to problem-solving, others have had difficulty with accepting the factual recognition of existing problems that the Record implies.

11.8. Opportunities for synergy with other Conventions which have their own procedures for addressing problems at specific sites, when these are also Ramsar sites, could be developed further. There are also questions of legal interpretation which may need consideration, such as the "likelihood" of change.

11.9. These issues have been examined in two background papers prepared for the Bureau by D E Pritchard of BirdLife International. These include comparisons of Ramsar procedures with those of some analogous regimes in other Conventions and international instruments. These documents are attached for reference in Annexes I and II.

11.10 The requirements in Article 3.2 to "arrange to be informed at the earliest possible time" and to pass information "without delay" are unqualified, yet what happens in practice usually falls short of this – i.e., technically most Parties are in breach of this fundamental part of the Ramsar treaty. The Bureau considers this to be a serious matter which would merit attention at COP8.

11.11 The Standing Committee is invited to consider future needs in this key area. For example, encouragement by the COP (perhaps with guidance) on implementing Article 3.2 more fully, would help to address a shortfall in delivery of a basic provision of the Convention, and would allow some of the existing tools to be used in a more complete (and perhaps more coherent) way. If formal notifications about sites facing change were to operate as envisaged in the Article, the Montreux Record could then be adapted to become an automatic mechanism for fulfillment of this requirement of the treaty, instead of continuing to be a voluntary mechanism at the disposal of Contracting Parties. This change in the role of the Montreux Record may make advisable, or even require, a role played by the Standing Committee and/or the STRP.


ANNEX I

Convention for the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention): Review of the case file system. Paper by D E Pritchard.

ANNEX II

Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971): Action in response to change in ecological character of listed wetlands: A review of procedural aspects under the Convention, and options for the future. Paper by D E Pritchard.

Addenda

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