Ramsar address to CBD's SBSTTA-8, Montreal, March 2003


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Convention on Biological Diversity
Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice,
8th meeting

Montreal, 10-14 March 2003

Opening Statement from the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)

Nick Davidson
Deputy Secretary General, Ramsar Secretariat

Mr Chairman and distinguished delegates,

Thank you for this opportunity to give you a brief report on the progress of collaborative work between the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Ramsar Convention in relation to the work you will be undertaking during this important SBSTTA meeting.

I will focus on related two aspects of common interest to our Conventions. First, to report to you on the outcomes and decisions of our 8th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention (COP8), which took place in late November last year in Valencia, Spain. Second, to comment on our progress in implementing the CBD/Ramsar Joint Work Plan, particularly in relation to the thematic programmes of work you are reviewing at this meeting of SBSTTA.

Ramsar's COP8 strongly recognised the importance of collaborative action at all levels and in many different ways. Of major significance, the Conference adopted Ramsar second Strategic Plan, for the period 2003-2008. This Plan recognises that to deliver wetland conservation and wise use it is essential to engage the support and understanding of other sectors of government and society who decisions and action affect the capacity of ecosystems to continue to provide their goods and services to people and biodiversity.

The recognition of the 'drivers of change in ecosystems' is reflected in a number of COP8 Resolutions, notably on water allocation and management to maintain ecosystem functions, dams, climate change, wetlands and agriculture, cultural aspects of wetlands, and Participatory Environmental Management.

The Strategic Plan includes a comprehensive Implementation Plan with some 180 Actions under 21 thematic areas of work, many of which are relevant to, and recognise, our common interests.

The Plan also recognises strongly that its is essential to seek improved co-operation and harmonisation between multi-lateral environmental agreements to support and simplify our Parties' implementation - work on which we believe CBD and Ramsar are continuing to lead the way. A specific COP8 Resolution on such future collaboration welcomed and endorsed the 3rd CBD/Ramsar Joint Work Plan.

As is recognised by our Joint Work Plan, the scope of the Ramsar Convention is wide and does not concern just your inland waters thematic work, although of course this is a very important area of our collaboration. Wetland issues occur in all your thematic ecosystem programmes, and we share common ground on CBD's cross-cutting issues. A major new programme of work on Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) was adopted by the COP.

Concerning the focus of this SBSTTA, decisions relevant to all four thematic programmes of work were adopted by COP8. Concerning inland waters, I have already referred to guidance adopted on water allocations and on dams. Guidance and priorities for future work was also adopted for global action on peatlands as a critically threatened ecosystem, and also on inventory, assessment and monitoring, invasive species, and on restoration and rehabilitation, and guidance on site management was updated and expanded. Much of this is relevant to all wetlands, in whatever ecosystems they occur.

For marine and coastal, there is new COP8 guidance on integrating wetlands and their biodiversity into Integrated Coastal Zone Management, and on the sustainable use of mangrove ecosystems. The critical importance of wetlands in drylands was recognised through Resolutions on drought and other natural disasters, and the maintenance of temporary pools - wetlands whose vital role in arid zones has been poorly recognised. The Conference also adopted Resolutions on mountain wetlands, and specifically on High Andean wetlands as strategic ecosystems.

All these materials will be made available to you for use, as appropriate, through the CBD processes. Importantly, Ramsar's COP8 also adopted, with annotations to set the Ramsar context, the CBD guidelines on impact assessment adopted by CBD COP6 last year, which we believe is another important way of supporting harmonised implementation.

In preparation for this meeting of SBSTTA, our Secretariats have been working closely together under actions of our Joint Work Plan in preparing the materials you are considering, notably on inland waters and on marine and coastal ecosystems - for which we have collaborated on the guidance on marine and coastal protected areas.

We have been pleased to facilitate the review and elaboration of the programme of work on inland waters, through engaging contractors working through the Ramsar Bureau in preparing draft materials, including the important synthesis of the status and trends of inland water biodiversity. Other Ramsar materials and input have contributed to the guidance on the rapid assessment of inland waters.

We believe all of this is a powerful demonstration not only of the benefits of collaboration between our Conventions, but also of the practicalities of how such joint work can be delivered.

We look forward to continuing to strengthen the collaborative work between out Conventions and their subsidiary bodies and secretariats. But perhaps the bigger challenge for us all is to support and encourage all our respective Parties to collaborate at national and local scales in using all these harmonised guidances and approaches to really achieve success on the ground.

Finally, I would note that a powerful 'cross-cutting' feature of all the four ecosystems you are considering during this SBSTTA is wetlands and water. I would therefore urge you to ensure that there are appropriate linkages established between your different ecosystem programmes of work to reflect this, rather considering each in isolation.

Thank you.

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