The Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP) is the policy-making organ of the Convention. Government representatives from each of the Contracting Parties meet every three years to receive national reports on the preceding triennium, approve the work programme and budgetary arrangements for the next three years, and consider guidance for the Parties on a range of ongoing and emerging environmental issues. (Articles 6 and 7 of the Convention set out the duties of the Conference.)
Representatives of non-member States, intergovernmental institutions, and national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) may participate in these meetings as non-voting observers. There is a procedure stipulated in the treaty and the "Rules of Procedure" for voting by the Parties, but in fact there has not yet been a vote on any substantive decision and all decisions have in the end been made by consensus.
The programme of each meeting of the COP includes a number of technical sessions which analyze ongoing and emerging issues of importance in the field of wetland conservation and wise use, including further interpretation and development of the key Convention concepts and guidance for the Parties on key areas of implementation. Ramsar COPs have gained the reputation of being highly effective events, allowing an active involvement and participation of the non-governmental and academic communities.
The Proceedings of each meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties are published subsequently by the Convention Secretariat, most recently on CD-ROM. Normally, the Proceedings contain:
· a summary report of Plenary Sessions;
· the Resolutions and Recommendations adopted by the Conference;
· a list of the participants; and
· (beginning with COP8) the National Reports from the Parties; and
· other documentation provided to the COP for consideration or information.
The Proceedings of all of the meetings of the Conference of the Parties have also been published on the Ramsar Web site, with additional materials, including photographs, for recent meetings.
Recommendation 2.1 (1984) urged Parties to submit detailed National Reports (NRs) to the Secretariat at least six months before each ordinary meeting of the Conference, and this tradition has continued unbroken to this day. The Ramsar Convention enjoys the highest percentage of NRs received of all the environment-related conventions - for COP7 in 1999, 97% of the Parties reported on their implentation of the Convention; for COP8 in 2002, 95% submitted their reports; for COP9 in 2005, 84% did so, and 90.4% did so for COP10 in 2008.
Ordinary meetings of the Conference of the Contracting Parties
1. Cagliari, Italy, 1980
2. Groningen, Netherlands, 1984
3. Regina, Canada, 1987
4. Montreux, Switzerland, 1990
5. Kushiro, Japan, 1993
6. Brisbane, Australia, 1996
7. San José, Costa Rica, 1999
8. Valencia, Spain, 2002
9. Kampala, Uganda, 2005
10. Changwon, Republic of Korea, 2008
11. Bucharest, Romania, 2012
Extraordinary meetings of the Conference of the Contracting Parties
1. Paris, France, 1982
2. Regina, Canada, 1987