The objective of the meeting was to review the current implementation of the Convention in the region and prepare for the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties scheduled to be held in the Republic of Korea in October 2008.
To allow for more in-depth analysis among those Contracting Parties which, due to geographical proximity and other factors, have more things in common, the Secretariat decided to organize subregional sessions back-to-back with the regional meeting. To this effect, six subregional sessions were organised (for Central Africa (Congo Basin), East Africa, Northern Africa, Southern Africa, West Africa, and Indian Ocean Island States) in such a way that they provided space for thematic discussions and plenary sessions for reporting back.
The subregional sessions analyzed major issues and concerns that characterize the expansion of the Convention in the subregions such as the lack of financial resources and capacities of the African countries. They came to the conclusion that not much progress was made with the current Convention Work and Strategic Plans because of the lack of political will and human resources among others to implement the Convention. However the participants made a series of recommendations to solve the problems identified and indicated the needs for the future.
The participants expressed some concerns about the staffing of the Secretariat's Africa Team as it has not changed (two staff members) over the past ten years while the number of Contracting Parties has increased from 22 Parties in 1996 to 47 today, with more demands and expectations from those Parties. Moreover, they also called for an increasing role for parliamentarians in the wise use of wetlands debate on the continent. They recommended that Ramsar and World Health Organization secretariats at the global level and ministries in charge of health and wetlands at national level strengthen their collaboration.
A number of cross-cutting issues were discussed during the meeting, including Wetlands and poverty reduction - Implementation of COP9 Resolution IX.14 (Wetlands Intenational); Wetlands and human health; Mining and extractive industries; Threats and challenges for African wetlands; Wetlands and Climate Change; links to poverty eradication; financing wetlands-related projects; knowledge sharing and access to information, etc
The session on "Mining and extractive industries, Threats and challenges for African wetlands" raised a lot of concerns from African delegates as the negative impacts of mining activities on wetlands in Africa are real and increasing.
As for the session on climate change, the delegates urged the Secretariat to go beyond the workshop organized jointly by Ramsar and the Convention on Biological Diversity in April 2007 and reinforce its collaboration with the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The session on "Financing wetlands-related projects" was animated by Mr. Jean-Yves Kedaj, an expert from the African Water Facility (hosted by the African Development Bank), who explained the mechanisms to access the resources of the AWF and encouraged delegates to submit wetlands-related projects to the Facility.
The United Nations Environment Program, which financially assisted in the organization of the meeting, organized two sessions on "Effective national preparation for, participation in & conduct of multilateral environmental negotiations". This session was very much appreciated as it was the first time that the majority of the delegates were trained to prepare their participation to the statutory meetings of an MEA.
The conclusions and recommendations as adopted by the delegates are attached with this report (French and English).
It is worth noting that the meeting was opened by Chief Ephraim Inoni, Prime Minister of Cameroon, who underscored the importance of treating wetlands recognised as hotbeds for diseases like malaria, river blindness, schistosomiasis or bilharzia and guinea worms which preoccupy the 47 African states that are party to the Ramsar Convention. [report on his address]
The Prime Minister indicated that wetlands are lands that are constantly inundated or full of water and so often subject to contradictory stakes and conflicts because of their unhealthy state and the fact that they are breeding grounds for diseases, while at the same time their biological and ecological values cannot be overlooked. They act as purifiers of surface water for use by people who do not otherwise have access to potable water, control floods and provide habitat for natural species which guarantee sustainability of life. According to Mr. Inoni, their economic value is even estimated at US$ 14,900 billion yearly and they are also home to significant fishery, forestry, wildlife and agricultural resources and serve as important tourist locations. It's the first time in the history of the Convention that a Prime Minister has attended and opened a Ramsar meeting.
The Ramsar Secretariat and the Government of Cameroon are preparing the meeting report, which will be distributed as soon as it is ready.
(photos by Alexia Dufour, Ramsar, except where otherwise noted)
Prime Minister H.E. Ephraim Inoni (photo: government of Cameroon)
(photo: government of Cameroon)
(photo: government of Cameroon)
Anada Tiéga and Abou Bamba, Ramsar Secretariat
Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, UNEP
Simon Rafanomezantsoa (Madagascar), second from right, former Ramsar staff member
(from left) Ramsar Secretary General Anada Tiéga, Cameroon's Minister of Environment and Protection of Nature Hele Pierre, and the Vice Prime Minister / Minister of Justice Amadou Ali
Prime Minister H. E. Ephraim Inoni, Secretary General Anada Tiéga
Interview with Anada Tiéga and Environment Minister Hele Pierre
Dave Pritchard (left), RSPB and BirdLife International, presented with a coastal waterbird survey of Cameroon by Napoleon Chi Forpah and Gordon Ajonina.
Evelyn Parh Moloko, Ramsar
Bert Lenten, Executive Secretary of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA)
Outing to the Ebogo mangrove wetland
Denis Landenbergue, WWF International
Ramsar's Africa Team
Denis Landenbergue, Abou Bamba