The Global Forum on Wetlands for the Future to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was held in the Islamic Republic of Iran from 5th to 6th March 2011. Organized by the Department of Environment (DOE), I.R. of Iran and the Ramsar Convention Secretariat, the event brought together some 300 people, including ministers, ambassadors and senior officials from around 50 countries.
The first day of the event was held in the capital, Tehran, and the morning session heard opening speeches from a number of dignitaries, especially H.E. Dr. Mahmmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of the I.R. Iran, as well as H.E. Mr. Mohamadizadeh (Vice President and Head of the Department of Environment), Mr. Anada Tiéga (Ramsar Secretary General), Mr. Bakary Kante (Director, Division of Environmental Law and Conventions, UNEP), Ms. Consuelo Vidal (UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Tehran), and Mr. Hassan Mohammadi (Coordinator, ROPME). The ministers and other honorary guests attending the event also gave statements on the importance of wetlands and role of the Convention in their conservation and wise use.
The ‘Global Forum on Wetlands for the Future’
In the afternoon, a working session was held where Ramsar Scientific and Technical Review Panel members (Ms. Rebecca D’Cruz, Mr. Randy Milton, Mr. David Stroud) and Ramsar Secretariat staff (Dr. Lew Young) gave presentations that reviewed some of the main areas of work of the Ramsar Convention over the past 40 years, and discussed the role of the Convention in the future. Their topics included the development of the wise use concept under the Convention, the conservation of wetlands through designating sites as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), and the Convention’s CEPA programme.
Mr. Denis Landenbergue (WWF International) summarized the valuable role of the International Organization Partners in supporting the work of Contracting Parties in implementing the Convention. Following this Dr. Ali Nazaridoust presented the lessons learnt from the UNDP/GEF Conservation of Iranian Wetlands Project. This included explaining the process of how agreement was reached between the provincial governments that border Lake Urumia to regulate the amount of water they removed from rivers that flow into the lake for agriculture and other uses. This cooperation will allow the necessary flow back into the lake in order to restore its ecological character.
From the statements made during the day, the Tehran Declaration on Wetlands and Sustainable Development was developed as an important output from the Forum. The main focus of the Declaration is on the future role of the Convention, describing how the conservation and wise use of wetlands can make a valuable contribution towards sustainable development through achievement of the Millennium Development Goals as well as the Aichii Biodiversity Targets. In order to achieve this, the Declaration recognizes the need to create greater awareness of the full range of benefits and functions that wetlands provide for people and the environment. It also stresses the need for greater regional cooperation for wetland conservation, the creation of new funding mechanisms, and the inclusion of wetlands in the “REDD+” mechanism for reducing carbon emissions from ecosystem destruction and degradation.
The Forum also welcomed the suggestion from the I.R. Iran to form an eminent persons group who will meet in Tehran to develop further a vision on the role of wetlands in providing ecosystem services for sustainable development. It is planned that the results of the work of this group will be completed in time for presentation to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in May 2012.
On the second day of the Forum, the participants travelled to the city of Ramsar to participate in a ceremony at the Ramsar Hotel where the Convention was adopted in February 1971. The ceremony began with welcoming remarks from H.E. Mr. Tahaee (Governor, Mazadaran Province) followed by a presentation on the history of the development of the Ramsar Convention from the early 1960s to the present day by Professor Eckhart Kuijken. Prof. Kuijken was present at the 1971 meeting when the Convention was adopted and has attended almost all the meetings of the Conference of Parties since as a member of the delegation from the Belgian government. He was given special recognition at the Conference of the Parties in 2002 in Valencia, at the time of his retirement from professional life, for his long-term services to the Convention.
The Ramsar Hotel where the Convention was adopted in 1971
Prof. Eckhart Kuijken being greeted on his arrival in Ramsar city
Mr. Rahim Mashaee (Head, Presidential Office) then made remarks on the importance of environmental conservation before presenting awards to three people who have made outstanding long-term contributions to wetland conservation. Two of the awards went to individuals who have worked in the international arena, Dr. Luc Hoffman (one of the ‘founding fathers of the Ramsar Convention) and Mr. David Pritchard, and one award went to an individual at the national level, Dr. Ali Naziridoust.
Individuals receiving their award for outstanding long-term contribution to wetland conservation and wise use from H.E. Mr. Rahim Mashee (Head of Presidential Office, I.R. Iran), from left, Mr. Denis Landenbergue accepting the award on behalf of Dr. Luc Hoffman, Mr. David Pritchard, and Dr. Ali Nazaridoust
As part of the celebrations, Iran has produced special 40th anniversary stamps
Report and photographs from the Secretariat's Lew Young, Senior Advisor for Asia