Finland has a national Ramsar Committee

Finland has a national Ramsar Committee

6 June 2013

On 21-22 May 2013, the Finnish Ministry of the Environment and Metsähallitus, the Finnish Natural Heritage Service, invited 20 wetland experts for the inaugural meeting of the new Finnish Ramsar Committee. The experts met in the impressive, recently expanded wetland centre of the Liminganlahti Bay Area Ramsar Site near the town of Oulu. Ramsar Standing Committee member Tiina Niikkonen (representing the Environment Ministry) and Arto Ahokumpu (of Metsähallitus) opened the meeting and made reference to the Finnish adaptation of Ramsar’s Strategic Plan 2009-2015 and the Government Resolution ‘Saving Nature for People’ on the Strategy for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity in Finland for the years 2012-2020.

Evening light at the nearby Ramsar Site “Bird Wetlands of Hailuoto Island”

The creation of the Finnish Ramsar Committee was inspired by the proposals of the seminar on “The Future of Wetlands” held in Helsinki to celebrate Ramsar’s 40th anniversary in 2011. And during their inaugural meeting, the new Committee members listened to several presentations about opportunities for their work in a rapidly changing world, focusing on the biodiversity 2020 targets, the needs for multipurpose coastal planning, the status of Finnish wetlands, and the outcomes of Ramsar’s COP11 meeting. The Finnish Ramsar Committee was invited to focus its work on the nexus between water, food, energy and ecosystems security. To adopt Ramsar’s vision 40+ which recognizes that wetlands provide vital and measurable (economic) services to human societies as natural infrastructure and components of wider environmental regimes, and to take wetland services into account, because they are beneficial to economic, development and social policies at national and local levels.

Before taking up their indoor work, the members of the Finnish Ramsar Committee had a look at “Liminganlahti Bay Area” Ramsar Site. Tiina Niikkonen in the foreground

Ramsar’s COP11 Resolutions encourage national committees to provide a platform to engage with other sectors, such as energy producers, urban developers, public health, agriculture, forestry and fisheries. In a country like Finland that consists to a large extent of open and forested mires, marshy meadows, inland waters, Baltic Sea shores and archipelagos and sub-Arctic tundra pools, peatlands and glacier forelands, it should not be difficult for the Committee to convince political decision makers that sustainable wetland management is crucial for the future we want. Finland is ideally suited to show the way for effective cooperation between the water and wetland sectors, as it recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Helsinki Convention. Within this favourable context, the new Finnish Ramsar Committee has many opportunities to make a difference. And its members already started to discuss the details of their national wetland strategy and action plan to be put in place. And hopefully, through the Nordic-Baltic wetland cooperation initiative, the Finnish National Committee will provide a shining example for its neighbouring countries in the near future. Sari Airas and all the other local organisers of this inaugural meeting are to be congratulated for this important step.

Sunset over the urban wetlands in downtown Oulu

Photos and report by Tobias Salathé, Senior Regional Advisor for Europe