Synergies that work: the Joint Work Plan between the CBD and Ramsar Conventions
Delmar Blasco, Secretary General, Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)
A lot has been written and said in recent years about "synergies" among the multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). Personally, I am a staunch defender of "synergies" and I have done my best to bring the Ramsar Convention to practice them, with varying degrees of success, I must admit. But without going any deeper into the causes that make synergies work or not, let me say that, to my great satisfaction, the cooperation and coordination between Ramsar and CBD is working increasingly well. And I hope that it will demonstrate very soon that it generates tangible benefits for the Parties to both treaties.
In both treaties, different terms are used in relation to their main purpose and the obligations of the Parties (bear in mind that Ramsar was drafted in the 1960s!), but there is no doubt that both share a common general aim: the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources (wetlands and their biodiversity, in one case, biodiversity in general, in the other). Both MEAs represent a quest to safeguard, or restore, the integrity of natural ecosystems, as a means to contributing to the well being of humanity, which implies the equitable sharing of benefits from the use of those resources.
Preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development show that the overarching aim of the political declaration, the implementation plan of Agenda 21, and the guiding principles for partnerships that should constitute the outputs ofWSSD, is the eradication of poverty, with due regard to the three pillars of sustainable development: economic, social, and environmental. CBD and Ramsar, through the Joint Work Plan 2002-2006 endorsed by the Ramsar Standing Committee and CBD's COP6, should become a useful tool at the service of that overarching aim of the WWSD. To achieve this, it will be important that the two secretariats, the subsidiary bodies, and the national focal points of both Conventions undertake a "refocusing exercise" to ensure that the implementation of the Joint Work Plan is fully inserted into the national poverty eradication strategies in place, or soon to be launched, in developing countries and countries with economies in transition in response to the results ofWWSD. This should include the identification of effective, equitable, and bottom-up partnerships involving national and local governments (including the focal points of both Conventions), public and private donors, and major groups and stakeholders at the national and site levels. In Ramsar, we hope to be able to announce some of these partnerships already in Johannesburg.
Among many others, the following are some of the areas of the Ramsar/CBD Joint Work Plan which are Summit-related, and thus could be the subject of interesting and practical partnerships: the joint CBD/Ramsar River Basins Initiative aimed at promoting and supporting the integrated management of wetlands, biological diversity and river basins; conservation and wise use of peatlands, including their potential role in carbon sequestration and mitigation of climate change; integrated marine and coastal areas management at local, national and regional level; and conservation and sustainable use of wetland resources in dry and sub-humid lands. Cross cutting issues such as invasive species, sustainable use and tourism, and traditional knowledge are other areas in which the two Conventions could also associate themselves with the Summit outcomes.