Vol. 17 No. 20
RAMSAR COP9 HIGHLIGHTS
Antonio Fernandez de Tejada, Spain,
officially opened COP9, inviting delegates to consider the agenda and
other organizational matters.
ORGANIZATIONAL MATTERS: Adoption of the
agenda: Delegates adopted the agenda without amendment (COP9 Doc. 1,
Rev. 2), and the rules of procedure (COP9 Doc. 2), with minor
Election of officers: Ramsar
Convention Secretary General Peter Bridgewater informed delegates that
the Standing Committee at its 32nd meeting held on Monday, 7 November
nominated Kahinda Otafiire, Minister of Lands, Water and Environment,
Uganda, as COP9 President. Delegates then elected Otafiire as COP9
President, and Tony Slatyer, Australia and Flavio Cházaro, Mexico, as
Appointment of committees: The COP
established a Credentials Committee comprised of delegates from each of
the six Ramsar regions, namely: Benin (Africa), Thailand (Asia),
Switzerland (Europe), Peru (the Neotropics), Canada (North America), and
New Zealand (Oceania). Delegates also established a Finance Committee,
to be chaired by Nick Kiddle (New Zealand), with Canada, Albania,
Algeria, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, China, Colombia, Japan, the
Netherlands, Nicaragua, Nigeria, the Russian Federation, Switzerland,
the UK, and the US being designated members. The Secretariat noted that
the Committee is open to all Parties and observers.
Admission of observers: COP9
President Otafiire presented the list of registered observers (COP9 Doc.
31), stating this list would remain open as new observers are
registering daily. ARGENTINA objected to registering the UK Overseas
Territories Conservation Forum as UK-based, as this NGO relates to the
Falkland/Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and rejected
all references to these as UK territories. The UK reiterated its
position on the sovereignty of the islands.
REPORTS: Report of the Chair of the
Standing Committee: Gordana Beltram (Slovenia), Standing Committee
Chair, presented the report on the Committee’s work during the current
triennium (COP9 Doc. 3), highlighting work related to: preparation for
COP9; review of work by the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP);
financial matters relating to the implementation of the Convention; and
creating synergies between the Convention and other multilateral
environmental agreements (MEAs). She called for greater attention to
social and economic consideration related to wetland ecosystems in the
Committee’s future work.
In the ensuing discussions, the RUSSIAN
FEDERATION suggested special attention to synergies with other
Conventions, especially the UNFCCC, CBD and CCD, in the Committee’s
future work, while KENYA stressed the need for more focus on feedback
from Parties on the Committee’s work. The report was adopted without
Report of the Secretary General:
Addressing the Ramsar COP for the first time as Secretary General,
Bridgewater reported on the implementation of the Convention at the
global level over the 2003-2005 triennium (COP9 Doc. 5 and Doc. 6) and
highlighted the prospect of reaching 160 Contracting Parties by COP10.
Bridgewater noted that the Secretariat has managed to balance the
Convention’s budget since COP8, but underscored the need to work
“smarter, not harder” in the 2006-2008 triennium.
Noting that 110 Parties had submitted
national reports, a smaller number than desired, Bridgewater stressed
the need to simplify the national reporting format and continue regular
communication between the Secretariat and the Parties.
On the Strategic Plan 2003-2008, he
highlighted the need to focus on key issues in order to increase the
percentage of attainable targets. He also highlighted six imperatives
extracted from Parties’ national reports: understanding new
international institutional frameworks and how Ramsar fits into them;
reinforcing and developing the Convention’s strong scientific basis,
which he mentioned as one of its main strengths; effectively managing
the List of Wetlands of International Importance; promoting integrated
management approaches; developing a communication, education and public
awareness programme that responds to the needs of local people; and
ensuring the Convention is effectively managed intersessionally through
the Standing Committee and the Secretariat.
Report of the Chair of the Scientific
and Technical Review Panel: Max Finlayson (Australia), STRP Chair,
presented the report on the STRP’s work during the current triennium
(COP9 Doc. 4). He outlined the Panel’s work in areas including:
inventory and assessment; wise use concept; water resource management;
Ramsar site designation; wetland management planning; and effectiveness
of the Convention’s implementation.
In providing technical advice for COP9,
Finlayson highlighted the Panel’s work in preparing the following
documents (COP9 DR1 and Annexes A, B, C, D, and E): a conceptual
framework for Ramsar’s wise use concept; a revised Strategic Framework
and guidelines for further development of the List of Wetlands of
International Importance; an integrated framework for Ramsar’s
water-related guidance; and an integrated framework for wetland
inventory, assessment and monitoring.
During the ensuing discussions, countries
expressed general support for the frameworks prepared by the STRP. They
also agreed to establish a contact group to consider COP9 DR1 Annexes A
and B, and decided that comments on Annexes C, D and E would be
informally exchanged between Parties and the Secretariat.
STATEMENTS: During a general
discussion, many Parties highlighted progress made in national
implementation of the Convention, in particular designation of new
Ramsar sites since COP8.
The UK, speaking for the EU, called for
strong outcomes during the COP to assist in implementation of the
Convention consistent with international conservation commitments,
including the Millennium Development Goals and the target adopted by the
CBD to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. He supported:
increasing synergies with the CBD and its work programmes; harmonizing
reporting; striking a balance between maintaining a strong scientific
basis and supporting outreach activities; and maintaining rights of
Parties to make voluntary contributions, including towards regional
support funds and the STRP’s work.
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO, ARGENTINA, PARAGUAY,
KENYA and MALAWI called for simplifying the national reports format,
with JAMAICA calling for STRP to assess reporting aspects that could be
standardized with other Conventions. MEXICO, EL SALVADOR, CHINA and
LESOTHO highlighted the importance of synergies with other MEAs, while
PERU urged the COP to provide the Secretary General with clear
instructions and a “roadmap” to develop such synergies.
CHILE highlighted the importance of
establishing ties between the public and private sectors to develop
national policies and strategies for wetland conservation. ZAMBIA called
for promoting economic valuation of wetlands as a way to reduce poverty.
BURKINA FASO supported an integrated approach to managing wetlands based
on the needs of local communities, while ST. LUCIA supported local
community involvement in the Ramsar process. MALAYSIA stressed the
importance of integrated water resources management and integrated
coastal zone management. IRAN noted the establishment of a Central and
West Asia regional center, highlighting its role in awareness raising,
training and information exchange. SAMOA stressed linkages between
wetlands and livelihoods, particularly in small island developing
States. COTE D’IVOIRE urged Parties to support a resolution on
cross-border wetlands, while COSTA RICA called for greater focus on
cross-border Ramsar sites. EGYPT called for a resolution urging
countries to take a precautionary approach to deal with avian flu.
GUINEA requested assistance with
developing management plans for its Ramsar sites. DJIBOUTI noted a lack
of resources for implementing the Convention. BANGLADESH and the
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO highlighted the need for experience
sharing. GUATEMALA informed delegates of its recently finalized national
policy on wetland conservation. Noting that few Caribbean countries are
currently Parties to the Ramsar Convention, BARBADOS expressed its
intention to become a Contracting Party in the near future.
SWITZERLAND introduced a WWF publication
entitled “Freshwater Ecoregions of Africa and Madagascar,” noting that
the book highlights the outstanding biodiversity of African ecoregions,
identifies threats to these ecosystems, and addresses information gaps.
Noting the scarcity of data on biodiversity resources in many African
countries, WWF highlighted the need for wetland inventories.
SPECIAL PRESENTATION ON WETLAND
CONSERVATION AND SUSTAINABLE USE IN UGANDA: Paul Mafabi, Uganda
National Wetlands Programme, provided an overview of wetland
conservation and sustainable use over the last 15 years in Uganda,
noting that wetland management began with a ban on wetland drainage. He
said that wetland issues were incorporated into a poverty eradication
plan in 2000, and that a wetlands sector strategic plan was created in
2001. Mafabi said this was achieved through strategies such as awareness
and appreciation, and through promoting best use practices. In
describing current achievements, he highlighted an increased level of
awareness; creation of policy and legal frameworks; and the creation of
inventories, which have provided vital information for decision-making.
Mafabi also highlighted specific challenges for wetland policy,
including the need to improve enforcement mechanisms. He underscored the
need to: develop a solid knowledge base; create political and public
interest by using the right arguments; build capacity at all levels for
implementation; and adopt realistic policies and laws. Mafabi closed by
highlighting the importance of ensuring institutional sustainability,
and stressed that wetland ecosystems can play a vital role in peoples’
livelihoods, contribute to their income, and that wetland ecosystem
services can “pay their own way.”
After the presentation, COP9 President
Otafiire, jointly with Yoka Brandt, Ambassador of the Netherlands to
Uganda, and Alice Kaudia, Regional Director for Eastern Africa, IUCN,
launched a publication entitled “From Conversion to Conservation,” which
provides an overview of wetland management in Uganda over the past 15
At the close of the afternoon session,
Ugandan schoolchildren performed a song and read out a poem that
underscored the theme of the Conference.
IN THE BREEZEWAYS
After a slightly slow start at
half-past-ten, COP9’s Plenary quickly moved into full swing. Seemingly
undaunted by the prospect of contact group discussions, some delegates
welcomed proposals to harmonize and update the Ramsar conceptual
framework and Strategic Plan. A number of delegates agreed with the
general thrust of the Ramsar Secretary General’s opening statement on
Tuesday that the Convention should not be about targets for targets
sake, and emphasized wise use, representativeness and systematic listing
of wetlands. Others, however, pointed out the benefits a Ramsar listing
provides as a deterrent to developers, therefore supporting the
ambitious goal of designating 2500 Ramsar sites by 2010.
In the afternoon, temperatures rose, both
literally and figuratively, as delegates engaged in lengthy debates on
how best to structure discussions on the conceptual framework and the
revised Strategic Framework developed by the STRP. Although delegates
eventually agreed on a single contact group to address these issues, the
discussions hinted at the political sensitivity involved.
By the end of the day, the Secretariat
heaved a sigh of relief when the long awaited Synthesis Report of the
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment arrived, with one delegate suggesting
that the key issues outlined in its opening pages could provide useful
guidance to COP9. Delegates were in excellent spirits as they headed off
for a reception infused with traditional Ugandan drumming, singing and