The high-level ministerial segment provided the first opportunity for countries to highlight accomplishments in wetland protection and flag areas of concern. The participants adopted the Wuhan Declaration, an expected outcome of their meeting. Consensus was evident in the common call for increased action and on the linkages between wetlands, climate change, and biodiversity loss. However, the meeting also offered the first glimpse of issues that could be contentious over the next week as delegates begin considering 23 or more resolutions.
Highlights from statements at the high-level segment
Secretary General Musonda Mumba, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, praised the Wuhan Declaration for its ambition, and underscored the importance of connecting discussions across wetlands, climate change, and sustainability.
Zhao Haishan, Deputy Governor, Hubei Province, elaborated on success factors for China’s progress on wetland conservation, including strict enforcement of wetland laws, and inclusion of wetland outcomes in government performance assessments.
Sandra Patricia Vilardy Quiroga, Vice Minister, Environment and Standardisation, Colombia, noted that Colombia’s wetland priorities concerned protection of natural habitat, water area management, and disaster risk reduction.
Shara Duncan Villalobos, Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Costa Rica, affirmed the critical importance of wetland restoration under the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration.
Fernando Israel Espinosa Olivera, Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Mexico, highlighted designation of new Wetlands of International Importance, especially for the conservation of migratory birds.
Amadeu Paulo Samuel Da Conceicao, Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Mozambique, spoke about management practices to increase adaptability, and the exercise of power in local communities.
Nathan Glassey, Permanent Representative to the UN Environment Programme, New Zealand, said his country has lost 90% of wetlands due to land use changes, and emphasized rewetting peatlands, preserving blue carbon wetlands, and recognizing the rights of nature and Indigenous peoples.
Anita Pipan, Ambassador to the UN, Slovenia, condemned the “unprovoked aggression of Russia against Ukraine” including for its impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems. She highlighted the five-country UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube as a model of international cooperation for river basin management.
Giuseppe Yoffreda Yorio, Ambassador to China, Venezuela, called for common action to recognize the impacts of climate change on wetlands, and emphasized his country’s coastal law framework and creation of work groups to support wetland restoration.
Jean-Yves Roux, Consul General in Wuhan, France, highlighted the Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative (MedWet) as an innovative, nature-based approach and an example of an effective Ramsar Regional Initiative.
Abderrahim Houmy, Secretary General, Department of Water and Forests, Morocco, lamented the loss of 1% of wetlands annually and called for multilateral cooperation and unity to mobilize for protection of wetlands.
Mohamed Al Afkham, Director General, Department of Water and Forests, United Arab Emirates, welcomed the Wuhan Declaration and pointed out that UAE has 63 million hectares of mangroves, capturing 43,000 tonnes of CO2 annually.
Wang Chunfeng, Director, International Cooperation Center, National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA), introduced the Wuhan Declaration, drafted by China. He noted differences of opinion on use of terms such as “nature-based solutions” and “ecosystem-based approaches,” and said the final text, which is not legally binding, represents a consensus that shows the collective will to act.
After the meeting, some observers noted that the reference to the war in Ukraine, and the need to sidestep, for now, the use of certain terms in the Wuhan Declaration, suggested reaching consensus on some resolutions could be problematic. Some were already predicting that the planned day “off” on Friday would likely turn out to be illusory.