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lead.jpg (22302 bytes)    Volume 4 
   Number 1
   1 February 1999 


Delmar Blasco, Secretary General
The Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)

The Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971), while perhaps best known for the List of Wetlands of International Importance, is also one of the global instruments promoting sustainable development of our natural resources through its Wise Use principle. The Convention defines Wise Use as "sustainable utilisation for the benefit of mankind in a way compatible with the maintenance of the natural properties of the ecosystem".

The Convention’s 1993 publication, "Towards the Wise Use of Wetlands", documented 17 local, national, and international case studies showing wise use in action. Since then successive Conferences of the Contracting Parties have contributed to the further development of the principle through a range of Resolutions and Recommendations that have refined the major themes contained in the Wise Use Guidelines (Recommendation 4.10, 1990) and the Additional Guidance for the Implementation of the Wise Use Concept (Resolution 5.6, 1993).

Ramsar’s 7th COP in San José, Costa Rica (10-18 May 1999), promises to provide detailed guidance to the Contracting Parties on a range of the key elements which should be considered when implementing Wise Use. It is expected that the participants in Costa Rica will have before them for consideration draft guidelines on :
developing and implementing National Wetland Policies;
  • establishing participatory approaches to involve local communities and indigenous people in the management of wetlands;
  • establishing programmes for education, public awareness and communications (the Convention’s Outreach Programme);
  • reviewing laws and institutions for wetland conservation and wise use;
  • integrating wetlands conservation and wise use into river basin management;
  • international cooperation under the Convention, including development assistance;
  • wetland risk assessment and methods for predicting change in ecological character;
  • taking a strategic approach to designating sites for the List of Wetlands of International Importance;
  • priorities for wetland inventory at the global scale.

    In addition, there will be keynote papers that will help to chart the course for the Convention up to its next COP in 2002 on:
    alien/invasive species and wetlands;
  • wetlands and human health;
  • Ramsar’s role in responding to the global water crisis;
  • wetlands as an element of National Water Policies;
  • management of shared wetlands and river basins;
  • restoration of wetlands as an element of policy and administration;
  • incentive measures for promoting wetland conservation and wise;
  • strategic, environmental and social impact assessment under the Ramsar Convention;
  • further guidance on management planning at Ramsar sites and other wetlands;
  • global measures to conserve peatlands and mires

    Ramsar’s 7th COP will be a very busy meeting, but also one that provides assistance to the Contracting Parties on a full slate of issues which should allow the Convention’s Wise Use principle to be implemented more effectively.

    This same conference will also provide an opportunity to review the successes and continuing challenges for the Convention as it will mark the halfway point for the Strategic Plan adopted at the 6th COP in Brisbane, Australia, in 1996. The National Reports that have been submitted to the Convention Bureau and published on the Ramsar Web site ( are providing the information to make this assessment of progress possible. COP7 will also allow the Ramsar Convention to indicate with some degree of precision which areas of the Strategic Plan require more energy, commitment and resources at the global, regional and national scales. Through this, and the exciting technical and policy programme of the COP described above, the Ramsar Convention will continue to support its signatories with practical, hands-on guidance and assistance, while also setting out clear challenges and strategic direction for the future.

    All of the documentation for Ramsar COP7 is presently being published on the Ramsar Web site, in Web, Word, and PDF formats, as it becomes finalized.


    The RAMSAR site can be found at Internet: