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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999

FROM VOLUME 12, NUMBER 5, MAY 1999

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

Item #d99may60

The Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (so named because it was initiated at a meeting in Ramsar, Iran) held its seventh triennial meeting in San José, Costa Rica, on May 10-18, 1999. It consisted of five technical sessions (Ramsar and Water, National Planning for Wetland Conservation and Wise Use, Involving People at All Levels in the Conservation and Wise Use of Wetlands, Tools for Assessing and Recognizing Wetland Values, and Frameworks for Regional and International Cooperation Regarding Wetlands) and negotiating sessions on Convention implementation, the Convention Work Plan, the budget, and regional categorization of countries. Thirty resolutions and four recommendations were adopted, among them, the Conference

  • Adopted the biogeographically based regions of Africa, Asia, the Neotropics, Europe, North America, and Oceania as the groups to which parties would be assigned, although they could request assignment to an alternative
  • Recommended biogeographical, geopolitical, and cultural balance in the selection of members of the Standing Committee
  • Noted the significant contributions of NGOs, established a formal role for them in the Convention, confirmed this status on Birdlife International, IUCN, Wetlands International, and the WWF, and set rules and criteria for NGOs in attaining such status
  • Requested the Ramsar Bureau to develop a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC)
  • Affirmed that the Small Grants Fund had demonstrated its value for facilitating Convention implementation in developing countries, called for an increase in the Fund’s monetary resources, tied new grants to the completion of reporting requirements for previous grants, and allocated staff time to project evaluation
  • Adopted guidelines for the development and implementation of national wetland policies, for reviewing laws and institutions that promote the conservation and wise use of wetlands, and for establishing and strengthening local communities’ and indigenous people’s participation in the management of wetlands
  • Adopted an outreach program to guide stakeholders in the development of appropriate communication, education, and public-awareness actions in support of Convention implementation
  • Adopted a strategic framework and guidelines for identifying wetlands (including transboundary wetlands) for future Ramsar-site designation and the prioritization of wetland inventory programs
  • Adopted a risk-assessment framework
  • Encouraged parties to monitoring Ramsar sites and other wetlands as part of their management planning
  • Adopted guidelines for identifying and designating caves, karst, and other subterranean hydrological systems as wetlands of international importance
  • Decided to link the Convention’s objective of the wise use of wetlands with incentives
  • Asked parties to ensure that any programs that might alter the ecological character of wetlands be subjected to rigorous impact assessments to identify their true values
  • Urged cooperation with the CBD and others to review existing guidelines for environmental impact assessments and the economic valuation of wetlands
  • Adopted a global action plan for the management of peatlands and guidelines for integrating wetland conservation into river-basin management
  • Instructed parties to prepare wetland inventories to aid formulating and implementing national wetland plans
  • Recognized the value of intertidal wetlands and called on parties to document the extent of their loss, inventory those remaining, review existing policies, and suspend activities that harm coastal wetlands
  • Urged parties to develop a multilateral agreement to conserve migratory waterbirds and their habitats in all Asia-Pacific countries
  • Urged parties to take measures to compensate for any loss of wetland functions and habitats caused by human activities
  • Created a Regional Ramsar Centre for Training and Research on Wetlands in the Western Hemisphere
  • Set a budget for 2000 to 2002

The closest the delegates came to formulatiing an international agreement was the adoption of a resolution that called upon the parties to identify shared wetlands and cooperate in their management; harmonize the Ramsar accord with other conventions; share expertise, information, and training; raise the level of wetland-related international development-assistance programs; review international trade in wetland-derived products; and subject foreign- investment activities to impact assessments.

A a day-by-day account of the Conference can be found at http://www.iisd.ca/ramsar/cop7/.

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