Summary Report of the Final Plenary Session
Seventeenth Session of the Global Biodiversity Forum (GBF17) was held
from 15-17 November 2002 in Valencia, Spain. The meeting took as its
theme the issue of “managing wetlands for global change and local
livelihoods. The GBF was founded by the World Resources Institute
(WRI), UNEP, the African Center for Technology Studies (ACTS) and
IUCN-The World Conservation Union. GBF17 was organized in cooperation
with more than a dozen intergovernmental and non-governmental agencies,
government departments and ministries from several donor countries,
UN agencies, and multinational corporations. Two hundred and twenty-five
participants attended the session.
GBF17, which took place immediately prior to the Eighth Conference
of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP8),
was comprised of workshops on four topics:
wetlands restoration and mitigation;
environmental governance and sustainable development - the contribution
of the Ramsar Convention;
agriculture, wetlands and water resources; and
communication, education and public awareness.
In addition, a roundtable discussion was held on "Wetlands, People
and Climate: Preparing for Change."
Note: This issue of Sustainable Developments reports
only on GBF17's closing plenary, held on Sunday morning, 17 November
2002. During this plenary, participants heard reports on the discussions
and conclusions from the four workshops and the roundtable held during
the previous days. The closing plenary also included a summary by
GBF17's Chief Rapporteur outlining all the key issues and recommendations
raised during the meeting.
GBF17 Chair Jamie Skinner, IUCN Malaga, invited the
workshops’ and roundtable’s facilitators to outline the key themes
and conclusions of the previous two days, and indicated that these
would also be presented during the opening session of COP8.
WETLANDS RESTORATION AND MITIGATION
Workshop facilitator Bill Streever, BP Exploration
(Alaska), identified three interrelated themes addressed by participants:
how Ramsar principles and guidelines for restoration can be improved;
how mitigation can be implemented as part of national wetland strategies;
and whether restoration and mitigation can help alleviate poverty.
On the Ramsar principles and guidelines for restoration, he noted
that the process to develop these had been instigated by the Convention's
Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) three years ago, and
that a document containing draft principles and guidelines had been
approved by the Ramsar Standing Committee. He indicated that, while
the workshop had resulted in suggestions for minor improvements, overall
the document was considered acceptable to workshop participants, who
urged COP8 to approve it.
On implementing mitigation as part of national wetland strategies,
Streever said the workshop had concluded that COP8 should encourage
progress by establishing a working group and developing a document
addressing this matter.
Finally, he noted participants’ recommendation that COP8 should be
encouraged to support further links with the private sector, especially
by opening discussions with selected industries and corporations regarding
the application of principles and guidelines for wetland restoration
and possible future mitigation guidelines. He indicated that these
messages would be transmitted to COP8 on its opening day, and also
through Ramsar focal points.
ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT:
THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE RAMSAR CONVENTION
Hillary Masundire, IUCN Commission on Ecosystems
Management, explained that the workshop on environmental governance
and sustainable development had focused on two questions: whether
Ramsar sites contribute to conservation of biodiversity and sustaining
human livelihoods; and whether the ecosystem approach contributes
to maintaining or restoring the ecological character of Ramsar sites
and improvement of livelihoods. He indicated that discussions on these
matters were based on 12 prepared Ramsar site case studies.
He noted consensus on the significant contribution of Ramsar sites
to biodiversity conservation and human livelihoods, and agreement
that the ecosystem approach is a valuable tool for planning and implementation
of wetland management.
He drew attention to participants’ recommendation for further elaboration
of the ecosystem approach in a "non-technical manner," and
for practical guidance on implementing the approach. Further elaboration
of the approach would address issues of scale, policy and communication
AGRICULTURE, WETLANDS AND WATER RESOURCES
Douglas Taylor, Wetlands International, reported
on the workshop on agriculture, wetlands and water resources, noting
that, although this was considered a controversial issue, the interests
of those who work on conservation and those who subsist from agriculture
or work on food security issues could be integrated harmoniously.
Highlighting the importance of this workshop, he observed that 70%
of freshwater is used for agriculture, and that 50% of Ramsar sites
are used for agricultural purposes.
He noted agreement that sustainable agriculture is an essential management
tool for maintaining conservation values of wetlands in bio-cultural
landscapes. The workshop also recognized that wetlands are under increasing
pressure from agriculture to be modified for food production. In this
context, Taylor noted participants’ comments that the importance of
wetlands for the rural poor’s food security through small-scale agriculture,
as well as other uses, should be considered. He also highlighted the
workshop’s conclusion that, in order to arrive at an optimal multi-sectoral
use of wetlands, there is a need to balance agricultural development
with the full range of economic, social, and cultural values and the
maintenance of their ecological functions. He drew attention to support
for the draft resolution on agriculture on COP8’s agenda, which he
said was designed to reconcile agricultural use in and around wetlands
with the protection of the "key values" of wetlands.
Following Taylor’s presentation, a number of participants commented
on the workshop, with several highlighting the impacts of intensive
shrimp farming, and a relevant COP7 resolution.
COMMUNICATION, EDUCATION AND PUBLIC AWARENESS
Jane Claricoates, Consultant, presented the report
of the workshop on communication, education and public awareness (CEPA)
for sustainable development, stressing the importance of linking CEPA
discussions to outcomes from the recent World Summit on Sustainable
Development (WSSD). She noted the lack of private sector participation
in the workshop and recommended involving new partners in CEPA. The
workshop recommended building capacities of Ramsar CEPA focal points,
providing international and national support and financial resources
for CEPA activities of focal points and the Ramsar Bureau; concluded
that cooperation between NGO and government focal points is critical
for implementing the Convention; and stressed that CEPA for sustainable
development is "a natural vehicle" for harmonization amongst
multilateral environmental agreements.
Following the presentation, participants commented on the workshop,
stressing the need for strategies to ensure effective community participation
in sustainable management of wetlands and for sharing experiences
in the field.
WETLANDS, PEOPLE AND CLIMATE: PREPARING FOR CHANGE
Elroy Bos, IUCN, presented the report of the roundtable
on climate change and wetlands, which addressed interlinkages between
climate change and wetlands, and adaptation and mitigation strategies.
He explained that the roundtable had considered a relevant draft resolution
on the COP8 agenda and recommended that the Ramsar Convention: address
climate change as one of the trends impacting wetlands; be proactive
in addressing knowledge gaps on climate change impacts; and prepare
adaptation strategies for both gradual and rapid ecosystem changes.
The roundtable also recommended further research on this issue, including
carbon-emission offsetting by very large ecosystems, and prompt measures
to mitigate climate change impacts, including national and regional
adaptation plans and actions and creating necessary infrastructure
solutions. Bos said that a number of concrete changes to the text
of the resolution had been proposed.
Following the presentation, several participants highlighted the important
role of peatlands and arctic wetlands in climate change, as well as
the need to gather and systematize the information on interrelations
of climate change and wetlands.
During the ensuing general discussion, participants discussed linkages
amongst conclusions of the different workshops. Many stressed the
importance of the cross-cutting issue of local communities' participation
in the implementation of the Ramsar Convention. One delegate called
for a funding mechanism to ensure indigenous peoples' participation
in international meetings, and a GBF representative noted a proposal
for such a mechanism under the GBF. Participants also discussed: means
to ensure that COP8 takes into account the GBF's recommendations;
the need to monitor implementation of the Convention; the role of
civil and scientific societies in implementation "on the ground";
the importance of ensuring sustainable use of all wetlands; and the
need to raise awareness on the values and ecosystem functions of wetlands,
including their role in water management, both in developed and developing
OF MAIN ISSUES AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Tim Jones, GBF17 Chief Rapporteur, provided overall
conclusions and recommendations for the workshop. He emphasized broad
support for enhancing the Ramsar Conventionï¿½s role in sustainable
development and poverty alleviation in response to the WSSD. He said
the GBF recognized that: maintaining functions of wetland ecosystems
is crucial for supporting livelihoods as well as conserving biodiversity;
a paradigm shift is required in the way Ramsar deals with CEPA; wetland
restoration has the potential to deliver socioeconomic benefits in
all Ramsar regions; and agriculture is the major user of fresh water
globally and has a critical influence on the sustainability of wetland
functions and values in all Ramsar regions (with corresponding implications
for biodiversity and livelihoods). He highlighted support for, and
proposed amendments to, COP8 draft resolutions, particularly those
dealing with agriculture, CEPA, restoration and climate change (and
corresponding sections of the draft Strategic Plan).
He highlighted that GBF challenges for COP8 include radically upgrading
the practical application of global Ramsar principles, guidelines
and tools. This, he said, requires dealing with variability, including
between regions, scales, sectors and wetland types, and adapting principles,
guidelines and tools to local contexts. To this end, he emphasized
the necessity for political will, transparent, equitable and participatory
approaches, capacity and resources, traditional wisdom and empowering
local communities, and CEPA. He further stressed strengthening monitoring
and evaluation of use of existing guidelines and tools and facilitating
increased dissemination of experience. He said the COP must be open
to new directions, partnerships and synergies, and that the Convention
has to reflect the diversity and complexity of wetlands. He stressed
the importance of increased participation of the private sector, reaching
out to new stakeholders, particularly in agriculture and in CEPA,
and not limiting the Conventionï¿½s scope or flexibility.
In his closing remarks, Nick Davidson, Ramsar Convention
Deputy Secretary General, highlighted linkages between the GBF and
the Ramsar COP, and the importance of the GBF discussions and outcomes
to the COP. He noted the significance of CEPA to the implementation
of the Convention. He welcomed GBF recommendations for modifying draft
resolutions, and drew attention to the challenge of achieving sustainable
development in parallel with maintaining key functions and processes
of wetlands for the benefits of peoples. He stressed that Ramsar is
not an enforcement convention, that responsibility for implementation
lies with countries, and that the Ramsar Bureauï¿½s responsibility is
to assist implementation. He also emphasized the importance of working
with local communities and their involvement at the local and national
levels from an early stage in the management process.
Thanking all the organizers and participants for their work, GBF17
Chair Jamie Skinner declared the meeting closed shortly after 12:00