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THE SEVENTH SESSION OF THE CONTRACTING PARTIES TO THE RAMSAR CONVENTION
San Jos�, Costa Rica
10-18 May 1999

Briefing

Delegates at COP7 met in Plenary in the morning to take a decision on the draft resolution on regional categorization. The Technical Session on Ramsar and Water convened in the afternoon, and a contact group conducted informal consultations on the Bureau work plan and budget in the evening.

IN THE CORRIDORS
Delegates departed Thursday morning�s Plenary debating the surprising defusion of the highly charged negotiation on regional categorization. Most felt that the political motivations behind the discord were certain to resurface and cause problems. Some were upset by the Chair�s haste to break Ramsar�s unbroken tradition of consensus by calling for a vote. They feared that breaking this tradition would undermine the spirit of the Convention and mar COP7 deliberations. Others felt that, after a shaky start, Chair Koester�s handling of the meeting successfully sidestepped a political landmine � at least for the time being. Participants have noted that with Ramsar broadening its scope and doubling its membership in recent years, the intrusion of politics into what had been a narrow scientific convention was inevitable, and although efforts to broaden Ramsar�s agenda to incorporate sustainable development concerns entail such risks, the maturity would be worth the growing pains.

Photos and RealAudio from 13 May
COP7 Vice President Veit Koester (Denmark, left) chaired the Plenary consideration of regional categorization. He reported that intensive informal consultations had failed to produce consensus.

SYRIA explained that its proposal, which places Israel in Europe and maintains the other bio-geographical regions, uses the rationale of the UN and other bodies similar to Ramsar and takes into consideration other groups� concerns.

RealAudio excerpt from the debate on regional groupings:

Iran

Syria
Iran
Israel

Above: Delegates from Iran (first two from the right) and Israel (third and fourth from the right).
The Chair said delegates should vote on whether to consider Syria�s proposal. Syria requested that this vote be conducted by secret ballot. Delegates voted by a show of hands against the latter suggestion.
Delegates of Kenya.

 

EGYPT noted that although the regional groups had now been established, they apply only to Ramsar and do not establish a precedent for any other fora. He stated for the record that he believed that the composition of regional groups should be decided with the full consent of their members. I
Enrique Alonzo Garcia, Spanish Ministry of Environment, outlined Spain�s experience with water policy and wetland management. He said it was imperative that CPs review their wetland policies in the context of water policies, using broader geographical and integrated approaches.
Juan Schnack, Museo de La Plata, Argentina, made a presentation on the role of Ramsar in responding to the global water crisis. He stressed that there must be greater equity in meeting basic needs and increased awareness of decision makers and the public if the Convention�s functions to address the water crisis are to be efficiently implemented.
Claude Martin, Director-General of WWF International, made a presentation on WWF�s Living Waters Campaign to raise awareness on water resource conservation, which aims to: demonstrate sustainable approaches to freshwater management in at least five catchment areas; and increase by 50% the area of the world�s freshwater ecosystems that are newly committed for protection, restoration or effective management.

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Earth Negotiations Bulletin, 1999. All rights reserved.