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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 participated in Technical Sessions on Tools for Assessing and Recognizing Wetland Values in the morning and on the Framework for Regional and International Cooperation Regarding Wetlands in the afternoon. A contact group also met to conduct informal consultations on the status of Yugoslavia in the Convention.
IN THE CORRIDORS
Delegates have been praising the Bureau�s experiment of combining technical session presentations with regionally-based consultations. Ramsar newcomers have found them to be �safe havens� for learning about the Convention�s new directions and expressing their views in an informal setting. Some delegates said they had expected regional recommendations to be difficult to pull together, but were pleased to discover that drafting groups have been successful in integrating regionally-based amendments. Many delegates have expressed satisfaction with the technical sessions, and the process of regionally-based consultations seems to have conferred a sense of ownership of the COP resolutions.

Photos and RealAudio from 15 May
Andrea Bagri, IUCN Economic Services Unit, made a presentation on Ramsar and Impact Assessment. She said impact assessments have been identified as key tools for assisting countries in implementing various conventions, including Ramsar and those on biodiversity, migratory species, and desertification. Noting that impact assessment processes provide an opportunity to bring local and indigenous communities into decision making, she said CPs should seek to strengthen participatory procedures.
Nick Davidson, Wetlands International, presented a global review of wetland resources and priorities for wetland inventory. He said the review�s key finding was that inventories are incomplete and difficult to undertake.

Max Finlayson, Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist, discussed the Wetland Risk Assessment Framework. He said indicators should be anticipatory, predictive, sensitive, cost-effective, diagnostic, socially relevant, non-destructive, and applied in a timely manner.
Gordana Beltram (Slovenia), Chair of the Technical Session, highlighted the need for broader assessment of policies, programmes and plans to ensure that they do not promote or allow destruction of wetlands. She underscored the need to go beyond narrow environmental impact assessment and include social and economic impacts of converting wetlands.
Maureen Ballestero, International Network of Basin Organizations, spoke on international cooperation through river basin commissions. She highlighted gaps that need to be filled in the international legal framework on shared water resources.
Javier Beltran, World Conservation Monitoring Centre, presented the preliminary findings of a GIS analysis on the world�s shared wetlands and river basins. He highlighted areas requiring further work, including: analysis of the levels of risks in vulnerable sites; assessment of the extent of wetlands designated as protected areas; prioritization of coastal marine wetland habitats; and assessment of the management regimes of cross-border sites.
TURKEY expressed its reservation to the guidelines on transboundary watercourses, stating that they are politically sensitive and a �different playground� than Ramsar�s domain of transboundary wetlands. Bill Phillips, Ramsar Deputy Secretary-General, read aloud COP6 Strategic Objective 7.11 and Article 5 of the Convention, which obligates CPs to cooperate on wetlands and water systems that extend into territories of more than one CP.
Suzanne Palminteri, Biodiversity Conservation Specialist, discussed how user-friendly geographic information systems (GIS) can assist wetland site-level managers to assimilate and interpret data for addressing management questions. She noted that, in contrast to costly and complicated high-end GIS technology, site-level GIS is available for less than US$1000, simple to teach and learn, and valuable for spatial management of wetlands and associated biodiversity
Several delegates noted problems associated with interpreting satellite imagery of wetlands, maintaining complex and costly GIS technology, and failing to take local community knowledge of wetlands seriously.
Stevie Monna, Botswana National Conservation Strategy Agency, discussed the framework for international cooperation to manage the Okavango River, shared by Angola, Botswana and Namibia. He said Botswana is collaborating with the Ramsar Bureau to develop a delta management plan that can be integrated into a plan for the entire Okavango Basin.
Cheah Kong Wai, SC Representative for Asia, presented guidelines for international cooperation under the Convention. He noted a growing recognition of the value of multi-State river basin management commissions, and said the guidelines seek to foster such commissions to facilitate cooperation.
Faizal Parish, Global Environment Centre, outlined the results of a project to examine existing donor arrangements for wetland conservation and wise use. The project highlights a major decrease in bilateral funding since 1992, an increase in multilateral support to wetlands, an increase in the number of environmental projects, and the integration of environmental considerations into donors� sectoral strategies.
He outlined recommendations and guidelines for enhancing and monitoring funding for wetland conservation
Exchange with the Delegate of Chad on the impact of Structural Adjustment on the preservation of Ramsar sites

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Earth Negotiations Bulletin, 1999. All rights reserved.