Published by the
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
Vol. 17 No. 12
Wednesday, 20 November 2002
RAMSAR COP8 HIGHLIGHTS
TUESDAY, 19 NOVEMBER 2002
Delegates met in a morning Plenary session to
consider the Secretary General’s report on implementation. In the
afternoon, Parties took up finance and budget issues as well as
proposals for COP resolutions and recommendations. In addition,
Committees on Future COPs, the Strategic Plan and Work Plan, and
Credentials, and contact groups on invasive species, mangroves,
climate change, management planning and the San José Record, the
STRP’s modus operandi, the Strategic Framework for the Ramsar
List, and culture and wetlands, began their work.
CREDENTIALS COMMITTEE: Delegates approved
COP8 President Martorell’s proposal that, due to the absence of
representatives from the Gambia, Algeria would replace the Gambia on
the Credentials Committee.
REPORT OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL: Ramsar
Secretary General Delmar Blasco reported on the implementation of
the Convention at the global level (COP8 DOC.5), highlighting key
challenges for implementation. Reporting on the WSSD (COP8 DOC.7),
Blasco said the challenge is to identify how the Convention can
contribute to sustainable development and the WSSD’s outcomes. He
highlighted new designations, changes in areas and ecological
character, and restrictions on sites in the List of Wetlands of
International Importance pursuant to Article 8.2 (COP8 DOC.6).
Some participants, including GUYANA and BARBADOS,
announced their intention to accede to the Convention. GUINEA,
BENIN, GHANA, MALAWI, LATVIA, COSTA RICA, PARAGUAY and others
described their national and regional activities.
WWF urged Parties to designate new Ramsar sites,
and recommended that the COP consider a resolution on conservation
of fish biodiversity. HUNGARY underscored the relevance of the
WSSD’s outcomes. INDONESIA called for implementation guidelines and
assistance to improve national reporting. KENYA stressed the need
for adequate scientific information and alternative livelihood
sources for wetland-dependent communities. EL SALVADOR, ETHIOPIA and
MALI emphasized synergies with relevant Conventions. RWANDA
recommended that Parties establish long-term implementation plans.
COTE D’IVOIRE, MAURITIUS and PAPUA NEW GUINEA
urged greater financial assistance. IRAN, NIGER, and CUBA called for
GEF support to the Convention. MALI urged support for capacity
JAPAN highlighted its 100,000 Swiss Francs
contribution to the Small Grants Fund, supported strengthening the
STRP and prioritizing work of the COP and the Standing Committee,
and opposed overloading the STRP.
IRAQ and SYRIA emphasized negative impacts of
irrigation projects in the upstream Euphrates basin. AZERBAIJAN
requested that, having acceded to Ramsar, it participate in the
STRATEGIC PLAN AND WORK PLAN: Parties
considered drafts of the Strategic Plan for 2003-2008 (COP8 DR 25
and Rev.1) and Work Plan for 2003-2005 (COP8 DR 26). Nick Davidson,
Ramsar Deputy Secretary General, drew attention to the latest
revision of the Strategic Plan, which addresses WSSD outcomes.
FINANCIAL REPORT AND PROPOSED BUDGET: Karen
Jenderedjian (Armenia), Chair of the Subgroup on Finance, introduced
the draft resolution on financial and budgetary matters (COP8 DR
27). ARGENTINA requested adjustments in its assessed contributions
for the next triennium. JAPAN supported the proposed scale of
contributions and the budget line for regional initiatives, while
RUSSIA and BRAZIL objected to the scale, with BRAZIL requesting its
objection be recorded in the meeting’s report. CUBA supported the
proposed scale of assessment but objected to the procedure adopted
by the UN to define it. GERMANY and RUSSIA opposed a 5% budget
increase for the next triennium and called for a nominal zero
growth, while GERMANY urged discontinuing low priority tasks.
AUSTRALIA requested resources or staffing for implementing the
Convention in the Oceania region. UGANDA supported the new budget
line for COP-related costs. Stressing Ramsar’s relatively low budget
and lack of regional coordinators, WWF, supported by ALGERIA, urged
Parties to support the 5% increase. SPAIN, on behalf of the EU,
called for prioritization of activities.
PROPOSALS FOR COP RESOLUTIONS AND
RECOMMENDATIONS: Regarding a draft resolution for establishing a
Ramsar Endowment Fund (COP8 DR 29), DENMARK urged developed
countries’ assistance for implementation in developing countries.
SWEDEN, supported by the NETHERLANDS, preferred other means than the
proposed fund to support Convention implementation. Blasco stressed
that the COP would have to either close down the "dying" Small
Grants Fund, or secure resources for its continued operation, and
that the Endowment Fund was a means to do the latter. WWF stressed
the need for broader criteria and simplified procedures for small
On the establishment of a regional Ramsar center
in Western and Central Asia (COP8 DR 41), BELGIUM proposed bilateral
support for the Center. Regarding a resolution on regional
initiatives (COP8 DR 30), JAPAN supported strengthening the COP’s
authority in using the core budget. SPAIN stressed the need for
self-sustainability of initiatives in the long-term.
On the draft resolution on Small Island
Developing States (SIDS) (COP8 DR 42), PAPUA NEW GUINEA, on behalf
of SIDS, commended the Memorandum of Cooperation between the Ramsar
Convention and the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme.
JAPAN and FRANCE expressed concern over favoring one region.
Regarding the resolution on a subregional
strategy of the Ramsar Convention for South America (COP8 DR 43),
CANADA and JAPAN asked about the resolution’s financial
implications. Blasco replied that the resolution’s scope was within
the context of regional services provided by the Convention.
SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS: Millennium Ecosystem
Assessment: Angela Cropper, Co-President of the Millennium
Ecosystem Assessment Board, presented a status report on the
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) (COP8 DOC.8). She highlighted
the dynamic relationship of the MA with Ramsar and expressed hope
for its continuation, primarily through the STRP. EGYPT underscored
the need to combine traditional knowledge with scientific and
Overview of Spain’s wetland conservation
activities: Ines Gonzalez Doncel, Spain’s Director General for
Nature Conservation, presented a comprehensive overview of wetland
conservation and sustainable use in Spain, goals for the future, and
plans to designate 11 new wetlands sites, thus improving the
geographic spread of wetlands listed.
WWF expressed serious reservations about the new
Spanish National Hydrological Plan (SNHP) in its current form,
arguing that it is inconsistent with the Ramsar Convention and EU
Directives, and might lead to the "misuse" of up to eight billion
Euros of EU funds. BIRDLIFE INTERNATIONAL expressed concern at the
lack of proper NGO involvement in dealing with wetland issues in
Spain and the process for assessing the SNHP’s impact on Ramsar
sites. GREENPEACE SPAIN said the SNHP plan does not provide for an
environmental impact assessment. PLATAFORMA EN DEFENSE DEL EBRO
expressed its fears for the state of the Ebro river basin. SPAIN
acknowledged that some policies were controversial, expressed its
commitment to preserving water resources, and noted that conflicts
between interested stakeholders are inevitable in all activities.
UNEP: Paul Chabeda, on behalf of UNEP
Executive Director Klaus Töpfer, stressed the need for enhanced
synergies between multilateral environmental agreements, and for
partnerships with all stakeholders. He outlined UNEP’s Ramsar-related
work, and noted the importance of capacity building and equitable
FUTURE COPS: Delegates agreed that the
efficiency of future COPs must be improved. They recommended that
the Conference Committee consider: a procedural distinction between
technical issues that can be finalized by the Standing Committee and
the STRP, and those that require substantial discussion by the COP;
mechanisms for preliminary review of draft resolutions; and longer
lead-time for submission of draft resolutions. If the Conference
Committee determines that a revision of the Rules of Procedure is
required, such revision should be undertaken during the current COP.
STRATEGIC PLAN AND WORK PLAN: Delegates
agreed to begin by considering the Strategic Plan (COP8 DR 25
Rev.1), and proceeded to discuss it section-by-section, reaching the
section on implementation. Discussions are set to continue on
INVASIVE SPECIES: Delegates considered the
draft resolution on invasive species and wetlands (COP8 DR 19).
AUSTRALIA, supported by the US and BRAZIL and opposed by the EU,
requested deleting a reference to CBD Decision VI/23 on guidelines
for dealing with invasive species, arguing that it had not been
properly adopted. The Group was unable to resolve this issue, and
forwarded the resolution to the Plenary.
CLIMATE CHANGE: The Climate Change Contact
Group considered the draft resolution on climate change and wetlands
(COP8 DR 3), with Parties and representatives of the Global
Biodiversity Forum proposing a number of amendments. The Group
agreed to include reference to the vulnerability of SIDS, the
managing of wetlands to increase their resilience to climate change,
and the WSSD Plan of Implementation, including language
urging Parties to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Delegates were unable
to agree on several paragraphs, with JAPAN disputing the need for
STRP to conduct follow-up work on wetlands and climate change,
arguing that the STRP’s workload is already heavy. Text on this
remains bracketed. Revised text will be distributed on Wednesday.
MANAGEMENT PLANNING/SAN JOSE RECORD: The
Contact Group on Management Planning and the San José Record
discussed the draft resolution on Management Planning (COP8 DR 14).
Delegates agreed to recognize different management planning
approaches and the need for a practical experience-sharing
On the San José Record (COP8 DR 15), Parties
debated the options of a closed list or a "good experience"
database, and the potential costs of maintaining the record. Parties
agreed to convene again after regional consultations.
MANGROVES: The Contact Group on the draft
resolution on wise use of mangrove ecosystems (COP8 DR 32) agreed to
retain a reference to good practices on conservation and wise use of
mangroves, with a change in wording to include "mangrove ecosystem"
instead of "mangroves" and "sustainable" instead of "wise" use. Some
delegates stressed the need to balance economic and social
development with environmental protection.
STRP MODUS OPERANDI: Delegates discussed the
need for the STRP Supporting Service and possible means of its
financing, terms of reference and other amendments to the STRPï¿½s
modus operandi. They also addressed the designation of STRP
experts. STRP representatives stressed that a contractual
arrangement for the Service is more cost efficient than expanding
the STRP staff.
STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK FOR RAMSAR LIST:
Delegates agreed to endorse the draft resolution (COP8 DR10) subject
to two changes: limiting the targeting of future designation to the
number of sites and not designating areas; consultations will take
place on the format and dates for progress reports regarding the
strategic framework, with the results of these talks being forwarded
directly to the Plenary.
CULTURE AND WETLANDS: Delegates provided
general responses to the draft resolution (COP8 DR 19). AUSTRALIA,
BRAZIL, the US, UK and others opposed the proposed resolution, some
expressing concern that language in the resolution went beyond
Ramsarï¿½s mandate. WWF endorsed integrating cultural values in the
Ramsar Convention, but supported reducing the size of the
guidelines. Representatives of indigenous peoplesï¿½ organizations
from Mexico and Panama supported the proposed resolution.
IN THE CORRIDORS
COP8 stepped up a gear on Tuesday as various
contact groups and committees began their work alongside the
Plenary. Some of the discord from the closing Plenary of CBD COP6 on
the invasive species issue spilled over into the Ramsar Contact
Group considering the matter. However, several observers hinted that
a deal was being brokered that might assist Parties to reach a
Some participants were also talking about the
"grilling" given by NGOs to the host country for perceived flaws in
its new hydrological plan, and whether a proposed NGO resolution on
this would find a willing country sponsor. Meanwhile, others were
speculating that budget issues were likely to move higher up the
agenda over the coming days, as the nature and cost of Ramsarï¿½s work
during the next few years comes more clearly into focus.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
REGIONAL MEETINGS: Regional meetings to
review implementation, resolutions, and the upcoming Technical
Sessions will take place from 9:30 am - 12:30 pm today.
TECHNICAL SESSIONS: COP8ï¿½s Technical Sessions
begin at 3:00 pm in the Plenary with the session on challenges and
opportunities for wetlands, water and sustainability.
COMMITTEES AND CONTACT GROUPS: Committees and
Contact Groups will continue their work.