Published by the
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
Vol. 17 No. 13
Thursday, 21 November 2002
RAMSAR COP8 HIGHLIGHTS
WEDNESDAY, 20 NOVEMBER 2002
Delegates held regional meetings in the morning
to consider Convention implementation and resolutions before the
COP. In the afternoon the Technical Sessions began, with
presentations and discussions on challenges and opportunities for
wetlands, water and sustainability. Committees on Finance,
Credentials, and the Strategic Plan and Work Plan convened, and
contact groups met to discuss agriculture, culture and wetlands,
high Andean wetlands, mangroves, and water and the World Commission
AFRICA: Delegates considered reports on
Convention implementation and the Strategic Plan for 1997-2002 and
on key issues emerging from tentative national targets for 2003-2005
(COP8 Doc.25). They stressed the need for, inter alia:
awareness raising about the ecological, socio-economic and cultural
value of wetlands; capacity building at all levels; financial
resources; strengthening of institutional frameworks; cooperation
within and between countries involving all stakeholders; synergies
between biodiversity-related conventions; integration of wetland
strategies into urban and coastal planning and development policies;
joint management of transboundary resources; addressing invasive
species; knowledge and experience sharing; and inventories and
THE AMERICAS: Participants considered
changing the timetable and format for submitting national reports.
They agreed that a document on target identification should be used
in a continuous dynamic process. Noting lack of information in the
current budget proposal and concerns over a proposed budget
increase, they deferred financial deliberations until after the next
Finance Committee meeting. Regarding the draft resolution on content
and duration of future COPs, some delegates supported the
initiative, while others voiced concern that it does not give
Parties an adequate opportunity to voice their positions on
ASIA: The group considered a report on
Convention implementation and the Strategic Plan for 1997-2002 in
Asia (COP8 DOC.26), as well as priorities for the next triennium,
the Conference Committee’s recommendations on future COPs, and the
designation of experts for the STRP. On priorities for future
actions, delegates stressed, inter alia, the importance of:
promoting and providing financial and technical support to regional
cooperation; facilitating training and education; dealing with water
management issues and natural disasters; and evaluating and
promoting socio-economic values of wetlands. JORDAN and IRAQ agreed
to cooperate on transboundary wetlands. Several delegates and NGOs
drew attention to underrepresented wetlands. The Group also
considered enlarging the Region’s representation in the STRP and the
Standing Committee as a result of four new accessions.
EUROPE: Delegates considered implementation
and achievements in Europe since 1997 and priorities for 2003-2005
(COP8 DOC.27) based on an analysis of national reports. Denmark,
speaking for the EU, supported an increased emphasis on links and
synergies between the Convention and relevant EU Directives. WWF
highlighted the value of multi-stakeholder involvement in Parties’
On draft COP8 resolutions, the EU briefed
participants on the dispute over the draft on invasive species (COP8
DR18), noting that it stemmed from the CBD COP6 decision on guiding
principles on this issue. While the EU wanted to reference this
decision in the COP8 resolution, he said Australia and others did
not, as they believed the decision had not been properly adopted.
Parties unanimously endorsed the EU position. Delegates were also
briefed on Standing Committee and STRP membership (COP8 DR 28 and 28bis).
OCEANIA: Delegates discussed a variety of
issues, including key challenges raised during a regional
preparatory meeting held in Samoa in May 2002, implementation of the
SPREP-Ramsar Joint Work Plan, and Bureau support for the region. On
Bureau support, participants advocated establishing a coordinator
for the Oceania region, which is the only region without one. Citing
current funding difficulties, Deputy Executive Secretary Nick
Davidson suggested providing an assistant coordinator on an interim
basis by expanding the Ramsar internship programme. Delegates
supported amending the draft resolution on SIDS in the Oceania
region (COP8 DR 42) to reflect the need for a regional coordinator.
WWF proposed appointing a SIDS coordinator in Oceania, and said it
would contribute $20,000 over the next two years to help finance
this post, conditional on Parties also providing additional funding.
TECHNICAL SESSION ON CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
The Technical Session on major challenges and
emerging opportunities for wetlands, water and sustainability began
with panel presentations by invited experts, followed by discussions
on related draft COP8 resolutions in four regionally-based groups.
The Session was chaired by Ruhakana Rugunda, Uganda’s Minister of
Water, Lands and Environment.
PRESENTATIONS: Water allocation and management:
Heather MacKay, Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, South
Africa, presented the draft resolution on guidelines for allocation
and management of water for maintaining ecological functions of
wetlands (COP8 DR1) and an information paper on processes,
strategies and tools for allocation and management of water for
maintaining wetland ecosystem functions (COP8 DOC.9).
World Commission on Dams: Jamie Skinner, IUCN,
presented the information paper and draft resolution on the report
of the World Commission on Dams (WCD) and its relevance to the
Ramsar Convention (COP8 DOC.10 and COP8 DR 2), stressing that the
WCD report offers non-binding responses to often conflicting
environmental, social and economic objectives.
Climate change: Habiba Gitay, Australian
National University, gave a presentation on climate change and
wetlands (COP8 DR 3), highlighting climate change impacts on
wetlands and biodiversity, including increased risk of extinction
for wetland-dependent species, coral bleaching, and possible
transformation of peatlands.
Integrated coastal zone management (ICZM):
STRP Chair Jorge Arturo Jimenes Ramón (Costa Rica) introduced the
draft resolution on wetland issues in ICZM (COP8 DR 4), highlighting
pressures on coastal areas, including unsustainable aquaculture,
population growth, uncontrolled development, and climate change.
Partnerships and synergies: Ramsar Secretary
General Blasco introduced the draft resolution on partnerships and
synergies with multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and
other institutions (COP8 DR 5). He outlined key issues covered by
the resolution, including a paragraph urging Parties to Ramsar and
the CBD to develop projects suitable for GEF consideration relating
to inland water ecosystems.
Special presentations: Nelson Andrade,
Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine
Environment of the Wider Caribbean (Cartagena Convention), welcomed
ongoing cooperation with the Ramsar Convention, and proposed a joint
Arthur Nogueira, on behalf of CBD Executive
Secretary Hamdallah Zedan, stressed the importance of COP8, which
follows the WSSD and precedes the 2003 International Year of
Freshwater. He highlighted successful cooperation between Ramsar and
Peter Bridgewater, UNESCO, announced the launch
of a new publication, Coral Reef Protected Areas in International
Instruments, produced by the World Heritage Convention, World
Network of Biosphere Reserves, and Ramsar.
REGIONAL GROUPS: Africa: On the draft
resolution on partnerships and synergies, delegates appointed a
small group to discuss adding a specific paragraph on cooperation
between Ramsar and the Convention to Combat Desertification. They
also agreed to delete bracketed text on endorsement by the
Convention on Migratory Species COP7 of the joint Ramsar-CMS work
On the draft resolution on ICZM, delegates added
a preambular paragraph welcoming the WSSD Plan of
Implementation’s emphasis on Ramsar Convention implementation as
a tool to protect marine and coastal areas.
The Americas: On water allocation, delegates
agreed to: delete preambular reference to the World Water Commission
and Global Water Partnership; reinforce socio-economic values in the
guidelines; and replace "precautionary principle" with
"precautionary approach". Regarding the WCD resolution, changes were
introduced to provide consistency on the value of dams and reduce
the emphasis on WCD guidance. Regarding the draft resolution on
climate change, participants added underrepresented wetlands to the
list of wetlands of international importance. Delegates also
endorsed draft resolutions on ICZM and on synergies with MEAs.
Asia and Oceania: Delegates endorsed without
amendment draft resolutions on water management and synergies with
MEAs. Regarding the resolution on the WCD, delegates agreed to
language encouraging Parties "to take the necessary steps within
their frameworks to provide access to migratory species wherever
possible and appropriate" and proposed other amendments, including
text stressing the need to adapt WCD guidance to local conditions.
THAILAND stressed the need to deal with transboundary watercourses.
Parties agreed to discuss the resolution on climate change in
Plenary, when the relevant Contact Group submits its report.
Europe: Regarding the resolution on water,
the UK, NORWAY, SWEDEN and WWF, opposed by TURKEY and SPAIN,
supported reference to the Report of the WCD. Reference to "possible
independent arbitration" in relation to conflict resolution
mechanisms was deleted from the annex. TURKEY opposed the draft
resolution on the WCD Report. On wetlands in ICZM, text was proposed
urging Parties to take steps to halt commercial exploitation of
FINANCE: Delegates sought clarification on,
inter alia: staff expenses, including IUCN services and
performance of the fundraising officer; travel on official business;
STRP support service; and unpaid contributions. One delegate
objected to the proposed 5% budget increase and, opposed by many
delegates, suggested excluding from the core budget items on STRP
support service, regional initiatives, and COP-related costs
incurred by the Bureau. Most delegates supported a streamlined lower
budget increase. A revised draft budget will be prepared.
STRATEGIC PLAN AND WORK PLAN: Delegates
continued discussing the Strategic Plan, adding a number of actions
to the text. The Group discussed references to trade, with informal
consultations continuing late into Wednesday night to resolve the
issue. The Committee will reconvene on Thursday to conclude its work
on the Strategic Plan and begin discussing the Work Plan.
AGRICULTURE: Delegates discussed the preamble
and the operational paragraphs of the draft resolution and suggested
amendments. Contentious issues included references to landscapes,
the CBD and the Joint Work Plan, perverse incentives and subsidies,
and unsustainable aquaculture.
CULTURE AND WETLANDS: AUSTRALIA opposed the
resolution and the guiding principles in their current form (COP8
DR19), advocated consultations with indigenous peoples, and
suggested that the STRP clarify "culture," "cultural aspects," and
"cultural values." Some delegates strongly supported the resolution,
with TUNISIA noting that other conventions take into account
cultural values. Indigenous Peoplesï¿½ Groups urged a resolution on
this matter and stakeholder consultation. The Group will reconvene
on Thursday evening to consider a revised text.
HIGH ANDEAN WETLANDS: Following extensive
discussions of the draft resolution on high Andean wetlands (COP8 DR
39), delegates agreed to insert reference to sustainable tourism,
the threat to wetlands from invasive species, and cultural values of
wetlands and indigenous management practices.
MANGROVES: The Group could not agree on ways
to deal with activities impacting mangroves, including aquaculture,
urban development and industry, with NGOs calling for restrictions
on these activities. Delegates also discussed criteria for
designating mangroves as Ramsar sites.
WATER AND WCD: Delegates considered the draft
resolution on guidelines for the allocation and management of water.
They agreed, inter alia, to refer to the resolution on
agriculture. In an introductory paragraph of the guidelines,
delegates discussed the inclusion of language on wetlands as an
"integral component of the global water cycle." In the section on
implementation, they agreed to language supporting groundwater
extraction to supplement stream flows to wetlands when it does not
significantly impact on other dependent values.
IN THE CORRIDORS
Budget issues came to the fore on Wednesday, with
even a modest 5% increase being questioned by some donor countries.
However, some observers suggested that the increase is merited,
especially given Ramsarï¿½s small budget when compared with other MEAs.
One observer suggested that "5% of almost nothing isnï¿½t really very
Meanwhile, a number of participants were
discussing the organization of Wednesdayï¿½s meetings, with some
welcoming the regional group setting and full agenda, while others
suggested various alternatives to use delegatesï¿½ time more
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
PLENARY: Plenary will convene at 8:00 am to
address the status of draft resolutions.
TECHNICAL SESSIONS: The Technical Session on
baselines begins in Plenary at 9:30 am. The Technical Session on
global biodiversity and human life will start in Plenary at 3:00 pm.
COMMITTEES AND CONTACT GROUPS: Committees on
the Strategic Plan and Work Plan, Credentials and Finance will
convene in the afternoon. Contact Groups on Agriculture and on
Culture are scheduled. Check the noticeboard for details.