Published by the
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
Vol. 17 No. 14
Friday, 22 November 2002
RAMSAR COP8 HIGHLIGHTS
THURSDAY, 21 NOVEMBER 2002
Delegates met in Plenary to discuss draft
resolutions, and in Technical Sessions on baselines for sustainable
use and on the Ramsar List. Committees on Finance, Credentials, and
the Strategic Plan and Work Plan convened, and contact groups met to
discuss agriculture and mangroves. In the evening, regional meetings
took place to finalize recommendations to the COP on nominations for
the Standing Committee.
Parties considered draft resolutions not taken up
earlier in the week. On three resolutions dealing with Convention
interpretation (COP8 DRs 20-22), BIRDLIFE INTERNATIONAL, supported
by the UK and others, suggested inserting text requesting COP9 to
provide further guidance. Regarding the draft resolution on UNEP
guidelines for enhancing compliance with MEAs (COP8 DR 24), the EU
proposed adding reference to the WSSD’s Plan of Implementation.
Parties then considered draft resolutions on
various scientific and policy issues. SLOVENIA offered to co-sponsor
resolutions on mountain wetlands (COP8 DR 12) and on guidance for
temporary pools (COP8 DR 38). AUSTRALIA and EL SALVADOR proposed
amendments concerning the role of temporary pools for local
communities and indigenous peoples.
On the resolution on incentive measures for the
wise use of wetlands (COP8 DR 23), AUSTRALIA suggested language on
avoiding trade-distorting measures that contradict WTO rules in one
paragraph, and proposed removing trade references from another
paragraph. The EU said such changes should be carefully considered,
and Parties agreed to consult informally.
On mangrove ecosystem resources (COP8 DR 32),
MANGROVE ACTION PROJECT expressed concern at shrimp farming
lobbyists’ efforts to weaken the text. The UK noted that it was
unusual for resolutions to instruct the Small Grants Fund on
priorities, and AUSTRALIA indicated that this reference had been
removed from the latest draft. Regarding agriculture, wetlands and
water resource management (COP8 DR 34), UGANDA suggested encouraging
preparation of management guidelines and strengthening the
connection with poverty alleviation.
On the impact of natural disasters, particularly
drought, on wetland ecosystems (COP8 DR 35), NIGER called for
assistance in implementing the resolution. AUSTRALIA, with others,
suggested reflecting the fact that in some areas droughts are a
normal part of wetlands’ ecological cycle. On participatory
environmental management (PEM) (COP8 DR 36), GUATEMALA called for
methodologies and funding for PEM. AUSTRALIA recommended that the
STRP develop existing guidelines to include PEM, rather than prepare
Delegates supported resolutions on migratory
waterbirds and their habitats in the Asia-Pacific region (COP8 DR
37) and on high Andean wetlands (COP8 DR 39). On waterbird
population and the designation of Wetlands of International
Importance (COP8 DR 38), BRAZIL suggested deleting language on
priorities for the designation of the Ramsar sites.
On guidelines for rendering the use of
groundwater compatible with wetland conservation (COP8 DR 40),
AUSTRALIA proposed that the focus on arid and semi-arid areas be
reflected in the title, while the NETHERLANDS said the text should
also be relevant to other types of areas.
TECHNICAL SESSION ON BASELINES FOR SUSTAINABLE
The Technical Session on baselines for
sustainable use: wetland inventory and assessment, began with panel
presentations by invited experts, and continued with discussions on
related draft COP8 resolutions in four regionally-based groups. The
Session was chaired by Nadra Nathai-Gyan (Trinidad and Tobago).
PRESENTATIONS: Improving tools for identifying
wetlands assets: Max Finlayson, President of Wetlands
International, gave a presentation on improving tools for
identifying wetland assets (COP8 DRs 6 and 7; DOC.16). He discussed,
inter alia, available guidance, gaps, a framework for
guidance, the integration of various analyses, and priorities for
further action, including reconsidering data fields used on
information sheets for Ramsar sites, incorporating tools used by
other MEAs, and reviewing Ramsar’s habitat classification system.
Assessing and reporting the status and trends of
wetlands: David Pritchard, Birdlife International, discussed
assessing and reporting the status and trends of wetlands, and the
implementation of Article 3.2 (changes in ecological character)
(COP8 DR 8). He outlined issues related to determining an ecological
baseline, generating monitoring information, detecting and reporting
change in ecological character, and responding to change. He
stressed the importance of this issue for the basic operation of the
Convention and the need for a coherent approach in determining the
state of wetlands and addressing changes in ecological character.
Impact assessment: Andrea Athanas, Shell/IUCN,
presented the draft resolution on the CBD Guidelines for
incorporating biodiversity-related issues into Environmental Impact
Assessment (EIA) legislation and/or processes and in strategic
environmental assessment, and their relevance to Ramsar (COP8 DR 9).
She highlighted issues of spatial scale, screening, wetland-specific
impacts, and mitigation options, including restoration and
compensation. KENYA urged further consideration of socio-economic
REGIONAL GROUPS: Africa: Regarding the draft
resolution on a framework for wetland inventory, delegates were
unable to agree on a number of issues, including whether to refer to
"general guidelines" or "common standards." However, they supported
retaining a paragraph on giving priority to wetland inventory
projects in the Small Grants Fund. Delegates also began discussing a
draft resolution on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD),
and appointed a small group to finalize the draft resolution.
The Americas: The group endorsed the draft
resolutions on harmonization of Ramsar guidance and on status and
trends. On the wetland inventory, CADDO LAKE INSTITUTE proposed
including NGO- and locally-generated reports in the reporting
system. On CBD guidelines, participants agreed that references to
"biodiversity" should apply equally to "conservation and wise use of
Asia and Oceania: On harmonizing the Ramsar
guidance on wetlands, delegates discussed text on the need for a
methodology for identifying wetlands’ ecological boundaries and on
recognition of Parties’ abilities to implement the task in the local
context. On status and trends, delegates recommended, inter alia:
reflecting the need for a threshold and the precautionary approach
in reporting; incorporating the objectives of maintaining ecological
character in management plans; and distinguishing the issue of
wetlands’ international importance from that of maintaining
ecological character. On CBD guidelines, delegates suggested
clarifying the definitions, and examining possible STRP assistance.
Europe: Delegates endorsed resolutions on a
Ramsar Framework for Wetland Inventory, harmonization of Ramsar
guidance, and assessing and reporting the status and trends of
wetlands. Regarding CBD guidelines, the EU strongly supported this
resolution for its reference to the CBD. BIRDLIFE INTERNATIONAL
requested inserting a reference to the recently adopted CMS
resolution on impact assessment.
TECHNICAL SESSION ON THE RAMSAR LIST OF WETLANDS
The Technical Session on global biodiversity and
sustenance of human life: the Ramsar List of Wetlands of
International Importance, began with panel presentations by invited
experts, and continued with regionally-based discussions. The
Session was chaired by Louise Lakos (Hungary).
PRESENTATIONS: Developing new approaches
to using the Ramsar List and guidelines for designating
under-represented wetland types: David Stroud, Joint Nature
Conservation Committee, UK, highlighted limited progress in
implementing the Strategic Framework and Vision for the List of
Wetlands of International Importance, and lack of coherent and
comprehensive national Ramsar site networks. He introduced draft
resolutions on improving implementation of the Strategic Framework
(COP8 DR 10) and on additional guidance for identifying and
designating under-represented wetland types (COP8 DR 11).
Standing Committee Vice-Chair Paul Mafabi Gumonye
(Uganda) proposed further elaboration of the Ramsar criteria and
guidelines for further developing the Ramsar List (COP8 Doc.31),
stressing the need to recognize wetlands’ cultural and
socio-economic values, and to address poverty eradication.
Enhancing information on Ramsar sites:
Douglas Taylor, Wetlands International, described the information
collation process for Ramsar sites, and improvements to the database
and information, particularly through revision of the Information
Sheet format and explanatory notes and guidelines (COP8 DR 13 and
Ramsar Data Gateway: Alex de Sherbinin,
Center for International Earth Science Information Network,
presented the Ramsar Wetlands Data Gateway, explaining its functions
and potential (COP8 DOC.34).
REGIONAL GROUPS: Africa: Delegates supported
shortening and clarifying the preamble and deleting country names in
the revised draft resolution on improving implementation of the
Strategic Framework and Vision for the Ramsar List. They appointed a
working group to finalize their position on the resolution. The
group endorsed without amendments draft resolutions on
under-represented wetland types and on enhancing information on
wetlands of international importance.
The Americas: On improving implementation of
the Strategic Framework, delegations agreed to delete text relating
to socio-economic and cultural importance, on the grounds that it
went beyond the current COP’s mandate.
Regarding guidelines for designating
under-represented wetland types, participants agreed to establish a
working group to resolve differences on mangroves and coral reefs.
Discussion on the enhancement of information on Ramsar sites focused
on conditions for inclusion of information from non-Party sources.
Asia and Oceania: On guidelines for
designating under-represented wetland types, BIRDLIFE INTERNATIONAL
suggested language requesting the STRP to investigate methods for
defining targets for representation of wetland types in the Ramsar
List. On enhancing the information on Ramsar Sites, delegates
highlighted the need to specify the data to be collected. VIET NAM
objected to a centralized database. Parties could not reach
consensus on the process and criteria for selecting best available
data, and agreed to bracket text on the quality and sources of data.
Europe: On improving implementation of the
Strategic Framework, delegates agreed to move the list of Parties
that have not provided updated Ramsar site descriptions to an annex,
and to ask Parties to give priority to providing this information.
Delegates suggested asking the STRP to analyze the consequences of
introducing new criteria on socio-economic and cultural values and
On under-represented wetland types, delegates
agreed to delete a glossary of peatland and mire terms. On enhancing
information of Ramsar sites, the EU suggested that the STRP review
data and information needs in light of resource constraints, and
that the Bureau and Wetlands International develop protocols for
electronic submission of Ramsar data.
FINANCE: Delegates debated a revised draft
budget for 2002-2005, including a lower proposed annual increase of
4.5%, and decreases in travel, equipment and office supplies,
publications, and COP-related costs. A new revised draft will be
STRATEGIC PLAN AND WORK PLAN: The Committee
on the Strategic Plan and Work Plan finalized the debate on the
draft resolution on the Strategic Plan (COP8 DR 25) and proceeded to
consider the revised Strategic Plan (COP8 DR 25 Rev.1) and the Work
Plan (COP8 DR 26). It resolved differences on references to trade,
and agreed to insert only a brief reference to WSSD outcomes.
Delegates decided to remove the designation of priorities from both
the Strategic Plan and Work Plan, but to include general guidance on
priorities for the work of the Conventionï¿½s subsidiary bodies.
AGRICULTURE: Delegates reviewed a revised
draft of the resolution and agreed, inter alia, to include
reference to the Dialogue on Water, Food and the Environment.
Despite extensive discussions, differences remained on references to
subsidies, the CBD and food security.
MANGROVES: The US suggested adding
recognition of local communitiesï¿½ traditional use and access rights
in text on reviewing and implementing mangrove conservation
policies. Regarding a paragraph on incorporating environmental
criteria in activities affecting mangrove ecosystems, delegates
discussed adding references to sustainability and prohibiting the
maintenance and expansion of harmful activities.
IN THE CORRIDORS
In spite of the 8:00 am Plenary and late evening
regional meetings, few delegates were complaining about the long
hours and extended schedule on Thursday. Varying degrees of progress
were reported on a number of the more thorny issues, including
culture and agriculture. There were also rumors of emerging
compromises on the budget and on invasive species, and several
observers seemed positive that Friday morningï¿½s meeting on climate
change would yield positive results. However, one observer remarked
that "there is a difference between being almost there and having
the result in the bag."
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
TECHNICAL SESSIONS: The Technical Session on
managing wetlands for sustainable use and human well-being begins in
Plenary at 9:00 am, while the Session on culture and wetlands will
start at 3:00 pm.
COMMITTEES AND CONTACT GROUPS: Committees on
the Strategic Plan and Work Plan, Credentials and Finance are
expected to convene. Contact Groups on Agriculture, Climate Change
and Mangroves are also scheduled.