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SECOND REPORT ON INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY PROCESSES ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
RAMSAR CONVENTION ON WETLANDS
The Ramsar Convention Bureau
The Convention was adopted in Ramsar, Iran in 1971, and came into force in 1975. As of 1 March 2000, 119 states were Contracting Parties and many others were poised to join. The Ramsar Convention is the only global environmental treaty dealing with a particular ecosystem.
The Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) was established through Resolution 5.5 of the 5th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP) in 1993 to provide scientific and technical advice to the Standing Committee and the Ramsar Bureau, and through them, to the COP.
Organization and Dynamics
Membership: Through Resolution VII.2 of COP-7 (1999), the composition and modus operandi of STRP were modified such that the Panel now comprises 13 experts from the six Ramsar regions, designated by the COP, to provide advice in their personal capacity, and not as representatives of their countries or governments. The STRP members are chosen by the COP from a list put forward in the pre-COP documentation, based upon nominations received from the Parties and coordinated on a regional basis with Standing Committee members. At the 8th Meeting of STRP, the members elected their chairperson for the three-year period between COP-7 and COP-8 (Spain, 2002). The Chair then took the meeting through a prepared list of tasks that had been mandated or suggested to STRP by previous COP Resolutions and other sources. In each case, the meeting then assigned a level of priority and feasibility to each task, named one or more leaders for those tasks that require Expert Working Groups, and sought volunteers to make up each group. Each group then set its own workplan and timetable. All of these group members will serve until COP-8 unless for some reason they excuse themselves.
In addition, STRP has as full members representatives of the Convention's International Organization Partners (Birdlife International, IUCN, Wetlands International, and WWF - see below for more detail), as well as observers from several expert bodies and other international environment conventions. In contrast to past practice, the system of alternate members has been abandoned, but substitute members have been elected for the North America and Oceania regions; substitutes will attend STRP meetings only in the absence of the regular members. There now are three members from Africa, two from Asia, four from Europe, two from the Neotropics, one from North America and one from Oceania.
The COP also invited all Contracting Parties to nominate a suitably qualified expert in each country to act as the National Focal Point for STRP matters. The main function of the National Focal Point is to provide input, and support as appropriate, to the implementation of the Work Plan of the STRP, as approved by the first full Meeting of the Standing Committee which follows each COP.
International Organization Partners: Traditionally and historically, there have been four IOPs, and these four were formally confirmed in that status at COP-8. Other groups have applied for that status, and a process has been started that may eventually end in their confirmation as well. The Convention's relationship with each of the IOPs has evolved over time, so they vary, but all of the IOPs participate as members in STRP meetings and as invited expert observers at all other Ramsar meetings.
IUCN is specially named in the Convention text as providing permanent secretariat services. The Secretary General and staff members in the Ramsar Bureau are all employees of IUCN, though they answer to the COP and not to IUCN. On a contract basis, IUCN provides full administrative services, including offices, network support, library and cafeteria, financial accounting, etc. In addition, the Bureau is in close informal daily contact with several IUCN programmes here in the same building. In addition to that, Ramsar frequently seeks the aid of IUCN, including headquarters staff, out-posted regional staff, and expert advisers on IUCN commissions, for significant projects and reports, sometimes jointly funded, sometimes funded by the Convention or by third-parties in the name of the Convention. Bureau staff also participate jointly with IUCN HQ and in-country staff on advisory missions to individual Parties and sites.
Wetlands International - AEME (Asia, Europe and the Middle East region) (formerly IWRB) was instrumental in the creation of the Convention in the 1960s and has always played a close cooperative role. The various programmes of Wetlands International - AEME and Wetlands International - Asia Pacific, and Americas carry out most of their own work on the ground explicitly in the name of the Convention, for example, assisting Parties in the development of wetland policies and plans at national and site level in accordance with Ramsar guidelines, translating Ramsar guidance into local languages to facilitate implementation in the Parties, etc. Many local and regional projects undertaken by Wetlands International are conceived as efforts to implement various Ramsar Resolutions and funding is sought for them on that basis. In addition, some major international projects, like the Global Review of Wetland Inventory (GROWI), are designed and funded specifically to feed into an ongoing Ramsar initiative. Most importantly, Wetlands International - AEME maintains the Ramsar Sites Database on a contractual basis, and produces a number of data and graphical outputs from it, both in its own right and in cooperation with a NASA-funded initiative by CIESIN, the Center for International Earth Sciences Information Networks at Columbia University, USA.
BirdLife International has been a close and vigorous supporter of the Convention for many years. In addition to their expert contributions at meetings and to the formulations of guidelines and resolutions, etc., BirdLife's national organizations are very helpful in promoting Ramsar values at local level, and the international secretariat contributes financially every year to Ramsar Advisory Missions to assist at individual threatened sites. Their data on the network of Important Bird Areas are frequently useful in identifying new Ramsar sites.
WWF International and its national organizations are very helpful in promoting Ramsar values, and Ramsar membership, in all parts of the world through their own programmes. In addition, WWF contributes financially, both on a regular basis to ongoing projects such as the Ramsar Newsletter and on an ad hoc basis to individual studies and publications, advisory missions, costs of meetings, etc. Ramsar and WWF staff frequently cooperate on joint missions and jointly-sponsored meetings and training sessions in the field.
Work Plan for 1999-2002 (For more detail, see Decision SC24.6 of the Standing Committee, December 1999)
STRP-8, held in September 1999, reviewed the tasks allocated to it by COP-7 and previous COPs and reached a common understanding among the members and observers on the nature of each task. It then established ten Expert Working Groups to undertake the major activities and proposed actions with respect to 12 other areas of activities, several of which are classified as “ongoing” or “as required” in nature. In the course of the meeting (and in some cases subsequently), each Expert Working Group developed Terms of Reference and time frames for the actions they would pursue. At the 24th meeting of the Standing Committee, this Work Plan was approved with some amendments. The Standing Committee also asked that STRP give special attention to training-related aspects of each specific theme under their consideration.
The ten Working Groups are:
Other tasks of STRP include:
'Ongoing' or 'as required' responsibilities
of STRP include:
To a significant extent, the STRP carries on its work over a closed e-mail discussion group, or “list serv”, maintained by the Ramsar Bureau.
The Ramsar Convention website is linked to the joint website of the biodiversity-related conventions (CBD, CITES, CMS, Ramsar and the World Heritage Convention). The programme approved by the 20th Special Session of the UN General Assembly (June 1997) for the further implementation of Agenda 21 gives special priority to collaboration among the Conventions and to the enhancement of information capacities as requisites for sustainable development. There is a growing recognition that while each instrument does stand on its own, with its own defined objectives and commitments, there are also linkages and inherent relationships between all of them. The Conventions operate in the same ecosystems. The website offers a good comparative overview, with similar links to each of the conventions being listed in a table according to 20 criteria. (see http://www.biodiv.org/rioconv/websites.html)
In addition to working with its International Organization Partners, the Ramsar Bureau attends meetings of the advisory bodies of the Conventions with which it has memoranda of understanding/cooperation (CBD, CMS, CCD, and World Heritage), and it frequently prepares background papers to assist in their discussions, as for example at meetings of CBD-SBSTTA and UNFCCC-SBSTA. With the Advisory Body to World Heritage on natural properties, the STRP has particularly close and frequent cooperation, both on joint sites and on joint threatened sites. For example, Ramsar staff and consultants representing IUCN, World Heritage, and Eurosite (with which STRP also has an MoU) recently conducted a joint advisory mission to Lake Ichkeul, Tunisia. Representatives of the scientific advisory bodies of the other environment-related conventions also have observer membership at the STRP and Standing Committee meetings.
For texts of Ramsar's MOUs and MOCs with other bodies see http://ramsar.org/index_mou.htm.
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