Wetlands AustraliaNational Wetlands Update September 2012
Issue No. 21, September 2012
Attending Ramsar COP11 – an NGO perspective
Louise Duff, WetlandCare Australia
Louise Duff from WetlandCare Australia outside
the Palace of the Parliament, Bucharest.
I was fortunate to participate at the 11th Ramsar Conference of the Contracting parties (COP11) held at the monstrously lavish Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, Romania from 6-13 July. From the moment my plane touched down I was taken by a feeling of excitement that remained throughout the conference. Of all places - Romania! Working alongside passionate colleagues from around the world was a career highlight I'll never forget.
I attended the Conference for WetlandCare Australia in my capacity as Secretary of the Australian Wetland Alliance, a collective of 73 Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), and Oceania representative to the World Wetland Network (WWN). Unlike the Multilateral Environmental Agreements managed by the United Nations, the Ramsar Convention was drafted by three international NGOs: Wetlands International, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and BirdLife International. As a result of its origins in civil society, NGOs are very much part of the Ramsar community and their contribution is highly valued. NGO delegates contribute to debate at the triennial conferences, provide input to technical guidelines, nominate, manage and monitor some Ramsar sites, alert the Ramsar Secretariat when governments fail to advise of changes to ecological character and engage communities directly in wise use of wetlands.
While at COP11 WWN held an NGO Conference on Day one and met daily to review and advocate on the draft Resolutions. We supported retention of IUCN as the host institution, helped lobby against support for genetically modified rice in rice paddies, and joined the international NGOs to urge Brazil to reconsider their opposition to key elements in the draft Resolution on Climate Change.
Local environmentalist, Petruta Moisi, presented our opening statement, which expressed concern that unless societies transitioned from over-consumption and rampant development to genuine sustainability, there would be ongoing degradation of wetlands and the wider environment.
WWN held an official side-event, presenting Blue Globe Awards recognising best practice for wise use of wetlands, and Grey Globes for wetlands with threats to their ecological character. The sites were selected through a nomination and voting process by concerned individuals and organisations around the world. I presented a Blue Globe to Karen Denyer of New Zealand for Whangamarino wetlands, and received a Grey Globe on behalf of Towra Point Nature Reserve Ramsar site in Botany Bay.
Towra Point was nominated by the Australasian Wader Study Group which is concerned about a range of environmental threats degrading the site's habitat value for migratory shorebirds. The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage actively manages threats at the site, with particular focus on fox control to protect the breeding colony of little terns. However, some of the more significant issues such as erosion of the shoreline require significant resources to protect site values. The Grey Globe is a call to action for all levels of government, community groups and industry partners to work together to protect this wetland of international importance on Sydney's doorstep. The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is taking a pro-active approach to the Grey Globe Award and has commenced liaising with stake-holders to reinvigorate a partnership approach to protecting the site.
NGOs were invited to making a closing address to the Conference. WWN Chair Chris Rostron noted that the Ramsar Convention has been carried forward by co-operative and participatory efforts of governments and NGOs over the past forty years, and called for this spirit to continue for the benefit of wetlands.
The most important lesson learned attending COP11 is that the Ramsar Convention has created a wealth of policy and resources to protect wetlands. I look forward to working within the Ramsar framework and utilising their management and education tools in the years to come.
A suite of 13 Vox Pop videos of COP11 participants can be viewed on WetlandCare Australia's web site
An excellent overview of the Conference is provided by IISD's Earth Negotiations Bulletin .