Press Release from Biodiversity Management Bureau,
Department of Environment and Natural Resources ,
Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center
Among the 16 Resolutions adopted by the Conference of the Contracting Parties of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands during its 12th Meeting (COP12), is the Philippine-submitted Resolution entitled: “Wetlands and Disaster Risk Reduction”. With the adoption of this Resolution, the recognition of the role of wetlands to address the mitigation of disaster risk and impacts of climate change through wetland ecosystem-based approaches is highly emphasized.
The Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention), signed in the city of Ramsar in Iran in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. It embodies the commitment of Contracting Parties to maintain the ecological character of Wetlands of International Significance (Ramsar Sites) and to take actions for the conservation and wise use of all wetlands within their territories.
The Ramsar COP12 was held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, from 1-9 June 2015, under the theme, Wetlands for Our Future. It assessed the progress in the Convention implementation and the sustainable use of wetlands to date, share knowledge and experience on technical issues, and plan for the next triennium. The agenda included, among other items: a strategic plan for 2016-2024; a proposed new framework for delivery of scientific and technical advice and guidance on the Convention; peatlands, climate change and wise use; a call to action to ensure and protect the water requirements of wetlands for the present and the future; wetlands and disaster risk reduction; and evaluating and ensuring the effective management and conservation of Ramsar Sites.
The Philippine Delegation who attended the negotiations was composed of Ms. Meriden Maranan, Chief of the Caves, Wetlands and Other Ecosystems Division of the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (BMB-DENR), Mr. Arnel Talisayon, First Secretary and Consul from the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, and Ms. Joy Navarro, Ecosystems Management Specialist and Desk Officer for Ramsar Convention at BMB-DENR.
Of the 168 Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention, 35 countries expressed support and interventions to the Philippine Resolution. Among those are El Salvador, Argentina, Benin (on behalf of Africa), Canada, UAE, New Zealand, Nepal, Venezuela, Thailand, Switzerland, South Africa, Japan, Latvia (on behalf of EU), Honduras, Brazil, Australia, Mexico, Madagascar, USA, Dominican Republic, Togo, Norway, Guniea, Uruguay, France, Zambia, Ecuador, Iran, Vietnam, India, Oman, Honduras, Malawi, Mauritiana, and Columbia. The Wetlands International, as permanent observer and International Organization Partner, also expressed its support.
Discussions centered on the different approaches to reduce risk from and the forms of disasters. The Philippines raised an intervention which proposed an additional paragraph to ensure funding support. References to additional types of wetlands were requested by Benin for the African Group, supported by Brazil, on coastal erosion; UAE and Iran on adding dust and sandstorms; and the Dominican Republic, on including hurricanes and storms. Guinea proposed focusing not only on coastal wetlands, but also inland ones. Colombia suggested that parties should be encouraged not only to reduce vulnerability of people, but also of ecosystems; to allow for the effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in national plans and programmes; to allow for the effective participation of wetland-dependent displaced persons in strategies for disaster risk reduction; and to ensure consistency between ecosystem-based approaches and traditional approaches to disaster risk reduction.
Many suggested referring to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 in lieu of the Hyogo Framework of Action in the text, while Canada and Norway suggested referencing to the Caring for Coasts Initiative which was adopted in the recent Convention on Biological Diversity discussions. New Zealand suggested encouraging parties to ensure disaster risk reduction plans do not compromise the ecological character of Ramsar Sites. Thailand and Switzerland suggested emphasizing the need to consider biodiversity safeguard measures. Japan requested that the paragraph on “recovering and maintaining ecosystems’ functions” should focus on the positive impacts of ecosystem-based management. El Salvador recommended referencing to other mechanisms of wetland management in the context of institutional collaboration. The EU cautioned against the STRP reviewing resolutions from previous COPs. Mexico recommended referring not only to preparedness and early warning, but also to contingency measures. Uruguay called for the inclusion of innovative approaches and territories surrounding wetlands, and recommended urging parties to include risk reduction in their own policies and management plans. India highlighted the need for increased cooperation with specialized institutions towards effective ecosystem-based approaches for risk management. The US suggested integrating not only climate change adaptation but also mitigation in development policies and planning.
The interventions were all considered by the Philippine Delegation to produce a revised draft with guidance from Dr. Llewellyn Young, Senior Advisor for Asia and Oceania of the Ramsar Secretariat and Dr. Max Finlayson, Ramsar STRP expert member from the Charles Sturt University in Australia. Informal discussions with Contracting Parties within a group chaired by Ms. Meriden Maranan of the Philippines and co-Chaired by a delegate from Switzerland, Mr. Reinhard Schnidrig, were held for matters such as on the topic of Caring for Coasts Initiative which was suggested by BirdLife International and raised by the delegation from Canada and Norway; on the suggestion to delete a paragraph referring to reclamation by the delegation from UAE; on the suggestion to improve the paragraph referring to restoration of tidal flats using mangrove, raised by Japan; on the various interventions on how indigenous peoples should be mentioned, as raised by Switzerland, Thailand, Latvia, and France; and on using “climate change mitigation” in the texts, raised by Latvia and Brazil.
Final Resolution: In the final resolution on wetlands and disaster risk reduction (COP20 DR13 Rev.2), the COP encourages parties to, inter alia:
- integrate wetland-based disaster risk reduction and management into national strategic plans and all relevant policies;
- integrate wetland management plans into land-use and development plans;
- assess disaster risk to wetland ecosystems to enable the designing of effective disaster risk reduction interventions, including ecosystem-based solutions; and
- recognize the roles and challenges of the indigenous peoples and local communities and, where applicable, their experience, knowledge, ancestral rights, methods and approaches in wetland management and disaster risk reduction.
In addition, the COP:
- encourages mainstreaming disaster risk reduction measures in management plans;
- welcomes initiatives that support the conservation and restoration of coastal wetlands, including options to build a “Caring for Coasts” initiative;
- encourages parties and the Secretariat to emphasize the importance of conserving, restoring and wisely using wetlands for disaster risk reduction in discussions related to the references to risk reduction contained in the proposals of the Open Working Group on SDGs and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030;
- urges parties to adopt approaches to disaster risk reduction to ensure the rights of wetland-dependent displaced persons; and
- requests that the Secretariat liaise with the UNFCCC Secretariat and the UN International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction.
The COP furthermore requests the STRP to consider:
- reviewing and compiling existing guidance on wetland ecosystem-based adaptation concerning disaster risk reduction and to develop appropriate indicators and baseline information for demonstrating progress; and
- monitoring the discussions, developments and trends in the international fora on the role of wetlands conservation, restoration and wise use in disaster risk reduction and in climate change adaptation.
Here is a brief analysis of Ramsar COP12.
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