A triennial meeting between 170 countries to address the future protection of wetlands has reached its conclusion. WWT were also at the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands conference in Dubai as one of six global technical advisors on the science and practicalities of wetland conservation. WWT’s Head of Conservation James Robinson sums up his highlights from the week-long event:
It has been an exciting week of very long days and nights of meetings, events and networking. WWT’s team ensured we were in position to influence and advise at the crucial stages. It has been intense. Among the great results:
- We worked with BirdLife International and Wetlands International to support a Resolution on the conservation of intertidal habitats. This is so valuable to the flyways of our migratory waterbirds, like the Eurasian curlew and spoon-billed sandpiper. The countries ratified the resolution. This is a very big win for wildlife and people worldwide.
- We co-ran events on culture and wetlands and Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) best practice and supported many other events to celebrate some amazing wetland conservation, especially in China and southeast Asia. We have just learned that China has announced a no net loss of wetlands policy during the conference which is incredible!
We presented an open letter with the other advising IOPs on the need for action to save Ramsar Sites, given their status was referred to in the main session and in other side events.
- WWT Consulting launched a new ‘good practice handbook’ on integrating urban development and wetland conservation. This was presented at a special side event and copies have now been circulated to people across the world. We produced this document with Nanjing University Ecological Research Institute of Changshu. It was also good to see cities where WWT Consultancy has worked, including Columbo and Changshu, being awarded the status of Wetland Cities.
- WWT and partners launched the results of a new Global Wetland Survey which has, for the first time, assessed the state of the world’s wetlands by consulting the people who know these places best. Members of WWN were critical in this project which shows the importance of local communities, indigenous people and NGOs in protecting Ramsar sites.
- WWT’s Wetland Technical Advisor Harison Andriambelo gave a presentation on our work with local communities to help wetlands in the country and to save the globally threatened Madagascar pochard. Much of this work was supported by the Darwin Initiative (a UK funding scheme for international conservation projects) and we thanked DEFRA for supporting Harison’s presence in Dubai.
- We showcased the amazing wetland creation project at WWT Steart Marshes as part of a series of talks about creating natural flow of water across landscapes. This demonstrated to the world how we can create wetlands to address the challenges of coastal squeeze and help to deliver various Ramsar Resolutions.
- We helped to create the opening and closing statements for the International Organisation Partners (IOPs: WWT, BirdLife International, WWF, IUCN, IWMI and Wetlands International) and the World Wetland Network (WWN; a partnership of smaller non-government organisations that come together to create one voice at the COP). These strong statements were presented to an auditorium full of Contracting Parties and international wetland organisations, putting pressure on them to act for wetlands on behalf of civil society.
The event is a brilliant place to meet old friends and make new connections with the world’s leading wetland conservationists and policy-makers. This is invaluable for WWT and we leave with a very high profile and even greater connection to this global network.
My colleagues Chris Rostron, Matt Simpson, Rebecca Woodward and Harison Andriambelo were amazing ambassadors for WWT. It was a great team effort and I felt very proud of the team who worked tirelessly throughout.
I leave with a clearer picture of WWT’s role as IOP and how we could get even more from the Ramsar COP (Conference of the Contracting Parties) in the future. My overwhelming feeling is that WWT receives a great deal of global recognition as a leader in wetland conservation, which gives us much to capitalise upon.