Ramsar conference an opportunity to turn rhetoric of Rio+20 into bold action to protect freshwater ecosystems



Posted on 06 July 2012  | 
The International Nature Reserve Khanka Lake. The Amur-Heilong Freshwater Ecoregion
The Amur-Heilong Freshwater Ecoregion supports the International Nature Reserve Khanka-Xingkai Lake, one of the Ramsar Sites and the largest protected area in the region
© WWF Russia / Yuri DarmanEnlarge
Bucharest, Romania — “The defining challenge of this century is figuring out how all of our grandchildren will have the food, water and energy they need, and we will only meet that challenge if we secure the healthy freshwater ecosystems on which food, water and energy depend”, said WWF International Director General Jim Leape today during the opening session of the 11th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, known as the Ramsar Convention.

This Ramsar conference comes shortly after Rio+20, a squandered opportunity to put the world on a path toward sustainable development. One bright spot in the Rio text was the recognition that water is at the core of sustainable development and that healthy ecosystems are essential to maintaining water quantity and quality. Leape urged Ramsar’s 162 Contracting Parties to turn this recognition into action to conserve the “blue thread” that runs through every society and economy.

Today’s session is the official start of a week of meetings to share knowledge and experience on the conservation of wetlands across the globe. WWF is one of five International Organization Partners of the Convention, along with BirdLife International, IUCN, International Water Management Institute and Wetlands International; Leape spoke on behalf of the five groups.

While humanity is exceeding the planet’s ecological limits on all fronts, freshwater ecosystems are particularly vulnerable. WWF’s 2012 Living Planet Report shows that the Freshwater Living Planet Index declined more than for any other biome (37 per cent 1970-2008).

It is also the availability of freshwater that will have the biggest impact on future food, water and energy security. WWF advocates for policies to enhance all three, rather than one at the expense of the others – and none at the expense of biodiversity.

While looking forward through discussions about how to achieve conservation and sustainable development, the session also looked back on Ramsar’s 40-year history by honouring two pioneering wetland conservationists, Dr Luc Hoffmann and Mr Thymio Papayannis, both of whom have strong ties to WWF. Hoffmann, recipient of a 40th Anniversary Honorary Ramsar Award, is a founding father of both WWF and Ramsar. Papayannis, who received a Recognition of Achievement Award, helped found WWF-Greece, has served on the board of WWF International, and has been a leading advisor to Ramsar for decades.

The International Nature Reserve Khanka Lake. The Amur-Heilong Freshwater Ecoregion
The Amur-Heilong Freshwater Ecoregion supports the International Nature Reserve Khanka-Xingkai Lake, one of the Ramsar Sites and the largest protected area in the region
© WWF Russia / Yuri Darman Enlarge

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