Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Convention on Wetlands) is the intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. This can be done through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.
The Convention on Wetlands is the oldest of the modern global intergovernmental environmental agreements. The treaty was negotiated through the 1960s by countries and non – governmental organisations concerned about the increasing loss and degradation of wetland habitat for migratory waterbirds. It was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975.
There are 172 Parties to the Convention including Barbados in April 2006 with 1 designated site, Graeme Hall Mangrove Swamp in Christ Church. There are currently over 2,400 Ramsar Sites around the world which cover over 2.5 million square kilometres, an area larger than Mexico. As a Party, Barbados also submits reports on wetland conservation and management to the Convention with the assistance of relevant government and non-governmental agencies.
Wetlands, according to the Convention, include all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans.
They are among the most diverse and productive ecosystems and are crucial for human survival. They provide essential services such as, food and building materials, flood control, groundwater recharge, climate change mitigation and of course, supply all our fresh water. They also support the biodiversity that provides the productivity upon which countless species of plants and animals depend for survival. However, they continue to be degraded and converted to other uses.
Conference of the Parties
Every three years, representatives of the governments of each of the Contracting Parties meet as the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP), to agree on a work programme and budgetary arrangements for the next 3 years and consider guidance through several technical sessions on a range of ongoing and emerging environmental issues. They also adopt decisions to administer the Convention and guide its implementation to update Convention concepts and draft guidance for the Parties.
Most recently, Barbados was represented by the National Focal Point, Senior Environmental Officer (SEO), Ms. Kim Downes Agard at the 14th COP (COP-14) in Geneva, Switzerland from 5 to 13 November 2022. She participated in many technical sessions, namely as a moderator for a panel discussion at a side event which examined investment in wetlands, good practices and challenges in different countries.