What is the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands?
The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty adopted on 2 February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar (thus the common name “Ramsar Convention”). It is the first of the modern global intergovernmental treaties on the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. As of Mai 2015, 169 countries from around the world have ratified the treaty. Even though the treaty was first developed in a very different time in world history, the decisions made by the Conference of the Contracting Parties meeting every three years have managed to further develop and interpret the general guidelines of the treaty and have succeeded in making the Ramsar Convention a pioneer in all matters pertaining to wetlands.
One key instrument of the Convention is its List of Wetlands of International Importance (the “Ramsar List”). All Parties to the Convention have the obligations to include in the List at least one site that meets the criteria established by the Conference of the Parties. There are currently over 2,400 Ramsar Sites around the world.
The mission of the Ramsar Convention, as adopted by the Parties in 1999 and refined in 2005 and 2011 is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local, regional and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world. To achieve this Mission it is essential that the vital ecosystem services, and especially those related to water and those that wetlands provide to people and nature through their natural infrastructure, are fully recognized, maintained, restored and wisely used.”
The definition of “wetland”
The Ramsar Convention has adopted a very inclusive definition:
“…wetlands are areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters.”
For more information on the Ramsar Convention go to