| Wet no more
A National Wetland Policy is a significant opportunity to jointly establish the priorities and mechanisms to enhance awareness of wetland resources in a nation.
Promoting involvement of non-governmental organizations and local communities:
Governments have not fully recognized the fund raising and conservation skills and efforts of non-governmental organizations and local communities, nor the potential of these groups to assist in wetland conservation and policy development. These organizations and local communities are often well-placed to raise funds from interested members of the public and provide in-kind contributions to defray costs associated with wetland conservation. They can become effective partners with the government in delivering wetland conservation projects, particularly for monitoring and wardening, both locally and nationally. The administrative overheads inherent in these organizations and local communities tend to be lower than those of governments. Credible NGOs and community-based groups are frequently able to galvanize the public support needed to overcome political and bureaucratic roadblocks.
The convention’s historical context for wise use and wetland policy: The “wise use concept” has become a hallmark of the convention on wetlands. Wise use was envisaged in article 3.1 of the convention by which contracting parties are expected to “formulate and implement their planning so as to promote ....as far as possible the wise use of wetlands in their territory”. The convention has formulated guidelines and additional guidance to assist the contracting parties in the implementation of the concept.
“Wise use” applies not only to Ramsar listed sites, but to all wetlands in the territory of the contracting party. The guidelines...were adopted at the third meeting of the conference of the contracting parties in Canada in 1987. Recommendation 3.3 calls on the contracting parties to use the definition of wise use and the guidelines included in the annex to the recommendation.
The guidelines...have assisted several contracting parties in developing national wetland policies. These guidelines outline the need to improve institutional and organizational arrangements, address legislative and policy needs, increase knowledge and awareness of wetland values, inventory and monitor the status of wetlands, identify programme priorities and develop action plans for specific sites as components of a national wetland policy.
At the fourth meeting of the conference of the contracting parties held in Switzerland in 1990, the parties adopted the guidelines for the implementation of the wise use concept as recommendation 4.10 (which superseded recommendation 3.3), reconfirming that the wise use concept extends to all aspects of wetland conservation. The recommendation indicated that national wetland policies should, as far as possible, address a wide range of problems and activities related to wetlands within a national context. Five categories for national-level action were proposed:
(a) improvement of institutional and government organizational arrangements; (b) review of existing and future legislation and other national policies affecting wetlands; (c) development of awareness and knowledge of wetland functions and values; (d) inventory and economic valuation of wetlands for setting site management priorities; and (e) establishment of actions on a site-specific basis such as legal protection mechanisms and habitat restoration.
Whether or not national wetland policies were being prepared, the guidelines called for several actions that should receive immediate attention at the national level... As expected, contracting parties are selecting actions according to their own national priorities. Some are implementing institutional, legislative or educational measures and at the same time initiating inventories or scientific work. Equally, contracting parties wishing to promote wise use of wetlands without waiting until national wetland policies have been developed have been urged to:
(i) identify the issues which require the most urgent attention; (ii) take action on one or more of these issues; (iii) identify the wetland sites which require the most urgent action; and (iv) take action at one or more of these wetlands, along the lines set out under “priority actions at particular wetland sites”.