| Long-term strategy
Some 70 Ramsar contracting parties had not yet indicated that a national wetland policy was being planned in any fashion. A number of nations, particularly those with a commonwealth or federal structure such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, Pakistan and the United States of America, reported wetland policy and strategies development, or consideration, at the sub-national level also. This reflects shared constitutional authority for wetland conservation at both the national and sub-national (e.g. state or provincial) levels in these nations. In some cases, no national wetland initiative would be expected as wetlands are under the authority of sub-national jurisdictions...
In the COP7 review, national wetland strategies and action plans were considered separately from national wetland policies. As of May 1999, some 50 contracting parties reported they had national wetland strategies or action plans adopted, 12 were in draft form, and 39 contracting parties had such an initiative under consideration or proposed... Only 13 contracting parties have not reported any steps towards developing such a national strategy or action plan...
The COP6 analysis (Rubec 1996) was the first attempt to compile wetland policy information under the Convention. A review of the proceedings of COP3 through to COP6 and the national reports for COP7 indicates that by 1999, significant progress is now evident on a global scale since the Ramsar Convention was initiated in 1971. This trend is expected to continue beyond COP7.
...Over this period (from 1987 to April 1999) the number of nations with a national wetland policy officially adopted grew from zero to 12, with an additional 23 nations having initiated or currently considering such a policy. Over this same period, the number of nations that indicated they have finalized a national wetland strategy or action plan has grown from four to 50. In 1987, only five contracting parties indicated they were involved in any sort of national wetland policy, strategy or action plan; by 1999 this has grown to at least 101.
...Wise use of wetlands is a concept that can operate at all levels. Hence, it is a guiding principle which helps to shape choices about specific actions on the ground as well as choices of strategic direction at the level of policy...
In principle, a nation acceding to the convention accepts the obligation to promote... the wise use of wetlands in its territory... This is therefore automatically its minimum policy on the subject. A national wetland policy could further refine a particular country’s view of its own way forward with this goal, reflecting its own circumstances. It could of course present a more exacting standard to aim for... No one should expect that a national wetland policy is the overriding or, indeed the only, action needed in a wise use programme for wetland conservation.
...Ideally, the policy would be adopted by the national cabinet. In some cases, this means having it adopted under national law or through constitutional amendment... In countries such as the United Kingdom or the US, in fact, an array of supporting legislative and policy tools are used together. No one specific national wetland law covering all jurisdictions is workable. In smaller nations with less complex jurisdictional situations, one national wetland law may, however, be appropriate.
... In some nations, things that are not enshrined in law are sometimes overlooked or ignored by subsequent governments. Adoption of the policy by cabinet or a government decree could thus be seen as a minimum level of recognition and endorsement by the government.