Ramsar is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources and is the only global environmental treaty that deals with a particular ecosystem. With member countries covering all geographic regions of the planet, the Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.
The Convention uses a broad definition of the types of wetlands covered in its mission, including lakes and rivers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands and peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, near-shore marine areas, mangroves and coral reefs, and human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs, and salt pans. The implementation of the Ramsar Convention is a continuing partnership between the Contracting Parties, the Standing Committee, and the Convention Secretariat, with the advice of the subsidiary expert body, the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP), and the support of the International Organization Partners (IOPs). Every three years, representatives of the Contracting Parties meet as the Conference of the Contracting Parties, the policy-making organ of the Convention which adopts decisions (Resolutions and Recommendations) to administer the work of the Convention and improve the way in which the Parties are able to implement its objectives.
1971 – Ramsar, Iran
The scope and focus of the Convention’s work is coordinated by means of a Strategic Plan and associated Work Plan which set out, in the context of the priority objectives, the actions expected or requested of the Parties, the Standing Committee, the Secretariat, the STRP, the IOPs, and other collaborators. For each triennial meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties, the Parties prepare National Reports to assess their progress in implementing the various objectives of the current Plan. The Convention is presently operating under its third Strategic Plan, for the period 2009-2015. This Plan entails five general objectives as before, including wise use of wetlands, development of the Ramsar List, international cooperation, implementation capacity, and membership in the Convention. In addition, specific strategic actions are incorporated for each of these goals. As part of the convention, Parties are committed to assessing and inventorying their wetlands. The most relevant action related to data and knowledge in the current Strategic Plan includes the development of a global wetland information system, to be covered by voluntary contributions, to increase accessibility of data and information on wetlands including distribution and observations on changes in wetland status.