After Ramsar COP14: Coming together to improve wetland conservation

UNEP-WCMC's Heather Bingham and Ben Lucas report back after attending the 14th Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP14) of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar Convention), which took place from 5 to 13 November 2022. 

Hosted by China, Ramsar COP14 was held simultaneously between Wuhan, China, and Geneva, Switzerland in a hybrid format. We were delighted to travel to Geneva to attend on behalf of UNEP-WCMC, where the International Conference Centre showcased unique architecture and was buzzing with diplomats, scientists, NGO representatives, and many more.  

We were hugely busy each day, spreading our time between fascinating plenary discussions among Parties on the draft resolutions, interesting side events and presentations relevant to our work, and productive meetings with existing and potential partners. There was a strong spirit of collaboration and consensus among the Parties, resulting in the adoption of 21 out of the proposed 24 resolutions (one of the remaining resolutions was withdrawn, another was delayed until the next COP and another was combined with another resolution). 

Attending COP14’s various plenary sessions, contact groups (more detailed discussions among Parties on certain resolutions) and side events provided an excellent opportunity to strengthen links between priorities and activities under the Ramsar Convention with the work of UNEP-WCMC. 

A great many of the adopted COP14 Resolutions are relevant to our work, including:   

  • Resolution 18.8: aimed to improve integration with international institutions and multilateral environmental agreements, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Convention on Migratory Species, to improve efficiencies, for example, in reporting. It also looked to increase the visibility of the Convention. This is of particular interest to our Policy team, who have been working on synergies among these conventions for some time, and our Digital Transformation team, who have developed and manage the Online Reporting System and DaRT tool for these conventions.. 
  • Resolution 18.15: related to the list of Ramsar Sites, including formalising the designation of 125 new sites between 2018-2022, and is relevant to our Protected Planet initiative on protected and conserved areas.  
  • Resolution 18.20: was focused on wetlands as nature-based solutions and/or ecosystem-based approaches for addressing climate change, which has great relevance to our Nature Based Solutions team who work on nature for climate change mitigation and adaptation. There was a lot of debate between Parties on whether to include one or both terms, ultimately deciding that having both was most inclusive.  

Aside from those mentioned above, there were also other important resolutions such as 18.18 on conserving often overlooked but important small wetlands and considering designating them as Ramsar sites, 18.22 on establishing an international mangrove centre in China as a Ramsar Regional Initiative, and 18.4 on the convention’s Fifth Strategic Plan which, among other elements, further looks at linking with and supporting other multilateral environmental agreements (including aligning with the post-2020 global biodiversity framework).  

There was a lot of discussion at COP14 about synergies with other multilateral environmental agreements, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the CBD, with the text of Resolution 18.8 including explicit reference to these and others. Many countries have been progressing on synergies at the national level already through policy processes, such as national biodiversity strategies and action plans.  

There are many implications for the biodiversity and conservation community from the adopted COP14 resolutions, including:  

  • the establishment of the International Mangrove Centre, which will look to provide technical support and bring Parties together to implement the Ramsar Convention;  
  • a focus on reporting and enhancing synergies with other multilateral environmental agreements will aim to reduce reporting burdens on Parties and free up more resources for implementation;  
  • the encouragement of youth engagement, which will bring new voices to international, regional, and national fora around wetland conservation and sustainable use; 
  • greater recognition of smaller wetlands and their biodiversity benefits under the Ramsar Convention; and 
  • starting work to update waterbird population estimates.   

There was a strong spirit of collaboration at the Convention, a sense of coming together to improve wetland conservation globally, and of bringing in voices from groups that have historically been underrepresented, including Indigenous Peoples, local communities and young people.  

 The exact dates for future meetings of the Convention, the Standing Committee, or the Scientific Technical and Review Panel (STRP) are yet to be decided, but the Standing Committee is anticipated to meet again before June 2023 and the next COP (COP 15) is expected in October or November in 2025.  

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