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World Heritage and Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

Dorset and East Devon Coast (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) © OUR PLACE The World Heritage Collection | Julian Wyth | Source

64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since the beginning of the last century. In most regions across the world, wetlands continue to decline compromising the benefits that wetlands provide to people. Therefore, the conservation of wetlands is a vital task of humanity, which can help achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Playing an important role in drawing attention and concerted action towards the long-term conservation of natural as well as cultural values for all of humanity, the World Heritage Convention and the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance join forces.  Adopted in 1972 and 1971 respectively, both conventions are the only two global conventions with a focus on site-based conservation. In 2016, more than 97 areas were listed across the globe under both the Ramsar and the World Heritage conventions, for their unique and rare wetland ecosystems.

Since 1999, a Memorandum of Understanding between the two conventions leverages the benefit of cooperation and coordination of efforts between their secretariats recognising the unique niche these conventions occupy in the global efforts at biodiversity conservation.  In the past, joint missions to dual-designated sites have been organised such as to the natural site of “Doñana National Park” or to the cultural site of “Venice and its Lagoon”.

Conservation of cultural and natural values thanks to dual designations under the Ramsar and World Heritage Conventions.

Conservation of cultural and natural values can highly benefit from dual designations under the Ramsar and World Heritage Conventions, finds also the new report “Ramsar and World Heritage Conventions converging towards success”, which illustrates through six case studies the benefits and challenges of managing wetland ecosystems. The report gives examples on how community participation contributes to positive conservation of both natural and cultural heritage and is one result of long-term partnership between the Ramsar Convention and the World Heritage Convention.

Provisions of the two conventions can be mutually supportive and complementary and can ensure that cultural values are fully embedded in the protection and management of the designated sites. Throughout both synergistic and divergent designation criteria, the Ramsar and the World Heritage conventions offer widened conservation management objectives.

The new report “Ramsar and World Heritage Conventions converging towards success” also pinpoints the significance of indigenous and local communities’ participation and involvement for both conventions. “Respecting, consulting and involving indigenous peoples and local communities” is part of the Sustainable Development Policy endorsed by the World Heritage Committee in 2015. The Ramsar Convention has likewise recognized the importance of indigenous and local communities in sharing knowledge and delivering wise use of wetlands, especially through the Ramsar Strategic Plan 2016-2024.

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