Welcome on World Wetlands Day! A day to celebrate the role of wetlands in contributing to biodiversity and human well-being.
WI was instrumental in campaigning for and creating the Ramsar Convention and was present in this event in 1971 in Iran when it was formed. The vision and emphasised the crucial role of wetlands in contributing to sustainable development. This is still our message today…but more urgent!
The emphasis on human values and the concept of Wise Use of Wetlands was formalized through the Ramsar Convention in 1990 – and Wetlands International worked to consolidate thinking and build capacity on the linkages and trade-offs between wetlands and livelihoods, resulting in milestone Resolution on Wetlands and Poverty Reduction in COP9 in Uganda 2005.
Of course wetlands have been managed for thousands of years and the traditional knowledge on the values of wetlands and how to manage different kinds of wetlands is extensive.
WI recognizes that in order to conserve wetlands, development perspectives are needed, since otherwise people become trapped in over-exploiting and degrading wetland resources. There are as many facets to poverty as there are to ecology and that we would need to work collaboratively with development organisations to succeed. Now there are compelling stories and proven mechanisms for delivering win-wins for biodiversity and livelihoods.
WI has also changed – we work alongside partners in the development, humanitarian and water sectors our staff teams and projects can no longer be separated into single expertise types. We are very confident to deliver livelihood benefits wetland conservation and restoration to over 300,000 people in the next five years.
Soon after we commenced our first major, multi-region wetlands and poverty project, the Asian tsunami hit. Initially our role was as an international broker of data, maps and knowledge on the condition of the coastal wetlands and this resulted in us joining and leading the WNF, IUCN-NL coalition in a project funded by Oxfam Novib, that we called Green Coast. This project, which supported local communities in 5 countries, demonstrated that ecosystem restoration is needed to bridge the gap between immediate humanitarian aid and rebuilding livelihoods – and that small scale, targeted delivery of assistance could result in sustainable, landscape scale results.
Building on our practical experience and technical expertise on mangrove restoration, we are now working with a new set of partners on Mangrove Capital, focused in Indonesia – which aims to shore up the science and bring forward the ecosystem values of mangroves, address the policy gaps and trial some innovative approaches to combining hard and soft engineering in coastal defense along vulnerable coastlines.
Keeping a focus on Disaster Risk Reduction, we are now part of a broader Alliance called the Partners for Resilience, and our joint programme tackling disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation, which is further developing and demonstrating the need to join up concepts and strategies for ecosystem and human resilience in 9 countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
In arid and semi-arid zones, wetlands are a lifeline for people. Climate change is placing these precious resources under increasing pressure, but our work is often showing that the on-going degradation of wetlands and water diversions is an even bigger and more imminent threat to human survival. Wetlands = critical elements of natural water infrastructure.
Our partners in this Alliance and the Ecosystem Alliance have joined to develop the Great Green Wall initiative to stimulate and build large scale momentum and finance to support community-based initiatives for building resilience in the Sahelian zone.
[we will show you short film of our work in a major Sahelian wetland in Mali after my presentation].
Again, responding to an emerging situation, Wetlands International found ourselves in the middle of the uproar over Avian flu. We were the organisation who could inform on waterbird migration routes and patterns. We provided our information and tackled the FAO and WHO who seemed too keen to blame the wild birds and joined their teams in the field in extensive and intensive monitoring programmes. In this way we helped to avert the wholesale slaughter of wild birds.
As a result of a major flyway project in Africa-Eurasia we were able combine datasets of partner organisations and Conventions and make site management and policy relevant knowledge easily available through a common portal. This Critical Site Network tool won a global award for “ best interactive web map.”
We continue to work with these and other partners to connect people and wetland sites along flyways in all regions, building on the excellent work achieved so far.
Crucially, we have brought the worlds’ attention to the massive contribution that peatland degradation makes to greenhouse gas emissions. With the assistance of partner NGO networks and governments, we have managed to secure text through the climate negotiations which will ensure that there is accountability and incentives to invest in the protection and restoration of tropical peatswamp forests as well as for developed countries to reverse drainage in agricultural areas.
Through a private sector partnership that will enable investments via voluntary carbon market and projects for peatland conservation and restoration in south-east Asia, Russia and elsewhere, we are anticipating to prevent over 100Mt CO2 release by 2015 through wetland restoration.
In the last decade, we have homed in on trying to save and restore south-east Asia’s peatswamp forests, which are being drained and converted largely for palm oil and pulp production at an alarming rate. We have worked to get the issue of peat considered in terms of sustainability by the industry round tables
We have demonstrated that it is possible to reverse the drainage and prevent fires and peatland degradation and restored 000s of hectares of peatswamps forests. We have shown the potential for alternative community-based livelihoods. Through advocacy we have achieved that Biofuels produced by draining peatsoils are excluded from subisidies and support within the EU. Several countries excluded palm oil from support for producing green electricity.
Our advocacy, research and field results have also helped to trigger major investments from bi-lateral donors, such as Norway ‘s 1bln for reducing emissions from forest loss in Indonesia.
Wetlands International recognizes the need to work with the private sector whose activities most influence the condition of wetlands. We entered our first major corporate partnership, with Shell in 2008, following several years of consideration and planning. It is recognized that the oil and gas industry has a significant direct and indirect impact on wetlands and the well-being of local peoples. The issues seem likely to intensify given that oil and gas is being sourced from more and more sensitive environments and that the intensity of water use in fuel production is rocketing. We are invited to be a critical friend of Shell and to influence their thinking as well as to influence the scope of environmental considerations at an earlier stage in project development than has been managed before. We have formed joint projects in the Arctic, Canada, Nigeria, Brunei and Iraq. We are grateful to Shell for helping us (through investments and training) to build our capacity to develop the knowledge and capacities to effectively engage with them and the corporate sector in general.
As well as extending our current partnership next year, we are planning to broaden our portfolio of corporate partners as a means to achieve our strategy goals.
Finally, on behalf our whole network, I want to celebrate with you that Wetlands International achieved the CBF seal in October 2011. It took a lot of hard work over many years to achieve this status. Whilst many staff and members of our Supervisory Council did play important role, there are a few people who gave their time and efforts to support me. I especially want to thank
LNV – in particular Seppe Raaphorst and Martin Lok
Shell – Steven de Bie
And from our Supervisory Council, two people who really supported me and laid the foundations for the institution: Wim Aalbersberg and Gerard van Voorst.