The Standing Committee normally meets once each year, traditionally at the offices of the Secretariat in Switzerland (though SC41 in 2010 was generously hosted by Georgia) – in addition, it meets just prior to each meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties, at which time it transforms itself into the Conference Committee for the duration of the COP; and then again subsequently during the COP, when the newly elected members choose their chair and vice chair and set the date for their first full business meeting.
There are presently 16 regional and two ex officio members of the Standing Committee, chosen on a proportional basis from the Ramsar regions:
In addition to the Regional Representatives, the host countries of the most recent and the upcoming meetings of the COP are full members, and the host country of the Ramsar Secretariat (Switzerland), as well as the five International Partner Organizations, are welcomed as permanent observers.
All other Contracting Parties are always entitled to participate in Standing Committee meetings and working groups as observers, and non-member countries as well as non-governmental organizations may participate as observers in the absence of objections.
The Secretariat is headed by a Secretary General who answers to the Standing Committee and who supervises the work of officers in the Secretariat.
The Policy and Technical staff in the Secretariat comprise the Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General and four Senior Regional Advisors to assist the Parties (in Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, and Europe); the interns serve as Assistant Advisors for the regions to form two-person “regional advisory teams”. The communications team is responsible for promoting the Convention and the activities of its Secretariat staff, partners, and collaborators through news releases, educational and awareness-raising products, publications, and official documentation. Ramsar staff members work in several languages (notably the Convention’s three official languages, English, French, and Spanish) and provide expertise in a range of disciplines. Additional staff are occasionally seconded to the Secretariat for special purposes, and consultants are recruited from time to time as needed.
The functions of the Secretariat are to:
For the triennium 2009-2012, the STRP has been chaired by Dr Heather Mackay of South Africa and vice-chaired by Rebecca D’Cruz of Malaysia; as of this writing, the officers for the 2013-2015 period have not yet been chosen. The membership of the Panel consists of six regional representatives (one chosen from each of the six Ramsar regions), who are charged with networking with the scientific communities in their regions; six thematic experts chosen for their expertise in the priority areas of work for the period; and representatives of the five International Organization Partners (see §3.9 below), for 18 full members in all. In addition, the Parties have specified a list of 34 convention secretariats, convention subsidiary scientific bodies, and scientific organizations as officially Invited Observer Organizations, and additional consultants, experts, and organizations are asked to participate as required. The progress of the STRP’s work is facilitated from within the Secretariat by the Deputy Secretary General.
The STRP’s Work Plan for each triennium is built around the priority tasks determined by the Standing Committee, which are based upon requests from the Conference of the Parties by means of its Strategic Plan and COP Resolutions and Recommendations. The STRP members and observers are assisted in their work by a network of STRP National Focal Points who advise them directly on STRP matters and provide a liaison between the STRP and the networks of other relevant experts within each of their countries. The STRP’s Working Groups and the STRP National Focal Points communicate by means of electronic mail and Internet discussion groups, and a quarterly Newletter in PDF format, prepared by the Secretariat’s Scientific and Technical Support Officer, keeps all members of the network up to date on events.
The work of the STRP is further assisted by the Web-based STRP Support Service, which was created by Wetlands International and is presently maintained by the staff of the Secretariat. The purpose of the Support Service is to provide the STRP Working Groups and National Focal Points with additional contacts among the expert networks of the International Organization Partners and other groups, identify gaps in needed expertise and endeavor to fill them, assemble a clearinghouse of additional information resources for the tasks of the STRP’s Work Plan, and facilitate communication amongst the Working Groups, the Focal Points, and other sources of expertise.