“The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat”


The initial call for an international convention on wetlands came in 1962 during a conference which formed part of Project MAR (from “MARshes”, “MARécages”, “MARismas”), a programme established in 1960 following concern at the rapidity with which large stretches of marshland and other wetlands in Europe were being “reclaimed” or otherwise destroyed, with a resulting decline in numbers of waterfowl.

The MAR Conference was organized by Dr Luc Hoffmann, with the participation of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (now IUCN–International Union for Conservation of Nature), the International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau, IWRB (now Wetlands International), and the International Council for Bird Preservation, ICBP (now BirdLife International), and was held in Les Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer in the French Camargue, 12-16 November 1962.

Over the next eight years, a convention text was negotiated through a series of international meetings (St. Andrews, 1963; Noordwijk, 1966; Leningrad, 1968; Morges, 1968; Vienna, 1969; Moscow, 1969; Espoo, 1970), held mainly under the auspices of IWRB, the guidance of Prof. G.V.T. Matthews, and the leadership of the government of the Netherlands. Initially the envisaged convention was directed specifically at the conservation of waterfowl through the creation of a network of refuges, but as the text developed, especially with the expert advice of legal consultant Mr Cyrille de Klemm, conservation of wetland habitat (rather than species) took prominence.

Finally, at an international meeting organized by Mr Eskander Firouz, Director of Iran’s Game and Fish Department, and held in the Caspian seaside resort of Ramsar in Iran, the text of the Convention was agreed on 2 February 1971 and signed by the delegates of 18 nations the next day.

The Convention entered into force in December 1975, upon receipt by UNESCO, which had agreed to act as the Convention’s depositary, of the seventh instrument of accession to or ratification of the Convention, which came from Greece. The Convention has recently celebrated throughout 2011 the 40th anniversary of its creation. Since its adoption, the Ramsar Convention has been modified on two occasions: by a protocol (a new treaty which amends the original treaty) in December 1982, and by a series of amendments to the original treaty, known as the “Regina Amendments” of 1987.

Credit: Ramsar Convention