Ramsar Convention

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.[2] It is also known as the Convention on Wetlands. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the convention was signed in 1971.

Ramsar Convention
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat
Ramsar logo
Signed2 February 1971
LocationRamsar, Iran
Effective21 December 1975
ConditionRatification by 7 states
SignatoriesSee list
DepositaryDirector General of UNESCO
LanguagesEnglish, French, Spanish, and Persian

Every three years, representatives of the contracting parties meet as the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP), the policy-making organ of the convention which adopts decisions (resolutions and recommendations) to administer the work of the convention and improve the way in which the parties are able to implement its objectives.[3] COP12 was held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in 2015. COP13 was held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in October 2018.

The Upper Navua Conservation Area Ramsar site in Fiji
Sustainable fishing in India, an example of wise use

List of wetlands of international importance

Archipel Bolama-Bijagos Ramsar site in Guinea-Bissau

The list of wetlands of international importance included 2,331 Ramsar sites in May 2018 covering over 2.1 million square kilometres (810,000 sq mi). The countries with most sites are the United Kingdom with 175 and Mexico with 142. And, the country with the greatest area of listed wetlands is Bolivia, with around 148,000 square kilometres (57,000 sq mi).[4]

The Ramsar Sites Information Service (RSIS) is a searchable database which provides information on each Ramsar site.[5]

International cooperation

The Wadden Sea is a transboundary Ramsar site covering 13 Ramsar sites in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands

As of 2016 there are 18 transboundary Ramsar sites, and 15 Ramsar regional initiatives covering regions of the Mediterranean, Asia, Africa, and South America.

International organization partners

The Ramsar Convention works closely with six other organisations known as international organization partners (IOPs). These are:

These organizations support the work of the convention by providing expert technical advice, helping implement field studies, and providing financial support. The IOPs also participate regularly as observers in all meetings of the conference of the parties and as full members of the Scientific and Technical Review Panel.

Other partners

The convention collaborates with a network of partners:

  • Biodiversity-related conventions including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), the World Heritage Convention (WHC), and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES);
  • Project funding bodies including global environmental funds, multilateral development banks and bilateral donors;
  • UN agencies such as UNEP, UNDP, UNESCO, and the UN Economic Commission for Europe, and specific programmes such as UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB);
  • Non-governmental organizations including the Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, the Society of Wetland Scientists, the International Association for Impact Assessment, and many others;
  • Since 1998 the convention has also benefited from a strong partnership with Danone including the Évian brand, and since 2007 from the Biosphere Connections partnership with the Star Alliance airline network.

Bodies established by the convention

Conference of the Contracting Parties

This is the convention's governing body consisting of all governments that have ratified the treaty. This ultimate authority reviews progress under the convention, identifies new priorities, and sets work plans for members. The COP can also make amendments to the convention, create expert advisory bodies, review progress reports by member nations, and collaborate with other international organizations and agreements.

The Standing Committee

The Standing Committee is the intersessional executive body which represents the COP between its triennial meetings, within the framework of the decisions made by the COP. The contracting parties that are members of the Standing Committee are elected by each meeting of the COP to serve for the three years.

The Ramsar Secretariat offices in Gland, Switzerland

The Scientific and Technical Review Panel

The Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) provides scientific and technical guidance to the Conference of Contracting Parties, the Standing Committee, and the Ramsar Secretariat.

The Secretariat

The Secretariat carries out the day-to-day coordination of the convention's activities. It is based at the headquarters of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Gland, Switzerland.

The implementation of the Ramsar Convention is a continuing partnership between the Conference of Contracting Parties, the Standing Committee, and the Secretariat, with the advice of the subsidiary expert body, the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP), and the support of the international organization partners (IOPs).

Martha Rojas Urrego is the sixth secretary general of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

World Wetlands Day

A wetland clean-up in Oman on World Wetlands Day

February 2 is World Wetlands Day, marking the convention's adoption on 2 February 1971. Established to raise awareness about the value of wetlands for humanity and the planet, WWD was celebrated for the first time in 1997, and has grown remarkably since then. In 2015 World Wetlands Day was celebrated in 59 countries.


The convention was co-founded by Eskandar Firouz (former environment minister of Iran), Luc Hoffmann of Tour du Valat research station in the Camargue in France, and Geoffrey Matthews of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge in the late 1960s. The conference which adopted the terms of the agreement was held in the Iranian Caspian Sea resort of Ramsar on 2 February 1971.[6]

See also

  • Ramsar classification system
  • Montreux Record - threat classification for wetlands
  • Ramsar Wetland Conservation Award
  • List of international environmental agreements
  • World Heritage Site - international agreement on historic site recognition


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