Guest Article #1

Campaigning for Wetlands – Ramsar's World Wetlands Day

We can define a campaign as “an organized course of action to achieve a goal.” And this is exactly what we do at the Ramsar Convention in our annual wetland campaign. First launched in 1997, the Convention's World Wetlands Day (WWD) campaign takes place on and around the 2nd of February each year – a date that celebrates the launch back in 1971 of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands as an intergovernmental treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. The goal of this annual campaign is raising awareness of the importance of wetlands so that all people act for their wise use and conservation, challenging indeed.  

The WWD campaign. Each year has a different wetland-related theme. For WWD 2013 we focused on the designation by the UN of 2013 as the International Year for Water Cooperation. We know that fresh water and wetlands are interdependent: there are no wetlands without water and no water without wetlands. We also know that managing water for agriculture and managing water that crosses national boundaries, for example, are challenging issues, so focusing our WWD theme on water cooperation in a wetland context made perfect sense.

With support for WWD from the Danone Group since 1998, the Secretariat has been able to provide a theme and materials each year to “kick-start” national and local activities to celebrate wetlands round the world. This is really what it is about, national and local action. It's not about simply using the Day to share statements by international environmental leaders about the value of wetlands, or launching technical documents on managing wetlands. Our aim for this Day is to encourage local action throughout the Convention's 165 member countries to raise awareness about wetlands, their natural beauty and their indispensable utility to all people, whether they live in rural or urban areas and whether they are directly dependent on wetlands for their livelihoods or have little connection at all with wetlands.

To successfully conserve wetlands I believe that all wetland stakeholders must appreciate the broad “value” of their wetlands from national and international decision-makers, to those responsible for managing wetlands at national and site level, local fisherfolk, hunters and farmers - and of course young people who will inherit the wetlands we leave behind. The Ramsar Secretariat cannot reach out to all these people on World Wetlands Day. Instead we rely on the support of member countries including government representatives, international, national and local NGOs as well as local community groups, and schools and universities to make this their campaign Day. And I believe we are succeeding.

Adapting our materials for local use. While the Ramsar Secretariat produces a theme and slogan each year, as well as a number of materials (typically a poster, leaflet on the theme, stickers, children's activity sheet) these are only producing these in our three official languages of English, French and Spanish. An innovation launched some years ago was to make available the design files of our materials and this has allowed WWD actors to make our WWD message more accessible within their respective countries through translating our poster into their national or local language. Look here at the adaptations over the last few years www.ramsar.org/WWD-adaptations/.

Reporting on WWD activities. May I invite you to take a look at our 2013 reports page www.ramsar.org/WWD_Reports2013/. This records the illustrated reports sent to us by WWD actors and it is still being added to daily for WWD 2013. Here the WWD actors take the opportunity to share with their colleagues – and often their sponsors – what they did on WWD. In today's world of course many WWD actors prefer to share their activities through social media, reaching out to a rather different group of potential WWD actors and targets. Both Facebook and Twitter have had quite some traffic related to WWD activities this year. Having launched a very successful Facebook page in August 2011 we now have over 81,000 followers – a wonderful source of WWD actors and targets!

Managing our WWD campaign each year is a demanding task for the Secretariat but we know it is worth the effort: the emails and reports from our diverse wetland actors are testimony to their enthusiastic engagement on WWD as well as their creativity in reaching out to their wetland stakeholders.