United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar)

Statement of Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
Ocean Conference, 5-9 June 2017, New York
Delivered by Martha Rojas-Urrego
Secretary General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
Excellencies, Distinguished Participants, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank the Co-Presidents of this Conference, Fiji and Sweden, the President of the
General Assembly and the Secretary-General for convening this first UN Ocean Conference.
This conference provides a crucial opportunity to galvanize action and secure commitments to
maintain the health of the vital marine and coastal ecosystems that sustain our livelihoods,
provide us with food and shelter, regulate our climate and support a dazzling array of
biodiversity. As a result, the future survival of our planet depends on the health of these
ecosystems.
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, to which 169 States are now Parties, provides the global
legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of all wetlands. These wetlands
include marine and coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, tidal flats, coral reefs and sea grass
meadows. It also includes inland wetland types such as lakes and rivers that connect our lands
to our coasts and are therefore important for the health of our oceans. The Convention thus
provides a fundamental platform from which to achieve SOG 14 and its targets.
A key obligation of Contracting Parties to the Convention is the designation of wetlands of
exceptional value in their territory as 'Wetlands of International Importance' also called 'Ramsar
Sites'. By doing so, they commit to the long-term conservation and sustainable use of these
Sites. So far, Parties have designated over 2,270 Ramsar Sites worldwide, including 946 that
contain coastal or marine areas, covering over 68 million hectares.
These Ramsar Sites provide a range of valuable ecosystem services: the Convention's Parties
report that among the coastal Sites, 77% are important for recreation and tourism, 49% help to
reduce the impact of hazards such as storm surges, and 46% provide wetland products and food
for local communities. These Sites also play a significant role in supporting local livelihoods,
providing carbon storage and supporting biodiversity.
The scale of the threats to the world's oceans calls for ambitious, coordinated action to turn the
tide. And we do congratula_te all countries and institutions that have announced their Voluntary
Commitments at this Oceans Conference to conserve coastal and marine ecosystems.
Protecting marine and coastal areas is a first important step, which recognizes the value of these
ecosystems. Taking the further additional steps that will help maintain their ecological health is
equally vital. Other steps to be taken include enacting the right legislation, engaging the right
partnerships such as with businesses and regional and international actors, empowering local
communities and developing management plans for these Sites.
It is also important to monitor our progress and adapt our responses to reach the level of
ambition of SDG14. In this regard, the Parties to the Convention on Wetlands have committed to
reporting on the extent of their wetlands starting in 2018. This will provide a source of validated
data to help us monitor the state of the world's wetlands and to measure progress on the
implementation of SDG14 on oceans and SDG6 on water. Further, the Convention will release
the Global Wetlands Outlook: State of the World's Wetlands and their Services to People, at the
next Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to take place in Dubai in 2018.
Our coastal and marine ecosystems provide benefits that are vital to achieve other SDGs,
including poverty reduction and water security, as well as climate regulation, adaptation and
mitigation. Their conservation, management and restoration are thus essential components of
the path to achieve SDG 14 and of the whole 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
We must maintain the momentum born here because the future of our oceans depends on it,
and I assure you of our full support.