Final Statement Arising from the Wetlands International and Partners side event “Unseen Role of Wetlands” held at the FAO/Netherlands Conference on Water for Food and Ecosystems "Make it Happen" on 1 February 2005 delivered by Prof Tekalign Mamo, State Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Ethiopia.
The NGO Wetlands International and partner organisations held a side-event on Tuesday evening, entitled “The Unseen Role of Wetlands”. The purpose of the event was to invite Conference participants to consider whether the role of wetlands in sustainable water management for food and ecosystems was sufficiently visible and to invite them to develop a short statement based on these discussions. The event was attended by 22 participants from 13 different countries. Three short case studies were presented and this was followed by a lively discussion which resulted in the following statement: The participants recognise that wetland ecosystems include a diverse range of habitats from mountains to sea that provide the basis for water supply and food production and a wide range of other services. They agreed that wetlands should be integral to poverty alleviation strategies and that this will sometimes require investment in alternative livelihoods as well as in conservation and restoration. They agreed that currently the role of wetlands lacks sufficient visibility in the planning and implementation of sustainable water management and sustainable development programmes. The principal causes of this were identified as: • A lack of awareness of the values of wetlands services at national level; • Sectoral approaches to natural resource management. These are leading to wetlands being overlooked in decision-making processes. Therefore participants at the side event urge the FAO / Netherlands Conference on Water for Food and Ecosystems to: • Recognise the importance of wetlands as ecosystems that play a critical role in the regulation of water supply, to provide food and livelihood for people and to provide important habitat for dependent, semi-dependent and migratory species; Furthermore they request the Conference to recommend that: • Assessment of wetland functions and valuation of wetland services for people and biodiversity is included in integrated water resources methodology; • Priorities for developing capacity in water resource management focus on: o Creating equitable platforms for inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary information exchange and decision-making; o Linkage of existing national level water resources management platforms and environmental management platforms; o Empowerment of local communities and facilitation of multi-stakeholder dialogue; o Transboundary planning processes.
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