Culture and wetlands

Fishermen in the Niger River © Thymio Papayannis

Culture is an attribute of all the activities of each society, as they evolve through the ages. As wetlands, since ancient times, have been inhabited and used in many ways by human beings, there are strong cultural and spiritual values associated with many of them.

It has become clear in recent years that nature conservation cannot be practiced successfully without regard to the welfare of local populations and without ensuring their active participation. This is the reason to include culture in wetland management activities, attempting thus to reconnect people to wetlands and leading to an integrated approach to the natural and cultural heritage.

In addition, such an approach creates highly interesting destinations that may draw visitors and provide economic benefits to local populations through mild tourism activities. Also, some of the cultural aspects incorporate traditional knowledge that may be useful to contemporary conservation and merit to be preserved and to be taken into account.

Culture and the Ramsar Convention

In the late 1990s, various organs of the Convention on Wetlands (including the Scientific and Technical Review Panel [STRP] and the MedWet Initiative) began to consider the cultural aspects of wetlands. There were heated discussions about the legitimacy in environmental debates of such an interest, with strong proponents and convinced opponents.

A positive and decisive development came at the 8th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP8) in Valencia, Spain in November 2002 through Resolution VIII.19 on Guiding principles for taking into account the cultural values of wetlands for the effective management of sites. This was then strengthened by a second COP decision, Resolution IX.21 on Taking into account the cultural values of wetlands, approved at Ramsar COP9 (Kampala, Uganda, November 2005).

The operation of RCN is supported by the MAVA Foundation

Since 2006, the work of the Convention on the cultural aspects of wetlands has been carried out through the Ramsar Culture Working Group (CWG), and during Ramsar COP10 (Changwon, South Korea, October-November 2008), at a side event on the cultural values of wetlands, the CWG presented the publication Culture and wetlands: A Ramsar guidance document, which has been widely disseminated.

In September 2009, the Culture Working Group is inaugurating this section of the Ramsar Web site to provide a growing collection of documents and news on the Group's work and on the cultural aspects of wetlands generally.

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Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
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2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

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