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Center for Governance & Sustainability

UMass Boston

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University of Massachusetts Boston
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World Wetlands Day 2019: From Our Shore to Yours


Lao People's Democratic Republic - Student presents his drawing during World Wetlands Day celebrations. Credit: ‪Reem Naeem Album: World Wetlands Day 2017 Celebrations

Today is World Wetlands Day and marks the adoption of the Ramsar Convention on 2 February 1971 in Ramsar, Iran.


We appreciate the wetlands for their beauty and as magnets for tourists. In tomorrow's resource-scarce world, we may view wetlands as life support for human security: for water, food, materials for shelter, hydropower, medicine, spirituality, and more. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance balances conserving critical habitat with community need worldwide.


Surprisingly, people and industry are destroying wetlands at a rate that’s three times fast than rainforests. To rise to this conservation challenge, people are collaborating in unprecedented ways. Started in 1997, the World Wetlands Day has grown from 25 countries to millions of supporters worldwide. Last year, organizers focused on wetlands and cities, while this year’s theme looks at wetlands and climate change.


Dr. Natalia Escobar Pemberthy, a graduate of the Global Governance and Human Security Doctoral program at UMass Boston, helps to keep member states accountable. She created the Environmental Conventions Index (ECI) and the findings on the Ramsar Convention serves as ground truth data for each nation's implementation level. The Center for Governance and Sustainability traveled to Rwanda to share these findings and meet with REMA (Rwanda Environment Management Authority) and representatives from the environmental field including Rwanda’s Ministry of the Environment. In a catalyzing exchange between academics and forward thinking government, a collaboration was formed to enhance Rwanda’s already strong Ramsar implementation.


Thanks to the organizational leadership of Rwanda, Dr. Maria Ivanova and Dr. Natalia Escobar Pemberthy then traveled to a special session Ramsar’s 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13). In this Dubai conference, the two scholars presented new data and spoke with environmental leaders. The exchange sparked new interest in the ECI and the benefits of additional convening for environmental cooperation.


Back in the United States, Jack Whitacre (from coastal Maine) embarked on a study of the true reasons developing countries govern wetlands better than the rest of the world. Based on the ECI data, this investigation will improve our understanding of environmental governors, re-evaluate assumptions about the developing world, and in the end improve environmental protection. All in all, these efforts show the Center’s wide commitment, engagement, and leadership in the environmental and wetland domains.


In sum, the World Wetlands Day represents a major milestone in conservation and cooperation. The Ramsar Convention's 170 plus nation state participants represent just one facet of a global and cooperative effort to appreciate, protect, and develop wetlands sustainably. From environmental activists, teachers, and artists to think tanks, schools, NGOs, and responsible corporate partners, everyone has a role to play. From our Center’s headquarters on the tidal marsh banks of the Neponset River.


We wish you a happy World Wetlands Day!


Note: Please check back on the Ramsar site for free public outreach and educational materials after February 2nd.

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