The 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP14) adopted the Wuhan Declaration, which “sets out key principles for integrating wetland ecosystems into all frameworks and initiatives for people and nature.” The Declaration also includes commitments to take appropriate and urgent measures towards halting and reversing the loss of wetlands globally.

As per the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) summary report of the meeting, wetlands, often called the “cradle of biodiversity,” are home to an abundance of flora and fauna. Wetlands are among the world’s most productive ecosystems that provide freshwater, food and building materials, flood control, and climate change mitigation. At the same time, “despite their significance to nature and human well-being, wetlands continue to experience extremely high rates of decline and degradation: an estimated 35% of wetlands have been lost since the 1970s, with no sign of abatement.”

The 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is one of the oldest multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). It focuses attention on the importance of wetlands, fosters partnerships for their conservation and wise use, and provides a framework for countries to designate specific wetlands as “internationally important.” Today, as the Convention celebrates its 50th anniversary, Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites) include 2,471 wetlands in more than 160 countries and cover more than 250 million hectares.

The ENB analysis of the meeting indicates that during COP14, there was tension between expanding the Convention’s scope or focusing on its original mandate. With a new post-2020 global biodiversity framework “possibly weeks away from adoption,” delegates felt “pressure to act collectively on a common goal for living in harmony with nature.” Among the entry points for synergies and cooperation, the ENB analysis identifies the Paris Agreement on climate change, the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDGs.

Convening under the theme, ‘Wetland Actions for People and Nature,’ COP14 included the Ramsar Awards ceremony and Wetland City Accreditation, which showcased some of the ways the Convention is working to realize its mission.

In addition, as the ENB analysis notes, delegates adopted 21 resolutions to, inter alia, increase the scope and diversity of engagement in the work of the Convention. COP14 committed to promoting the role of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in wetland management, which many considered to be an important milestone in recognizing the territories and stewardship of wetlands by Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

COP14 took place from 5-13 November 2022, in Geneva, Switzerland. Originally planned to be held in Wuhan, China, the meeting “shifted to a hybrid format with events taking place in Wuhan and Geneva, simulcast in both countries.” [ENB Coverage of Ramsar Convention COP14]