The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands


Wetlands such as brooks, rivers, lakes, springs and marshlands are of great importance for the global water cycle. They usually have a rich biodiversity and act like filters to clean the water. They are also buffer zones and reduce the risk of floods. These important habitats, however, are threatened by hydraulic engineering, draining, eutrophication, pollution, energy production and intensive leisure activities.


To protect wetlands all over the world, the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance was agreed at Ramsar in Iran in 1971. Ramsar sites are listed if they meet international significance of the wetland itself. The Convention aims to protect wetlands of international importance, particularly was waterfowl habitats, fostering national and international sustainable use thus contributing to the realisation of sustainable development world wide. The Convention is founded on three pillars of:

  • Promoting the wise use of wetlands
  • Developing international co-operation
  • Developing a network of Wetland sites of International Importance
The Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands is housed by IUCN - The World Conservation Union in its headquarters building in Gland, Switzerland, on Lac Léman (Lake Geneva).

The Convention on Wetlands is not part of the UN or UNEP system of environmental treaties, with many of the secretariats of which, however, Ramsar has established collaborative agreements.


At present, there are 1,831 listened RAMSAR regions, totalling 170 million hectares from 158 countries world wide (February 2009). RAMSAR provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. In detail, the contracting countries are committed:

  • to integrate at least one wetland into the list of Wetlands of International Importance
  • to preserve or designate further wetlands in the national land utilisation plans
  • to designate further wetlands as protected areas
  • to promote sustainable use of remaining wetlands
  • to promote staff training in the fields of management and research
  • to co-operate in order to fulfil the requirements of the Convention
  • to cross-border co-operate in case the wetland is stretching over several countries.

At 29 September 2004, a Memorandum of Co-operation between The Convention on Wetlands and the Global Nature Fund (GNF) was signed. This co-operation emphasizes the common goals of both organizations:

  • The wise use, the knowledgeable management and the conservation of wetlands.
  • The listing of such wetlands which are members of the Living Lakes programme as Wetlands of International Importance, if they have the potential.
  • The international co-operation between the objectives of both organizations.
  • The development and support of the programmes, the projects and the publications of mutual interest.
  • The encouragement of membership of the convention from non-party states which are active within the Living Lakes programme.


Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar 1971) – RAMSAR Bureau
Dr. Tobias Salathé, Regional Coordinator for Europe
28, rue Mauverney
1196 Gland, Switzerland
Phone: + 41 - 22 - 999 01 73
Fax: + 41 - 22 - 999 01 69
Mobile: + 49 - 79 - 290 26 20