The Ramsar Convention is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation of wetlands. In total, 172 countries are signatories of the Ramsar Convention and agree to work towards wise use of all their wetlands, designate suitable wetlands as Wetlands of International Importance, known as Ramsar sites, and cooperate internationally on transboundary wetlands. Globally, there are 2 435 Ramsar Sites, covering 254,685,425 ha.
How cities can contribute
Wetlands are our most powerful ecosystems to combat climate risk, yet they are among the most threatened ecosystems and more than a quarter of wetland species globally, are threatened with extinction.
Wetlands offer significant and irreplaceable benefits to people in cities. They can enhance urban quality of life by the multitude of benefits they provide and can address certain urban problems. Wetlands sustain ground water and regulate soil moisture, support biodiversity, regulate floods, regulate climate by cooling cities, and retain contamination and nutrients. Property owners, value proximity to wetlands in urban areas, and studies have also shown positive values for recreation and commercial fishing.
Urban wetlands are precious assets and therefore should be integrated into the development, spatial and management plans of towns and cities.
Recognising the important role of cities in protecting and enhancing the benefits from urban wetlands, the Convention recently introduced a Wetland City accreditation scheme (Resolution XII.10 of 2015). This voluntary scheme provides an opportunity for cities that value their natural and human-made wetlands to gain international recognition and positive publicity for their efforts. The Wetland City Accreditation scheme will encourage cities to highlight and strengthen the positive relationship with their wetlands, with emphasis on creating public awareness of wetland benefits, incorporation of wetland protection into municipal planning and decision-making, and promoting wetland benefits for local people. This scheme provides positive branding opportunities for cities that demonstrate strong and positive relationships with their wetlands.
Detailed criteria for city accreditation are listed in Resolution XII.10 (under Featured Documents on the Ramsar web page). For the first time, during COP13, the Ramsar Convention recognized 18 cities that have taken exceptional steps to safeguard their urban wetlands. These pioneer cities received Ramsar Wetland City Accreditation and will serve as examples and inspire purposeful actions for other cities towards sustainable urbanization.
The 18 accredited cities are:
- China: Changde, Changshu, Dongying, Haerbin, Haikou, Yinchuan
- France: Amiens, Courteranges, Pont Audemer, Saint Omer
- Hungary: Lakes by Tata
- Republic of Korea: Changnyeong, Inje, Jeju, Suncheon
- Madagascar: Mitsinjo
- Sri Lanka: Colombo
- Tunisia: Ghar el Melh
The second round of Ramsar wetland cities, currently under consideration, will be announced during the upcoming Standing Committee meeting scheduled for May 2022, to receive their award at COP14 scheduled for November 2022. The Ramsar Wetland Cities Independent Advisory Committee (IAC) reviews the Wetland City Accreditation applications and reports its decision to the Standing Committee. The Committee also coordinates the development of new draft resolutions for the city accreditation scheme. ICLEI currently serves as the co-chair of the IAC together with Austria.