KIGALI, RWANDA - The International Forum 'Wetlands: Wise Use, Smart Plans' was held in Kigali, Rwanda from 8 to 13 July, where over 100 participants, the vast majority from 23 African countries participated in addressing contemporary themes of wetland management and capacity building. The Forum was jointly organized by the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, the Rwanda Environmental Management Authority and the Ramsar Convention Secretariat.
Effective wetland policies
The aim of the discussions was geared towards supporting the development of more effective wetland policies within the framework of integrated water resources management, addressing the needs for both economic development and environmental integrity. The Forum led to new international collaboration, thereby giving a new impulse to wetlands research and capacity building on the African continent. Forum outputs included new initiatives for policy, research and, capacity building for wetlands.
Through dialogue and discussions, the Forum was successful in addressing the following:
- Identifying major issues for successfully linking policies with sustainable use of wetlands
- Developing new initiatives for capacity building in support of knowledge exchange on wetlands
- Connecting partners for future initiatives on wetland policy, research and capacity building
- Providing a synthesis of lessons learnt and novel approaches by integrating ecological, social science, economic and political experiences
Wise use of wetlands
Wetlands support the livelihoods of millions of people through clean drinking water, food, building materials, medicine, and other products. They have important cultural and educational value and are well known biodiversity "hotspots". The recognition of this importance is illustrated by 168 countries having signed the Ramsar Convention for the protection of wetlands.
Despite their importance, wetland loss and degradation is widespread. Many wetlands have been converted to agricultural land for increasing demands for food. In others, urban development, water abstraction for industry and agriculture (leaving wetlands without water), and the effects of climate change are major, often increasing, pressures. While extensive knowledge on the causes of degradation and improved management and protection of wetlands exists, integration of knowledge, policy and action for the wise and sustainable use of wetlands remains a major challenge. The Forum concluded with the Kigali Call for Action for sustainable and wise use of wetlands.
More information can be found on the Wetlands website.
Rwanda alumni gathering
An alumni gathering was held on 9 July, 2013, in Kigali on the occasion of the International Wetlands Forum. Eighteen UNESCO-IHE alumni from various countries in the region were welcomed by Prof. Stefan Uhlenbrook, Prof. Ken Irvine and Dr. Gretchen Gettel. In his opening remarks, Prof. Stefan Uhlenbrook presented the current status and future education plans of the Institute where the global campus idea was raised connecting various water professionals and institutions. A number of alumni present were then invited to briefly present their current projects and research.
Read a more detailed report here.