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ANALYSIS World Wetlands Day February saw the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands celebrate its annual World Wetlands Day. Secretary General Christopher Briggs explains the history of the event and the activities they have undertaken this year to further highlight the integral multifunctional role of wetlands World Wetlands Day is celebrated annually on 2 February. Could you explain why this event was initiated and the significance of the date? The first discussion relating to the event took place in November 1996 when one member country of the Ramsar Convention stated its intention to hold a World Wetland Week in 1997 to help raise awareness of the Convention. This took place during a meeting of our Standing Committee; after much debate the decision was taken that it would be more practical for an international Convention to designate a World Wetlands Day. 2 February – the date in 1971 when an agreement was reached to form the Convention on Wetlands in the Iranian city of Ramsar – was subsequently suggested. Although Northern Hemisphere member countries argued that this was a rather inhospitable time of year for celebrating wetlands, agreement was eventually reached. World Wetlands Day was born in 1997 and has been celebrated every year with growing enthusiasm and much appreciated funding support from the Danone Group. 2014 marks the UN’s International Year of Family Farming. How is this year’s event helping to shape a better-informed perception of wetlands and their role within agricultural contexts? The theme this year has allowed us to focus on the links between agriculture and wetlands. We often hear of water shortages threatening the capacity of developing countries to provide enough food for their growing populations. We are also regularly reminded that climate change is making this problem worse, yet how often do the people raising these water issues talk about wetlands? One of the key World Wetlands Day messages this year is that wetlands are the world’s water carriers and critically support agriculture. Another message is that using too much water for agriculture or polluting water with pesticides and fertilisers puts at risk the many other benefits that wetlands provide to support people and wildlife. The theme has allowed us to draw attention to local agricultural practices, which work to sustain these other important services. What are the core activities of World Wetlands Day 2014? At the Ramsar Secretariat in Switzerland, our job is to launch a global campaign that triggers the interest of people around the world and 56 INTERNATIONAL INNOVATION results in local and national action to celebrate the beauty and value of wetlands. These people range from Ramsar government contacts to NGOs, wetland education centres, teachers, schools and universities; and we encourage them to use our online reporting system to record their activities. We’ve also been tracking items in newspapers and on social media. You can find more information about this on our website. We also find that organisations use World Wetlands Day as an opportunity to launch campaigns of their own: this year a group of international NGOs, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and others, launched a citizen science initiative, the Global Freshwater Fish BioBlitz, to gather information on the fish species people see in their local wetlands to better understand their distribution. One of our partners for World Wetlands Day this year, the International Water Management Institute, campaigned to promote agricultural practices that can support and sustain healthy wetlands. You attended your first World Wetlands Day event as Secretary General this year. Can you share your impressions of this important occasion? It was a great pleasure to meet a diverse group of people at the event in Bolivia, all with the ability to have a positive impact on wetland conservation – diplomats, representatives from cooperation agencies, Bolivian Government officials and NGOs. Last year Bolivia designated three new Ramsar Sites covering 6.9 million hectares, all which are located in the Amazon basin, one of the world’s most famous wetlands. With the addition of these new sites, Bolivia now has the largest area of Ramsar Sites of our 168 member countries, with 14.8 million hectares designated (13 per cent of the entire country). It was my pleasure to present our Bolivian colleagues with certificates in recognition of this achievement and it was gratifying to see the President of WWF present the Bolivian Government with a prestigious Gift to the Earth certificate for the protection of such a significant area of the Amazon. Could you highlight the broader importance and value of wetlands? If we consider the Ramsar definition of wetlands – lakes, rivers, ponds, mangroves, saltmarshes and coral reefs, etc. – we can say with certainty that wetlands are key to the global water cycle. We have often used the slogan ‘No wetlands – no water’ to reflect this key role. A recent