2nd African civil society forum on wetlands

The second African civil society forum on wetlands was held virtually on 20 and 21 March 2024.


  • Climate Change (watch)
  • Maximising delivery of global conventions (watch)
  • Participatory science (watch)
  • Youth and gender (watch)


    The participants drafted a Declaration for African wetlands civil society and the Convention on Wetlands.

    The forum was held by video-conference on 20 and 21 March 2024, with 50 participants from across Africa. Members of WWN (World Wetland Network) worked together to prepare the event, together with BirdLife Zimbabwe. It was chaired by the co-chairs of WWN, Chris Rostron (WWT) and Agatha Chisha (WWF Zambia). The conference focused on four main themes: 

    Climate Change 
    Presentations covered the role of wise use of wetlands in the Congo basin and the regulation of climate change impacts; how the Moroccan site of the Moulouya estuary can be protected by legislative tools; and an overview of the challenges of climate change to the African wetlands. 

    Comments included: It is important to maintain a certain ecological flow necessary to maintain life in watercourses and the preservation of aquatic ecosystems and the biodiversity of wetlands. More promotion is needed for green business including ecotourism, agroecology and agroforestry, and initiatives that improve climate resilience. Training and funding can give a much-needed increase in the capacity of NGOs and CSOs. Decision-making and campaigns will be strengthened by usable research and science. And climate change should not be used as an excuse for poor wetland status when caused or accelerated by development that negatively impacts the integrity of the wetland, and poor management.  

    Maximising delivery of global conventions 
    This session included an explanation of how invasive species are being controlled for improved biodiversity and livelihoods in Zambia; the synergies between the Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and the Convention on Wetlands on the ground; and a look at sustainable wet grassland management in Zimbabwe. 

    Comments included: Civil society has a fundamental role to play in promoting the Convention on Wetlands, including the details of Resolutions, to the public, stakeholders and even to government. This can be supported by collecting case studies and working together to advocate for wetlands and CSO involvement. Governments should recognise wetlands as critically important natural infrastructure and thus provide sufficient technical and financial support (to their agencies to protect and restore wetlands. This includes: the development of wetland management plans; collaborative management strategies; bottom-up approaches to wetland conservation implementation strategies; and incorporating and harnessing traditional and cultural leadership to strengthen wetland protection. 

    The Convention on Wetlands needs to be better understood, and parties should maximise having COP15 in Africa, to bring benefits for wetlands. Legal systems, including those that implement the Convention, are not always followed well, and there is a need for enforcement of existing environmental legislation and strengthening the legal protection for wetlands, and in particular designated Wetlands of International Importance. 

    The term wise use is misused by governments and developers to justify development which changes land-use. Wise use should reflect the Convention’s aims. Only developments that do not impact the integrity and connectivity of the wetland should be permitted, evidenced in the EIS/EIA process. As well as habitat management, the importance of using CEPA (Communication, Capacity building, Education, Participation, Awareness) to improve wetland protection should be recognised. 

    Participatory science 
    Topics focussed on promoting wetland conservation through education programmes in Tunisia, engaging communities for wetland site protection in Angola, and the involvement of youth in monitoring a Wetland in International Importance in Benin. 

    Comments included: Youth, children and gender engagement are very important; use a range of engaging tools like games, competitions, sport, electronic tools; how to use the data to feed into MEAs (Convention Secretary General is keen on that); there is a good link between data and awareness, so consider how to use current data to engage people; create an engaging platform that can bring in a range of people, building capacity of stakeholders and leaders, and leading to campaigning and changes on the ground; create a connection between collected citizen data and the government focal points to inform the state of wetland conservation; note the disjoint between the government reports and what local actors know.  

    Youth and gender 
    Finally, updates on the status, challenges, and aspirations of youth in Africa, empowering youth to tackle climate change, and looking at how youth and women are empowered to take action in the Kafue flats, Zambia. 

    Comments included: using a bottom-up approach that promotes community participation and leadership; need to work harder to engage women, but this brings wider benefits; don’t forget people with disabilities; culturally women are less active in conservation – start to try to challenge this from an early age, working with children; the Convention has launched a campaign on women in conservation. 

    Specific messages for the Convention on Wetlands COP15 Host nation, the Republic of Zimbabwe 

    • WWN would like to support the Zimbabwe, the host Contracting Party, to engage with civil society to allow us to participate meaningfully in the Convention on Wetlands COP15, to promote the opportunity for and to welcome CSO engagement  
    • We ask Zimbabwe to demonstrate their commitment to wetland protection and sustainability by ensuring net-zero loss of wetlands in the country  
    • We encourage a catchment management approach to wetland protection incorporating transboundary plans and activities  
    • Consider how to use the Global Biodiversity Framework 30×30 commitment, and how wetland protection and conservation can help Zimbabwe realise the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, including Target 14: integrate biodiversity into decision-making at every level 
    • Promote the implementation of the National Development Strategy with respect to protection of the environment; wetlands and water sources in particular 

    Recommendations to the Contracting Parties and the Convention Secretariat 

    • We emphasise the urgency of protecting African wetlands: we are at crisis point, and must protect wetlands for the generations 
    • Improve the legal structure to protect wetlands: support governments to better understand, enforce, apply, and resource the delivery of the Convention objectives. Ensure development policies do not overturn wetland protection policies 
    • Advise CPs of using the GBF’s 30×30 commitment, and how wetland protection and conservation can help CPs meet the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework Emphasise the value of a bottom-up approach and good community engagement for long-term wetland protection 
    • Further gender equality 
    • Value public and participatory science and use the results, for awareness raising, science and decision-making 
    • Meaningfully support young people, including providing ongoing job opportunities and ways to engage in wetland conservation, research, private sector, and civil society. 

    COP15 is an opportunity for governments at every level to start and continue to take action for wetlands, with civil society as the fundamental partner. We look forward to working together to benefit African’s people and wetlands. 

    Show day 1 agenda
    DAY 1
    Time/HeureActivity / ActivitésSpeakers
    20 March
    8:00 – 8:10
    Welcome Address / Mot de bienvenueContext of the Forum/Contexte du Forum, introducing DeclarationAgatha Chisha, Chris Rostron
    Session 1: Climate change / Changement climatique
    8:10 – 8:20Les rôles de la gestion rationnelle des zones humides du bassin du congo sur la réglementation effets du changement climatique en RDC.WITANENE MILENGE Ladislas
    8:20 – 8:30L’arsenal juridique marocain peut-il sauver la zone humide du SIBE de l’embouchure de la MoulouyaBenata Mohamed
    8:30 – 8:40African wetlands and the challenges of climate changeHAMROUNI Kaouther
    Discussion / Q&A – 20 mins  (8:40 – 9:00)
    5 mins Break ( 9:00 – 9:05)
    Session 2 : Maximizing the delivery of global conventions/ Optimisation de la mise en œuvre des conventions mondiales
    9:05 – 9:15Controlling Invasive Species in Zambia’s Wetland Ecosystems for Improved Biodiversity and Livelihoods.Swithin Kashulwe
    9:15 – 9:25Facilitating synergies between  MEAs to deliver the Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity  Framework on the groundZebedee Njisuh  
    9:25 – 9:35Sustainable Grassland Wetlands Management in Zimbabwe: Challenges and Tools for ConservationRonald Chirimuta
    Discussion / Q&A – 20 mins (9:35 – 9:55)
    Closing remarks and preview of day 2 – 5 mins (9:55 – 10:00)
    Show day 2 agenda
      DAY 2
    21st March,
    8:00 – 8:10
    Welcome back and recap of Day 1
    Session 3: Participatory citizen science / Sciences participatives
    8:10 – 8:20Promouvoir la conservation des zones humides à travers le programme éducatif, Tunisie  Imen labidi
    8:20 – 9:30Sharing ADAMA experience in engaging communities for wetland sites protection    Madaleno Constantino
    8:30 – 8:40Implication des jeunes dans le suivi de la biodiversité des écosystèmes du site Ramsar 1018 du Bénin : atouts, contraintes et perspectives  Houngbédji Mariano
    Discussion / Q&A – 20 mins (8:40 – 9:00)
    5 mins Break (9:00 – 9:05)
    Session 4: Youth and Gender /  Jeunes et Genre
    9:05 – 9:15The status, challenges and aspirations of the youth in wetland protection in AfricaThandeka Ndlela
    9:15 – 9:25Empowerment of change: youth and climate change across sub-saharan Africa.  Pasco Twinamasiko
    9:25 – 9:35Empowering Youth and Women on the Kafue flats for sustainable conservation. Kelvin Floyd
    Discussion / Q&A – 20 mins (9:35 – 9:55)
    Conference Conclusion / Clôture de la conférence (9:55 – 10:00)

    2020 forum

    Watch the recording of the First African civil society forum on wetlands, from 2020.