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SWS Board Approves Rights of Wetlands (ROW) Section

At the February 12, 2024 SWS Board of Directors meeting, the Board approved the establishment of a new SWS Rights of Wetlands (ROW) Section! A number of SWS members have been working actively to advance Rights of Wetlands ever since the 2019 SWS Annual Meeting in Providence, RI, where the group first initiated ROW discussions, gave a presentation on the topic at both the Ramsar Section and Public Policy & Regulations Section symposia, and started making plans to draft a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Wetlands.

If you are interested in joining the Rights of Wetlands Section, click here to add it to your membership.

During the pandemic lockdown, we drafted an open access journal article setting out the case for, and creating a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Wetlands, now accessible on the ROW website. Supplementary material for the article provides a timeline for the expansion of the circle of rights holders through time, including recognition of rights of nature across many cultures throughout history. Following this initial publication, several other articles have ensued, including a guide on how to operationalize ROW.

Additional activities have included giving symposia and presentations at the SWS Annual Meeting and other conferences and hosting a side event at the 2022 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands Conference of the Parties. The group is collaborating with the Kichwa Original Peoples of Sarayaku in Amazonian Ecuador, who have a Declaration on the Living Forest. Recently the two groups developed a joint statement, which was released at a side event co-sponsored by the Sarayaku and ROW Initiative scientists and policy specialists at the September 2023 UN Climate Week in New York City.

The Declaration has been endorsed by close to 30 organizations including SWS, Society for Ecological Restoration, Wetlands International, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. Further, Rights of Wetlands are being recognized at high levels in the global wetland policy world, as evidenced by the inclusion of operationalization of Rights of Wetlands on the UN Environment Programme’s website. The broader Rights of Nature were acknowledged in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework agreed through the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The new ROW Section has been established:

  1. To create an SWS forum to facilitate interactions among SWS wetland scientists, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, policymakers, wetland managers, and other groups of people who are engaging with the many aspects of the Rights of Wetlands.
  2. To provide a symposium at each SWS Annual Meeting to explore the Rights of Wetlands as a wetland conservation, restoration, and management strategy supported by wetland science.
  3. To provide up-to-date information on Rights of Wetlands to the SWS membership and to others involved in wetland science, conservation, restoration, and management.
  4. In consultation with the Executive Board, represent SWS in global interactions involving Rights of Wetlands, such as at Conferences of the Parties of the Ramsar Convention and other conferences.
  5. To continue to develop interactions and partnerships with other organizations and groups that are external to SWS who also focus on Rights of Wetlands/Nature. These interactions and collaborations help raise the SWS profile (and interest in joining SWS) as an international wetlands organization, in addition to further developing support for Rights of Wetlands.
  6. SWS involvement in Rights of Wetlands raises the SWS profile at international and national scales, thus supporting Strategic Plan goals to further internationalize the Society and build membership.

The ROW Section supports all of the SWS Strategic Plan Goals, including elements in Goal 1 on Communication, Goal 2 on Education and Research, Goal 3 on Global Reach, and Goal 4 on Membership, other than governance and fundraising components.

We hope you will join the new Section and attend our anticipated symposium (pending approval) at the SWS Annual Meeting in Taiwan!

Interim Section officers are as follows:

Interim Chairperson: Gillian Davies, PWS (SWS Member No. 2181)
Interim Vice Chair: C. Max Finlayson
Interim Secretary: Nick Davidson
Interim Treasurer: Siobhan Fennessy


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