1991: The creation of MedWet.
In February 1991 in the town of Grado, in Italy, the International Waterfowl & Wetlands Research Bureau (IWRB), now Wetlands International, organised an International Symposium on “Managing Mediterranean Wetlands and their Birds”. The main output of the conference was the strong need “To stop and reverse the loss and degradation of Mediterranean Wetlands”. MedWet was conceived as an implementation mechanism of the symposium’s declaration, an entity that would also have an intergovernmental collaboration character.

1991-1992: Laying the foundations.
Many actors showed a strong interest and support for the launching of MedWet, including the Italian and Greek Ministries of Environment, ICN the Portuguese Institute of Nature Conservation, the Barcelona and Bern Conventions, WWF Italy, the EC, among others. A proposal for the first MedWet project was submitted and approved by the EC at the end of 1992. MedWet was given 6,645 million by the EC in addition to contributions from the other project participants, like Portugal and Spain, the Ramsar Bureau, Tour Du Valat, IWRB and WWF.

1992-1996: The MedWet1 project.
The MedWet1 project aimed at developing methods and tools that would be specific to the Mediterranean, initially involving 5 EU countries (Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Greece) while also involving various actors from North Africa and the Middle East. The project was led initially by a Steering Committee chaired by the EC and then the Ramsar Bureau. The Coordination Group was chaired by Thymio Papayannis and the Secretariat was provided by WWF Italia, hosted inside the Italian Ministry of Environment.

1996: The Mediterranean Wetlands Strategy.
The Mediterranean Wetlands Conference, held in June 1996 in Venice, Italy, gave the opportunity to present and endorse the Mediterranean Wetlands Strategy. This Strategy gave MedWet a long-term collaboration character and guided its work for years to come (until 2006).  During the same year the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, under whose guidance the MedWet Initiative had been developed, established the Mediterranean Wetlands Committee. Its role was to review and guide the MedWet Wetlands Strategy and its implementation to this day.

1996-1998: The MedWet2 project.
The MedWet 2 project essentially aimed to extend the MedWet 1 project to 5 non-EU countries: Albania, Algeria, Croatia, Morocco and Tunisia. This 1.1 million euros project was funded by the EC’s “LIFE Third Countries” programme and was managed by the Ramsar Bureau, the technical partners of MedWet and the 5 selected countries. A innovative aspect of this project was the inclusion of a new component of wetland management and the socio-economic aspects of wetlands, which has been a major focus of MedWet’s work to this day.

1997: The first MedWet Secretariat
A new MedWet Secretariat was established in EKBY in Thessaloniki, Greece, with funds provided by the Greek government. WWF International provided the Ramsar Bureau with the necessary funds to appoint a MedWet Coordinator for 1997 and 1998, while the MAVA foundation did the same for 1999 and 2000.

1998: First Mediterranean Wetlands Committee Meeting
The first MedWet/Com meeting was hosted in Thessaloniki in March and had participants from 20 countries, 3 conventions (Barcelona, Bern, Ramsar), the EC and 7 NGOs and wetland centres. The MedWet Team was established to serve as the technical backbone of the Initiative, which consisted of the MedWet Coordinator and three wetland centres: EKBY in Greece, SEHUMED in Valencia, Spain and Le Station Biologique de la Tour Du Valat in Camargue, France.

1999: Second Mediterranean Wetlands Committee Meeting
 The second MedWet/Com meeting was hosted in Valencia in February 1999. In the same year, the MedWet-Coast project also launched, with funding of 15.5 million USD. The project focused on coastal wetlands of Albania, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Morrocco and the Palestinian Authority, with capacity building activities  that reinforced local and national institutions, using tools developed by MedWet.

2000: Third Mediterranean Wetlands Committee Meeting
The 3rd meeting of the MedWet/Com was held on the island of Djerba in Tunisia in April 2000 and the participation exceeded 100 people. Thymio Papayannis decided to leave his post as MedWet Coordinator, which he had held for the past 10 years. The Technical Meeting was entitled “Cultural aspects of Mediterranean wetlands and their potential contribution to the sustainable use of wetland resources”. That was the first meeting in which the cultural values of wetlands were considered and discussed and MedWet was mandated to facilitate and promote this aspect of wetlands.

2001 : Fourth Mediterranean Wetlands Committee Meeting
 The 4th MedWet/Com meeting was hosted by the Portuguese government in Sesimbra, a coastal town close to the Sado estuary. The meeting urged MedWet to actively netwrok and benefit from the Memorandum of Cooperation signed between The Ramsar and barcelona Conventions. The Technical Session was on  Mediterranean salinas: tradition and sustainable use. MedWet.

2002: Becoming a Ramsar Regional Initiative and establishing the MedWet Secreteriat
MedWet became a formal inter-regional structure for the implementation of the Ramsar Convention (Resolutions VII.22 and VIII.30), serving as a model for regional collaboration on wetlands. The MedWet Secretariat was established in Athens, Greece, with the generous support and funding of the Greek government. The Secretariat is still housed in Villa Kazouli in the Northern suburb of Kifissia till this day. The MedWet Coordinator selected at the time was Spyros Kouvelis, who stayed in the post until 2007.

2003: Fifth Mediterranean Wetlands Committee Meeting
The 5th MedWet/Com meeting was hosted by the Turkish government in the coastal town of Izmir. MedWet activities and projects like the Hutovo- Blato and the Prespes Park involvement was presented by Mr Spyros Kouvelis, the Coordinator at the time. The Committee urged the further collaboration of the MedWet Initiative with the Mediterranean Action Plan of the Barcelona Convention. The Technical session  was on “Wetlands, agriculture and water use interactions”.

2004: Sixth Mediterranean Wetlands Committee Meeting
The 6th MedWet/Com meeting was hosted by the Algerian government in the coastal town of Tipaza.  A major achievement at the time was the launching of the North African Wetlands Network (NAWN) project coordinated by MedWet and funded by the EC’s LIFE 3rd Countries which involved the countries of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. The technical session discussed ‘The status of Mediterranean Wetlands: current assessments and future priorities’.

2005: Seventh Mediterranean Wetlands Committee Meeting
The 7th MedWet/Com meeting was held in Kampala, Uganda in conjunction with the Ramsar Convention’s 9th COP. The MedWet project “CODDE – MedWet information and knowledge network for the sustainable development of wetland ecosystems” was launched with funding from the EU’s Interreg IIIC programme. Ms Aspasia Dimizas was hired as a Programme Development Officer in the MedWet Secretariat.

2006: Creation of the MedWet Steering Group
An extraordinary meeting of MedWet/Com was hosted by the Albanian government in Tirana. Also, the MedWet Steering Group was created and held its 1st meeting in Gland, Switzerland. The Steering Group is one of the entities of MedWet  that operates between the Mediterranean Wetlands Committee meetings and is responsible for making operational decisions and resolving issues identified during the implementation of the Mediterranean Wetlands Committee decisions.

2007: Eighth Mediterranean Wetlands Committee Meeting
The 8th MedWet/Com meeting was hosted by the Italian government in Frascati. That year three MedWet Steering Group Meetings took place the 2nd one in Rome and the 3rd and 4th in Frascati, Italy. The TwinMed project, funded by the EC’s DG-Environment, was launched with MedWet providing mentoring and capacity building expertise to the countries of Lebanon and Jordan. Also, the MENASRA project “Dialogue on Water in the Middle East and North African Region”, funded by InWent was launched, with work focusing on the countries of Morocco and Jordan.

2008: Ninth Mediterranean Wetlands Committee Meeting
The 9th MedWet/Com meeting was held in Changwon, Republic of Korea, in conjunction with the Ramsar Convention’s COP10. The proposal for an Observatory of Mediterranean Wetlands is presented as a key priority for the next triennium. It is a cross cutting project that brings together the assesment, inventory and integrated management of  Mediterranean Wetlands.  The 5th and 6th MedWet Steering Group meetings took place in Athens, Greece, hosted by MedWet. Finally, Mr. Adnan Budieri, a Jordanian national with over 18 years of experience in environmental management focusing on wetland, coastal zone and marine management, was appointed MedWet Coordinator and held the post until 2009.

The 7th MedWet Steering Group meeting took place in Athens, Greece, hosted by MedWet. Since June 2009 Mr Nejib Benessaiah previous Senior Policy Advisor was appointed Interim MedWet Coordinator. He holds the post to this day.

Some of the information in this brief description of the history of MedWet originated from the book “Regional Action for wetlands: The Mediterranean experience 1991-2002” written by Mr. Thymio Papayannis, Senior MedWet Advisor. A copy of this book can be obtained upon request (e-mail lily@medwet.org).