1991: The creation of MedWet.
In February 1991 in the town of Grado, 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 appeal “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, the Portuguese Institute of Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF), the Barcelona and Bern Conventions, WWF-Italy, and the European Commission (EC), among others. A proposal for the first MedWet project was submitted and approved by the EC at the end of 1992. MedWet was granted 6,645.000 Euros 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 five European Union countries (France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain) while also involving various actors from North Africa and the Middle East.
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 to MedWet a long-term collaboration character and guided its work until 2006. During the same year the Ramsar Convention established the Mediterranean Wetlands Committee.
1996-1998: The MedWet2 project.
The MedWet 2 project essentially aimed to extend the MedWet 1 project to five 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. 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 held in Thessaloniki in March 1998 and had participants from 20 countries, three Conventions (Barcelona, Bern, and Ramsar), the EC and seven 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 La Station Biologique de la Tour Du Valat in Camargue, France.
1999: Second Mediterranean Wetlands Committee Meeting
The second MedWet/Com meeting was held 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, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia 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 network 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.
2002: Becoming a Ramsar Regional Initiative and establishing the MedWet Secretariat
MedWet became a formal 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 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 Prespa Park involvement were presented. 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 Third Countries which involved 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 Ramsar COP9. 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.
2006: Establishment of the MedWet Steering Group
An extraordinary meeting of MedWet/Com was hosted by the Albanian Government in Tirana. The MedWet Steering Group was established and held its 1st meeting in Gland, Switzerland.
2007: Eighth Mediterranean Wetlands Committee Meeting
The 8th MedWet/Com meeting was hosted by the Italian Government in Frascati. The TwinMed project, funded by the EC’s DG-Environment, was launched with MedWet providing mentoring and capacity building expertise to institutions in Jordan and Lebanon. The MENASRA project “Dialogue on Water in the Middle East and North African Region”, funded by InWent was launched, with work carried out in Jordan and Morocco.
2008: Ninth Mediterranean Wetlands Committee Meeting
The 9th MedWet/Com meeting was held in Changwon, Republic of Korea, in conjunction with the Ramsar COP10. The proposal for an Observatory of Mediterranean Wetlands was presented as a key priority for the next triennium.
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.
The 10th MedWet/Com meeting was held in Corsica.
The 11th MedWet/Com meeting was held in Bucharest, Romania, in conjunction with the Ramsar COP11.
The Greek Government informed MedWet that unfortunately it was not in a position to continue funding the MedWet Secretariat in Athens. The Secretariat was closed on 31 December 2013. The French Government offered to host the Secretariat within the premises of the Research Centre of La Tour du Valat, in the Camargue. The MAVA Foundation was approached for a bridge grant to replace, during the period 2014-2017, the funding so far provide by the Greek Government. The new MedWet Secretariat was established in France and began to operate in May 2014. Delmar Blasco (Spain), Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention during 1995-2003, was designated as the new MedWet Coordinator.
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, Honorary Member of the MedWet/Com.