It began with the International Symposium on “Managing Mediterranean wetlands and their birds” organized by the then International Waterfowl Research Bureau (IWRB), now Wetlands International, held in February 1991 in the small Italian town of Grado. The event showcased a dramatic loss and degradation of wetlands in all parts of the Mediterranean region and the insufficiency of the existing conservation and management efforts on the national and local levels to remedy the situation. The need for increasing international collaboration and cooperation was clearly presented during the symposium. MedWet was conceived at that very moment as an implementation mechanism of the symposium’s declaration, an entity that would also have an intergovernmental collaboration character.
“MedWet Forum: The concept of concerted action to save the wetlands of the Mediterranean was born in the heated discussions of the Grado Symposium. During the months that followed, a unique spirit of collaboration between international bodies, national governments and NGOs developed. As a result, we have the Mediterranean Wetlands Forum, known as MedWet […]”, wrote C. Max Finlayson, a wetland ecologist and the director of the Institute for Land Water and Society at Charles Sturt University (Australia).*
During the Pan-Mediterranean Wetland Conference (Venice, June 1996), at informal gatherings, the future of MedWet was debated. It was clear that MedWet had to be placed under the aegis of an existing organisation, which would ensure its legitimacy and continuity. That was the case when the Ramsar Convention officially recognised MedWet as a Regional Initiative in 2002, serving as a model for regional collaboration on wetlands. At that time, the MedWet Secretariat was established in Athens, Greece, with the generous support and funding of the Greek Government.
“The creation of a forum within which national administrations, international bodies, NGOs, specialised wetland centres and personalities could equitably put forward their interest, contributions and passion for the wise use of Mediterranean wetlands, within the wider framework of sustainable development, is more thant one would have expected when it all started. And this is why MedWet has gained, and continues to gain, a high esteem and recognition in the region and worldwide”, said Mr. Spyros Kouvelis, former MedWet Coordinator (2001-2007).
Find out more in the history of MedWet here.
Some of the information in this brief description of the MedWet birth originated from the book “Regional Action for wetlands: The Mediterranean experience 1991-2002” written by Mr. Thymio Papayannis, Honorary Member of the MedWet/Com.
You can find this book in PDF on this link.
* In January 1992, C. M. Finlayson wrote in the Mediterranean Wetland News, a fact sheet prepared by MedWet and distributed with the IWRB Newsletter.