Monday, March 07, 2011

Politics Meets Conservation at Ramsar Wetland Memorial Conference

UK charge d’affaires, Swedish ambassador impolite. The British charge d’affaires and the Swedish ambassador participating in the world forum on wetland in Tehran did not stand up upon the arrival of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Everyone stood up as a sign of politeness when the president entered the hall except the British charge d’affaires and the Swedish ambassador. "(Shargh, March 7, 2011)
This happened at the Global Forum on Wetlands for the Future on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in Teheran, March 5-6, 2011.

There is another side of the story from insiders. When the president arrived, everybody got up, including the ambassador (not chargé d'affaires) of Britain and Sweden as was protocol. After the president moved to the lecture desk, everybody sat down. However when he left his position, most people tended to stand up and then sit down again, although not the two ambassadors who wondered why everybody was standing and sitting again at regular intervals. Since the speaker wasn't the biggest in stature, the explanation of this up and down movement was just because people wanted to see him.

Switzerland, the host country of the Ramsar Convention Secretariat, was not involved. The Swiss government decided not even to send a delegation or representative to this celebration.

From the sidelines, I wonder about the very passive attitude regarding biodiversity conservation of the Swiss government. Though there was some movement from within the Swiss science community to host the secretariat of the IPBES in Switzerland, which would complement not only Swiss science activities but profit from synergies with other similar organizations in and around Geneva, the respective federal agency took a very passive stand. This follows the absence of Switzerland in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), where a membership so far has been considered too costly. Switzerland is a center of global biodiversity when the importance of its scientific collections are considered, and should be a leader in opening up this extremely valuable resource.


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