Partnerships with the private sector: Water

Ramsar / Danone / Evian

Ramsar and the Danone Evian Fund

For nearly 10 years, a mineral water bottler on the French shores of Lake Geneva has been supporting the main international treaty protecting wetlands of international importance. This public-private partnership has enabled Ramsar to produce its World Wetlands Day information materials, provide educational support, hold meetings for wetland managers and build international expertise.

Pocket calendars, a game and prizes, even a «fold-your-own» paper fish, have helped spread the word for Ramsar with commercial support

Dwight Peck, Communications Officer, Convention on Wetlands

In January 1998 the Secretary General of the Convention on Wetlands (also known as Ramsar after the Iranian city where it was launched in 1971) signed an agreement with the Danone Group, one of the world's leaders in the food products industry, and its subsidiary the Evian Mineral Water Company of Evian, France. This established the «Evian Project» of support for the Convention's work in promoting the sustainable use of wetlands and water resources. For nearly ten years since that time, Danone has contributed 250,000 Swiss francs a year to the Convention Secretariat's communications, education, and public awareness initiatives. In February 2007, a renewed programme of joint activities was agreed for 2007-2010.

The programme has three chief elements as presently defined. The first focuses on promoting the Ramsar Convention and its «wise use» objectives throughout the world. Since 1997 the Danone Evian Fund has financed World Wetlands Day materials - posters, stickers, leaflets and brochures, animations and videos, pocket calendars, even do-it-yourself fish - that the Secretariat has designed and distributed free of charge to government agencies and citizens groups who celebrate 2 February in over 90 countries every year. This annual event provides the opportunity for all sectors of society to raise public awareness of wetland values and benefits in general and the Ramsar Convention in particular. The growth of participation and enthusiasm for WWD has been remarkable. All materials are produced in the Convention's three official languages - English, French, and Spanish - and distributed along with the original design files, which in many countries have been amended and produced in local languages, too.

Another important part of this element is the development of educational tools for young people and the larger public, for example the «Ramsar Game». Circulated in a test version through UNESCO, it is now being reprinted for wider distribution. Several countries have expressed an interest in customizing and translating the game questions into additional languages.

Support for Ramsar has given a mineral water company a concrete way to show its concern for pure water.

Ramsar Wetland Conservation Awards have been bestowed every three years since 1999 as part of the ceremonies of the Conferences of the Parties (COPs), each time with individual awards in three categories: wetland management, wetland science, and wetland education. Each of the three awards, at each of the three COPs so far, has been accompanied by the «Evian Special Prize» of US$ 10,000, contributed by the Danone Group.

The second element of the programme involves promoting wetland wise-use actions on the ground, creating a network of wetland managers throughout the world by facilitating the exchange of knowledge and sharing of best practices. To this end, the Evian Fund has provided funding for a hands-on training workshop in Papua New Guinea, and for technical meetings on «closed sea deltas», high mountain wetlands, and ecotourism at Crane Network sites, among other themes, and has allowed the Secretariat to ensure that Ramsar authorities in the developing world are equipped with adequate computer and Internet resources to carry out their work under the Convention.

The third element helps build a network of international expertise on wetland and water-related themes, and so far this has most prominently been carried out through a series of «Evian Encounters», appropriately meeting in Evian, France, for policy-makers and administrative and scientific personnel in targeted regions. So far there have been Evian Encounters for the Neotropical region, francophone Africa, anglophone Africa, Arabic-speaking countries, Himalayan and Mekong River countries, and countries of the Carpathian mountain region. In addition, the Fund has assisted in the establishment of the «Ramsar Information Centre and the Pré Curieux Water Garden» in Evian, France, on the shores of Lac Léman, with the collaboration of the town of Evian and the semi-governmental Conservatoire du Littoral.

The public-private partnership between the Convention on Wetlands and the Danone Group has been extraordinarily beneficial for the Convention in helping to spread its message in ways that would otherwise have been impossible. On the other side, Danone and Evian can give a tangible form to their concern for the conservation of sources of pure water. This symbiotic relationship now continues and develops for another four years.