Coastal wetlands and ecologically associated habitats, are of critical importance as nature-based solutions to the climate crisis; they protect coastal communities from sea level rise, they reduce disaster risk in the face of climate change-exacerbated extreme weather events and provide blue carbon storage. They also provide an effective connection between terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and a wide range of other ecosystem services, including fisheries, other natural products, recreation and tourism, and purification of water and air. Finally, they are often integrally linked to the livelihoods and wellbeing of local communities and provide essential economic opportunities for local people.
These ecosystems are also vital to the survival of many migratory species, such as waterbirds, that ecologically connect nations and continents. Indeed, as all seas are connected, coasts are the most internationally-shared ecosystems. The challenges and opportunities of managing them sustainably are similar the world over.
Despite their extreme importance, coastal ecosystems, including wetlands, are often poorly conserved, in part due to fragmented governance. In the face of sea level rise and other climate change effects, as well as rapidly declining biodiversity, there has never been a more urgent need for concerted actions from government agencies, business and other stakeholders to conserve these habitats, ensuring that any use of them is sustainable.
In recognition of this, resolutions/decisions of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS, 2017), Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (2018), Convention on Biological Diversity (2018) and IUCN (2020) have called for establishment of a multistakeholder global coastal forum that brings together key actors to facilitate the protection, management and restoration of these habitats.
To help answer this call, a range of informal consultations and meetings organised by various international NGOs with government agencies, conventions and experts has taken place since 2017 to find more effective means of providing science- and evidence-based processes to support and upscale local, national and international conservation efforts.
An International Advisory Meeting on the World Coastal Forum held on Jan 10, 2022 in Yancheng City, Jiangsu Province, China with global online participation of government agencies, conventions, international NGOs and experts, agreed to establish a "World Coastal Forum (WCF)". The meeting was hosted by the People’s Republic of China’s Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and Jiangsu Provincial People’s Government.
The WCF is foreseen to be an international, multi-stakeholder platform to catalyse, facilitate and upscale local and national coastal conservation efforts including to:
- · Collect, share and disseminate evidence and expertise, including international best practices, for the conservation, management and restoration of coastal wetland ecosystems.
- · Promote and encourage coordinated, concerted and cooperative implementation of priority actions at an international scale.
- · Support capacity building including through mentoring, site twinning and networks of demonstration sites, especially in developing countries.
- · Enhance communication, education and public awareness, including youth engagement, on the value and conservation of coastal wetland ecosystems.
The WCF will identify ways of working in synergy with the various existing international initiatives including those of the global conventions.
A voluntary, informal World Coastal Forum Establishment Group (WCFEG) will function to develop the institutional framework and Terms of Reference of the WCF. The aim is to launch the WCF at the Ramsar COP14 in Wuhan, China, in November 2022.