Gorssel, The Netherlands, in December 2010 - Reminding you all - but now for the last time! - more than a decade has passed since the first Meeting of the Parties (MOP) of AEWA in Cape Town, South Africa. It was there that the Dutch Government, the AEWA Interim Secretariat and Wetlands International (WI) held preliminary discussions on a possible GEF project to support AEWA activities. That meeting gave rise to the now widely known Wings Over Wetlands (WOW) project. Since its inception in 2006 the WOW project has been making remarkable progress in changing the conservation landscape for migratory waterbirds, throughout the African-Eurasian region.
The project has absolutely turned a vision into reality. Its comprehensive Flyway Training Kit (FTK), released in 2010, is serving as a resource for both site managers and policy makers alike. From all over the world, very positive reactions have reached the WOW Team. The latest training programme making full use of the FTK, was conducted in October 2010 with great success and effect in Kazakhstan.
French and Russian translations of the FTK have been prepared and there are good opportunities to obtain sufficient resources to start a long-term training programme in the whole AEWA region. WOW also launched in 2010 a state-of-the-art online portal - the Critical Site Network (CSN) Tool - for better flyway planning and management.
But perhaps WOW’s greatest success has been the high level of cooperation and partnership in its multi-institutional and international team working at all levels of the project and across Africa and Eurasia. Across the African-Eurasian region, national governments have highlighted the importance of flyway-scale conservation as the only meaningful way to protect waterbirds across their diverse habitats. WOW’s success has set the wheel in motion for flyway collaboration within the AEWA region.
Throughout the course of 2010 an independent expert has evaluated in detail all aspects of the project and concluded that it has achieved almost all its original aims and goals be it that there are of course several lessons to be learned as well.
The four main partners in the WOW project have provided the outside world a strong signal that this successful partnership is to be continued by signing a formal Memorandum of Cooperation on 14 June 2010 in The Hague, the Netherlands, on the occasion of the 15th Anniversary of AEWA.
It is therefore very promising that in 2010 the Dutch and German governments took concrete steps to support the coming years’ activities in the East Atlantic Flyway making use of the arrangements in this renewed partnership and using and promoting for instance the ‘products’ of the WOW project. This stepping-up of activities is strongly stimulated by the decision of UNESCO to designate the Dutch and German part of the international Wadden Sea as a World Heritage Site; a well deserved status for one of the largest and most critical waterbird sites within the AEWA region.
With the WOW project ending on 31 December 2010, I have stepped down as the Chair of the Steering Committee. It has been a great pleasure and privilege to work with all involved and bring the project to a successful end.
I indeed sincerely hope that the foundations laid by this initiative and the new partnership will further strengthen and increase collaboration and allow for new long-term partnerships between all those dedicated to the implementation of the flyway approach in the African-Eurasian region.
Dr. Gerard C. Boere
Steering Committee Chair
Wings Over Wetlands (WOW)
UNEP-GEF African-Eurasian Flyways Project
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