Information given by Dr. Taej Mundkur
Wetlands International - South Asia
(Contact details of Dr . Taej Mundkur is available to registered journalists)
The following are updates from recent international meetings in Africa where Avian Influenza got a high profile, given the concerns that the current highly pathogenic strain of H5N1 is feared by some to be a potential source for a human flu pandemic should it mutate to a form that can be spread easily from human to human and since it has already caused the deaths and culling of over 150 million poultry in Asia and Europe.
The meetings included the Conference of Parties (CoPs) of the Wetlands and Migratory Species conventions and a round table discussion.
The 150 Contracting Parties of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar) and over 90 Contracting Parties of the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), including most Asian countries, passed two important resolutions on migratory birds and their habitats, both calling for protection of migratory species and habitat conservation, highlighted the many vectors that are known to spread the disease (poor poultry management, trade, equipment movement and human activities, migratory birds, etc) while highlighting the lack of conclusive evidence to clearly link the spread with movement of birds which have been widely blamed as being the main cause, need for improved and precise information on bird migration patterns, areas of concentration and for global surveillance for the virus in wild birds to support sound decision making and management actions.
1. Ramsar COP9 in Kampala, Uganda, 8-15 November, Resolution IX:23.
The text is as reported on the Ramsar Forum: The delegates at COP9 developed and adopted a Resolution on "Highly pathogenic avian influenza and its consequences for wetland and waterbird conservation and wise use", and because of its timeliness the final text is already available for interested readers on the Ramsar Web site. The final texts of the rest of the 25 Resolutions adopted by the COP will be appearing on the Ramsar Web site later.
2. Round Table on AI, 19 November, in conjunction with the UNEP/CMS COP8 in Nairobi, Kenya
A round table discussion on animal diseases was organized in Nairobi, in conjunction with the CMS COP. The meeting covered a number of presentations on the current state of the AI, knowledge and gaps, and opportunities for modeling the spread to assist risk assessments
3. UNEP/CMS COP8 in Nairobi , Resolution 8.27
The resolution will be available shortly on the CMS website, but in the meantime, the following text is taken from a report published by Earth Negotiations Bulletin on the web http://www.iisd.ca/vol18/enb1827e.html and provides a flavour of the process of finalization of such documents through debate in the plenary and working groups. It also provides the highlights of the resolution.
On Wednesday, Switzerland tabled a draft resolution in the Conference of the Whole (COW), endorsed by the Scientific Council and co-sponsored by France, on migratory species and highly pathogenic avian influenza (UNEP/CMS/Res.8.27) as an emerging issue. COW Chair Payet convened a working group, co-chaired by Reinhard Schnidrig (Switzerland) and Ward Hagemeijer (Wetlands International) that met on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, a revised draft resolution was endorsed by the COW and adopted by the plenary. During discussion on avian influenza, working group participants decided to ask the Scientific Council to examine the role of migratory species in transmitting diseases in general, and to seek cooperation with the CBD to consider using the Clearing-House Mechanism to facilitate risk assessment and reduction. Delegates also agreed to remove from the revised draft resolution reference to specific examples of large-scale monitoring and surveillance programmes, and add reference in the resolution to an annex listing key research needs, including mapping migratory routes and clarifying the virus’ behavior and survival. Switzerland and Australia suggested, and delegates agreed, to delete reference in the preamble to human infection of avian influenza caused “possibly by consumption of” infected poultry.
Final Resolution: In the final resolution (UNEP/CMS/Res.8.27/Rev.1), the preamble stresses that ill-informed responses may have unfortunate and possibly disastrous long-term consequences for conservation, especially for globally threatened species. The COP, inter alia:
- calls for fully integrated approaches, at national and international levels, to address avian influenza and other animal-borne diseases by bringing ornithological, wildlife, and wetland management expertise together with medical and health expertise;
- calls upon parties, non-parties, and national and international organizations, in cooperation with other competent authorities, to support and build capacity for research related to disease processes in migratory birds;
- emphasizes that destruction or substantial modification of wetlands and other habitats with the objective of reducing contact between domesticated and wild birds does not amount to wise use, and may exacerbate the problem by causing further dispersion of infected birds;
- calls on parties and urges non-parties to strictly apply internationally agreed quarantine and health standards for the cross-border transport of bird products and captive birds of all kinds;
- suggests that African parties and non-parties coordinate their responses, particularly through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development;
- urges parties to support the establishment of an internationally or regionally coordinated well-structured long-term monitoring and surveillance programme for migratory birds; and to fill specific gaps in knowledge through provision of support to establish programmes to study migratory patterns of target species at flyway level; and
- requests the Executive Secretary to ensure CMS continued leadership in the Scientific Task Force on Avian Influenza.