Dear friends of AEWA,
As 2020 comes to an end, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on what has turned out to be a rather unusual year. For all of us, no matter where we are on the African-Eurasian Flyway, 2020 is likely to be remembered as the year of the global pandemic. In this regard, my heartfelt condolences go to everyone who has lost someone or has in - some way or the other - been negatively affected by covid-19 over the course of the year.
And yet despite all the challenges we have faced, 2020 has also been a year full of achievements and historic developments for international waterbird conservation.
As many of you know, 2020 marked the 25th Anniversary of AEWA and although covid-19 prevented us from coming together to celebrate this occasion in person, we are grateful for the many supportive messages we received from across the flyway to mark the anniversary of the Agreement. Since the signing of the treaty in The Hague on 16 June 1995, AEWA has grown to become an effective motor for flyway conservation in the African-Eurasian region. The commitment and dedication of AEWA’s Parties and partners alike on both the national and international level have made this Agreement what it is today. Our sincere gratitude goes not only to all our supporters across the flyway, but also specifically to the Netherlands as our depository and Germany as the host country of the Agreement Secretariat.
Despite the pandemic, the AEWA Secretariat has continued to operate at full capacity. Effectively working remotely for a large part of the year, the team and the entire AEWA network have learned to adapt quickly, embracing new methods of communication and the “new art” of running international meetings and events online. Although originally planned to take place in Helsinki, the 5th Meeting of the AEWA European Goose Management International Working Group (EGM IWG5) went ahead for the first time in an online conference format in June and other AEWA events, including several international working group meetings also took place virtually over the course of the year. While nothing can replace the special energy and spirit of AEWA’s traditional face-to-face meetings, we have come to see many great advantages of connecting and conducting our meetings online.
The same could be said with regard to the way World Migratory Bird Day was celebrated around the planet in 2020, with many events in both May and October moving online due to the pandemic – events such as this BirdLife Webinar also clearly showed that despite everything “Birds Connect our World”. In fact, I would argue that the pandemic has also triggered a renewed and growing sense of awareness and appreciation of birds and nature as a whole in many parts of the world - a trend which will hopefully continue and result in a growing political and financial support for biodiversity – including waterbird and wetland conservation in the years to come.
In this regard, I would like to sincerely thank all the governments and institutions that have continued to support the work of AEWA, be it by contributing to the Agreement’s regular budget or through voluntary, or in-kind assistance. Most of the projects and activities to implement the Agreement are financed through such voluntary contributions.
Finally, I would like to use this opportunity to congratulate the European Union Member States for their historic decision to ban the use of lead gunshot in wetlands taken in November 2020. The regulation, which is expected to enter into force in 2021, is in response to the provisions of AEWA and marks one of the greatest conservation achievements in the 25-year history of the Agreement. The ban on lead in wetlands is a truly historic step which will not only help save one million waterbirds each year from poisoning but will also benefit human health and the wider environment for generations to come.
The current crisis the world is facing has shown that human, animal and environmental health are closely connected and strongly influenced by human activities. Ignoring it cost the economy billions, far more than the money invested in nature conservation and the sustainable use of wildlife. The Berlin Principles on One Health adopted in October 2019 deserves to be fully implemented if we want to avoid a new pandemic.
For waterbird conservation, our 8th session of the Meeting of the Parties (AEWA MOP8) in Hungary in October 2021 will be an excellent opportunity to go further. Hopefully, the COP15 of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), will also draw up a new international framework to stem the loss of biodiversity, halt the degradation of ecosystems and adopt a global approach, which will clearly link Biodiversity, climate change and human health.
As this year comes to a close, let us look forward to 2021 with hope and confidence, as a year in which we will continue to build on what we have achieved so far as a community of like-minded nations and individuals, working collaboratively across borders for the benefit of waterbirds and in the true spirit of flyway conservation.
On this note and on behalf of the whole AEWA team, I would like to extend to you and your families our very best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year.
Dr. Jacques Trouvilliez
Tel: +49 228 815 2413