COP13 Dubai Factsheet

The 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP13) – Factsheet


About COP13

The 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP13) will be held in Dubai, UAE from October 21 to 29, 2018 at Festival Arena, Dubai Festival City. The event is hosted by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and sponsored by Dubai Municipality.

Under the theme “Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future”, representatives from governments of Contracting Parties will convene at COP13 to agree on a work programme, budgetary arrangements for the next triennium and consider guidance on a range of ongoing and emerging environmental issues.

Representatives of non-member states, intergovernmental institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also participate in these meetings as non-voting observers.


About the Convention on Wetlands (The Ramsar Convention)

The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

  • Number of Contracting Parties: 170
  • Number of Ramsar Sites to date : 2,301
  • Total surface of designated sites: 225,653,238 ha


Past Ordinary meetings of the Conference of the Contracting Parties:

  • COP1 Cagliari, Italy, 1980
  • COP2 Groningen, Netherlands, 1984
  • COP3 Regina, Canada, 1987
  • COP4 Montreux, Switzerland, 1990
  • COP5 Kushiro, Japan, 1993
  • COP6 Brisbane, Australia, 1996
  • COP7 San José, Costa Rica, 1999
  • COP8 Valencia, Spain, 2002
  • COP9 Kampala, Uganda, 2005
  • COP10 Changwon, Republic of Korea, 2008
  • COP11 Bucharest, Romania, 2012


Key Leadership

  • His Excellency Dr. Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment
  • Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General of Ramsar Convention on Wetlands


The UAE and Ramsar

The UAE has been a member state of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands since 2007, and has designated seven wetland sites onto the List of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), considered to be of high value to the country and to the world because of the ecosystem services they provide. Although the UAE is situated in one of the most arid regions in the world, the wetland ecosystem in the country is one of the most unique and diverse in the Arabian Peninsula. It includes marshes, vast tidal flats, fresh water aquifers, mangroves and coral reefs.


Ramsar Sites in the UAE

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

Located at the end of the 14 km-long Dubai creek within the northern part of the Emirate of Dubai. A rare site in the arid Gulf region, this natural coastal wetland consists of low-lying saline flats, lagoon, intertidal mud and sand flats and mangrove swamps that serve as an important habitat for more than 450 species of fauna and 30species of flora. During winter, it regularly supports more than 20,000 waterbirds belonging to 67 species and acts as a critical staging ground for migratory waterbirds along the East African-West Asian Flyway.

A number of globally threatened species such as the Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius and Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga are seen in the area; more than 3,000 Greater Flamingoes Phoenicopterus ruber have been counted, and more than 1% of the regional population of Broad-billed Sandpipers Limicola falcinellus migrate through in autumn and spring.

Located in the heart of Dubai city, the site receives an average of 10,000 visitors annually and is a valuable conservation and educational center. A visitor center that will serve as the Regional Center for Excellence in Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) is planned with the goal of promoting awareness of wetland ecosystems and wetland management in the Arab region.

Sir Bu Nair Island Protected Area, Sharjah

Located some 110 km from Sharjah, this offshore island has a terrestrial area of 1,333ha. Geologically, the site is a salt dome formed from regional tectonic activities, and is rich in minerals. Despite its small size, the site supports a high biodiversity for the biogeographic region. A total of 40 coral species and 76 reef fish species have been recorded, including seven coral species that are Red Listed as Vulnerable. The site is an important nesting site for the Critically Endangered Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), and supports more than 1% of the regional breeding population of the Sooty gull (Larus hemprichii).

The island is of historical importance as pottery has been found dating back to about 3,500 years ago. It also used to be a meeting point for fishermen and a base for pearl divers. The island was declared as a National Protected Area in 2000 and visits are permitted only for environmental surveys and studies. There is a plan to develop a limited area of the site for commercial tourism.

Wadi Wurayah National Park, Fujairah

The area's geology has created a unique hydrogeological system, that allows run-off water to emerge between impermeable and permeable rock creating fresh water streams, pools and waterfalls, all of which are uncommon in an arid region. The diversity of fresh water habitats provide important spawning ground for fish such as Garra barreimiae (Cyprinidae) which is threatened and endemic to the Arabian Peninsula, including seven newly discovered insect species of which four (Order: Ephemeroptera) have water dependent larval stages.

The site supports 11 threatened species of mammals, such as the Arabian Tahr (Hemitrgus jayakari). In 1978 the total world population of Arabian Tahr was estimated at ca 2000 (Munton,1985), today, the population is estimated to be at least 20 individuals. So far, 73 species of birds such as the endangered Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) have been recorded. The Wadi Wurayah National Park hosts 17 reptile species such as the Bar-tailed Semaphore Gecko (Pristurus celerrimus) and at least two amphibian species, all which are endemic to the UAE and Northern Oman.

The Wadi Wurayah National Park is a rich archaeological site with 29 heritage sites such as, Islamic graveyards, petroglyphs and settlements dating as far as the Iron Age (1,300-500BC).

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, Abu Dhabi

A complex of natural and human-made surface water bodies located approximately 40 km southeast of Abu Dhabi city. Formerly a salt flat ('sabkha' in Arabic) that used to flood only during winter rainfall, it is now maintained by a regular supply of tertiary treated freshwater from a nearby sewage treatment plant. This regulation of the water level results in hypersaline, brackish and freshwater habitat of varying depths, providing an ideal site for many wetland dependent species within a hyper-arid biogeographic region.

The area was declared as a reserve after the first successful breeding of the Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) there in 1998, marking the first known successful breeding of this species in the Arabian Peninsula since 1922. Threatened wildlife can be seen, including the critically endangered Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarious) and the vulnerable Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) and Greater Spotted Eagle (Aquila clanga). The site also regularly supports breeding populations of the Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrines) and Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta). Access to the general public is currently limited to educational tours and bird watching groups; however, a future visitor centre is being planned to encourage tourism.

Al-Zora Protected Area, Ajman

The Site is a protected area covering 195 hectares at the end of the one-kilometre Ajman Creek which flows into the Gulf. It is dominated by mangrove forests but also includes a number of other coastal and inland wetland types such as intertidal mudflats, lagoons and creeks.

Al-Zora Protected Area is recognised as one of the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) in the region; it supports 87 bird species including the vulnerable greater spotted eagle (Aquila clanga) and Socotra cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis). It is also an important area for migrating birds such as the broad-billed sandpiper (Limicola falcinellus), and the greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) in winter.

The Site is significant locally as it is the only protected area and the largest mangrove area in Ajman city and the Emirate of Ajman; and more widely for the species which it supports.

Bul Syayeef, Abu Dhabi

Bul Syayeef is a coastal wetland covering over 14,500 hectares in the west of the Musaffah channel, about 20 kilometres outside Abu Dhabi City. The international importance of the Site is due to its highly diverse wetland habitats including mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass beds, and the large number of species which they host.

Its tidal mudflats are home to over 80 migratory and resident birds. In 2009 it hosted one of the largest breeding events of the greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) with a record of 2,000 breeding pairs and 801 hatchlings. The Site also supports globally threatened species such as the critically endangered hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the endangered green turtle (Chelonia mydas). The greater spotted eagle (Aquila clanga), the Socotra cormorant (Phalacrocorax nigrogularis) and the dugong (Dugong dugon) are all classed as vulnerable.

Potential threats within and around the Site are related to the growth of housing and commercial and industrial areas, transportation and fishing activities.

Khor Kalba Mangrove and Alhafeya Protected Area, Sharjah

Located in the far east of the country near the border with Oman, the site comprises coastal subtidal, intertidal (sand beach, mangroves, mud and tidal channels), supratidal sand, salt marsh and saline flats, as well as encompassing a narrow alluvial plain dominated by Acacia woodland. The Avicennia marina mangrove trees found in Kalba are the tallest and comprise the most extensive mature woodland in the biogeographic region; they provide breeding, nursery and feeding grounds for several fish and invertebrate species, besides protecting the coastline from storm damage and erosion while trapping sediments washed off the land.

The critically endangered Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) and endangered Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) can be observed near the mouth of the mangrove's inlet, entering the creeks at high tide to feed on sea grasses and algae.

The area is of great ornithological interest, and an endemic subspecies, the White-collared Kingfisher Todiramphus chloris kalbaensis, breeds almost exclusively at this site, which is also one of just two breeding localities in the region for Sykes's Warbler Hippolais rama. The management and monitoring of this site is carried out with the involvement of the local residents, and an educational visitor centre is planned.