Casting the first BRICS: Towards an interpretation of the Ramsar Convention favouring Citizen Science in the Multilateral Environmental Agreement for wetland management




BRICS, Citizen Science, Multilateral Environmental Agreement, Ramsar Convention


BRICS has agreed to focus on promoting wetland protection, restoration and wise use in its multilateral environmental agreement (MEA) under its agenda of “Advancing environmental cooperation amongst BRICS towards the attainment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. This paper will advance an argument that the MEA must incorporate measures of citizen science (CS) to attain the agenda’s aspirations and comply with the Ramsar Convention, specifically with a view on wetland management and the law. There is no express provision or obligation to exercise or consider CS in the wording of the Ramsar Convention. To prevent a blanket statement of “no express provision”, Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969 (VC) makes provision for the “Interpretation of Treaties”. The interpretative measures include, among others, “object and purpose”, “any agreement relating to the treaty”, and “any rules of international law”. Therefore, to prove the hypothesis, this contribution applies Article 31 of the VC provisions to show that (1) there is an integral relationship between CS and wetland protection; (2) that the “object and purpose” of the Ramsar Convention promotes CS; (3) there is evidence of CS in terms of “any agreement relating to the treaty”; and that (4) the “any rules of international law” relative to the Ramsar Convention is geared towards CS. The findings show sufficient evidence that the Ramsar Convention supports an interpretation in favour of CS, albeit old (1971) in vintage. New MEAs, this one by BRICS, create the opportunity for rejuvenating these MEAs by including factors such as CS to establish legal certainty.