The Ramsar List has been established in accordance with Article 2.1 of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) which states:
Each Contracting Party shall designate suitable wetlands within its territory for inclusion in the List of Wetlands of International Importance, hereinafter "the list", which is held by the Bureau established under Article 8.
The wetlands are included in the List acquire a new status at the national level and in the eyes of the international community take on a significance not only for the country or the countries where they are located but also for all humanity.
The Convention states: "The selection of wetlands for inclusion on the list should be based on their international significance in terms of ecology, botany, zoology, limnology or hydrology". Over the years, the Conference of the Parties adopted more specific criteria for interpreting the text of the Convention, and a description of Ramsar wetlands and Classification System for Wetland Type.
Resolution VII.7, adopted by the Conference of the Parties in May 1999, entitled Strategic Framework and guidelines for the future development of the List of Wetlands of International Importance contains everything related to the Ramsar List.
The Strategic Framework is based entirely on this "Vision for the Ramsar List":
- Develop and maintain an international network of wetlands which are important because of the ecological and hydrological functions they perform for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life.
- The Convention set itself the goal to put on the Ramsar List, the largest possible number of wetlands around the world, meet the criteria of international importance; Short term, it's about having scored at least 2000 sites by 2005, nearly double the current number. To achieve this objective, the Convention urges all States that have not yet done so to join its ranks and redouble efforts to implement, within each country, the systematic approach adopted in the context of the Strategic Framework.
- All data provided by the Parties on each Ramsar site are recorded in the Ramsar Sites Database maintained by Wetlands International under contract with the Convention.
The Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University (United States), has prepared a portal for information on Ramsar Wetlands, a diverse database, multidisciplinary and multi-level, including graphics data , spatial and tabular with common search engine access.