The Ramsar Convention's criteria for the identification of wetlands of international importance (Ramsar sites) and its associated guidance have been widely influential, not only in the selection of Ramsar sites, but also in the development of similar criteria to identify internationally or nationally protected areas for biodiversity through other processes. Over 50 years there has been a conceptual broadening of the scope of the criteria from an initial focus on waterbirds, as well as progressive development of interpretive guidance, allowing meaning and interpretation to develop to support criteria that have been unchanged since 2005. However, establishing criteria based on the provision of cultural or socioeconomic ecosystem services for humans, although regularly discussed at recent conferences of parties, remain unresolved, with opposing views among contracting parties. A pragmatic way forward may be to establish a status 'badge' or attribute that acknowledges the value of a Ramsar site to human communities, distinct from the site selection criteria. Allowing parties themselves to 'award' this status to appropriate sites would give flexibility for differential national uptake, perhaps being more frequently applied by some parties than others.