Ecological character and wise use are central tenets underpinning the Ramsar Convention’s global wetland ambitions. In this paper, we postulate that, given on-going and progressive degradation and destruction of wetlands, these concepts require reframing. So as to overcome the human–nature dualism, which underpins current wetland conservation, we propose that wetlands need to be placed within a social–ecological framing that can accommodate a plurality of worldviews and value systems. This reframing broadens the definition of wetland ecological character and replaces it with a more inclusive and comprehensive term ‘wetland character’. Wise use, consequently, becomes maintenance of wetland character. Further considerations on maintaining wetland character under this construct are presented.