Opening remarks by Mr Klaus Töpfer,
Executive Director of UNEP
Saturday 2 October 2004
Minister Dr Thaksin Shinawatra, Minister of Natural Resources and
Environment Mr Suwit Khunkitti, your Excellencies, distinguished
delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to be with you here in Bangkok for
the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES. Thailand
is a most appropriate host for this major environmental conference.
Rich in biodiversity and economically dynamic, Thailand has an important
regional and global role in ensuring that trade in wildlife is sustainable.
I welcome Thailand's efforts in working alongside ASEAN partners
to strengthen wildlife regulations, and in working with the private
sector and non-governmental organizations through the newly formed
Thailand Conservation Alliance. I am confident that your discussions
here over the next two weeks will draw inspiration from the excellent
facilities that have been made available to us and from the warm
welcome we have received from the Thai people.
There are many reasons why CITES conferences stand out as such
important events on the international environmental calendar. CITES
creates high levels of enthusiasm, excitement and expectations worldwide
because this Convention is practical and has a positive impact on
wildlife, on local communities and on economies. The commitment
to science-based decision-making, the rigorous procedures for updating
the Appendices, and the Secretariat's efforts to engage all stakeholders,
to support capacity-building, enforcement and other aspects of implementation
give this agreement both muscle and real teeth.
But above all, CITES remains as fresh and vigorous as ever because
it is prepared to move with the times. The global environmental
scene has changed almost beyond recognition over the past 30 years
but you, the Parties and observers to CITES, are keeping it relevant
by adapting to these new needs and circumstances.
The World Summit on Sustainable Development confirmed that biodiversity
is a fundamental resource for the sustainable development of humanity.
Without diversity of species and healthy ecosystems the MDG goals
for alleviating poverty and achieving environmental sustainability
cannot be achieved. But to conserve biodiversity resources we must
not only protect vulnerable traded species, we must also mainstream
sustainable management of biological resources into all the major
economic sectors. Here I am talking about forestry, fisheries, agriculture,
health and tourism, for example. This is the message from the Millennium
Development Goals, the WSSD, as well as from the Ecosystem Approach
adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity.
CITES is clearly aware of this need to mainstream conservation
and one of the exciting trends now taking place is the move to list
economically-valuable timber and fish species. I take this as a
sign from Governments that the degradation of oceans and forests
has reached such proportions that all available mechanisms are being
mobilized to deal with it. CITES indeed offers sharply-defined ways
of discouraging the unsustainable harvesting of vulnerable species
of trees, fish and other species whose price tag could otherwise
become their death certificate.
There are of course limitations to what CITES alone can do to ensure
the sustainable management of forest and fish populations. The way
ahead is through partnerships and coordinated action, and I am encouraged
to see these emerging with the Food and Agriculture Organization,
the International Tropical Timber Organization and others. I am
confident that by this means CITES can strongly influence the wider
agenda and help to return our oceans and forests to health.
In highlighting the needs of people who depend for their livelihood
on, for example, the wool of the vicuña or on the skins of
farmed crocodiles, CITES demonstrates the interdependence of human
needs and wildlife conservation. Some such interdependencies are
complex and challenging for CITES. For example, the continuing problem
of bushmeat consumption, where the international trade is dwarfed
by local markets. At least by strengthening protection of our nearest
relatives, the Great Apes, you can demonstrate that such animals
are far more valuable alive than dead. Together with UNESCO, UNEP
is doing all it can to work alongside you through our Great Apes
Survival Project, the subject of a side event that I hope you will
attend next week.
This focus on the species level is a great strength of your Convention.
I believe it is vital for CITES to work alongside the other biodiversity-related
conventions, contributing species knowledge where it is needed,
for example in the implementation of the CBD's Global Strategy for
Plant Conservation. UNEP has been pleased to support, together with
Germany and other partners, an Expert Meeting on Promoting CITES-CBD
Cooperation and Synergy in Vilm, Germany, earlier this year. That
meeting, whose report is before you for consideration, demonstrated
many ways in which the CBD and CITES can and should complement each
other in tackling the global biodiversity crisis.
In implementing new measures for conservation, we must also be
prepared to demonstrate progress towards reducing the rate of loss
of biodiversity. A target date of 2010 has been agreed by all CBD
Parties and reconfirmed by nations at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable
Development, by which time we should know whether we are being successful.
CITES is clearly contributing to this goal, and would perhaps benefit
from recognizing its role and reflecting this contribution more
explicitly in its own work and documentation.
The Ecosystem Approach is fundamental to the work of the CBD. It
means taking action at the level of landscapes and seascapes, and
recognizing that human communities are an integral part of such
ecosystems. It may not be immediately obvious how a species-related
convention can contribute in this way. I believe it would be helpful
if we had more accessible information about the distribution of
CITES-listed species across major ecological regions. Such an analysis
has been started in the World Heritage Convention and is proving
very useful. Threatened and vulnerable ecosystems need flagship
species as champions for their future, and this CITES can provide.
For example, UNEP is deeply concerned for the future of the world's
coral reefs and the people that depend upon them, both in the tropics
and in cold waters. Working with partners in the International Coral
Reef Action Network UNEP and our Regional Seas Programmes we are
implementing a range of activities. I believe there are many opportunities
to link CITES-listed species more explicitly to threatened communities
and ecosystems, thereby building greater understanding of their
It is clear that all of the good work that CITES performs or is
expected to perform comes with a price tag. The Secretariat's budget
proposal calls for a 10 percent increase to enable it to continue
services at the level you, as Parties, have come to expect. We all
realize that pressure on government budgets and competition for
global funds is growing every year. But I know you will agree with
me that CITES and its Secretariat provide great value for money.
Your Strategic Vision adopted in 2000 stressed the need for providing
the Convention with an improved, predictable and secure financial
basis, including a stable flow of financial resources. I urge you
to support the CITES budget as generously as you can and to provide
your contributions in a timely manner.
For our part, we at UNEP are also committed to doing more to support
CITES. Our World Conservation Monitoring Centre has played a key
role in managing your data, and in recent months has invested considerable
resources to build a new electronic data infrastructure for the
CITES community. Parties can now access and analyse millions of
CITES trade records over the Internet. The number of data requests
has increased more than tenfold as a result, and the production
of a CITES Trade Review is now possible, analysing records over
the past 20 years. For the first time since CITES was established,
we can obtain at a glance an overview of the impact that CITES has
in regulating wildlife trade.
Meanwhile, UNEP's Division of Environmental Conventions works actively
to promote synergies amongst the biodiversity-related conventions.
It also provides media and other support services. And our Economics
and Trade Branch is assessing the potential benefits and uses of
economic instruments for biodiversity conservation. As an organization,
UNEP remains committed to achieving and ensuring regular improvements
in the way we administer and service the CITES Secretariat.
Ladies and Gentlemen, in view of the foregoing, it is incumbent
upon all countries and nations of the world to join hands and strengthen
this Convention. I would also wish to call upon those countries
that have not done so to ratify this and other biodiversity-related
Conventions at their earliest opportunity.
With these final words of support and encouragement, I would like
to wish you a productive meeting and an enjoyable stay here in the
great city of Bangkok.