Wildlife trade policy
Over the years, many studies and activities regarding wildlife
conservation and management have been undertaken around the
world. Wildlife trade policy reviews offer the Parties to CITES an opportunity to:
1) Prepare a systematic inventory of policy-related information
and activities for the management and conservation of CITES-listed
2) Take stock of the main policy achievements and failures
(what is working and what is not working);
3) Develop indicators and criteria to identify and analyse
the main reasons for those achievements and failures;
4) Consult and involve relevant stakeholders in the evaluation
of policy performance;
5) Empower national authorities by increasing their policy-related
knowledge and skills; and
6) Suggest concrete ways of improving policy effectiveness
and making more rational policy choices.
Not only does a review create a better understanding about the
role each piece of the policy plays in the whole picture, but
it also fits different pieces together in order to form an integrated
policy framework. Presenting this bigger picture serves different
1) it raises awareness about the intricacies of wildlife trade
2) it makes more visible the multidisciplinary dimensions of
wildlife conservation and management;
3) it builds political will for making improvements in policy
content and/or implementation; and
4) it brings potential benefits to countries in environmental,
social, economic, policy and institutional improvements.
This section of the CITES website serves as an entry point for
looking at effective CITES implementation from a ‘wider’
policy perspective. Focusing on the implementation and effectiveness
of CITES-related policy is helpful for understanding the discrepancy
between formal compliance (the ideal world of written law, action
plans, scientific findings, trade moratoria, etc.) and real compliance
(what is actually happening on the ground) with existing policy.
Drafting policy declarations and laws that call for the conservation
of wild animals and plants is easier than ensuring that those
policies and laws are effectively implemented and achieve the
It is therefore crucial that we better understand the nature
of the problem being addressed and the logic behind national wildlife
trade policies adopted to solve that problem. Four key questions
need to be addressed:
1) What are the main elements (the content) of the wildlife
2) What resources are allocated for its implementation?
3) How are people involved?
4) How well is this wildlife trade policy working?
The purpose of a policy review is essentially to answer these
fundamental questions and to then pull all of the resulting pieces
of information together. With this in mind, a ‘wildlife
trade policy review’ involves several steps: a description
of the policy-making context, a description of the policy’s
content; a description of the policy’s operation; an overall
analysis of the policy, including the identification of its biological
and socio-economic impacts; and recommendations as well as plans
for follow-up actions.
The CITES mandate for undertaking work on wildlife trade policy
reviews began in the year 2000, with the adoption of the Strategic
Vision through 2005 (later extended through 2007). Objective
1.1 was to assist in the development of appropriate domestic legislation
and policies that encouraged the adoption and implementation of
social and economic incentives, allied to legal instruments that
promoted and regulated sustainable management of wild fauna and
flora as well as responsible trade, and promoted effective enforcement
of the Convention.
2001, with support from the European Union, a workshop was held
for 11 mega-biodiversity exporting countries in which participants
looked at legal and illegal trade in key exported species and
how CITES contributed to national conservation objectives. The
idea of wildlife trade policy reviews was ‘born’ thereafter
from experience with the CITES National Legislation Project.
At the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES
(CoP12, Santiago, 2002), the Secretariat proposed the organization
of a technical workshop on wildlife trade policies and economic
incentives applicable to the management of and trade in CITES-listed
species. This led to the adoption of Decision
12.22 directing the Secretariat, if external funds were found,
to collaborate with CBD,
WRI and the
in organizing the workshop.
With support provided by Switzerland, a technical
workshop on economic incentives and trade policy was held
in December 2003. Participants included government representatives
from six mega-biodiversity countries, representatives of intergovernmental
organizations and non-governmental organizations, and academics
with expertise in policy and economics.
The results of the workshop (plus a background paper on methodologies
for national trade policy reviews and a scoping paper on individual
transferable quotas for Acipensiformes species in the Caspian
Sea) were presented at CoP13 (Bangkok, 2004). The Secretariat
asked for an extension of its mandate in order to complete other
envisaged activities. This led to the adoption of Decisions
13.74 to 13.77 on wildlife trade policies and economic incentives.
CITES Policy Review Project
During 2005, the CITES Secretariat, UNEP-UNCTAD
Capacity Building Task Force on Trade, Environment and Development
(CBTF) and University of Geneva’s Graduate Institute
for Development Studies (now the Graduate Institute for International
and Development Studies) developed and sought funding for a project
that would allow them, in cooperation with interested Parties,
1) review national policies regarding the use of and trade in
specimens of CITES-listed species; and
2) compile and synthesize the information in a report analysing
the impacts of national policies on trade in CITES-listed species
in terms of socio-economic and conservation benefits and costs.
Financial support for a joint project on enhancing national capacities
to review wildlife trade policies in support of CITES (the CITES
Policy Review Project) was ultimately provided by the CBTF (with
funds provided by the European Union) and the Geneva International
Work under the CITES Policy Review Project began in 2006 with
the establishment of an international steering committee and advisory
group, identification of four pilot countries (Madagascar, Nicaragua,
Uganda and Viet Nam), development of a draft framework for reviewing
wildlife trade policies and planning of social science studies
that would be done in parallel with the reviews.
By early 2007, national steering committees and review teams
for all four pilot countries had been established. A Geneva-based
meeting of the pilot country teams and national consultative workshops
were then held to launch and prepare for undertaking the reviews.
Desk and field studies were conducted at country level and draft
review reports were developed. A working document on the project’s
achievements and the overall value of wildlife trade policy reviews
was prepared by the Secretariat and submitted for consideration
at CoP14 (The Hague, 2007). Representatives of the pilot countries
took the floor during relevant committee discussions to support
continued work on wildlife trade policy reviews. They also described
their experiences with the policy review during a side event.
The Conference of the Parties ultimately adopted Decisions
14.21 – 14.24 which, inter alia, invited exporting
and importing countries to carry out policy reviews and to share
relevant details of the reviews and lessons learned. In addition,
Objective 1.1 of the new CITES
Strategic Vision: 2008-2013, adopted at CoP14, calls
for Parties to comply with their obligations under the Convention
through appropriate policies, legislation and procedures.
In 2008, a Geneva-based meeting of pilot country teams and more
national consultative workshops were held to conclude the review
project, finalize the review reports, provide feedback on the
draft review framework that they had tested and reach agreement
on an outline for the report synthesizing all four national reviews.
While in Geneva, pilot country teams also participated in a side
event held on the margins of the CITES Animals Committee meeting,
where they provided a brief summary of their review findings and
The CITES Policy Review Project has resulted in the following:
Additional information and follow-up
Additional outputs from the CITES Policy Review Project will
be provided in the future and there are plans to establish an
open-ended wildlife trade policy forum on the CITES website. National
and regional follow-up actions are currently underway.