26th Meeting of the CITES Plants Committee: Opening Remarks by CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero

Updated on 05 December 2023


26th Meeting of the CITES Plants Committee

Opening Remarks by CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero

5 June 2023, Geneva, Switzerland


Madame Chair of the Plants Committee,CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero giving opening remarks

Members of the Plants Committee,

Distinguished delegates and participants,

Dear colleagues and friends,

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to the first in-person meeting of the Plants Committee since 2018. 2018 is the year I joined the Secretariat, so it is also the first Plants Committee meeting since I became Secretary-General! It is wonderful to be able to see you here in Geneva in the springtime and celebrate together World Environment Day today!

I wish to begin by congratulating Ms Aurélie Flore Koumba Pambo who has been re-elected as Chair of the Plants Committee. I think she is a bit apprehensive to chair her first in person CITES meeting, but I reckon that chairing remotely is more difficult than chairing in person, so this will be a piece of cake for you, Madame Chair! Congratulations and welcome to our new Vice Chair, Mr Damian Wrigley, and the new committee Members and alternate Members as well as to the nomenclature specialist. You all contribute your precious time, technical expertise and advice to support the implementation of CoP decisions to achieve the aims of the Convention and we are indeed grateful.

And warm welcome to the observers! We have more than 230 participants registered to attend the meeting including 60 observer Parties and 31 observer organizations. The continued interest in the work of the Plants Committee is so encouraging!

2022 was an important year for biodiversity. Aside from our CoP where Parties adopted a record 368 decisions, the IPBES Plenary approved, at its 9th session in July 2022, the IPBES Assessment Report on the Sustainable Use of Wild Species. And, in December 2022, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework or GBF was agreed at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD. So at this meeting, the Plants Committee will review the scientific aspects of the IPBES assessment as well as review the comparative analysis illustrating the linkages between the CITES Strategic Vision and the GBF.

As in the past, the Committee has a packed agenda with 44 items to be discussed. 59 documents have been prepared covering a broad range of issues, including the review of significant trade process that is critical to ensure trade in Appendix II listed species is sustainable.

I will briefly reflect on the significant issues before the Committee:

The discussion on CITES and Forests builds upon the valuable feedback from the last intersessional period. It includes a refined proposal to ensure that any upcoming strategic initiative on CITES and forests is technically and scientifically coherent.

The Secretariat will also share the technical results of the CITES Tree Species Programme that was concluded in November 2022. The focus will be on the scientific aspects of the more than 70 outputs delivered under the CTSP, all aimed to improve CITES implementation.

The item on Cooperation with the Global Plant Conservation Strategy reflects the latest information relating to the process to identify a set of actions related to plant conservation to complement the Kunming-Montreal GBF.

The Committee will also consider progress in the development of new or updated guidance material on non-detriment findings. The Committee will furthermore advise on the need for the revision of identification materials that are essential tools used by Parties daily to implement and enforce the Convention.

Finally, the Committee will consider a broad range of issues ranging from the identification of information on species at risk of extinction affected by international trade…to species specific matters relating to, among others, medicinal and aromatic plants, as well as terms of reference for various studies and projects to be initiated based on CoP19 Decisions. The Committee will furthermore discuss three joint documents on nomenclature matters and 9 documents addressing nomenclature matters relating to specific taxa. This highlights the importance of nomenclature especially for higher taxon listings.

It is indeed a packed programme, and my colleagues have worked hard and spent long hours preparing for this meeting. As always, I ask you kindly to be focused and prioritise. The workload has been steadily increasing through the years, yet we remain a very small Secretariat. I take the opportunity to announce that upon David Morgan’s retirement, Thea Carroll was selected on a temporary appointment as Chief of the Science Unit and Sofie Flensborg has been selected on a temporary appointment as Chief of the Governing Bodies Unit. I am deeply grateful to my entire team for all they do to ensure you have everything you need for your work and that all runs smoothly.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the CITES community is known for its knowledge and passion for conservation. As CITES celebrates its 50th anniversary we highlight the importance of partnerships in achieving the Convention's goals. Our collective success is linked to effective partnerships, and I am certain that the Parties, the committees, the observer organizations and the Secretariat will continue to collaborate and to work towards achieving the goals and objectives of the CITES Strategic Vision.

Thank you for your attention and your hard work, I look forward to a fruitful and pleasant meeting.

Madame Chair, over to you and happy chairing!