32nd Meeting of the CITES Animals Committee: Opening Remarks by CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero

Updated on 05 December 2023


32nd Meeting of the CITES Animals Committee

Opening Remarks by CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero

19 June 2023, Geneva, Switzerland


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

Members of the Animals Committee,

Distinguished delegates and participants,

Dear colleagues and friends,

Warm welcome to all of you, it is wonderful to see you gathered here today! This is the first meeting of the Animals Committee since the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES in Panama last year, and the first in-person meeting of the Animals Committee since 2018. This has been the longest that the Animals Committee has not met in person, and it is wonderful to be able to meet here in Geneva after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Firstly, warm congratulations to Mathias Lörtscher who has been re-elected as Chair of the Animals Committee. May I ask you to confirm his re-election by acclamation for the records. His deep knowledge of CITES and national level experience benefits us all. Mathias has done a brilliant job leading the Animals Committee through difficult times between CoP18 and CoP19; forging ahead to deliver on the Committee’s mandate despite the challenges we faced and we are all grateful to you, Chair.

I would also like to congratulate and welcome new committee Members and alternate Members as well as the nomenclature specialist who was re-elected. May I ask again that you confirm these re-elections by acclamation. To the new and existing members, I thank you for committing your time, contributing your scientific and technical expertise and generously providing advice to support the decisions adopted by the CoP. Your dedication and expertise are vital in fulfilling the purpose of the Convention.

A word of welcome to Party observers and intergovernmental and non-governmental observers as well. We are delighted to share that we have more than 350 participants registered to attend the meeting. This includes 67 observer Parties and 66 observer organizations.   

As we celebrate today being together in Geneva, I have some sad news to share with you. Dr Thomas Althaus, CITES Animals Committee Chair from 2003 to 2009, has passed away a few days ago. Dr Althaus was head of the Swiss CITES Management Authority for many years and represented the European region as alternate member and member between CoP10 and CoP 15. He was elected as Chair of the Animals Committee in 2002 and chaired six Animals Committee meetings between CoP12 and CoP15. Let us please observe a minute of silence to relay our sympathy to his friends and loved ones. May he rest in peace.

Ladies and gentlemen, 2022 was an important year for biodiversity as in-person international negotiations and processes resumed. In addition to CoP19 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 the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework or GBF in December 2022. The Animals Committee has a crucial role in reviewing the scientific aspects of the IPBES assessment report and the Secretariat’s comparative analysis to illustrate the linkages between the CITES Strategic Vision and the  GBF.  

The Committee has a packed agenda with 50 items to be discussed with 55 documents covering a wide range of terrestrial and aquatic species.

The agenda includes both the review of significant trade process that is critical to ensure trade in Appendix II listed species is sustainable and the review of trade in animal specimens reported as produced in captivity. There are also matters relating to regulation of international trade that require scientific inputs and advice.

In the next days the Committee will consider progress made in the implementation of decisions relating to 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 on a daily basis to implement and enforce the Convention.

In terms of species conservation and trade, the Committee will consider a broad range of issues relating to birds (west African vultures and songbirds), terrestrial fauna including amphibians, pangolins, African lion and leopard and saiga antelope, and aquatic species such as eels, shark and rays, queen conch and marine ornamental fishes.  

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 - the Parties, our scientific committees, observer organizations and the Secretariat must continue to collaborate and to work towards achieving the goals and objectives of the Convention as agreed in the CITES Strategic Vision.

My deepest gratitude to the wonderful Secretariat team who work tirelessly to ensure you have good documents and good meeting preparations. I wish you a very successful meeting.  Mr Chair, the floor is yours.