31st meeting of the Animals Committee: Closing remarks of CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero
Mr. Chair of the Animals Committee,
Members of the Animals Committee,
Distinguished delegates and participants,
Congratulations on the successful meeting of the Animals Committee! This has been a remarkable meeting with an ambitious agenda, and it has been an honour to witness the results of the hard work of the Committee throughout the last few weeks.
We started AC31 on the 31st of May and you have achieved concrete results under the excellent leadership of Mathias Loertscher, who has guided this Committee to a successful conclusion. Thank you, Chair, dear Mathias, for your work not only during this meeting, but over the last two years since CoP18, it is much appreciated.
Throughout the four days in plenary you have deliberated and provided recommendations on 17 different taxa, on cooperation with other organizations, on captive-bred specimens, trade in songbirds and marine ornamental fishes, Banggai cardinalfish conservation and many more.
You also established seven in-session working groups covering eels, marine turtles, sharks, lions, vultures, appropriate and acceptable destinations and zoological nomenclature. The chairs of these working groups, held online for the first time, worked across different time zones and modalities to guide fruitful discussions and substantial outcomes. We are grateful to them, some who bravely chaired multiple working groups: Mathias Loertscher, Dagmar Zikova, Arvin Diesmos, Daniel Ramadori, Hugh Robertson, Panta Kasoma, Peter Paul van Dijk, and Asghar Mobaraki.
Of course, the outcomes would not have been possible without the members of the working groups who gave their time and expertise to ensure that the best scientific advice is underlying CITES decision-making.
We close the 31st meeting of the Animals Committee and the first online Animals Committee with pride, knowing that despite the unusual circumstances and uncertainty that we faced, the Committee has risen to the occasion by providing sound and robust scientific advice to take forward to SC74 and CoP19.
This is thanks to the expertise, dedication, and attention of the members of the AC, Delegates, and participants, which is recognized by all who are associated with CITES. Thank you for volunteering not the usual one week, but a month’s worth of your time and attention. I always underline the fact that you give your time voluntarily in addition to your "day jobs", and your commitment to the Convention is laudable.
We are also grateful to the US for their kind contribution of $40,000 the saiga and and $20,000 for the songbirds work. I will mention here again, for those who did not participate in the join AC-PC meeting, our sincere gratitude to the German Government for their pledge to support the NDF work, estimated around €600,000. With this contribution and the $162,000 from the EU and the $27,000 from the Swiss year contribution we believe there will be enough funding for the preparatory work and the envisaged NDF workshop.
We also close with sadness as this is the last Animals Committee meeting that our dear colleague Tom De Meulenaer will be servicing as part of the CITES Secretariat. He will be retiring at the end of this year. Tom has dedicated 10 years to leading the scientific work of the Secretariat and is leaving us, and the Convention, with an admirable legacy. I wish to highlight to you how Tom adapted wonderfully in these months of the pandemic to ensure that your work could continue, with creativity and an innovative approach with the support of his small team. This is in addition to implementing the large programme of work assigned to his team and working closely with our partners on many projects. Thank you, Tom, for your service and dedication, you will be missed by all of us, and most especially by the members of your team!
Finally, thanks to my dedicated and hard-working Secretariat team who have been stretched, sometimes beyond their limits and under difficult personal circumstances. I thank also the interpreters and Kudo for their great support. I hope to see all of you in person at the next meeting of the Animals Committee. Thank you, Mr Chair.
Watch the Secretary-General's remarks and the full final session of the 31st meeting of the Animals Committee on this link.