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CITES Animals and Plants Committees complete first-ever online meetings with record attendance
Geneva, 24 June 2021 – Between May 31 and June 24 2021, the CITES scientific advisory bodies held their first-ever online meetings, exceeding previous participation records to tackle a substantial agenda during the 31st meeting of the Animals Committee and the 25th meeting of the Plants Committee.
With over 600 delegates representing 86 Parties to CITES and more than 250 representatives of over 100 observer organizations, these online meetings were the most heavily attended in the history of the two bodies.
Based on the mandates given to them at the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP 18) in 2019, committee members and observers discussed the conservation and trade status of select species and sought to address scientific and technical issues relating to trade in CITES-listed wildlife. They also provided advice on broader issues such as the relationship between the Convention and the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD), and specialized bodies or organizations like the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
The month-long marathon meetings started with plenary sessions on 31 May and 1 June for the Animals Committee, and on 2 and 3 June for the Plants Committee, with a joint session of the Committees taking place on 4 June.
These plenary discussions saw Committee members establish 20 in-session working groups to address species-specific matters or more technical issues such as nomenclature or CITES processes for formulating non-detriment findings (NDFs).
Animals Committee working groups discussed lions, eels, vultures, marine turtles and sharks and rays, while Plants Committee members deliberated on rosewoods, frankincense, orchids, and medicinal and aromatic plants, among others.
The technical committee reconvened in plenary from 21 to 24 June to conclude their debates and confirm their recommendations. These will serve to inform the decision-making of the CITES Standing Committee and of all Parties, ahead of the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which is scheduled to take place in 2022.
CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero said: "We are very grateful to all committee members, observer Parties and non-Party observers for their hard work despite the pandemic crisis. Participants managed to tackle a heavy agenda, showing great flexibility by adapting to this new online format and sharing their specialized knowledge on a very wide range of matters that are crucial to the implementation of the Convention. Participants’ contributions will serve Parties’ decision-making at the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, next year, thus ensuring the Convention remains a powerful, science-based regulatory tool for the conservation of wildlife in the coming years."
Plants Committee Chairwoman Ms. Aurélie Flore Koumba Pombo said: "Chairing the CITES Plants Committee for the first time at this 25th session was a real professional and human challenge, with added historical weight as this was the Committee’s first online session and the first time the Chairmanship was held by Africa. I am very grateful to the Secretariat and to Committee members for their support and their confidence in me to achieve this huge task. I also wish to thank all participants for having worked with the same enthusiasm as they would have shown in a face-to-face session."
Animals Committee Chairman Mr. Mathias Lörtscher said: “Despite the difficult conditions, the Members of the Animals Committee and their Alternates, Observer parties and Observer Organizations completed a very heavy agenda in a constructive and focused manner. It was amazing to see how everyone adapted to this new format and helped in reaching meaningful results for the continuation of our work in support of the decisions making of the Conference of Parties.”
Beyond the high attendance, the meetings saw several milestones for both bodies and for the Secretariat. Ms. Aurélie Flore Koumba Pambo, from Gabon, chaired the Plants Committee for the first time, becoming the first African Chairperson for this body and the first French-speaker to hold the role. Meanwhile, Mr. Mathias Lörtscher of Switzerland chaired the meeting of the Animals Committee for the third time.
Both meetings also marked the last time these CITES bodies would convene under the stewardship of Mr. Tom De Meulenaer, the Chief of the CITES Secretariat’s Science Unit. Mr. De Meulenaer is set to retire at the end of the year, having joined the Secretariat in 2001 and having spent a decade at the helm of its scientific services. During this time, he coordinated seven meetings of the Animals and Plants and their joint sessions.
The CITES Animals and Plants Committees usually gather twice between each meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which takes place every 3 years. Originally scheduled to take place in July 2020, the 31st meeting of the Animals Committee and the 25th meeting of the Plants Committee had to be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bringing together experts and scientists representing Parties from all major regions of the world and other qualified observers, the Committees are tasked with providing technical, scientific and specialized advice to Parties, the Standing Committee, the Secretariat, and the Conference of the Parties.
All plenary and joint sessions of the 31st meeting of the Animals Committee and of the 25th meeting of the Plants Committees were broadcast live on the CITES YouTube channel. They remain available to the public on this link.
For more information, contact:
CITES Secretariat: Francisco Pérez, francisco.perezgonzalez [at] cites.org
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was signed on 3 March 1973 and entered into force on 1 July 1975. With 183 Parties (182 countries + the European Union), it remains one of the world's most powerful tools for wildlife conservation through the regulation of international trade in over 38,000 species of wild animals and plants. CITES-listed species are used by people around the world in their daily lives for food, health care, furniture, housing, tourist souvenirs, cosmetics or fashion. CITES seeks to ensure that international trade in such species is sustainable, legal and traceable and contributes to both the livelihoods of the communities that live closest to them and to national economies for a healthy planet and the prosperity of the people in support of UN Sustainable Development Goals.