31st meeting of the Animals Committee: Opening remarks of the CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero
Chair of the Animals Committee,
Members of the Animals Committee,
Distinguished delegates and participants,
Dear colleagues and friends,
It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the 31st meeting of the Animals Committee and the very first formal online meeting of this Committee. I hope you and your families are doing well. This is also the first and only Animals Committee that will take place before CITES CoP19. The extensive documentation before you is evidence that the Animals Committee, the Parties, and the extended CITES family have been progressing on the implementation of the intersessional work despite the postponement of this meeting and the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the following days, you will be discussing the considerable mandates that the Parties have given to the Animals Committee at Cop18. It is thanks to your commitment and dedication for the conservation of wild fauna that you will consider an agenda of over 40 items, so that the Parties will have the best possible information and guidance for the sustainable trade and long-term conservation of CITES-listed animal species. Your commitment is also reflected in the number of participants for this meeting - 76 Parties with 480 delegates and 91 organizations with 234 participants registered for this meeting, which is the largest number of participants for an Animals Committee meeting in the history of CITES.
I would like to warmly welcome the Chair of the Animals Committee, Mr. Mathias Lörtscher, and the vice Chair, Mr. Hugh Robertson, who were both confirmed in their functions through intersessional decision-making by the Animals Committee after CoP18. They both have extensive CITES knowledge and experience, and it is an honour to have Mathias as Chair to guide this meeting with the support of the Secretariat. We also extend our warm welcome to the new Committee members.
In the agenda for AC31, the Animals Committee’s activities and tasks have been grouped under strategic, implementation, and species-specific matters. Amongst the strategic matters, you will discuss relationships with CBD, IPBES and other organizations, and assessing the conservation status of Appendix-I listed species.
Concerning implementation matters, you will address a wide array of topics including identification and traceability of sturgeons and paddlefish, the definition of the term “appropriate and acceptable destinations” as it applies to elephants and rhinoceroses, as well as the Review of Significant Trade and the development of guidance for making non-detriment findings.
A key section of the working programme for AC31 will focus on species-specific matters with agenda items on 17 different taxa ranging across marine and terrestrial species. On the agenda are West African vultures, eels, leopards, tortoises and freshwater turtles, sharks and rays, and queen conch, to name a few, as well as items on the maintenance of the Appendices. I hope the briefings carried out have provided you the opportunity to get acquainted with the documentation, as well as with the revised recommendations contained in the Addendums of relevant items.
Finally, I warmly thank the donors who entrusted us with the funds for the implementation of relevant Decisions, as well as the experts behind the reports.
I wish you fruitful discussions, and the Secretariat remains at your service to support you as we navigate this new online format.
Watch Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero's opening remarks and the full first session of the 31st meeting of the Animals Committee on this link.