CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero's opening remarks for the CITES-WCO virtual workshop on modern customs procedures

Updated on 28 October 2022

CITES-WCO workshop on modern customs procedures for improved control of trade in CITES-listed species - Day 1, December 7 2020

Opening remarks by Ivonne Higuero, Secretary-General, CITES Secretariat


Good morning, good afternoon, good evening,

Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary-General of the World Customs Organization,

Mr. Stefan Kirsch, Deputy Director for Compliance and Enforcement of the World Customs Organization,

Mr. Mathias Lortscher, Chair of the Standing Committee Working Group on Electronic Systems and Information Technologies,

Esteemed representatives of Parties’ Management Authorities and Customs agencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to welcome you to this workshop on modern customs procedures for improved control of trade in CITES-listed species.

We are truly delighted to welcome more than 200 participants from over 30 countries today. This shows the genuine level of interest in the issues we are about to discuss as well as the level of global participation one can achieve using virtual means.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the European Union, whose financial support has made this workshop possible, and to our colleagues at the World Customs Organization, who have co-organized this event alongside the CITES Secretariat. We thank you for your valuable partnership and for sharing your considerable expertise with us over these three days.

I am also grateful to the speakers who have agreed to join us, including representatives of CITES Management Authorities and Customs agencies, UNCTAD, UNECE, and the European Commission.
The CITES permit system truly is the backbone of the Convention.

Permits are one of the principal tools for the monitoring of trade in CITES-listed species. They are critical to our understanding of the scale of the CITES trade, feeding Parties’ annual trade reports and the CITES Trade Database.

They are also a valuable source of information for compliance-related matters, helping establish and enforce trade quotas, reservations, and the registration of captive-breeding operations.

Permit verification is an important part of ensuring the Parties’ overall compliance with the Convention. Effective verification procedures contribute to the early detection of trade control problems, and thus to the prevention of potential compliance issues.

Though the permitting system has evolved over time, from the all-paper tools of the early days of CITES to the work on e-permits some Parties are spearheading today, we are aware that verifying the authenticity of permits and monitoring quota compliance remains a challenge for some Parties.

Keeping the permitting system up to date and ensuring it works for all Parties is essential to the implementation of the Convention, and to its principal objectives of keeping trade legal, sustainable and traceable.

Ideally, a strong permitting process should allow end-to-end transparency and predictability throughout the chain of custody. It should also contribute to efficient communication among and between government agencies to improve the processing of legal trade, while also helping detect and deter unauthorized transactions.
With these objectives in mind, Parties adopted several decisions on the authentication and control of permits last year at CoP18.

As per Decision 18.130, the CITES Secretariat has collected information regarding Parties’ current practices in the issuance, authentication, verification and control of CITES permits and certificates. This includes analyzing various tools and technologies that Parties use to improve the security of CITES documents and looking at their potential integration into current national trade regulatory systems.

The objective of this workshop is firstly to report on the progress of the Secretariat’s information-gathering efforts. We also wish to encourage you all to further share your own experiences with regards to the permitting system and the tools and methods you use to enforce it within your respective jurisdictions.

We hope to foster an exchange of views on how CITES permitting processes and the control of CITES trade can best be strengthened. This includes looking at the use of technological solutions for improved CITES permit issuance and management, a timely discussion as the impacts of the pandemic on our workplaces have led many to seek solutions to automate various CITES processes.

Finally, we are aware of the importance of a close cooperation between CITES Authorities and Customs or border agencies for both the verification of permits and the general monitoring of trade. Thus, we truly appreciate that CITES Parties at this workshop are represented by officials from both Management Authorities and from Customs agencies.
We hope this workshop can contribute to a lasting dialogue between the CITES Authorities and Customs officials on a global scale, and that it can foster cooperation both within and between different national decision-making structures that help regulate the CITES trade.

The results of these upcoming discussions will be critical to inform future Decisions on these matters at the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties in 2022. We thank you for your contributions.

On behalf of the CITES Secretariat, I wish you all a very successful workshop.

Thank you.