The CITES Secretariat provided a briefing on 10 July to over 80 representatives from Geneva-based diplomatic missions and international organizations on the forthcoming World Wildlife Conference - CITES CoP18 to be held in Geneva, Switzerland from 17 to 28 August 2019. The Geneva Environment Network (GEN) supported the briefing, and Bruno Pozzi, Director of the Europe Office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), welcomed the guests and invited the CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero to give an overview.
In her overview of CoP18, Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero firstly thanked the Sri Lankan Government for all the efforts made in preparing for CoP18 which regrettably had to be moved to Geneva due to security concerns. She noted that governments around the world are recognizing CITES as a powerful tool to respond to the growing biodiversity crisis and to prevent the declines in wildlife populations. The 20% increase in agenda items and 3,000+ pages of working documents tabled for discussion at CoP18 show the growing interest in CITES but also reflect the growing tasks faced by the 183 Parties to the Convention.
The Secretary-General said that wildlife crime and major wildlife seizures stories often hit the headlines but CITES is the fundamental global treaty that addresses both legal and illegal trade in wildlife. It is known as a “convention with teeth” because of its strong compliance measures. In response to the growing challenges, Parties at CoP18 will adopt a wide range of decisions to expand and strengthen the global wildlife trade regime. During the briefing, the members of the Secretariat highlighted issues of interest which include key proposals that will change the levels of protection of over 500 species including the divergent and contentious proposals on elephant and rhinoceros. Further, CoP18 will discuss documents that describe trade-related concerns for species and taxa currently not included in the CITES Appendices and contain recommendations, inter alia, to determine a potential future role for CITES in their management and conservation. These involve non-CITES listed rosewoods, songbirds, amphibians, sharks and rays, marine ornamental fish, Bangai cardinal fish, eels and frankincense.
Presentations of the Secretariat also focused on measures to combat corruption, wildlife crime linked to the internet and the report on the progress made in implementing National Ivory Action Plans (NIAPs); capacity building efforts to assist Parties, the e-CITES project that aims to modernize the CITES permitting system and workflow, and various agenda items on livelihoods of the people who live with wildlife and the engagement of rural communities in CITES processes; the National Legislation Project, the Compliance Assistance Programme and the Legal Acquisition Findings initiative.
Concerning the proposed budget for the next triennium (2020-2022), the Secretariat noted the significant increase of the workload of the Convention and the Secretariat over the years, which requires urgent consideration by Parties. Most notably, the number of CoP decisions, which assigns specific tasks to the Convention bodies and the Secretariat, has increased nearly three fold from 126 to 352 between CoP15 (2010) and CoP17 (2016) and are expected to further increase at CoP18. The number of Parties has also increased from 152 to 183 since 2000, all while the staffing resources have declined from 26 to 24. This has resulted in the Convention bodies and the Secretariat staff being overstretched, which may affect the effectiveness of their servicing of the Convention. The Secretariat underlined the need for further support of Parties for the financial and human resources it needs to carry out the tasks mandated by the Parties.
Keen interest of the foreign missions in CITES CoP18 was demonstrated by their high participation in the briefing and questions asked during the Q&A session. Many participants acknowledged the importance of CoP18, expressed their support for the successful convening of the meeting, and effective attendance of their own delegates from both capitals and Missions in Geneva.
The Secretariat would like to thank the Geneva Environment Network (GEN) for their generous support in organizing the event.