CITES marks 40 years of international cooperation and national action

Updated on 12 January 2021

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CITES marks 40 years of international cooperation and national action

1 July 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) entering into force


Geneva, 1 July 2015: The efforts of the 181 Parties to CITES to combine international cooperation with national action are being recognized on the 40th anniversary of CITES entering into force on 1 July 1975.

Since 1975 when CITES came into force the world has witnessed growing prosperity, changing consumption and production patterns, vastly enhanced scientific knowledge, phenomenal advances in technology and, above all, exponential growth in global trade.  Looking at population figures alone, the world’s population has grown from 4 to over 7 billion people – and that is an additional 3 billion potential consumers of wildlife and wildlife products.

Recognizing these changes and their relevance to CITES, Secretary-General Scanlon said “it is a living, breathing convention and one that has evolved over time. CITES has responded to changing conditions in many ways, including through bringing new marine and timber species under CITES, making best use of emerging technologies, and strengthening cooperative enforcement efforts,  reflecting the enduring relevance of the Convention.  These bold efforts have been led by the Parties to CITES, which we recognize today.” (see also CITES - 40 Years of International Cooperation & National Action by CITES Secretary-General, John E. Scanlon)

On the eve of the 40th anniversary CITES Secretariat released several new publications on the efforts being taken under CITES to ensure certain shark species are not over exploited through international trade.

A high level side event was also held in Bonn at the 39th Session of the World Heritage Committee co-sponsored by Germany and the CITES Secretariat, together with the Convention on Migratory Species and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), on the threats posed by poaching and illegal trade in wildlife to World Heritage sites across Africa and the collaborative efforts that are underway to combat these serious crimes. These threats were highlighted by UNESCO Director-General Bokova and Secretary-General Scanlon in a joint oped published in June 2013. The side event follows decisions taken at the 38th Session of the World Heritage Committee that called for the World Heritage Centre to strengthen its cooperation with the CITES Secretariat.


The enduring relevance of CITES

The following initiatives taking place in the months leading up to the 40th anniversary of CITES entering into force serve to highlight its ongoing relevance and effectiveness:

Operation Cobra III was completed, involving 62 countries from across Africa, America, Asia and Europe, making it the largest ever international coordinated effort to combat wildlife crime.

CITES announced  the CITES Trade Database, established in 1978, has exceeded 15 million records of trade, which is publicly available information and serves to show the increasing use of CITES to regulate international wildlife trade. 

The UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice included reference to trafficking in wildlife and the serious problems caused by such crimes in the Doha Declaration adopted by the Congress.

GEF announced new funding of a global wildlife programme to reduce the impacts of poaching and illegal trade on protected species, following CITES drawing the attention of the GEF Council to the immediate threats posed by illegal trade in wildlife in 2011 and asking the GEF to make funding available to combat this illegal trade.

CITES and IATA joined forces  to reduce illegal trade in wildlife and their products, as well as to ensure the safe and secure transport of legally traded wildlife.

CITES and WTO marked two decades of successful collaboration through the launch of a landmark publication on the relationship between the WTO and CITES as a leading example of how global trade and environmental regimes can support each other and cooperate successfully to achieve shared goals, noting that there has never been any WTO dispute directly challenging a CITES trade-related measure.

The European Union acceded to CITES and will become the 181st Party on 8 July 2015 giving CITES near universal coverage, with another five States being in the process of acceding to CITES.

CITES and the Encyclical Letter of the Holy Father Francis

The Encyclical Letter of the Holy Father Francis on Care for Our Common Home references the importance of enforceable international agreements and makes positive reference to CITES  (see paragraph 168).

CITES and the Sustainable Development Goals

This year the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be adopted by the UN General Assembly. CITES has much to contribute to the proposed SDGs, including Goal 15 which aims to: protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss; and Goal 14, which aims to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

CITES and Rio+20

The importance of CITES was recognized in the outcomes of Rio+20 in 2012 in which it was described as “an international agreement that stands at the intersection between trade, the environment and development, promotes the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, should contribute to tangible benefits for local people, and ensures that no species entering into international trade is threatened with extinction”.

The first States to ratify and acceded to CITES

The first ten States to accede or ratify CITES, which brought the Convention into force were:

The United States of America, Nigeria, Switzerland, Tunisia, Sweden, Cyprus, United Arab Emirates, Ecuador, Chile and Uruguay.

While CITES was the third global multilateral environment agreement to be adopted, it was the first such agreement to enter into force.

UN World Wildlife Day is celebrated on 3 March each year, the date of adoption of CITES (in 1973) in Washington D.C.  In 2015 the theme was ‘It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime’.

CITES CoP17 to be in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2016

The 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa from 24 September to 5 October 2016.

The decision follows an offer by South Africa to host the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) which was accepted by acclamation at the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Bangkok, March 2013).

This will be the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES held on the African continent since CITES came into force on 1 July 1975, but the first on the continent since 2000.


Note to editors: For more information, contact Liu Yuan at +41 22 917 8130 or [email protected].


With 181 Member States, CITES remains one of the world's most powerful tools for biodiversity conservation through the regulation of trade in wild fauna and flora. Thousands of species are internationally traded and used by people in their daily lives for food, housing, health care, ecotourism, cosmetics or fashion.

CITES regulates international trade in over 35,000 species of plants and animals, including their products and derivatives, ensuring their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of local people and the global environment. The CITES permit system seeks to ensure that international trade in listed species is sustainable, legal and traceable.

CITES was signed in Washington D.C. on 3 March 1973.

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