Sixty-first meeting of the Standing Committee

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Geneva (Switzerland), 15-19 August 2011

Opening Remarks by John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General

Thank you Chair and I would also like to extend a very warm welcome to the Standing Committee Members, their alternates, Party Observers, and Inter-governmental organizations, international and national non-governmental organizations.

Mr John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General, Mr Øystein Størkersen, Chair and Mr Jonathan Barzdo, CITES Secretariat

To those distinguished participants who are observing the month of fasting, I wish to say Ramadan Kareem and wish you a happy and blessed month.

And to those of you who would normally be on holidays at this time of the year, it is wonderful to see you here in Geneva – you clearly have your priorities right!

We have all had an extremely busy time since the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Doha, as is reflected in the Agenda for this meeting. This has included: restructuring the Secretariat; several staff changes; making real progress in resolving the relationship with UNEP; advancing major issues such as Introduction from the Sea (IFS) and bringing the results to Standing Committee 61 well ahead of time; launching new initiatives such as the International Consortium to Combat Wildlife Crime (ICCWC); establishing the African Elephant Fund and Steering Committee; developing and promoting funding for CITES-MIKE Phase III, including through engaging with the Secretariat of the African Caribbean and Pacific Group (ACP); developing the next phase of our joint International Tropical Timber Organization ,or ITTO, CITES Project; moving forward with a draft MOU with FAO; addressing specific issues to do with tigers, Asian snakes, sharks, big leaf mahogany, great apes, saiga antelope, bushmeat, medicinal plants, elephant ivory and rhino horn; launching the Trade Data Dashboards, a new CITES website, and the Virtual College with the International University of Andalusia – and I wish to thank Professor Margarita Clemente for her strong support; gathering great momentum with E-permitting – which is a wonderful example of South-South cooperation; as well as preparing for COP 16 in 2013 and I could go on.

I would like to extend my personal thanks to the Management Authorities of Australia, Brazil, China, Japan, Norway, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America for arranging country visits for me and organizing meetings with various Ministers, senior officials, Scientific and enforcement Authorities and others.

We have also organized two highly successful scientific committee meetings, plus this meeting, all in very quick succession. Sound science goes to the core of the Convention and I pause here to thank the Plants and Animals Committees and Observers for their exceptional voluntary work. I also acknowledge that the two Chairs will be in attendance later this week and that our Chair participated in both scientific committee meetings demonstrating the importance he attaches to sound science.

This effort has however stretched the Secretariat beyond its limit, and I am sincerely grateful to each and every staff member for the extraordinary effort they have put into delivering for you.

In 2010, we also celebrated the 35th Anniversary of the entry into force of CITES and we look forward to celebrating the 40th Anniversary since the adoption of the Convention in 2013. At the 35th Anniversary, generously hosted by the Government of Switzerland, we noted what a remarkable convention CITES is and that its success is due to multiple factors, including: the quality of the original text; the adaptive application of the Convention; and the deep commitment of national Management, Scientific and enforcement Authorities. The success of the Convention was also recognized in Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 for its contribution towards sub-goal 4.3 that “no species of wild fauna or flora endangered by international trade.”

We are now at a critical moment in the evolution of CITES and it is time to reflect upon the challenges as well as the successes. And the Agenda for this meeting reveals multiple challenges, such as with:

  • Legislation – over 50% of Parties still fall within in Categories 2 and 3 meaning they do not yet fully comply with CITES;
  • Annual Reports – close to 30% of Parties are yet to submit their Annual Reports for 2009 – which is of great significance given these Reports form the basis of the trade data base that in turn informs the Review of Significant Trade process;
  • Biennial Reports – close to 70% of Parties are yet to submit their Biennial Report for 2007-2008;
  • Trade suspensions – 22 States, including 20 Parties – or 12% of Parties, are subject to trade suspensions;
  • The number of Parties – 18 Member States of the United Nations – or close to 10%, are still not Parties to CITES;
  • Financial mechanisms – no financial mechanism is available to CITES – and Inspector Inomata of the Joint Inspection Unit has found that CITES has not benefitted directly or indirectly from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) since its establishment 20 years ago;
  • The extent of illegal trade – estimated by many at between 10-20 billion US dollars per annum;
  • Capacity-building needs – extensive across all areas of funding, equipment, science, law, reporting and enforcement – as is reflected in the Inf. Document 10 on the CITES Capacity-Building Needs Assessment provided to this meeting;
  • Unfunded mandates – such as the Periodic Review of the Appendices; and
  • The Secretariat – that has lost 25% of its human resources over the past few COP cycles – making it equivalent to the smallest of all of the key biodiversity-related convention secretariats in staff numbers and many times smaller than the largest.

And I could go on but I will leave it there.

We have a Strategic Vision 2008-2013 that was conscious of the need to improve the implementation of CITES. It guides our work. The three Goals set out in the Vision are of equal priority and are mutually supportive.

Goal 1 is perhaps what we all ultimately strive for, namely compliance with and implementation and enforcement of the Convention. But we cannot achieve Goal 1 without Goal 2 on securing the necessary financial resources and means for the operation and implementation of the Convention, and we cannot achieve Goal 2 without Goal 3, which connects CITES to broader policy objectives and other instruments and processes.

We cannot just look internally to meet our implementation challenges – it will be self defeating. We must reach out and connect to broader policy objectives and to a wider range of partners to clearly show the relevance of CITES. We have pursued Goal 3 over the past 18 months, as is clear from the Agenda for this meeting, including with the: enforcement community; financing community; United Nations programmes; specialized agencies; intergovernmental organizations; regional bodies; international and national non-government organizations and others. And when we come to Agenda Item 15 I will run through our efforts and what we have achieved in greater detail.

It is through this outreach that we can best assist you, our Parties, access the financial resources and means that you require to effectively implement the Convention. These efforts do not put resources into the pocket of the Secretariat and that is not the aim. They are intended to open up access to new sources of financing and means for you our Parties.

However, we must also seriously address the sustainability of the Secretariat, which I will introduce under Agenda Item 10.

Between 1975 when CITES entered into force and 2010 we have seen:

  • The World’s population grow from 4 to close to 7 billion people;
  • Global trade increase 14 fold;
  • Increases in prosperity and changing consumption patterns; and
  • Significant advances in technology.

CITES is today more relevant than it ever was. But this is not yet reflected in the level of political support or financing for the Convention.

We must help the World rediscover the importance of CITES both in its own right and for the contribution that it makes towards the relevant Millennium Development Goals, sustainable development goals set at the World Summit for Sustainable Development, and the Aichi Targets adopted in Nagoya in 2010.

And now is the time to do it as we move towards the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012 and the 40th Anniversary of the adoption of CITES in 2013. It is in fact what the Strategic Vision expects us to do and I look forward to your support in this endeavor.

We have a full agenda before us, many exciting side-events, and I look forward to a lively, invigorating and productive meeting.

Thank you Chair.

See also:

Opening remarks from the Chair, Mr Øystein Størkersen.