Sixty-second meeting of the Standing Committee

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Geneva (Switzerland), 23-27 July 2012

Opening remarks from the Chair

Dear members of the Standing Committee, Party observers, IGOs, NGOs and visitors, I welcome you all to this 62nd meeting of the CITES Standing Committee.

Øystein Størkersen, Chair of the Standing Committee

It is a meeting where we will be focusing on finalizing our recommendations to the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties in March next year in Bangkok. As you know the deadline for submitting draft resolutions, proposals and documents is 6 months prior to the CoP, which is by 4th of October.

And as you have noted from the ’Meeting room schedule’ for this meeting we are launching or reconvening a number of different working groups.  We expect these Groups to conclude their work this week. If, in exceptional cases, the work of a Working Group is not concluded this week, we may need to consider enabling it to report directly to the CoP. However, any such reports would not reflect the view of the Standing Committee, and I would suggest they be finally cleared by me as your Chair to ensure they are in-line with the Group’s mandate.  Hopefully, we will conclude all of our work this week and hence avoid the need to consider other options, and that is my clear objective. 

Our agenda is as heavy as ever, and we have some very challenging issues before us that will no doubt attract lively debate.  Lively debate is part of our Convention and I encourage us all to respect differing points of view.  And I am optimistic that by working constructively together we will be able to fulfill our mandate as prescribed by the previous CoP.

We will as always aim for consensus documents and optimal solutions noting that our drafts will again be up for deliberation by the upcoming CoP.

Let me thank those involved in the different working groups, the AC and PC, consultants and the Secretariat for their impressive and dedicated work. Let me also thank the hosts of various meetings and other contributors enabling our work.

It is now almost a year since the SC last met and it has been a busy year both for CITES, and other biodiversity MEAs, as well as for the wider UN-system  with the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, being held in Rio in June. There is no doubt that Governments around the world support the notion of the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and that CITES has an important role to play. Still we see huge national implementation challenges, including in enforcement and legislative status. Issues that we will look at again this week.

The Secretariat also faces challenges in prioritizing among the many issues it is asked to work on. To my mind it is important to look for innovative solutions, instead of getting lost in a debate on insurmountable problems.

I believe that the increased efforts on combating wildlife crime, such as through the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) is a successful and important step forward to get to grips with national implementation. In that sense I strongly support our Secretary General John Scanlon in his plea to also focus on prosecutors and the national judiciary. I too believe that many of us still have a long way to go before we see adequate national sanctions against wildlife criminals.

Funding of our activities has been an issue that I have repeatedly discussed with the Secretary General. John has advised me of the success the Secretariat has had in helping mobilize additional funding for the Convention and he will speak further on this topic. However the funding we provide to the Secretariat to carry out its many functions, including attracting financing for Parties, remains a serious issue and one that is likely to escalate in the coming years.

The Secretariat has provided us with overviews of the present financial situation and more importantly on the budget scenarios for the next triennium. It does not take much financial knowledge to understand that offsetting deficits by drawing on the Trust Fund cannot go on forever. In addition, you know that a number of positions within the Secretariat have been left vacant due to lack of funding over the years, with staffing levels dropping by 26% since 2000.

I hope that you agree that we need a well functioning Secretariat to service the Parties and to assist with programmes that are funded externally. And this Secretariat is expected to fulfill functions that go well beyond what is expected of other MEA Secretariats.  As such, we should also acknowledge the dire situation we are in right now. Unfortunately, after CoP 16 we will also face a challenge with recruitment of new personnel to replace those senior staff who must retire over the coming years.

As I see it, it really is a challenge to replicate the high professional standards of the present Secretariat staff. Consequently a certain overlap would be essential. CITES is an important issue for many millions of people and for nations and we need to, at the very minimum, maintain our current services. Dramatic changes to how we organize and finance MEAs might be needed, but this will probably still be years away. In the meantime I urge the Parties to look carefully into the issue of funding the operation of the Secretariat.

I am happy to say that there are many success stories as well, one being the progress made with the issue of snake trade and conservation management. Here CITES have made a real difference and we are heading towards improved management of this resource. Hopefully we can replicate this success with the tortoises and freshwater turtles. On the downside we have to acknowledge that both elephant and rhino poaching and smuggling activities have recently undergone a dramatic increase. I hope that strengthened efforts within the framework of the African elephant action plan and the African elephant fund will improve the situation for elephants. However, an integral part of the solution must also be the consumer markets. Here we need to see much more national activity to curb the illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn. I hope that we shall hear more about national responses to this situation during this meeting.

CITES is as busy as ever, and I am happy to conclude that we have seen a very high volume of activity, not least by the Secretariat. Our Secretary General has proven to be an asset to CITES and it is now up to Parties to enable the positive developments we have all witnessed to continue.

At the outset of this meeting I need to caution you all on the logistics. I aim to end the meeting on time on Friday, and I seek your cooperation in doing so.

As is usual practice, and set out in our Rules of Procedure, I will first focus on the SC members before giving the floor to Observer Parties followed by IGOs/NGOs.

I will allow interventions from different perspectives and interests but given the record number of observer organizations who are registered and the number of Agenda items, I will not always be able to give the floor to everyone who would like to speak.  As a result, I will on occasion need to exercise my discretion as Chair to close the floor after we have heard a few interventions from our observers reflecting differing view points.

In the interest of finishing the meeting on time, I also seek your cooperation in reconvening the meeting on time after the breaks.

With that I welcome you to the Standing Committee meeting, I look forward to a successful meeting, and I now invite our Secretary-General, John Scanlon, to make his opening remarks. 

Øystein Størkersen
Chair CITES Standing Committee


See also:

Opening remarks from the CITES Secretary-General, Mr.John E. Scanlon.