COP 12 - Opening speech


Santiago, 3 NOVEMBER 2002

Mr. Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme

Mr. Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

Mr. Chairman of the Standing Committee of CITES

Your Excellencies
Honourable colleagues
Distinguished delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the Government of Chile, I offer you all a most cordial welcome to our country. We are delighted to have you here and feel very proud of the opportunity to host the twelfth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). We regard this as a recognition of the work which we have carried out in recent years in promoting the conservation and sustainable use of resources both at the national and at the global level.

There is no doubt that this meeting, both in the scale of its attendance and in its importance on the global level, is the most significant environmental conference which Chile has ever organized.

A country's flora and fauna form part of its natural wealth, the capital which stands available to its population. In other words, it is an essential component in its development. When Chile subscribed to the CITES Convention it did so in full awareness of the importance of preserving and protecting this natural wealth, with a view above all to the development needs of present and future generations of Chileans.

In our view, the environment is a component of development and not something incidental to it. This makes it quite absurd to assert that economic development and respect for nature are incompatible. No human activity takes place that is not sustained by the goods and services which nature provides.

In this connection I should like to quote a couple of sentences from President Ricardo Lagos' government programme which strikingly illustrate one of the principles which guide our action: . . . "... economic growth is perfectly compatible with protection of the environment. This has been demonstrated in the developed countries and we have to do the same in Chile before it is too late."

Today, Chile has an Environmental Policy for Sustainable Development which provides an appropriate and modern framework to watch over the sustainable use of renewable natural resources.

The basic tenets of this policy are the quality of people's lives, the complementarity between socio-economic development and environmental sustainability, social equity and the elimination of poverty. The overriding objective of our environmental policy is to promote environmental sustainability in the development process, with the aim of improving the quality of life of our citizens.

We have two weeks of hard work ahead of us. The decisions and resolutions which we adopt will have a real and concrete impact on the lives of the population and the condition of the ecosystems of our countries. The expectations that the world has of us are reflected in the fact that more than 1,000 delegates are registered and that numerous representatives of world civil society are present, as well as the media from many different areas of the world. I should like to draw particular attention to the presence of civil society which is a manifestation of the benefits we will draw from their participation and their inputs, which will enrich this meeting and will involve all sectors of the global community in its results.

This meeting of CITES is taking place at a crucial time. Still ringing in our minds are the echoes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development which examined the worldwide challenges relating to sustainable development and where we received a very clear signal of how to bring conservation and sustainable use together in a struggle whose principal thrust has to be the elimination of poverty. I believe that Johannesburg is showing us the way forward and the set of activities in which we have to engage, with all stakeholders taking an active part. All of us - governments, business, environmentalists, consumers, and so on - have a commitment to sustainable development both at the local and at the global level. One of the effects of globalization is precisely that we can no longer remain indifferent to what is happening in any area of the globe, since sooner or later it is our own habitat and the quality of life of our own population which will enjoy the benefits or suffer the damage from environmentally friendly or environmentally harmful action.

CITES as a tool for conservation of biological diversity has demonstrated a high degree of effectiveness since it promotes its sustainable management and permits international trade in species and their derivatives when there are no threats to the wild populations; but also categorically prohibits trade in all those species, which, on the basis of appropriate scientific information, are seriously threatened and at risk of extinction.

Despite its effectiveness - which is demonstrated by the fact that no species covered by CITES has yet become extinct - illegal trade in live animals and in their parts and derivatives, such as hides, ivory, or aphrodisiac products, is of such a scale as to be exceeded only by the scourge of trafficking in drugs and arms. This reflects a challenge of implementation which cannot be avoided or ignored.

Conservation of species in their natural surroundings is a major and supremely relevant environmental challenge. Biological diversity is a highly important source of scientific information, medicines and the development of technology and productive processes and, above all, is the source of food, shelter, income and social benefits for the inhabitants of the developing countries as well as, in many cases, the developed countries. National efforts have to aim at sustainable management of resources, seeking in this way to bring out all their potential, as regards their conservation, their scenic value and naturally their production of goods and services as a contribution to improving the quality of life of present and future generations.

We note, however, that the great majority of species are very little studied, that there is a serious lack of fundamental information and, therefore, that there is a need to increase study and research. This is especially significant in the developing countries, which are precisely those that host the greater quantity of species. The great wealth of biological diversity, the countries known as "mega-biodiverse," are in our continent, in Africa and in Asia.

International cooperation - scientific, technical and economic - is a key factor in the development of the human, technological and informational capacities which will make it possible for the developing countries to rehabilitate and conserve their environmental wealth and manage it in a sustainable manner. In this context the CITES Convention is a clear example of the key role which the exchange of relevant scientific information has to play in decision-making. Without science as a basis for adopting resolutions and without resources to carry out suitable monitoring, the effectiveness of CITES may be gravely impaired. We believe that these are two of the major challenges facing this Convention in the future, and regrettably our fears are worsened by the deterioration in purchasing power of the CITES operational budgets, something which will undoubtedly have an impact on its capacity for implementation.

The international community and in particular the developed countries, which are the main consumers and importers of the natural riches originating in wild species, have to take on their share of responsibility and the commitment that falls to them.

Sustainable development, based on a balance among economic, social and environmental development, is a fundamental feature of a globalized world, a world in which aware consumers are opting to an ever-increasing extent for products of an environmentally responsible design.

It is certain that illegal species trade is sustained by the existence of markets and consumers, which means that awareness-raising among the population, supported by well-conceived education about the environment together with prevention and monitoring campaigns, are key factors in blunting the onslaught from illegal trade at the global level.

One of the topics on which we shall have to concentrate will be how CITES relates to many marine species, principally those resources which are exploited by fisheries. Chile is very aware of this situation which affects numerous species, and is proposing the establishment of a working group to define inclusion criteria, in coordination with the work being carried out by regional fisheries management organizations and FAO.

In this context, Chile has a regulatory framework which makes it possible to provide adequate protection for aquatic species. This includes the General Fisheries and Aquaculture Act which, among other aspects, establishes access regimes and procedures and lays down penalties for those breaking the law.

It may be pointed out that, in taking on its commitment to CITES, Chile adopted specific measures relating to species listed in Appendix I or II of the Convention, such as establishing a 30-year moratorium on the capture of species of reptiles, birds and marine mammals, with specific and exemplary penalties to be applied to anyone capturing, transporting or possessing species regulated by CITES.

We can thus state categorically that the national regulations in place make it possible for us to provide, in practice, adequate protection for all species found in Chile, including those in the CITES Appendices.

Distinguished delegates, Ladies and gentlemen

One of the principal challenges facing the global community is that of achieving synergy between environment and development.

In Johannesburg, we looked for ways to eradicate poverty, to achieve sustainable patterns of consumption and production and to reduce the pressure on ecosystems, with a view to achieving a more inclusive and fairer globalization which, above all, will include environmental sustainability among its paradigms. In this context, Johannesburg also recognized the important role which can be played by trade in the achievement of sustainable development and the elimination of poverty. CITES is probably one of the international environmental conventions which has been most successful in maintaining this balance. The shining reputation of the Convention has been based, first and foremost, on maintaining this delicate balance upon which the sustainable development of the peoples of the Earth depends.

Once again, I welcome you, confident that we will succeed in making full use of this opportunity to exchange ideas on a wide range of topics and, in particular, that we can bring about a strengthening of the CITES system which so far has proved to be one of the most successful efforts of the international community to achieve sustainable use of species and ecosystems.

I nurture the hope that at the end of these two weeks we will have been able fully to complete the task entrusted to us, and that this twelfth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, in Santiago de Chile, will be looked back on in the future as a milestone in the development of the Convention and all that it represents.

Thank you.