Address by the Chairman of the CITES Standing Committee
Executive Director, Secretary General, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Standing Committee, I extend to you a gracious welcome to this 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties. It is fitting that the focus of the Convention returns to this vast and wonderful region of the world. It has been nearly 20 years since neighboring Argentina hosted the 5th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties. Much has changed, but much remains the same. It is also appropriate that the program of work for the next two weeks will focus on major conservation issues of this region that are reflective of global issues before this Convention.
These issues are global, not only in their impact but also in their complexity. What we decide here in Santiago will greatly impact conservation throughout the world. We will hear much about trade in tropical timber and marine species. But these are but two of 124 agenda items to be discussed. Fully one quarter of those items, large and small, but no less important, relate to and impact this region directly.
As the preparations already in place indicate, our Chilean hosts have done an outstanding job in providing an excellent venue for this 12th meeting. They deserve our heartfelt thanks and gratitude for taking on such a daunting task as hosting these meetings has become. It is now our task to take advantage of this wonderful venue, and to do all that we can collectively to progress the work of this great Convention.
This Convention was signed in 1973, and entered into force after the 10th ratification in 1975. Throughout this first quarter century, much has changed in this region and throughout the world. In the face of this, CITES has proved to be flexible and able to cope with new and emerging global environmental challenges. It has evolved into a major tool for sustainable use and local community involvement in plant and animal conservation, and remains resilient. During this meeting, ratification by the 160th Party to the Convention will come into force.
While there have been, and will continue to be, new challenges to conservation, and necessary and creative adaptations for its implementation, the basic tenants of this Convention remain as vital and prophetic as they were over a quarter century ago. During the next two weeks, as we plunge headlong into a whirlwind of activities involving complex issues and sometimes tedious but critical matters, it is important that we take pause, and remind ourselves of the true nature of this Convention and its most basic assumptions.
Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, CITES has seen many analyses and interpretations. There are questions and debate of its worth and timeliness. There are critics of its effectiveness and arguments for its appropriate role in global resource conservation. In civil society such discourse is right and appropriate, and will and should continue during this meeting. But as we do, let us recall those simple but elegant words in the preamble that ground this Convention and provide the foundation for one of the most important tools in global resource conservation today.
“The Contracting States,
Recognizing that wild fauna and flora in their many beautiful and varied forms are an irreplaceable part of the natural systems of the earth which must be protected for this and the generations to come;
Conscious of the ever-growing value of wild fauna and flora from aesthetic, scientific, cultural, recreational and economic points of view;
Recognizing that peoples and States are and should be the best protectors of their own wild fauna and flora;
Recognizing, in addition, that international co-operation is essential for the protection of certain species of wild fauna and flora against over-exploitation through international trade;
Convinced of the urgency of taking appropriate measures to this end;
We are now 160 Parties that have agreed to these basic tenants. Let that be our common bond, and we will move forward together.
I believe that perhaps the naturalist and essayist, Henry David Thoreau, best captured the essence of our objectives for this meeting when over a century ago he wrote, “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” On behalf of the Standing Committee I wish you great success in your deliberations.