COP 12 - Press Cuttings

Opening remarks by Mr Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of UNEP

Your Excellency, Honorable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are greatly honored by the presence of the Minister of Agriculture, and we are grateful for your personal involvement in hosting this conference. Thank you.

It is a great pleasure to be here in Santiago de Chile on the occasion of the 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES. One can only admire the beauty of the snow-covered Andes and the rich biodiversity, strong culture and stable economic development of this country. In many ways, it must be said that Chile serves as a model of sustainable development.

We are meeting today in the building that was constructed 30 years for an UNCTAD conference. This symbolizes an important link. Hosted in Africa, we in UNEP are fully aware of the need to combine environment and economic development. As Indira Gandhi said in 1972 at the UN Conference on the Human Environment, poverty is the most toxic element in the world. What’s more, many of the problems faced by the poor are exported by developed nations. We must work together to make the environment-development link work or we will not be able to convince the poor of the value of the environmental agenda.

I would like to commend CITES Secretary General Willem Wijnstekers plus all other new staff on board since COP-10 in Harare and COP-11 in Nairobi, both of which are important reference points for the deliberations of this Conference. It is my hope that this Conference will build upon the Nairobi spirit.

I note that the CITES Secretariat has overcome many hurdles since 1998, and has achieved a greatly improved atmosphere and a high level of individual and collective commitment. I commend the Secretary General’s efforts to provide the Parties with the type of professional and proactive Secretariat that the Convention and the Parties deserve. And I join Willem Wijnstekers in noting that this has a price that should be considered during your budget deliberations.

Almost 30 years since its adoption in 1973, CITES has significantly grown both in size and stature to embrace 158 Parties out of the UN General Assembly membership of 191. And this development will continue. I was happy to see that the Parties during the Nairobi COP meeting agreed to strengthen the Secretariat in priority areas of enforcement and capacity-building. As a result, positive changes are clearly visible.

The CITES Secretariat has also contributed importantly to the efforts to identify interlinkages and enhance synergies between MEAs, which is also a UNEP priority.

The 12th Meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties (COP) is a very important conference for the global biodiversity agenda and for sustainable development. It is among four COPs of global biodiversity-related MEAs taking place since the conclusion of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg only two months ago. First, it was the Convention on Migratory Species, with its successful outcome. Just two days ago, in New Delhi, India, the UNFCCC concluded its COP-8, which also addressed major issues pertinent to CITES, the CMS, the CBD and other biodiversity-related MEAs, since the causes and impacts of climate change on biodiversity and vice versa are closely interlinked and cannot be addressed in isolation. Immediately after this meeting there will be the 8th Conference of the Parties to the RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands, in Valencia, Spain. We need to make strong use of the synergies amongst all of these conventions. This approach offers a positive signal to the donor community. Let me also note that the issue of international environmental governance and the importance of strengthening UNEP and related environmental activities will be dealt with by the UN General Assembly shortly.

Just as WSSD was a summit of participation, so I welcome all the NGOs here at this CITES COP. We need dissent and democracy and the involvement of civil society.

The CITES global community through this meeting has its first opportunity to seize and maintain the momentum generated at Johannesburg on issues of conservation, sustainable use and sharing of benefits derived from the use of biodiversity. These issues figured prominently in the UN Secretary General's WEHAB Papers and are reflected in paragraph 42, among others, of the WSSD Plan of Implementation.

COP-12 is an important meeting for other even more substantive reasons. There are 60 proposals for amendments to the Appendices I and II listings. The agenda includes proposals on species that attract major media and public attention such as the elephants, the whales and the sharks. And there are many others; I would emphasize bushmeat and others issues linked to poverty. Despite the massive agenda, the COP must also give due attention to all the proposals on species on the table, no matter how big or small, how charismatic or otherwise.

This is the first time in the Convention’s history that Parties meet with an agreed Strategic Vision that charts the way forward for the Convention through 2005. The adoption of this Vision was a major achievement of COP-11 in Nairobi. It is important that the Convention now focuses on a limited number of priority goals, taking into account the WSSD outcome, in order to:
- enhance the Parties' ability to implement and enforce the Convention;
- combine conservation, wise use and link to sustainable development;
- strengthen the scientific basis for decisions-making;
- reduce, if not, eliminate illegal trade, and contribute to the WSSD target to significantly reduce biodiversity loss by zero;
- improve involvement of international as well as community-based stakeholders;
- and provide the Convention with an improved and secure financial and administrative budget.

At the WSSD, Governments agreed to 35 concrete targets and timetables, many linked to biodiversity. It is important that CITES contributes to this and other WSSD targets, such as the initiatives for hotspot areas, the development of regional corridors by 2012, and a UN process for reporting the status of the marine environment in 2004.

In our deliberations at this meeting, we need to consider how exactly CITES activities will contribute to achieving these targets, and what measures we will put in place to materialize that contribution. I link this also to the Millennium Goals adopted in New York in 2000 to reduce poverty by 50% by 2015 and to link environment to sustainable development.

The CITES Convention is a practical example of an International Agreement that catalyzes partnerships, between and among States that share a common concern over the plight of a wide range of species that comprise the natural heritage of Planet Earth. CITES has always been characterized by dialogue and respect for the decisions.

CITES is thus actively participating in "GRASP" – UNEP's conservation and development initiative for survival of the great apes in the respective range states of Africa and the sustenance of the communities that are the most important key stakeholders and custodians.

It may be recalled that in 1992, when the international community met in Rio, RAMSAR was 21 years old, CITES almost 20 years old, and the CMS about 13 years, while the CBD was just about to be born along with the UNFCCC and the UNCCD.

Individually, there is no doubt that these global MEAs have each made important stand-alone achievements. But CITES, and the other MEAs, cannot and does not work alone. For example, a study in 2000 indicated that the CMS Instruments cut across almost all of the CBD thematic programmes and cross-cutting themes with a high level of complementarity. This analysis led to the comprehensive draft joint CBD/CMS work programme, which was well received by the CMS COP-7.

Ladies and Gentlemen, CITES is on the frontline of sustainable development. Let us reprove this at COP-12. Thank you.