CITES and the UN International Year of Forests 2011

Updated on 12 January 2021

2011 marked the beginning of a crucial decade in the International calendar for biodiversity – being the start of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity and having also been declared 'International Year of Forests' by the United Nations.

"Celebrating forests for people" is the slogan of the International Year of Forests. The United Nations General Assembly declared its conviction that "concerted efforts should focus on raising awareness at all levels to strengthen the sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests for the benefit of current and future generations", and called upon governments, relevant regional and international organizations, and major groups to support activities related to the International Year of Forests.

CITES keeps responding to this call in line with its mandate.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), just over 4 billion hectares of the world (31 % of the land surface of the earth) is covered by forests. The trade in wood and non-wood forest products represents billions of American dollars every year and many forest products enter international trade.

Since 1975, CITES has been providing a framework for tracing international trade in the species it protects and helping to ensure that products made from them are from legal and sustainable sources.

The number of tree species protected by the Convention has risen in recent years. This is partly because more and more species have become exploited to the brink of commercial extinction, and partly because the Convention is increasingly seen as an effective tool for ensuring sustainable use of commercial tree species.

Around 350 tree species are included in the three CITES Appendices, and trade in their products is therefore subject to regulation to avoid utilization that is incompatible with their survival.

About 85 species are included in Appendix II, such as afrormosia (Pericopsis elata) from Africa, ramin (Gonystylus spp.) from Southeast Asia and bigleaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) from Central and South America, all of which are valuable timber species.

A growing number of countries are also requesting the inclusion of commercially-important native trees in Appendix III, so that importing and other exporting States can help them ensure that only legal timber and other tree products find their way into the international market. 115 high-value timber species, have been listed over the last two years in CITES Appendix III. Trade in 221 species is now subject to controls under Appendix III, including the Korean pine (Pinus koraiensis) from the far east of the Russian Federation and the West Indian cedar (Cedrela odorata) from South America, more than one hundred species of ebony (Diospiros spp) from Madagascar and, several species of rosewood (Dalbergia spp) also from Madagascar and Panama. The list will certainly expand further in the years to come.

Finally, CITES Parties have included in Appendix I six tree species that are currently threatened with extinction and are or may be affected by international trade. An Appendix-I listing means that Parties have agreed not to permit any international commercial trade in wild-sourced products of these species.

Of course, with some 34,000 species listed in the CITES Appendices, international trade in many other forest plants and animals is also regulated by the Convention.

The conservation and sustainable use of the world’s forests can only be achieved with the active cooperation of all those that hold a stake in their management. At the global level, CITES is therefore working in close collaboration with key international organizations in the field. Since 2005, CITES has been working in partnership with the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) on a major joint programme to support the implementation of the Convention in countries that are members of CITES and ITTO. Some 4.5 million American dollars were raised for the Phase I of this project which is focused on key tree species in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Now the two Secretariats are working on a proposal for launching Phase II of this activity and continue building on the capacities built during the first five years. Furthermore, cooperation with the Forestry Department of FAO is expected to be formalized in the course of 2012 through the establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding between CITES and FAO.

2011 has been the year when the commitments made by CITES Parties in Doha in 2010 and CITES efforts to enhance cooperation with many institutions during 2010, such as the United Nations Environment Programme, the Global Environmental Facility, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the International Consortium to Combat Wildlife Crime, started to come to fruition. The implementation of CITES activities will be reported on in March 2012 (Animals and Plants Committees meeting) and, July 2012 (Standing Committee), before it is reviewed by the Conference of the Parties to CITES at its 16th meeting in March 2013.

Throughout 2011, the CITES Secretariat has been paying particular attention to the goals of the International Year of Forests, and will keep doing its best to further promote the important role of the Convention in achieving better forest management for the benefit of forest species and of the people who depend upon them.

John Scanlon
31 January 2011 (updated on 17 October 2011)


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