Thirtieth anniversary of CITES in China

Updated on 12 January 2021

Remarks by John Scanlon, Secretary-General of the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

The Great Hall of the People, Beijing, 8 April 2011

Distinguished Minister Jia Zhibang,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

"A balanced approach to development will most certainly benefit not only wild fauna and flora but people as well, and we very much look forward to working with the CITES authorities in China as China plays an even more prominent role in the implementation of the Convention into the future."

It is a great pleasure for me to join you today in this magnificent building – the most prestigious venue in China – to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in China. I am particularly delighted to be here today as this is the best possible timing for my first visit to China in my capacity as the Secretary-General of CITES.

Thirty years ago, China became the 63rd Party to CITES – the first multilateral environmental treaty that China ever joined. Today, this Convention has 175 Parties, and another six countries are in the process of adhering to it. CITES belongs to the first wave of global environmental treaties, adopted during the 1970s, and it has the privilege of being the first one to have entered into force in July 1975.

Since that time, it has shown itself to be a very unique and effective treaty, one that has evolved over time to meet emerging challenges. Its success is largely thanks to its operational and pragmatic approach which relies upon ‘on-the-ground’ implementation and enforcement by the States who are party to the Convention through their national level Management and Scientific Authorities, and domestic enforcement measures.

It is therefore very much due to the outstanding work of national CITES authorities and other collaborating departments that CITES is now regarded as one of the most successful multilateral environmental agreements in existence. In this connection, I would like to congratulate and thank the Chinese CITES authorities for all of their good work to date, particularly in the fields of national legislation, enforcement, capacity building and public awareness. Furthermore, China has played a very important and active role in bilateral, regional and international cooperation in the implementation of the Convention. China was a member on the CITES Standing Committee for over 10 years, and representatives from China have also served as members on the CITES Plants and Animals Committees.

The rapid economic development experienced by China has created challenges to the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, including species of wild fauna and flora. I note with great appreciation China’s substantial ongoing domestic efforts to address these challenges. This is demonstrated in many ways, including through its massive reforestation programme, the focus on the effective management of natural forests, the dedication of the CITES staff on-the-ground, and the strong commitment and determination of decision-makers to incorporate environmental considerations throughout the recently adopted Outline of the 12th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development.

But China also plays an active role in CITES affairs at the international level. Recent or forthcoming examples of this are the very successful workshop that China hosted last September on the conservation and sustainable use of the Saiga antelope that brought together representatives of Central Asian range States and China, as well as the Traditional Chinese Medicine Association, and the Asian snake trade workshop that I will have the honour of opening in Guangzhou next week. This latter event will create a remarkable opportunity for government officials, experts and organizations from different continents to give trade in Asian snakes the attention it deserves.

The resources devoted by China, as a developing country, to the implementation of CITES are significant. With its 130 full-time staff and 22 branch offices in mainland China, together with the CITES Management Authorities in the Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions, the CITES Management Authority of China is one of the largest, if not the largest, in the world.

China was also the first country to prepare a national biodiversity strategy and action plan (NBSAP) under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Following decisions taken at the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD in Nagoya last year, each country’s NBSAP is now being reviewed, revised and updated. And we are working with our CITES Management Authorities, including here in China, to promote the inclusion of CITES activities in the revised NBSAPs – in order to reflect the significant contribution that CITES makes towards the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

A good example of China’s high-level political commitment to a CITES listed species is the attendance of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao at the International Tiger Forum hosted by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin last November in Saint Petersburg. It clearly shows the importance that China attaches to the conservation of this endangered species.

However, it is obvious from today's state of the environment that we still have a lot of work to do and that Parties need to re-assess and re-calibrate continuously their efforts to implement CITES. Our common goal is to save species at risk of imminent extinction by making them subject to particularly strict regulation, and to ensure that trade in other listed species remains legal, sustainable and traceable. This can only be achieved through international cooperation and the concerted efforts of both range and consumer States, together with enhanced support from other stakeholders. China plays a key role in this regard as the world’s most populous country, now with the world’s second largest economy.

China also represents one of the oldest civilizations in the world and is a country with a rich cultural and natural heritage. And it is now going through one of the most dynamic and vibrant development periods in human history. In view of such fast-paced changes, and their implications in terms of demand for and use of wildlife resources, it is very promising to see that the concept of a ‘Harmonious Society’ is the ultimate goal of the Chinese leadership. Such a society has the clear objective of building harmony between human beings and nature, that is, working to ensure sustainable development.

Sustainable and balanced development is reflected in the preamble of CITES which recognises the “value of wild fauna and flora from aesthetic, cultural, recreational, and economic points of view” and that “peoples and States are and should be the best protectors of their own wild fauna and flora”.

And as we prepare for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio in 2012, we also recall the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development which proclaims that human beings “are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.”

A balanced approach to development will most certainly benefit not only wild fauna and flora but people as well, and we very much look forward to working with the CITES authorities in China as China plays an even more prominent role in the implementation of the Convention into the future.

Distinguished Minister
Your Excellencies
Distinguished delegates
Ladies and gentlemen

It is a truly special occasion today, I am honoured to be here on behalf of the whole CITES family, and I sincerely thank you for giving us the opportunity to share this significant milestone with you.


See also:

PRESS RELEASE:China celebrates 30 years of conserving and sustainably using biodiversity through CITES

Video message from Mr John Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General