Geneva, 22 June 2023 – After five days of lively discussions on rosewoods, orchids and medicinal and aromatic plants, among others, the 26th Meeting of the CITES Plants Committee concluded on 9 June 2023.
Close to 250 scientific experts in matters relating to international trade and sustainable management of flora species gathered in Geneva, Switzerland for the first face-based CITES scientific advisory body meeting since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This 26th meeting brought much anticipation for the opportunity to reunite in-person, exchange scientific and technical knowledge and set recommendations for a range of cross-cutting plant species conservation issues.
Based on the directives assigned at the recent 19th Meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP19), Members, Parties and observers of the Plants Committee were tasked with contributing their technical advice and expertise to guide the implementation of upcoming projects. In plenary discussions held early in the week, Plants Committee Members established 8 in-session working groups to take a deeper dive into a range of topics encompassing: identification of timber in trade, artificial propagation of CITES-listed plant species, sustainability findings of rosewoods and tuberous orchids, traceability of musical instruments, and taxonomic lists of forest species in CITES.
This meeting welcomed the return of Ms. Aurélie Flore Koumba Pambo as Chair of the Plants Committee, who said: “I observed a high level of preparation and commitment on behalf of all of the participants. Their knowledge and expertise have been vital to steer us towards clear and responsible decisions on questions relating to the conservation and the sustainable use of plant species that are part of international trade. We got a lot done this week, and I think we can be proud of what we have accomplished as the Plants Committee. I know that I can count on all of the Members of this Committee to continue to ensure CITES’ effective implementation. We must ensure we continue to fight for the conservation of plants.”
In her closing remarks, CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero said: “I give my thanks to Madame Chair Koumba Pambo for guiding us so well. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with you. We are very happy about how smoothly things have gone this week. To all the Plants Committee Members, we admire you for your dedication and attention to detail. You are a committed group of experts, and we take inspiration from you. The work that you do here makes it clear to us that the future of plants is in good hands.”
Numerous agenda items at this meeting shed light on the contributions of forest-related programmes such as the CITES Tree Species Program (CTSP) which strives to improve and strengthen forest governance to ensure benefits from long-term conservation and contribute to rural development in often remote areas, sustainable economic growth at country level and long-term poverty alleviation.
In a historic turn of events, Madagascar was commended in their preparations to resume sustainable international exports of the African cherry tree (Prunus africana) whose bark has often been exploited for medicinal purposes. This decision comes 17 years after the categorization of Prunus africana populations in Madagascar and other central African countries as ‘of urgent concern’ at the 16th Meeting of the Plants Committee and 14 years after Madagascar’s establishment of a voluntary zero export quota, which suspended all international trade in Prunus africana. During this period, Madagascar sought support from the CTSP for strengthening their sustainable management of this tree species.
The Head of the Delegation of Madagascar, Director-General of Environmental Governance, Rinah Razafindrabe said: “Madagascar has been able to develop activities leading to a non-detriment finding (NDF), thanks to the assistance of the CITES Tree Species Programme. From now on, Prunus africana from Madagascar will be harvested in a sustainable manner, with the development of a traceability system.”
This Plants Committee meeting commenced a new iteration of the Review of Significant Trade (RST). The purpose of the RST is to identify problems and solutions concerning CITES-listed plant species that may be subject to unsustainable levels of international trade.
The Animals and Plants Committees were established at the 6th Conference of the Parties (CoP6) in Ottawa in 1987. The aim of these committee meetings is to convene experts in biological and other specialized knowledge regarding species of animals and plants that are (or potentially) subject to CITES regulation and provide technical support to decision-making about these species.
At both the Animals and Plants Committee meetings being held this year in June, the Members are jointly reviewing emerging operational matters of the committees, alignment of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework with CITES Strategic Vision 2021-2030, sustainability criteria of non-detriment findings (NDF)—in the context of the Plants Committee, about timber species—and the role of CITES in reducing the risk of future zoonotic disease emergence associated with international wildlife trade.
Photo: Prunus africana (Scamperdale via Flickr)
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The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was signed on 3 March 1973 and entered into force on 1 July 1975. With 184 Parties (183 countries + the European Union), it remains one of the world's most powerful tools for wildlife conservation through the regulation of international trade in over 40,900 species of wild animals and plants. CITES-listed species are used by people around the world in their daily lives for food, health care, furniture, housing, tourist souvenirs, cosmetics or fashion. CITES seeks to ensure that international trade in such species is sustainable, legal and traceable and contributes to both the livelihoods of the communities that live closest to them and to national economies for a healthy planet and the prosperity of the people in support of UN Sustainable Development Goals.