Statement by Mr. Achim Steiner Executive Director United Nations Environment Programme to the 15th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES

Updated on 31 January 2014

Doha, 13 March 2010

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be in Doha today to address this meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
I would like to thank the Government of Qatar and its people for their generous invitation to host this meeting and all the hard work that has been put into the preparations.
CITES is among the pillars upon which the international community has founded a response to the conservation but very much the sustainable management of the world’s biodiversity.
Along with other treaties, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity; the Convention on Migratory Species and its related agreements and for example the wetlands treaty RAMSAR, CITES is even more relevant today that when it was established in 1973.
More relevant because, in this UN International Year of Biodiversity, we know that challenges which led to the formation of the biologically-related treaties remain and are getting ever more pressing.
2010 was the year in which the world said it would reverse the rate of loss of bioldiversity. It has not happened.
The challenge of this meeting and of the coming years is to renew our collective efforts and to evolve the work and the relevance of CITES onto a higher and even more effective level.
Governance and Synergies
This will be achieved in part within a wider response to International Environment Governance as a whole.
Just two week ago in Bali, UNEP held its world gathering of environment minister—its Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum.
Governance and a transition to a Green Economy were among the core issues.
Just before the GC/GMEF, parties took some small but significant—perhaps even ground breaking-- steps forward in terms of streamlining and strengthening the multilateral response to chemicals and hazardous wastes challenge.
Over the next two years the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions will work ever more closely under, for the first time, a joint head.
The success this new relationship, including the new administrative arrangements and the extent to which the conventions better federate action on the ground in the pursuit of improved human and environmental health, will be reviewed in 2012.
The Nusa Dua Declaration, the first by the world gathering of environment ministers in a decade, also stated:” We recognize the importance of enhancing synergies among the biodiversity-related conventions, without prejudice to their specific objectives, and encourage the conferences of the parties to the biodiversity-related MEAs to consider strengthening efforts in this regard, taking into account relevant experiences" .
So there is clearly a will and an interest to bring forward the opportunities for the biological conventions to look towards ever greater synergies too.
One positive outcome of 2010 can occur in Nagoya, Japan at the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting later this year.
Governments are currently negotiating a possible agreement under the CBD on an international regime on access and benefit sharing of genetic resources (ABS).
If this indeed gets the green light, then many of the lessons and practical trade-related measures already part of CITES, can assist in avoiding duplication and re-inventing the wheel internationally and nationally.
One thinks of the Green Customs initiative and its role in implementing multilateral agreements.
One thinks too of the electronic documentation schemes such as e-permits issued to track and trace transboundary trade in CITES-listed species and products.
In terms of administration, it is UNEP’s conviction that new arrangements for the delegation of authority can assist in cutting some of the red tape that has triggered some concern if not friction between UNEP headquarters and the multilateral environment agreements.
Further to the discussions at the 58th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee in July 2009, UNEP developed a draft Delegation of Authority between the CITES Secretary-General and the UNEP Executive Director.
The objective of the Delegation of Authority is to ensure the provision of high-quality secretariat services to CITES and to clarify the authority, responsibility and accountability of its Secretary General.
It is accompanied by an Accountability Framework in line with UN performance measurements. 
The key components of this Delegation are to:-
Manage the implementation of the programme of work approved by the Conference of the Parties (CoP)
Manage the implementation of the budget approved by the CoP and all other CITES budgets including those financed from the trust fund resources and the CITES allotment from the UNEP Special Account for Programme Support Costs
Manage human resources assigned to CITES.
The draft Delegation of Authority was sent to the Chair of the CITES Standing Committee on 15 February 2010 for input and finalization by UNEP.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
CITES — A natural partner in the Green Economy and TEEB
Part of UNEP’s response to environmental degradation and the loss of biological diversity, has been towards better framing and publicising the economic case.
Not because dollar and cents is all that matters, but because natural capital remains all too invisible in national and international economic decision-making—we are fighting for change with one hand tied behind our backs.
Two initiatives that speak to this agenda and to the mandate of CITES.
The Green Economy, including The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity which UNEP now hosts.
The aim is to catalyze a transition towards a low carbon, resource efficient, employment-generating economic path by providing the evidence that such a transition is the only sustainable option on a planet of six billion people, rising to over nine billion by 2050.
The work is gaining traction among governments, business and grassroots across the world.
Close to 30 countries are now requesting green economy advisory services, aimed at tailoring a transition to individual country needs, covering clean energy to better management of ecosystems and biodiversity.
CITES, with over three decades of experience in the business of sustainable trade, can contribute a great deal to both the knowledge base and a practical response on the ground.
I would be keen to explore with the CITES Secretary-General synergies between the Green Economy and the TEEB work and that of the treaty, in particular at the national level.
In a world of scarcity, including scarce financial resources, we owe to the tax payers and the parties to maximize the impact of what we collectively do—inside UNEP and outside through UNEP-linked and non-UNEP linked agreements.
While CITES is decidedly an operational treaty, its decisions are firmly based in science and its actions also echo to the policy-making conventions such as the CBD.
Strengthening that policy-science interface will thus be key to all our work.
In Bali, governments agreed to a final meeting to take place in June on whether to establish an Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
Many of you will know the nub of this debate that has been held for at least two years. I for one am convinced of the urgency to bridge the data gaps and to build faster links between what science is discovering and awareness and action at the political level.
A green light for an IPBES could be yet another positive outcome of 2010.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Before you in Doha are a range of new proposals for CITES listing, some of which like blue-fin tuna, are attracting global interest.
Decisions taken wisely can contribute to the Green Economy by recognizing improved sustainable management of natural resources and the securing of these economically-important assets for current, but also future generations.
We have seen in some ways a shift in this direction already, a shift which continues here in Doha.
While charismatic species form part of your discussions, there is increasingly an emphasis on globally economic species such as those found in the fisheries and timber trade.
It is a reflection of the concern of scientists and of governments surrounding such species, but also a reflection of the confidence governments have in this sustainability instrument.
This confidence needs to be reflected in the budget of CITES—currently it manages 34,000 species and works with some 175 parties: yet its annual budget is only around $5 million a year.
During the financial and economic crisis, billions of dollars were spent on bailing out just one insurance company.
CITES is one insurance policy against the current, estimated annual loss of up to $5 trillion of natural assets and nature-based services.
Perhaps Doha is the time to match the ambition you have and your request from this treaty, with sufficient and predictable financial resources.
Honourable delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
CITES is about to embark on a new chapter in its history with the appointment of a new Secretary General to the Convention.
Let me take the opportunity to the out-going Secretary-General and thank him for all his hard and tireless work.
Thank you Willem on behalf of UNEP and on behalf of the biodiversity community as a whole for all you have achieved and we wish you all the best in your future endeavours.
The recruitment of the new Secretary General of the CITES Secretariat in May 2010, has involved UNEP working closely with the Chair of the CITES Standing Committee. The position was advertised in mid-October last year with a deadline of 13 December 2009.
You may be interested to know that the vacancy attracted close to 190 internal and external applications. UNEP and the Chair of the CITES Standing Committee worked closely throughout the screening and interview process. 
Four candidates were in the end recommended for face-to-face interviews at UNEP Headquarters. The interview panel consisted of the UNEP Deputy Executive Director, Chair of the CITES Standing Committee, a UNEP Director and one external panel member.
Based on the recommendations of the face-to-face interview panel, the UNEP Executive Director submitted his recommendations, fully reflecting the interview panel’s conclusions, to the UN Secretary-General in line with the requirements for D2 recruitments in the UN Secretariat.
Also in line with the requirements, the recommendations of the UNEP ED were reviewed at UN Headquarters by a Senior Review Group with the aim of reviewing the integrity of the process and compliance with UN selection procedures. 
CITES has and remains a pioneer: it has been often at the frontiers in this respect.
Ladies and gentlemen, the rest of the world is however catching up fast.
A Green Economy is being articulated at the highest levels of policy discourse from the G8 and the OECD to the UN system as a whole.
Perhaps it is now time that the experience of CITES and the new strategies and actions unfolding towards a more resource efficient world on multiple fronts, become more closely and cooperatively allied.
More closely allied in order to transform the statistics from ones that continue to reflect unsustainable management of biological resources, to ones that put sustainability at the heart of economies—developed and developing alike.
Thank you.