CITES Secretary-General’s statement for the Twelfth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species, Opening Plenary - Manila, Philippines

Statement by John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General

Twelfth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species

Opening Plenary

Manila, Philippines, 23 October, 2017


Hon. Senator Cynthia Villar

State Secretary for the Environment, Hon. Roy A. Cimatu

Minister for the Environment of Ecuador, as Host of CMS CoP 11, Hon. Tarsicio Granizo

CMS Standing Committee Chair, Øystein Størkersen 

CMS Executive Secretary, Bradnee Chambers

UNEP Deputy Executive Director, Ibrahim Thiaw

CBD Executive Secretary, Cristiana Pasca-Palmer

Distinguished guests, friends and colleagues


It is a great honor to join you in the vibrant City of Manila and I extend my deep thanks to the Government and the people of the Philippines for their famously warm hospitality and wonderful arrangements for this week’s meeting of the CMS Conference of the Parties (CoP)!

Please allow me also to congratulate the Executive Secretary, Bradnee Chambers, and his good team, for the exceptional preparations for this meeting, including the many exciting events that are associated with the CoP. You have lifted the profile of this important wildlife convention and of CoP12 in a very creative way, congratulations!


CITES and the CMS share common origins, have complementary mandates, and enjoy longstanding and ever deepening programmatic collaboration as the world’s two wildlife conventions.

Some of you may recall, that it was IUCN that first called for these two conventions in the early 1960’s. This call was heeded and enshrined in recommendations adopted at the UN Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment in 1972, which led to CITES and the CMS being adopted within the same decade – CITES in 1973 and the CMS in 1979.


Both CITES and CMS apply to specific species through an intergovernmental process.  Today there are over 500 species of wild animals that are common to both conventions, which represents about half of the 1,000 animals listed under the CMS. CITES lists a further 5,500 animal species, as well as over 30,000 plant species. And let’s not forget that animals can’t survive without plants!

This week you will consider 35 proposals to change the Appendices to CMS, some of which are already listed under CITES.  The CITES Secretariat has shared with CMS Parties technical information relating to the proposals for species that are already included in the CITES Appendices, which we hope will assist you in your deliberations.

Common to both conventions is that biological factors coupled with cross border movement are required to trigger a species being listed under an Appendix. In the case of the CMS, the migratory species cross borders under their own steam by using their feet, wings or flippers – and under CITES, species cross national borders by plane, boat and truck through human intervention. 

The cross border aspect of both CITES and CMS is why we both rely upon deep international cooperation and our collective success depends upon such international cooperation coupled with strong and effective domestic action. 


Distinguished guests, we hear a lot about synergies between biodiversity-related conventions and my personal bias is for achieving pragmatic programmatic synergies that have a real impact on the ground – and there is no better example of such well-targeted synergies in practice than between CITES and CMS.

On the basis of the agreed CITES/CMS Joint Work Programme 2015-2020, and with the support of the CMS/CITES Joint Programme Officer, the CITES Secretariat has been cooperating with the secretariats of CMS and sister bodies on a large number of issues that are common to both Conventions, affecting many species of joint interest, such as bottle-nosed dolphins, gorillas, saiga antelopes and snow leopards. There are simply too many to mention in the time available but I have included further details in my written speechi. Let me just briefly mention three today:

Firstly, one of the exciting developments over recent years has been our cooperation on the conservation of the African lion. This reached a high point when the 28 African lion Range States came together in Entebbe in mid-2016 and reached a continent wide consensus on the way forward, at a meeting generously hosted by the Government of Uganda, and led by CITES and CMS. This meeting, together with the outcomes from CITES CoP17 held in Johannesburg last year, have inspired the development of a Joint CMS-CITES African Carnivores Initiative, with inputs from IUCN, which is before this CoP for your consideration.

Secondly, a global study is being coordinated between CITES and CMS on the conservation of and trade in marine turtles, which are all protected under both Conventions. The work will involve many partners active in the Philippines and elsewhere in this regionii. The study will document the conservation status of marine turtles, threats posed by illegal trade and other factors, and areas where immediate conservation actions are needed. It will also address what CITES measures can help stem threats from illegal and excessive trade in marine turtles, and how CMS can help secure their habitats, and safe migration routes to and from nesting beaches and feeding grounds.

And thirdly, four Parties common to both CITES and CMS have promoted further synergies to be realized through cooperation between the two Conventions, with Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa submitting a joint proposal to this CoP for the Parties to CMS to adopt the African Elephant Action Plan, an instrument originally developed in the margins of CITES.

The many joint initiatives between CITES and CMS are very exciting, and I hope the three I have shared today give you a good sense of the nature of existing and possible future collaboration between CITES and CMS, as the world’s two wildlife conventions. How far we should go with such collaboration and synergies rests with the Parties to the two conventions.

I would like to acknowledge Bradnee for his role in advancing these initiatives, as well as to most sincerely thank the Government of Germany for its generosity in funding the first joint CITES/CMS post, which has been invaluable in greatly enhancing our cooperation.


While the efforts of CITES and CMS Conventions have both been set within their own well-targeted mandates of work, this week you are also highlighting how the CMS contributes towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which was also the focus of the pre CITES CoP17 Ministerial Lekgotla.


Distinguished guests, CITES and the CMS, and other conventions in the family of biodiversity-related conventions go to the very heart of international environmental governance and their successful implementation is critical to ensuring the survival of wildlife and to our own quality of life – their future is our future!

The CMS – and the various agreements concluded under it – have the opportunity to inspire us all about the natural beauty of wild migratory species and their immense value from multiple points of view and it is incumbent upon all of us to do everything we can to assist States make best use of the CMS, as well as CITES and the other biodiversity-related conventions.

Thank you for inviting me to join you today and thank you again to the Government and people of the Philippines, our generous hosts of CoP12.

Our Chief of Scientific Support Services, Tom De Meulenaer, will be here all week to support you in your endeavors and I wish you every success with your meeting.

 There are many other areas of synergy, including on sharks and rays, as well as Species+, InforMEA, national reporting, and the revision and implementation of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (NBSAPs).

More specifically, this cooperation includes working with:

- the Secretariat of the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS) on the Black Sea bottle-nosed dolphin;

- the Secretariat of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Marine Turtles and their Habitats of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia in preparing a study on the illegal trade in marine turtles;

- the CMS Secretariat regarding the implementation of the Decision on the African lion for which the two Secretariats reached out jointly for cooperation with the IUCN Cat Specialist Group, the IUCN SOS Initiative and other organizations addressing lion conservation; and

- the Secretariat of the Memorandum of Understanding concerning Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use of the Saiga Antelope.

A project is also being finalized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, with the two Secretariats, for Southern, Eastern and the Horn of Africa, which is to be funded by the European Union, and draws upon the respective mandates and expertise of each entity. In this project, CITES will lead on the strengthening of wildlife law enforcement capacity and cross-border collaboration in selected trans boundary ecosystems, while CMS will lead on promoting the establishment and/or strengthening of trans-frontier conservation areas.


 ii IOSEA and the Indian Ocean/South East Asia Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding (a CMS MOU) and the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles (IAC).