CITES Secretary-General's opening remarks at the 23rd Meeting of the CITES Plants Committee

Updated on 26 July 2017

Twenty-third meeting of the Plants Committee

Geneva (Switzerland), 22-27 July 2017

Opening Remarks

John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General

22 July 2017

Welcome to beautiful and humid Geneva!

This is the first time we have met in Geneva since 2011, with the Plants Committee having met in Dublin, Ireland, Veracruz, Mexico and Tbilisi, Georgia since that time.

We are most grateful to the Government of Switzerland for making this venue available to us, where we have another 5 days of meetings ahead of us for our joint meeting and this Committee. You missed out on the beautiful sunny weather when the Animals Committee started but you also missed the problems with the Wi-Fi!

For those of you who attended the opening of the Animals Committee, apologies for repeating some of my opening statement to that Committee, but it is important for both Committees to have the same information.


This is our first meeting since CITES CoP17. CoP17 was our biggest and most successful CoP, with the largest ever agenda, number of attendees and number of side events.  We had over 3,500 people attend the CoP, where 38 new or revised Resolutions and 352 new decisions were adopted, and over 500 species were added to the CITES Appendices.

The enthusiasm and interest in CITES reflected at CoP17 has carried over to our Animals and Plants Committees. We have 175 registered participants for this Committee, which is the largest number ever, in fact being the first time we have had over 150 participants. This week we will have over 500 people participate in the meetings of both scientific committees and the joint committee meeting.


We have a rich agenda but before touching upon it I would like to refer to some changes in the Committees and Secretariat since CoP17.

We have new Chairs of all three CITES committees - the Animals, Plants and Standing Committees but we have retained our gender ratio of two women and one man.

Firstly, we would like to warmly welcome Adrianne Sinclair as new Chair of the Plants Committee. She has deep experience of the work of this Committee and of CITES more generally. We are most fortunate to have Adrianne as our Chair to guide us through to CoP18 and beyond.

We also warmly welcome new Committee members from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe and Alternate Members from Africa, Asia and Europe. I would also like to acknowledge Professor Margarita Clemente as Chair of this Committee from 1997-2015.

A big welcome also to all Committee Members and Alternates, Party observers, and intergovernmental, non governmental and private sector observers.


There have also been a number of changes to the Secretariat, which I would like to make you aware of, especially as it affects the Scientific Support Team. The following people have joined our wider Secretariat team:

  • Karen GAYNOR as Scientific Support Officer - Fauna.
  • Baran Aziz YILMAZ as Aquatic Species Support Officer on secondment from Turkey for one year.
  • Lauren LOPES as Scientific Support Assistant (Intern).
  • Eleonora PALMERO as Documents Clerk (Consultant), replacing Elena KWITSINSKAIA for this meeting. Elena has taken up a higher level position with another UN body - she did a great job for us and we thank her for everything she did for CITES.
  • Amy REID as Information and Meeting Assistant (Consultant).
  • Jina CHOI as Medicinal Plants Researcher (Consultant), and former South Korean intern.
  • Daniel KACHELRIESS as our first Marine Species Officer (JPO), with thanks to Germany - and we will also be getting another JPO courtesy of Germany on Medicinal Plants.

I would also like to advise that Milena SOSA SCHMIDT Coordinator, will for the next four years as CITES Trees and African Elephant Fund project officer, and we will be calling her as Scientific Support Officer - Flora post shortly.

We also welcome Sofie FLENSBORG as our new Legal Officer and Esther KANG as Conference clerk, an intern provided by South Korea.


This Committee does extraordinary and critical work, with members serving in an individual capacity and we thank you for giving CITES the benefit of your time and expertise.

You bring sound science to our decisions makers, in support of well informed decisions noting the supreme decision making role of the Parties through the CoP and Standing Committee.

You are also charged with managing the Review of Significant Trade (RST) process, which is a unique and critical compliance mechanism to help Parties ensure trade in Appendix II listed species is sustainable. This RST process was revised at CoP17 to make it more timely, transparent and simple and these new instructions are now with you to implement.

Many other matters are before you affecting iconic CITES listed species as requested by CoP17 - and this direct link between your work and the CoP is a defining feature of our committees work.

Trees and timbers dominate your agenda and will attract a lot of attention. As you know, over 300 new tree species were added to the Appendices at CoP17, the implementation of which is of great interest to those trading in logs, sawn timber and finished products, such as musical instruments.

It is important for us to get the implementation of these new listings right, and in addition to working with our Committees and Parties we will, amongst others, be engaging with the private musical instruments sector in this regard.

You also have many other interesting and important agenda items, including on orchids, African cherry, East African sandalwood and Agarwood, and wider issues to do with timber identification, non-detriment findings and the Global strategy for plants conservation.


Colleagues, CITES is now 43 years old but over the past two CoP cycles it has been going through something of a renaissance, as is reflected through:

  • it being seen as making a significant contribution to the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals;
  • new, strengthened and strong partnerships, including with FAO, the ITTO and the private sector;
  • the Convention being used to regulate international trade in an increasing number of species, in particular new marine and timber species, including commercially harvested species;
  • a new era of coordinated enforcement efforts, focussed on both Appendix I and II species noting the impact illegal trade has on sustainable yield, and
  • the use of new and emerging technologies.

This CoP cycle will see us reviewing and revising:

  • the role and modus operandi of the Animals and Plants Committees;
  • the Rules of Procedure of all CITES Committees;
  • How we use Appendix III; and
  • The CITES Strategic Vision after 2020, which will need to be adopted at CoP18 in 2019.

It is an exciting time for CITES as the world makes best use of this remarkable instrument and our collective success is inextricably linked to the work of this Committee, and in fact all three of our Committees.

I would like to thank our small but very good Secretariat team for its efforts in preparing for this meeting, especially David as Chief of Governing Bodies and Meeting Services and Tom and Chief of Scientific Support Services. We all work as one wider Secretariat team in preparing for and delivering on these meetings and thanks to all concerned.

Thank you to all Committee members and Alternates for volunteering your time and expertise to CITES and to our new Chair Adrianne for her commitment and support.

With that please join with me in welcoming Adrianne as Chair of the Plants Committee and in inviting her to make her first introductory remarks.

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