CITES Secretary-General's opening remarks at the Livelihoods Workshop, 23 November 2016, George, South Africa

Updated on 23 November 2016

CITES and Livelihoods Workshop

Opening remarks by Mr John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General

23 November 2016, George, South Africa


Deputy Director-General, Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi,

Distinguished guests and friends and colleagues from CITES Parties and international organizations,

Good morning to you all! Let me start by expressing our deep gratitude to the Department of Environmental Affairs of South Africa for co-organizing this very important workshop on CITES and livelihoods together with the CITES Secretariat. I very much regret that I am unable to be back in South Africa with you today due to other commitments – but I am delighted that the CITES Secretariat is well represented by Liu Yuan, who leads our work on livelihoods issues.

While illegal trade decimates wildlife populations, deprives local people from their livelihoods, and in some cases impacts national economies and security, the Parties to CITES have also long recognized that well-regulated legal trade can benefit both local communities and species. Enhancing the livelihoods and engagement of rural communities through conservation now forms an essential part of CITES three pronged approach to tackling illicit wildlife trafficking. This is well reflected in the outcomes of CoP17, which ended last month in South Africa and the implementation of these CoP decisions is high on the agenda of this workshop.

As noted in CITES Resolution Conf. 8.3, the majority of the species of wild fauna and flora that are regulated under CITES occur in the developing countries of the world. These countries are well represented in this workshop where we have delegates from Africa, Asia and Latin America, many of which are mega biodiversity countries. As I understand it we have almost twice as many countries represented here than in previous CITES workshops on livelihoods, which is great to see.

The landmark UN General Assembly resolution on tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife adopted last year, and reaffirmed in September this year, recognizes the fundamental legal framework provided by CITES in regulating international trade in wildlife and in combating illicit trafficking of wildlife. It is important to note that the Resolution goes on to stress that CITES should contribute to tangible benefits for local people, which reflects the language used in the outcome document of the Rio+20 Conference The Future We Want. And Goal 15 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted last year says it aims to “enhance global support for efforts to combat poaching and trafficking of protected species, including by increasing the capacity of local communities to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities.”

Legal and sustainable trade in wildlife is taking place, and it takes many forms. For example, the trade in the wool of the vicuna, the skin of a crocodile and the bark of the African Cherry tree, which also provide benefits for local communities. The protection of wildlife from poaching and smuggling can also secure the wildlife assets that form the basis of nature based tourism experiences, which, when done properly can generate significant local jobs and income.

These and other case studies profiled in the CITES and livelihoods programme demonstrate many examples of a successful nexus between local livelihoods, the sustainable use of wildlife – both consumptive and non-consumptive, and wildlife conservation. Where local communities gain benefits from wildlife, it can offer a long term self-supporting solution for improving livelihoods, lifting people out of poverty, and achieving conservation benefits, including through reducing illegal wildlife trade.

We are aware of the different approaches and perspectives of various organizations in improving livelihoods and engaging rural communities in wildlife conservation. There is no one solution that fits all circumstances, which is clear from our case studies.

CITES is a wonderful and unique global tool to enhance how we engage with, and empower, local and rural communities in wildlife conservation and sustainable use. What further measures can be taken to better achieve such objectives following our last CoP is well worth exploring through processes such as this workshop.

There is also a milestone to celebrate today. The first CITES and Livelihoods Workshop was held in  Cape Town, South Africa from 5 to 7 September 2006. This year is the 10th anniversary of this excellent initiative and the workshop is now back in South Africa. We warmly congratulate the South African government for its decade long engagement with CITES on addressing this critical issue of CITES and livelihoods.

Finally, let me close by thanking you once again for coming to this workshop and to also express our deep gratitude to the South African government for its generosity in hosting it, especially coming just one month after our largest and most successful CoP ever in Johannesburg.  

I wish you every success with your extremely important work and look forward to learning of the outcomes.