Ivonne Higuero, CITES Secretary-General
89th General Session of the World Organisation for Animal Health
23 May 2022
OIE President, Dr Hugo Federico Idoyaga Benítez; Director General, Dr Monique Eloit; Distinguished speakers at this opening ceremony, OIE Delegates and observers around the world, it is a great pleasure for me to be able to address this 89th General Session of your World Assembly and I am grateful for the invitation.
For those of you who may not be familiar with CITES, it is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. It’s an international convention with 183 State Parties (plus the European Union) which regulates international trade in around 38,000 species of animals and plants and their parts and derivatives.
The Convention aims to ensure the legality, traceability, and sustainability of this international trade in wildlife and operates through a system of permits and certificates issued by national management authorities in each member country.
The overall global value of wildlife trade has been estimated at over 200 billion USD per year, although CITES regulates a limited number of species involved in this trade.
CITES has a very focused mandate but covers a huge number of species and trades. CITES Parties and the Secretariat know that no one body can work alone on conservation of wildlife – we must engage and work with partners with different mandates in order to achieve our common global goals.
For this reason, Parties have decided that CITES policies should be mutually supportive of agreed international environmental priorities and contribute to and learn from international efforts to achieve sustainable development.
Further, they have decided that CITES should support and enhance existing global partnerships and encourage the formation of new ones, to advance its objectives and to mainstream the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
The intersection with public and animal health and disease control is not something that the CITES Parties have explored before but it has come into sharp focus now as a result of the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the subsequent COVID pandemic.
And the OIE Director General and I are clear that cooperation between the two Secretariats, based on the agreement we signed in 2015, is more important than ever. Acting now and coordinating our support to relevant national authorities can make a significant impact on reducing global health risks associated with zoonotic diseases.
Among the areas the agreement covers are:
- developing and disseminating relevant standards, guidelines and recommendations;
- supporting capacity-building activities;
- exchanging information;
- participating in each other’s meetings, and other activities.
Here is how we are turning these words into action:
- The OIE Director General and I have agreed on new activities with concrete objectives on: Wildlife Health and Trade, Training, capacity building, networking and coordination and communication.
- The Chairs of two of the CITES governing bodies have been invited to be observers at meetings of OIE’s Ad hoc Group on reducing the risk of disease spillover events in the wildlife market and along the wildlife supply chain - thank you for that.
Further tangible evidence of the willingness of the Secretariats to work together was the presence and intervention made by the OIE secretariat at the CITES Standing Committee meeting in March and my own presence at this meeting today.
At the same time, the CITES Parties are exploring the role of CITES in reducing the risk of future zoonotic disease emergence associated with the international wildlife trade.
We are expecting the result of their review at our meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Panama in November this year.
It is for our Parties to decide, but among the suggestions being considered is the development of a CITES Resolution on actions to advance the ‘One Health’ approach in relation to international wildlife trade.
We will certainly keep you posted on developments.
We look forward to working much more closely with you in the future. Thank you and I wish you a successful meeting.