Representatives of Parties to CITES and the CBD, country representatives from hosting countries, colleagues from Convention Secretariats, regional partners, resource persons, ladies and gentleman.
A very warm welcome to this regional preparatory briefing on the upcoming CITES CoP17 and CBD CoP13. We are delighted to be partnering with our good friends and colleagues at the CBD Secretariat in co-hosting these four regional meetings and we are express our deep appreciation to the European Union for providing the funding that has made these highly valuable briefings possible.
We are also most grateful to our CITES Standing Committee representatives from each region for agreeing to partner with us in this exciting endeavor, and in particular we extend our thanks to Australia for Oceania, Uganda for Africa, Kuwait for Asia, and Colombia and Guatemala for Central and South America and the Caribbean.
We also extend our gratitude to the institutions we are partnering with across different regions in holding these meetings, namely AMCEN, the Organization of American States, CONAP (Guatemala), SPREP and UNEP, and we extend our thanks to our sister convention secretariats and others, including the CMS, the African Union Commission and FAO, for their active participation.
CITES CoP17, or the World Wildlife Conference, is going to be the largest and one of the most critical meetings in the 43 year history of the Convention. It looks set to be the busiest CoP we have ever had, with a record number of agenda items, as well as a vast number of delegates, observers and media expected to attend.
At CoP17, Parties will take decisions on what additional measures are needed to end illicit wildlife trafficking. They will also consider a number of proposals to bring additional species under CITES trade controls – or to change the status of existing CITES listings, as well as to tackle issues concerning livelihoods, the review of significant trade, traceability of specimens trade, and the effectiveness of CITES implementation, amongst many other matters.
CoP17 will also address some very difficult and contentious issues to do with divergent approaches amongst CITES Parties on matters affecting trade in certain high profile CITES listed species, where the role, scope and future direction of the Convention will be debated and decided upon.
The CoP has also attracted the largest ever number of registered side events, with more than 100 such events having already been registered, including one showing an award winning film from the International Elephant Film Festival that was co-sponsored by the CITES Secretariat and the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival as a part of the World Wildlife day celebrations this year.
Over the years, the Secretariat has received requests to allow Parties to meet as a region in advance of the CoP to share information and exchange views on topics that were important for the region. Such pre CoP meetings have taken place in some regions in the past, thanks to the individual initiatives of various partners.
This is however the first time ever that the Secretariats of CITES and CBD have joined forces to roll out coordinated regional pre-CoP meetings across four regions – and colleagues, there could be no better time for these preparatory meetings than this year.
In embarking on this new and exciting endeavor, we first and foremost thank all of our Party representatives for being here, the EU for the generous funding, our primary partner the CBD Secretariat, our many other partners, as well as our good staff for all of their hard work in preparing for, and now delivering on, these really important meetings.
I wish you well with your deliberations and we look forward to seeing you all in Johannesburg for CITES CoP17 and in Cancun for CBD COP13!