MESSAGE TO THE 1st ASIA MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE ON TIGER CONSERVATION
FROM THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF CITES
Geneva, 21 January 2010
On behalf of the CITES community, I wish to express my sincere thanks to His Excellency Minister Suwit Khunkitti for hosting the 1st Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation. The Minister has long been a friend and active supporter of the Convention, having chaired the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES in Bangkok in 2004. The present conference in Hua Hin provides an excellent opportunity for ministers and other senior officials to consider the future of what is increasingly becoming one of the worlds rarest animals; the tiger.
I send my very best wishes that the conference in Hua Hin will be a success and I look forward, with the rest of the CITES ‘family’, to discussing its outcomes during the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, in Doha, Qatar, from 13 to 25 March 2010.
I was delighted to see that among the recommendations adopted at the Kathmandu Global Tiger Workshop was a call for the capacity of the CITES Secretariat, and its partner agencies, “to be increased to more effectively and sustainably combat the illegal trade in wildlife at the international level and through relevant national agencies”.
With this in mind, the Secretariat convened a meeting, in November 2009, of representatives of the CITES Secretariat, ICPO-INTERPOL, the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime, The World Bank and the World Customs Organization, to discuss how these agencies might work together more closely to respond to the appeal made by those who gathered in Nepal in October 2009.
It was decided at the November meeting to form the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime and these organizations are now actively collaborating in developing a programme that will enhance law enforcement capacity at international, regional and national levels to bring greater coordination to protecting the world’s natural resources and to bringing to justice those who seek to exploit them in a criminal fashion.
As you may know, I retire as Secretary-General of the Convention shortly after the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties and, before leaving the service of CITES, I am determined to help create a new era for wildlife law enforcement. An era where wildlife criminals will face a formidable, coordinated opposition, rather than the present situation where the risk of detection and punishment is all too low. 2010, being the Chinese Year of the Tiger and the International Year of Biodiversity, is the ideal time to set this in motion. Whilst the programme being developed is intended to support wildlife law enforcement throughout the world, it seems only right that priority assistance should go to tiger range States.
If the Ministerial Conference in Hua Hin endorses this concept, as I fervently hope it will, I undertake to meet with the heads of the partner agencies prior to CITES CoP15 to obtain their commitment too. The international community will then be advised of the details of the programme when it meets in Qatar in March. I have already met, and remain in regular contact with, Mr Robert Zoellick, President of The World Bank, and I know that he and his staff are supportive of this initiative. I deeply appreciate the assistance that the Bank is currently bringing to tiger conservation.
I regret that my schedule in the approach to the meeting of the Conference of the Parties prevents me from being in Hua Hin but I am sending the Secretariat’s Chief of Enforcement Assistance to brief you on the Consortium’s vision and to answer any questions you may have.
I encourage participants in the 1st Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation to consider how best the CITES community might respond to the very considerable and varied threats facing this species. The conservation of and trade in tigers is on the agenda of CoP15 and I predict the subject will receive very considerable attention. It would be excellent if, as a result of your deliberations in Thailand, tiger range States could come to Doha with draft decisions that could be adopted or consensus on ways in which CITES may offer assistance.
Tigers have been discussed in the various fora of CITES for many years now. And yet the numbers of this magnificent animal, which is a flagship endangered species and an excellent indicator of the health of our planet, continue to fall in an alarming fashion. The alarm bell that has been ringing loud and clear needs to be heard around the world, and responded to, if we are not to lose one of the best-known symbols of conservation. If the tiger is lost, what hope is there for the millions of other species upon which humans and the Earth rely? This must not be allowed to happen.
I wish to close by repeating my thanks to the Government of Thailand and other agencies that have worked so hard to organize the Hua Hin conference and by sending my very warm wishes for a successful event. I hope to see many of you in Qatar in a few weeks time.