CITES Secretary-General's welcoming remarks at the 22nd Meeting of the CITES Plants Committee - Tbilisi, Georgia

22nd Meeting of the CITES Plants Committee

19 – 23 October 2015

Tbilisi

Welcoming remarks by John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary General

 

Mr. Gigla Agulashvili, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia

First Deputy Minister Mr. Teimuraz Murgulia

Chair of Plants Committee, Professor Margarita Clemente, and members of the Committee  

Distinguished guests, friends and colleagues,

It is a great pleasure to be with you in Tbilisi today at the 22nd meeting of the CITES Plants Committee. This is the first time that a CITES body has met in Georgia in the 40+ year history of the Convention and I would like to extend our sincere thanks to the Government and people of Georgia for their warm hospitality and impeccable arrangements for the meeting.

The logo selected for this meeting, the snowdrop, is entirely appropriate. The trade in wild taken snowdrop bulbs from Georgia is a great example of excellent collaboration between the national Management and Scientific authorities, and their interaction with the Plants Committee, in ensuring the legality and sustainability of this trade. The country now exports annually some 15 million wild, CITES-listed snowdrop bulbs, with benefits for conservation and local people.

We are delighted to advise that there are close to 150 participants from more than 40 countries registered for this meeting and I would like to acknowledge the wonderful preparatory work done by the Biodiversity Protection Service at the Ministry of Environment Protection of Georgia, and to extend our sincere thanks to Mr. Ioseb Kartsivadze and his staff – and in particular Ms. Teona Karchava.

I would also like to acknowledge the presence of our Standing Committee Chair, Mr. Øystein Størkersen, who has participated in each of the regular meetings of the Plants Committee since Norway assumed the Chair in 2010.

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Colleagues, science lies at the very heart of CITES. The science-based recommendations reached at this week’s meeting will provide the Parties to CITES with the best available scientific advice to inform their decisions on conserving and sustainably using wildlife, as we finalize our preparations for the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) in Johannesburg, South Africa in just under 12 months’ time, which we are all very much looking forward to.

You have a full agenda before you – one that deals with a wide array of species, as well as technical issues and, in some cases, matters that have significant policy implications for CITES Parties.

The agenda for this meeting has over 60 agenda items, 20 of which are about CITES tree listed species – species that generate significant political and public attention. There are many management considerations that the Committee will need to discuss and review in order to provide advice on future actions to address these species – and the work ahead of you will make a critical contribution towards promoting sustainable forest management worldwide. 

Non-detriment findings, capacity building, identification, forensic work on timber species, proposals to be submitted and considered at CoP17, and many other important matters are all part of the agenda for this week’s meeting.

And while plants do not always attract the same level of public attention as animals, especially the most charismatic species, their survival in the wild generates just as much passion and commitment in the CITES Secretariat. And as you all here know – if we lose the plants, we lose the habitats, and along with them the animals. All of our work is interconnected.

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Colleagues, the success of CITES relies upon the contributions and ongoing commitment of, and collaboration between, multiple organizations and people coming from a wide range of disciplines, interests and viewpoints.

We clearly benefit from the richly diverse interest in the Convention. We are most encouraged by the participation of our dedicated Committee members, interested CITES Parties, and the many committed observers at this meeting and we sincerely thank all of you for volunteering your expertise to CITES.

As you know, the Secretariat is going through a major transition at the moment with the retirement of five senior staff and the UN-wide roll out of major new administrative reform initiative known as Umoja – both of which are having major impacts on the Secretariat.

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Let me conclude by congratulating Mr. Tom De Meulenaer on his well-deserved appointment as Chief of the Scientific Services Team and thanking Mr. David Morgan for the splendid job he did as Chief prior to moving onto his new role in the Secretariat. Let me also introduce you to one new face in the Secretariat: Ms. Helene Gandois, our Programme and Documentation Officer, who is with us here today.

Thank you again to our generous host, the Government and people of Georgia, to all of you for your participation and to our hard working Secretariat team.

I wish you a highly successful meeting here in Tbilisi.