CITES 'Non-detriment findings' - Guidance on NDFs from the Conference of the Parties (CoP)

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Updated on 12 January 2021

In 1992, the CoP adopted Resolution Conf. 8.6 on the Role of the Scientific Authority which arose initially from a document by the United States of America discussed at the fifth meeting of the CITES Animals Committee (Vancouver, August 1991). This Resolution recommended, inter alia, that the findings and advice of the Scientific Authority of the country of export be based on the following elements relating to the species concerned:

– population status;

– distribution;

– population trend;

– harvest;

– other biological and ecological factors; and

– trade information.

Furthermore, it directed the Secretariat:

a) in consultation with appropriate experts, to prepare general guidelines for conducting appropriate scientific reviews by Scientific Authorities to make findings as required in Articles III, IV and V of the Convention;

b) to provide these guidelines to the Animals Committee and Plants Committee for review; and

c) to coordinate regional workshops on the conduct of Scientific Authorities.

In pursuit of this directive by the CoP, the Secretariat issued a questionnaire on 18 May 1995 with Notification to the Parties No. 863 to study in detail how the Scientific Authorities of Parties were organized. As explained by the Secretariat at the 13th meeting of the Animals Committee (Pruhonice, September 1996), responses to the questionnaire did not make it evident that guidelines were required, though the need for training was often expressed. The Secretariat suggested that it could compile information from training seminars to be used as guidelines for Scientific Authorities.

At CoP10 (Harare, 1997), Resolution Conf. 8.6 (Rev.) was replaced by Resolution Conf. 10.3 on Designation and role of the Scientific Authorities. With this change, the directive to prepare general guidelines for conducting appropriate scientific reviews by Scientific Authorities was replaced by an encouragement to the Parties, the Secretariat and interested non-governmental organizations to develop and support workshops and seminars designed specifically to improve the implementation of CITES by Scientific Authorities. In response, IUCN led a workshop in October 1998 and another in October 1999, the second under contract from the Secretariat. These resulted in a report: CITES Scientific Authorities’ Checklist to assist in making Non-detriment Findings for Appendix II Exports. The report was made available at CoP11 (Gigiri, 2000) as document Inf. 11.3 and was subsequently been published by IUCN (Rosser and Haywood, 2002). The Checklist helps identify the factors that need to be taken into account when making an NDF and assists Scientific Authorities in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the information at their disposal. Also at CoP10, the Parties approved the general outline of a series of workshops for Scientific Authorities to test and promulgate the Checklist. Since then, the Secretariat has organized over 15 workshops at which the Checklist has been used as a training tool for Scientific Authorities. These have involved representatives from well over 100 Parties in all parts of the world.