SG's Closing speech to CITES CoP19

Updated on 09 March 2023

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends.

It’s Friday, the 25th of November - the last day of CoP19. We made it!

All of us have worked tirelessly and for a long time to get to this moment and by standing here before you, I am immensely proud; proud of all of you and of what you have accomplished during these two weeks, proud of my country and the way it has welcomed us, and proud of my team. I assure you that you could only dream of having a team like the CITES Secretariat. Please help me to show our appreciation for all your efforts.

We should express our gratitude to those who have made us feel so warmly welcomed: His Excellency Mr. president, the vice president, who opened our Conference, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Public Security that has kept us all safe, in addition to all the other parts of the Panamanian government working behind the scenes.

The lead was taken by the Ministry of the Environment and we are very pleased to have His Excellency here, Milciades Concepción, Minister of the Environment, who has demonstrated his many talents as our President of the Conference. I am personally grateful to him and his deputy minister, Diana Laguna, as well as all her staff, who have spared no effort and who should be proud of all they have achieved, and the credit they have been to their country.

And I must mention Shirley Binder. During the preparations for this CoP, for many months, she, with her team, has been an exceptional force and deserves our heartfelt thanks. 

I would also like to acknowledge the exceptional work done by the two Committee Chairs, Dr Vin Fleming and Dr Rhedyn Ollerenshaw. They have been our swans, with incessant activity under the waters, while on the surface they are calm and capable. They have done enormous work with a large and complex agenda and have completed their work in a splendid way.

I would also like to mention one person who has been sitting next to Vin throughout Committee I - occupying a very important position, as he has done with dedication during his many years in the CITES Secretariat. I inform you that it will be the last CoP of David Morgan as part of the Secretariat. And also for our dear and always smiling colleague Noemi Reyes, the finance assistant, this is her latest CoP as well. We will miss you and I ask you to join me in acknowledging all that they have contributed over the years and the service they have rendered to you, the Parties.

Dear friends, you came here in unprecedented times, with the impact of a global pandemic that has affected every one of us and continues to affect us, leaving behind an economic crisis... We have come to know the magnitude of the challenges we face in managing our wildlife and have also come to know the level of expectations and public scrutiny to which we would be subjected.

But if there is one thing that CITES Parties have demonstrated over the past 50 years, it is that they know how to work together and do things. They discussed and made decisions about sharks and trees, birds, amphibians, turtles, lions, jaguars, elephants and orchids... And again and again, how many times we hear these words: "Agreed by Consensus".

Since this CoP is being held in Panama, I would also like to acknowledge the passion and commitment of the proposals presented by the Americas to this meeting.

Thanks to our observers: your experience has informed and enriched our discussions. We always say that we are an inclusive Convention, in which we strive for a voice for all and we are stronger for these contributions.

I welcome the recognition we have heard for the work of the Secretariat. We never lose sight of our purpose. We are here to serve you. This CoP has resulted in more than 300 decisions, so we will be busy again. I am pleased with your support for our work with the implementation of our work programme and the projects we manage, we are very grateful for your warm and encouraging words that motivate and inspire us. 

We are a Convention that delivers results and also with responsibilities. Over the past two weeks we have fulfilled those responsibilities, but we must continue to do so, through proper implementation of CITES and comprehensive reporting on activities and results. Build on the momentum you have created here as it is exactly 99 days until 3 March 2023, when CITES will be 50 years old. The world needs us to succeed. Our planetary crises cannot be addressed without recognizing that they are related.

I have some more thanks before I finish. Panama made this meeting possible... our rapporteurs, translators and interpreters make every meeting possible. They have been with us at all times and I know you would like to show your appreciation for all they do for us.

I have here some small gifts for those whose contribution to this CoP should be recognized and in the hope that when you look at them in the future, you will always remember the gratitude and affection of this CoP.

Friends, our work here is over, but our work begins again. Listing is one thing, implementation is another. I hope you have renewed the ties that hold us together and make CITES strong. I know you will remember your stay here. I hope it will strengthen you in the face of the challenges ahead. For now, I leave you with one last wish and that is that you have a safe journey home.