The CITES Standing Committee has advised the Secretariat that the 31st Meeting of the CITES Animals Committee and the 25th meeting of the Plants Committee should be postponed until 2021.
The 2020 meetings were originally scheduled to take place in Geneva, Switzerland, on 13-17 July and 17-23 July respectively. The CITES Secretariat raised concerns with the Standing Committee over the health and safety of participants, as well as the implications of sanitary measures, border controls and travel restrictions currently in place to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, some of which are likely to remain in place by July and even later.
After considering these concerns, the Standing Committee could not envisage holding face-to-face meetings as was originally intended. Looking at other proposals by the Secretariat, the Committee came to the conclusion that a virtual meeting using an online platform with simultaneous interpretation would present challenges in terms of connectivity, equitability and timing for various participants, while the option of a short-term postponement would still be affected by uncertainties regarding travel.
Most members of the Standing Committee therefore concluded that extended meetings of the Animals and Plants Committees could be considered for 2021.
Animals and Plants Committee Chairs and members have been advised to review their plans, with support from the Secretariat, so that work mandated by the decisions made at the 18th Conference of the Parties, in 2019, could be advanced.
CITES Parties have been officially informed of these developments through the Notification to the Parties No.2020/045. The Secretariat will be announcing arrangements as well as new proposed dates for the meetings in due course.
CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero said: "All teams at the CITES Secretariat had rigorously prepared the necessary documentation for the meetings, with the support of Parties and organizations involved. These remain ready and will be up to date in time for us to pick up where we left off, as we very much intend to do as soon as we are able. We shall do everything within our power to remain on course in the run-up to the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties in 2022 in Costa Rica."
The Animals and Plants Committees are made up of experts tasked with providing scientific and technical advice regarding species of wild fauna and flora that are or might become subject to CITES trade regulations in accordance with instructions from the Conference of the Parties. These two Committees gather twice between meetings of the Conference of the Parties.