CITES Secretary-General’s opening speech for the Global Wildlife Program Annual Conference, High Level Segment - Delhi, India

Statement by John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General

Global Wildlife Program Annual Conference

High Level Segment Opening

Delhi, 2 October 2017


Honorable Minister of Environment, Forestry, and Climate Change, Dr. Harsh Vardhan,

Ministers and high-level officials from the Global Wildlife Programme countries in Africa and Asia,

Representatives of the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank Group (WBG), and the Global Environment Facility,

Colleagues from the Global Wildlife Programme Steering Committee, donor countries, private sector, NGOs, and other partners of the Global Wildlife Programme,

Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to sincerely thank the Government of India for the hosting of this year’s Global Wildlife Programme Annual Conference.

India is a beautiful country, with an ancient culture, and it is rich in biodiversity. The theme of this week’s meeting, People’s Participation In Wildlife Conservation, reflects the Government’s deep commitment to engaging with people from across different sectors in promoting the importance of wildlife. And the spirit of this week’s theme resonates extremely well with CITES, which has emphasized the central role of people, including youth, in protecting wildlife.

CITES is the leading global legal instrument for regulating international trade in wildlife. Its aim is to safeguard our precious wildlife resources for future generations by ensuring we do not overexploit them today. CITES does this by ensuring the legality, sustainability and traceability of any international wildlife trade, and by combating illegal wildlife trade.

Today there are 183 Parties to CITES, which includes all of the 19 countries of the Global Wildlife Program. India is a long-standing Party to CITES, having joined the Convention back in 1976, and is a critical range State for many species, such the tiger and other big (and not so big) cats, sharks and rays, orchids, cacti, pangolins, and argali sheep, amongst many others.

CITES recognizes the potential positive and negative impacts that CITES listings can have on people’s livelihoods. Well-regulated legal and sustainable trade can in certain cases have benefits for both wildlife and people in generating income and supporting wildlife conservation. Today, there are over 15,000,000 authorized wildlife trade transactions recorded in the CITES trade database.

In some instances, listings may also have negative impacts on livelihoods, in particular in the short term. CITES Parties recognize the complexity of these issues, and have focused on identifying all impacts, both positive and negative, and mitigating any negative impacts, particularly on the local communities whose livelihoods depend on the sustainable use of wildlife.

We are also engaging closely with a wide range of industries that may deal with trade in wildlife, such as the transport, tourism, luxury goods, pharmaceuticals, and musical instruments sectors, with the aim of enabling them to contribute towards supporting wildlife conservation and local communities, while also protecting their own supply chain.

This Annual Conference comes at an opportune time. Just three weeks ago on 11 September 2017, we saw the 193 Member States of the United Nations, at the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), adopt a powerful new Resolution on tackling illicit wildlife trafficking. This Resolution reinforces the central role of CITES in regulating wildlife trade and its focus on enhanced national legislation, supporting sustainable livelihoods, stronger law enforcement, countering corruption, deploying new technologies and undertaking well-targeted demand reduction efforts. The Resolution calls for firm and strengthened national measures, and enhanced regional and global responses. All of these issues feature prominently through this week’s Conference agenda, which can spearhead the implementation of this new UNGA Resolution.

The UNGA Resolution also invites countries to enhance implementation of CITES, including by supporting efforts to access funding from the Global Environment Facility. In this context, we are pleased to advise that the Global Wildlife Program has been working closely with us ever since its inception to ensure alignment with CITES.

CITES serves as a member of the Global Wildlife Program steering committee, and is partnering with interested agencies and collaborating on national projects and programs through providing technical and policy support. For example, CITES has provided advisory support to a number of Global Wildlife Program countries with regard to the implementation of the CITES National Ivory Action Plans and the implementation of the ICCWC Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit, which has been incorporated into the relevant activities in the national projects.  We are also communicating with the Global Wildlife Program projects in South Africa and the Philippines on the automation of CITES trade processes and the electronic management of permits.

The UNGA Resolution recognizes the important work of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), a collaborative effort of the CITES Secretariat, the INTERPOL, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Bank and the World Customs Organization (WCO). ICCWC supports the efforts of the Global Wildlife Program through a number of joint projects, such as the organization of the anti-money laundering training programme and the development of anti-corruption guidelines related to the illegal wildlife trade, which provide an important platform for collaboration on issues of cross-sector and cross-boundary nature. The CITES Secretariat, which serves as the Chair of ICCWC, is committed to working through ICCWC in supporting Parties and to complement the national projects of the Global Wildlife Program.

It is important for the global community to understand the long-term needs of developing countries and to explore the potential for scaled-up financial and technical resources. For this reason, we very much welcome the publication of the Analysis of International Funding to Tackle Illegal Wildlife Trade report, the genesis of which was a CITES CoP decision. We congratulate the Global Wildlife Programme Team and the World Bank Group for their continued effort in collecting data and exploring ways to share this information widely and effectively.

As I am sure is apparent from these remarks, the CITES Secretariat, and ICCWC, remains fully committed to providing our full support to the implementation of the Global Wildlife Programme and its project activities, as always, within the scope of our respective mandates and resources.

Excellences, let me conclude by congratulating you on the occasion of the third Global Wildlife Programme annual conference, which we warmly welcome. We again thank the Government of India for their strong leadership and I wish you a highly successful meeting.