Statements made by Mr John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES

In every corner of our planet, a variety of threats such as habitat loss, climate change, over-exploitation and illegal trade put intense pressure on wild populations of animals and plants. Illicit trafficking in wildlife now takes place at an industrial scale driven by transnational organized criminal groups. The phenomena poses a real and immediate danger to some of our most precious species.
NEW YORK – Poor and rural people around the world rely on plants and animals for shelter, food, income, and medicine. In fact, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 15) on sustainable ecosystems acknowledges many developing societies’ close relationship with nature when it calls for increased “capacity of local communities to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities.” But how is this to be achieved?
In every corner of the world, wild plants and animals are under intense pressure as a result of habitat destruction, climate change, over-exploitation and illegal trade, which is taking place on an industrial scale. This is why, at the start of CITES #CoP17, I said the Johannesburg World Wildlife Conference was ‘critical’ to securing the future of wildlife.
CITES CoP17 John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary General Opening Ceremony Speech Johannesburg, 24 September 2016   Honourable Ministers Distinguished Guests Friends and colleagues -----
Time for Change Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, 22 September, 2016 Address by John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary General   Thank you Hugh. Your Royal Highness in London, Dr. Handa in Tokyo, Your Excellences and friends of wildlife from right across the globe – welcome to the Sandton Convention Center in Johannesburg!
Talk of prohibiting, preventing and countering corruption must take centre stage when signatories to the Cites treaty on regulating the international trade in wildlife meet in Johannesburg this weekend. The world is witnessing an unprecedented surge in wildlife trafficking that is stealing the irreplaceable natural wealth of countries, greatly hindering development, paralysing efforts to eradicate poverty, and undermining conservation efforts. This illicit trade in wildlife is well organised, transnational and happening across every region. As countries prepare to meet in Johannesburgthis weekend for the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to Cites (CoP17), there is increasing recognition that to curb the global surge in wildlife trafficking we must counter the corrosive corruption that enables it.
The latest CITES meeting on 24 September in Johannesburg will be one of the most critical meetings in the Convention’s 43 year history. The evils of the international drug trade, weapons smuggling, and human trafficking are well known. Drug turf wars devastate neighbourhoods while addicts leave behind the shattered lives of their families. The illicit weapons trade arms terrorists, brutal militias, and street gangs, while people smugglers fill leaky boats with desperate refugees and brothels with enslaved sex workers.
Consumers and collectors want sturgeon caviar, snakeskin bags, shark meat and fins, wild snowdrop bulbs, precious rosewood furniture, and quality agarwood oil, as well as rare birds, reptiles, cacti and orchids. But they rarely stop to think about their origins. There are now over seven billion people consuming biodiversity every day in the form of medicines, food, clothing, furniture, perfumes and luxury goods. Demand for products drawn from nature is increasing, and with it pressure is growing on some of our wildlife species.
“The future is in your hands.” This is an oft-repeated statement in remarks about young people meant to inspire them.   But frankly, it can also be read as a cop out, a statement that implies abdication of responsibility from our generation, as in “we’ve done all we can—it’s up to them now ...”We do not subscribe to this view.
  Representatives of Parties to CITES and the CBD, country representatives from hosting countries, colleagues from Convention Secretariats, regional partners, resource persons, ladies and gentleman. A very warm welcome to this regional preparatory briefing on the upcoming CITES CoP17 and CBD CoP13. We are delighted to be partnering with our good friends and colleagues at the CBD Secretariat in co-hosting these four regional meetings and we are express our deep appreciation to the European Union for providing the funding that has made these highly valuable briefings  possible.