Regulating trade in wildlife species is its mandate. The Parties to this mouthful of a convention meet this month. What’s on the agenda?
International wildlife trade amounted to an estimated US$ 300 billion in 2005, based on declared imports. That is a lot of money, not to mention, these are live animal species, worth US$ 21 billion, changing hands. Don’t you think there should be an active global organisation monitoring this trade? Enter CITES or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. This Convention comprehensively covers wildlife trade among nations – maintains a database of endangered species, country-wise numbers on trade volumes, and guidelines for safe handling and transport. CITES works by putting controls on international trade in selected species through a licensing system. The species covered by the Convention are divided across three Appendices, depending on the degree of protection they require.
What? Where? When? Why?
CITES was born out of a resolution at a 1963 meeting of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It was adopted on March 3, 1973, in Washington D.C., and became the earliest UN convention to come into force and the first multilateral environment agreement of the United Nations Environment Programme. March 3, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the adoption of CITES. There are 177 parties to the Convention at present.
What is so special?
CITES came about in the 1960s at a time when conservation of wildlife was a still a fairly new idea. Even today, CITES does not ban or outright condemn trade in wildlife, but seeks to ensure “that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants is legal, sustainable and traceable and does not threaten their survival.” It seeks to regulate, monitor and control wildlife trade and weed out illegal traffickers and poachers from the system. In this way, CITES makes a significant contribution towards achieving the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
India species that are protected under CITES
India joined CITES in 1976. There are approximately 577 species of animals and 506 species of flora from India across CITES appendices. These include the Asian elephant, clouded leopard, dugong, Lion-tailed macaque and the Gangetic dolphin. Currently, India is subject to a recommendation to suspend trade in one or more species because of too many irregularities.
What is on at CoP 16?
The sixteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention is scheduled for March 3 to 14, 2013 at Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre in Bangkok, Thailand. Administrative matters will be discussed, implementation will be assessed and side events will be enjoyed by an estimated 1,434 delegates from 77 countries. Activities under Implementation of CITES cover climate change, reviewing national laws and reports submitted by Parties.
The limelight will be hogged by more strategic matters on the agenda:
Observing March 3 as World Wildlife Day
International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime
Resolution on Cooperation with the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation of the Convention on Biological Diversity; and determining partnerships with other biodiversity-related conventions
Capacity building in developing countries particularly Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone
CITES and livelihoods
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services