CITES CoP18 kicks off in Sri Lanka on trade of endagered species

Geneva, 12 February 2019 – In exactly 100 days from today, the 183 Parties to CITES (182 countries + the European Union) will gather at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for the next World Wildlife Conference – the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP18) to be held from 23 May to 3 June.

A record 107 working documents and 57 species listing proposals reflect the massive interest from across the globe in the conservation and sustainable use of wild fauna and flora. With a 20% increase in the number of agenda items, CoP18 is set to be the largest meeting of the Conference of the Parties in the history of CITES.

CITES Secretary-General, Ivonne Higuero, said: “The ever-growing level of interest in CITES demonstrates the confidence of the world’s governments in this Convention. It also clearly demonstrates the Parties’ aim to implement CITES as a mechanism to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, as it equally pays attention to environmental, social and economic sustainability. Parties to CITES are also showing their will to recalibrate the focus of the Convention in a bid to strike a better balance between the effective regulation of international trade in species of wild animals and plants and efforts to combat wildlife trafficking, which has gained global support from all levels in the past few years. For example, the proposed strengthening of legality and sustainability findings, the proposals for better coordinated capacity building efforts, including a Compliance Assistance Programme and a resolution on CITES Management Authorities, collectively contribute to the former. The CITES Strategic Vision for 2021 to 2030 is also high on the agenda”.

“The ever-widening gap of losing species due to multiple factors have jeopardized societal functions, economics and the well-being of the planet. Sri Lanka as an island nation is proactive to challenges and firmly believes on the need for global partnership to combat the threats and issues that affect us in achieving strategic outcomes of the SDGs, the Aichi targets and the CITES Strategic vision.

We are eagerly awaiting to host CoP18 and to showcase Sri Lanka’s commitment to sustainable livelihoods and species conservation. All arrangements are now in place to host a very successful conference,” said Minister of Tourism and Wildlife of Sri Lanka, John Amaratunga.

CoP18 preparations

Working documents are being posted on the CITES website as they become available. In the meantime, important preparatory meetings at international and regional levels as well as meetings focusing on specific issues are already underway before the 183 CITES Parties meet in May. Examples include the following:

A consultation meeting with stakeholders and member countries of the European Union was organized by the European Commission on 29 January to discuss positions to be taken by the EU with regard to the proposals on the CoP18 agenda. In addition, the 28 member countries of the EU will meet at least once a month in the run-up to CoP18.
The North America region will meet from 8 to 11 April 2019 in Victoria, Canada to coordinate positions on CITES CoP18 issues.
The Oceania region will meet in Samoa from 25 to 27 March to prepare for CoP18. The meeting is being facilitated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). The CITES Secretariat will be present at the meeting to assist Parties in the region.
The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), led by the CITES Secretariat, is leading the preparation of the third global meeting of the world’s wildlife enforcement networks which will take place during CoP18.
Sri Lanka, the host country of CoP18, is organizing a Global Dialogue on Wildlife Trafficking from 15-16 March 2019 at the University of Colombo.
Several meetings on sharks and rays in relation to CoP18 will take place around the world from March to April 2019, including in Dominican Republic, Jordan, Maldives, Samoa and Senegal. These meetings are led by various CITES Parties and NGOs.
A few highlights on the CoP18 agenda

The agenda of CoP18 is rich and diverse. Many issues are recurrent themes for the meetings of CITES Parties as they require their ongoing attention, such as enforcement, capacity building and traceability as well as the conservation of, and trade in, elephants, rhinoceroses, big cats, sturgeons or agarwood.

CoP18 will consider 57 proposals to amend the CITES Appendices, which list the species that are subject to CITES trade controls, including proposals to add additional sharks, rays and timber species. Each of 3 proposals on sharks and rays was jointly submitted by over 50 countries, showing unprecedented support to list these marine species of high commercial value in CITES.

CoP18 will also address some difficult and contentious issues where divergent approaches exist amongst CITES Parties on matters, for example, trade in elephants and their ivory as well as rhino horn, with proposals on the table designed to further restrict commercial trade, and counter-proposals intending to remove trade restrictions.

Should CITES play a role in managing non-CITES-listed species? Some Parties think so. A striking number of working documents, as opposed to species-listing proposals, relate to a wide range of animals and plants that are not presently protected under the CITES, but for which there are trade-related concerns. These documents submitted by Parties propose to examine several large groups of species, such as all songbirds, all amphibians, all sharks and rays, all marine ornamental fish and all rosewood timber species, to assess if in one way or another, they could benefit from CITES trade controls.

A majority of “wild” animal and plants traded under CITES are now in fact not harvested from the wild when it comes to live animals and plants but bred in captivity or cultivated. Multiple documents for COP18 aim to address trade in animal and plant specimens from non-wild sources.

Wildlife crime will again be a significant matter of discussion at the meeting, including how to better respond to and address corruption, wildlife crime linked to the Internet, the use of forensic applications in the field of wildlife crime, and others. CoP18 will also consider a proposal on the establishment of a database for the storage and management of illegal trade data collected through CITES annual illegal trade reports, as a potential accessible and powerful tool to inform the decision making of Parties and support the development of appropriate law enforcement responses to wildlife crime.

The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) will convene several events in the margins of CoP18, including in relation to the launch of an Integrity Guide for Wildlife Management Agencies, the second World Wildlife Crime Report and capacity established by INTERPOL to support the efforts of Parties in addressing wildlife crime linked to the Internet. ICCWC will also convene the third global meeting of the world’s wildlife enforcement networks, whilst the INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group will convene its 30th meeting.

Human wellbeing is addressed through the issue of sustainable use of wildlife and livelihoods of rural communities with topics such as CITES and livelihoods, food security, establishment of the rural communities committee and participatory mechanism for rural communities. Such discussions will also be relevant with regard to the trade in, for examples, eels, queen conch and bushmeat which are primarily used as food.

Why is the CITES CoP called the World Wildlife Conference?

Ever wondered why the CITES CoP is also called the World Wildlife Conference? It is because the Plenipotentiary Conference, held from 12 February to 2 March 1973 in Washington D.C. where Convention was concluded, was called the World Wildlife Conference. We are keeping that tradition alive!

Sri Lanka is ready for a great CoP18

In hosting CoP18 Sri Lanka has the opportunity to showcase for the world its unique and wonderful wildlife as well as its many conservation successes.

This will be the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES in South Asia since CoP3 held in New Delhi, India in 1981. It will also be the second CoP to be held in an island country.

“Sri Lanka’s resolve towards eradication of the menace of illegal trade of endangered species is well documented and we remain firmly committed to the protection of all species. As a marine and biological hotspot in the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka is proud to be only the second island nation to host CITES CoP. The fact that the meeting in Sri Lanka is carbon sensitive also shows our commitment to the environment. We look forward to showcasing to the CoP participants our tourism assets, such as our wildlife parks that are home to thousands of elephants, our seas that are teeming with whales and dolphins, our forests that are home to many endangered species, our wetlands, mangroves, botanical gardens among our many other wonders,” said Minister Amaratunga.

“The discussions at CoP18 will have a significant impact on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, especially when viewed in the context of the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. We sincerely hope to have the pleasure of welcoming you in Colombo next May and supporting all stakeholders to achieve progress in meeting global biodiversity commitments”, added Higuero.

The Secretary-General is invited to join the Minister of Tourism and Wildlife to plant trees at a forest in the Nilgala region one day before CoP18 which will be declared as the “CITES Forest” to mark CoP18.

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