May 2019

Look before you act, act before you lose!
May 2019

"Look before you act, act before you lose!"

The buzzword as you fly into Sri Lanka this May is: CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). This is because the pearl of the Indian Ocean will see delegates from around the world descending on this beautiful island in May to discuss the conservation and sustainable use of wild animals and plants at the World Wildlife Conference - CITES CoP18 - which will take place in Colombo from May 23 to June 3, 2019. It will be the largest global event this year on the conservation of wild animals and plants, attracting thousands of participants.

CITES is the fundamental international agreement that sets the rules on international trade in animals and plants, and it currently has 183 Parties (182 countries and the European Union). Under CITES, international trade in over 36,000 species of animals and plants are regulated, including their parts and derivatives, to ensure that this trade does not threaten their survival in the wild. Legal, sustainable and traceable trade can be a strong incentive for managing wildlife sustainably, and a catalyst for improving the livelihoods of people. It can, therefore, be said that CITES is an accurate instrument for sustainable development and contributing to the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Featured on the agenda
CoP18 will consider 57 proposals to amend the CITES Appendices, which list the species that are subject to CITES trade controls, including plans to add additional marine and timber species. Three proposals each on Sharks and Rays were jointly submitted by over 50 countries, including Sri Lanka, 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, for example, trade in Elephants and their ivory as well as Rhino horn, with proposals designed to restrict commercial trade further, and counter-proposals intending to remove trade restrictions.

A large number of animals and plants traded under CITES are bred in captivity or cultivated and do not come from the wild. Several documents that will be discussed at CoP18 address the matter of trade in animal and plant specimens from non-wild sources.

Wildlife crime also remains a significant matter for discussion at the meeting, including how to better respond to and address corruption, wildlife crime linked to the Internet, and the use of forensic applications to address wildlife crime. The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) is a collaborative effort between CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, World Bank and World Customs Organization. They too will convene several events on the margins of CoP18 to strengthen the criminal justice systems and provide coordinated support at national, regional and international level to combat wildlife and forest crime.

The CITES Strategic Vision for 2021 to 2030 is also high on the agenda.

Understanding CITES
Initiated in 1973 in Washington DC, CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The CITES permit system seeks to ensure that international trade in listed species is sustainable, legal and traceable.

Thousands of species of wild fauna and flora are used by people in their daily lives for food, housing, health care, cosmetics or fashion. CITES recognizes that commercial trade in these plants and animals may be beneficial both to conservation and to the livelihoods of local people. However, unregulated wildlife trade can seriously affect species' populations and affect the well-being of generations to come.

Sri Lanka, the host country
This is the second time that a meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES is taking place in an island country (after Japan) and South Asia. Sri Lanka, an island destination in the Indian Ocean just 65,000 square kilometres in size is acclaimed to be one of the 35 richest biodiversity hotspots in the world.

The theme of this conference pulsates with a message from 22 million warm hearts from Sri Lanka: "Look before you act, Act before you lose."

We are looking forward to seeing you at the World Wildlife Conference in Colombo, which will highlight the importance of CITES for the People, Planet and Prosperity!