Highlights for Saturday, 17 August 2019
The 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP18) opened on Saturday, 17 August 2019. Speakers at the opening expressed condolences for the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, which had resulted in the CITES CoP18 being moved to Switzerland, and Ivonne Higuero, CITES Secretary-General, led participants in observing a one-minute silence in honor of the victims of the attacks. Alain Berset, Swiss Federal Council and Federal Department of Home Affairs, expressed Switzerland’s ongoing commitment as the host country of the CITES Secretariat, as well as to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda. He highlighted Switzerland’s proposal, made three days earlier, for stricter domestic measures to address illegal trade in flora and fauna.Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), called for “effective multilateralism” to resolve wildlife challenges, emphasizing the importance of the 10-year strategic vision on the table at CoP18, the value of CITES as a science-based decision-making body, and the need for collective action across processes beyond CITES to address the drivers of biodiversity loss from factors such as over-harvesting of natural resources and poorly planned infrastructure. She urged all concerned to “stay at the table” of multilateralism and drew attention to global events in 2020 on oceans, biodiversity, and implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate.Standing Committee (SC) Chair Carolina Caceres, Canada, emphasized the crucial role of CITES, as a pragmatic, results-driven Convention, in addressing key drivers of global biodiversity loss. She noted the increasing scope of CITES reflects the growing complexity of wildlife trade and global biodiversity conservation efforts.Sri Lanka expressed his regret for being unable to welcome the CoP in Colombo, reaffirming the commitment to the Convention. CITES Secretary-General Higuero emphasized: the need for focus to ensure effectiveness and to update and expand CITES’ compliance instruments, including the permit system, given new challenges presented by the digital era; the importance of cooperation with other multilateral environment agreements and intergovernmental organizations; the need to bring equal attention to lesser known species; and the crucial role of wildlife custodians and rural communities.The CoP then addressed administrative and strategic matters, including the election of committee chairs. The CoP elected Thomas Jemmi, Switzerland as Chair; Awilo Ochieng Pernet, Switzerland as Alternate Chair; Maurice Isaacs, Bahamas, and James Lutalo, Uganda, as Vice Chairs; Miet Van Looy, Belgium, as Chair of Credential Committee; Rod Hay, New Zealand, as Chair of Committee I; and Craig Hoover, US, as Chair of Committee II.Secretary-General Higuero introduced the working programme and noted two planned evening sessions, as well as merging items on ID manuals into Committee II. She also announced the SC’s suggestion of moving item 75 on pangolins, to Committee II. The US suggested that item 86 on saiga antelope regarding implementation issues be discussed after the proposal for uplisting of the species and further that item 81 on grey parrots, and item 89 on totoaba, should be moved to Committee II. CoP18 adopted the working programme as amended.In the afternoon, parties met in regional groups.
Photos by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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