The 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP 18) took place in Geneva, Switzerland, 17-28 August 2019.
CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Annually, international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and to include hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens. The trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including food products, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist curios and medicines. Levels of exploitation of some animal and plant species are high and the trade in them, together with other factors, such as habitat loss, is capable of heavily depleting their populations and even bringing some species close to extinction. Today, CITES accords varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.
CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of IUCN (The World Conservation Union). The text of the Convention was finally agreed at a meeting of representatives of 80 countries in Washington, D.C. on 3 March 1973, and on 1 July 1975 CITES entered in force. At each regular meeting of the Conference of Parties (CoP), Parties submit proposals based to amend the CITES Appendices I or II. Those amendment proposals are discussed and then submitted to a vote. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival. Appendix III on the other hand contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade.
The CoP meets to, inter alia:
- Review progress in the conservation of species included in the appendices;
- Discuss and adopt proposals to amend the lists of species in Appendices I and II;
- Consider recommendations and proposals from parties, the Secretariat and the scientific committees; and
- Recommend measures to improve the effectiveness of the Convention and the functioning of the Secretariat.
During the meeting, CITES delegates addressed 57 proposals to increase or decrease controls on international trade in wildlife and wildlife products, submitted by 90 parties. In response to demand for African teak from western Africa, the forum agreed to the need for trade permits to include plywood and other forms. Delegates also agreed to protections for the Mulanje cedar, and mukula tree, which were added to Appendix II.
CoP18 also established the CITES Big Cat Task Force with a mandate to improve enforcement, tackle illegal trade and promote collaboration on conserving tigers, lions, cheetahs, jaguars and leopards. CoP18 rejected proposals to permit some limited trade in ivory from African elephants. The critical role of local and indigenous communities that live on the frontlines of wildlife conservation and sustainable management, and their need for adequate incomes and livelihoods, was widely recognized.