CITES: 2000 and beyond

Willem Wijnstekers

Clearly, the April meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora will be a challenging one. Its agenda is probably as exciting as its venue, UNEP’s Nairobi headquarters. Among many proposals on a wide range of animal and plant species, there are at least four that will attract a great deal of debate and which demonstrate the need for CITES to ensure that decisions are taken in the light of extensive debate by the world’s conservation community.

The first of these is the African elephant, where the debate will be about the best approach to its conservation from the different perspectives of individual range states, regions in Africa and for Africa as a whole. Japanese and Norwegian whaling is – although indirectly – on the agenda as well. Here the question is whether CITES’ and the International Whaling Commission’s coordinated levels of protection of gray and minke whale stocks need to be maintained. There are also three important proposals on the protection of sharks and one for reopening a certain level of trade in the hawksbill turtle.

To be able to usefully discuss these issues in Nairobi and at future CITES meetings of the Conference of the Parties, a strategic vision for the Convention should be adopted. I hope that in spite of the turmoil caused by discussions on the above-mentioned species, the Conference will find the time to adopt the proposed strategic ‘Vision through 2005, International Trade in any Wild Fauna and Flora shall be Sustainable’.

The purpose of this plan is to ensure that no species of wild fauna or flora becomes or remains subject to unsustainable exploitation because of international trade. It clearly focuses on a limited number of priority goals and objectives, and maps the Convention’s direction at the beginning of this millennium. I personally find its adoption and the commitment of our 150 Parties to its implementation of the utmost importance. This will enhance the ability of each Party to implement the Convention, it will strengthen the scientific basis of the decision-making processes, promote greater understanding of the Convention, allow progress toward full global membership, increase cooperation and allow for strategic alliances with international stakeholders, contribute to the reduction and ultimate elimination of illegal trade in wild fauna and flora, and provide the Convention with an improved and secure financial and administrative basis.

I am confident that in spite of the many political aspects that complicate what in many cases should be straightforward scientific discussions, the CITES community will realize that we are all in this together and again demonstrate its undivided commitment to conservation. I am proud to be in a position to serve and facilitate that process and of the privilege of working with so many dedicated people to fight for the preservation of this planet and its inhabitants through the conservation of the world’s wild animals and plants  

Willem Wijnstekers is Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

PHOTOGRAPH: Joseph F. Darling/UNEP/Topham

Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Critical crossroads | Genetically engineered crops... | Sustainable solutions | Protect elephants | Getting it together | CITES: 2000 and beyond | At a glance | Competition | Interpol alert | Deep waters, high stakes | Tall trees and bottom lines | Globalizing solutions | Global Biodiversity... | Walking on the wild side... | Voices of the Earth | Millennium massacre