Well, the first day of Standing Committee to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has come to an end in Geneva, Switzerland ... imagine a huge room with rows of tables, hundreds of delegates (some would say “government bureaucrats”), headphones, microphones, papers, computers, and the slightly muted buzzing of simultaneous translation into the three working languages of the Convention: English, French, and Spanish.
An air of “worthiness” pervades as the session begins. Weighty decisions will be made this week. Weighty decisions that could deliver protection for wild animal and plant species from trade that may threaten their survival. Crocodiles, great apes, Asian big cats, elephants, rhinos, sturgeon are all on the agenda. So, too, are vital implementation issues about “ranching” wildlife, about wildlife law enforcement, and about the relationship between CITES and the World Trade Organization.
But the first day is all about budgets, and rules, and credentials and who can say what to whom and when.
We did find out that the next Conference of the Parties to CITES will take place in Doha, Qatar in March 2010. This is hugely important as we can now start planning for the two week conference in earnest — planning that includes raising the money to ensure our full and effective attendance!
We also learned, not surprisingly, that China, an enormous consumer of wildlife, still wants to curtail the role of observer organisations such as Born Free and the Species Survival Network; and that notwithstanding that there were no completed documents for the Standing Committee to look at in relation to the issue of Livelihoods, the UK agreed that it was okay for these documents to be submitted to the next Standing Committee meeting which takes place just one day before the next Conference of the Parties — talk about a rush job! This view was strongly opposed by the USA, to its credit.
I’ve been attending these meetings annually for more than a decade and each one seems more important than the last. Wild species and their habitats are vanishing far too fast and the world can not stand idly by, watching with indifference. Action is needed. And the opportunity for action began today in Geneva — I hope the delegates don't waste their chance to do the right thing.