WWF And Other Organizations Excluded From Wildlife Trade Meeting


UPDATE: The outcome of a second Committee vote has defeated the proposal

to make the sessionon elephants private.

  Non-governmental organizations including WWF have been allowed back into the meeting.

For the first time in over a decade, the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has voted to close its discussions on illegal trade in elephants and ivory to civil society. At a time when transparency and collaboration are desperately needed to address the escalation in trade, closing the meeting to the public will only exacerbate the problem and erode the credibility of CITES.

This meeting was an opportunity to work together to agree measures to stem poaching, improve law enforcement, and reduce illegal trade in ivory, and now that opportunity has been lost.

“This is a major step backwards for CITES,” said Colman O’Criodain, WWF’s Wildlife Trade Policy Analyst. “Civil society organizations have a right to be present in these discussions, not least of all because some of them, including WWF, are donors to the work of CITES on elephants.”

WWF has field programs in 22 countries working on conservation of elephants on the ground, as well as broader initiatives to address the global illegal ivory trade, including contributing financially to the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), which is mandated by CITES to monitor trends in illegal trade.

The motion to exclude non-governmental organizations, that represent civil society in these meetings, was tabled by Kuwait, on behalf of the Asian region. Despite strong objections voiced by the governments of the UK and Kenya, a vote by the Committee closed the session.

There is strong speculation that other important issues to be discussed this week could also be derailed from a transparent process, especially rhinos and tigers, where Asian markets are also strongly implicated as the cause of escalating poaching.

“Given that the major consumer markets for illegal ivory, rhino horn and tiger products are located in Asia, particularly in China, Vietnam and Thailand, one can only assume that this motion was an attempt to evade proper accountability,” said Dr Joseph Okori, WWF’s African Rhino Coordinator. “If it becomes common practice for non-compliant countries to evade public scrutiny, CITES will cease to be relevant.”

Representing their regions, seven governments voted yes on closing the session, six voted no, and three representatives abstained.

The CITES Standing Committee is comprised of 19 countries, selected to represent their geographic regions, and oversees the business of the Convention in between meetings of the Conference of the Parties that occur every three years.