The Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) considered implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for the implementation of the Convention, and emphasized that CITES views should be considered in the negotiations on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
The work of the 73rd meeting of the Standing Committee (SC73), which met from 5-8 May 2021 and included nine hours of meetings spread over three days, will feed into the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 19), which is expected to take place in 2022.
Among other agenda items, SC73 also considered:
- the Rules of Procedure in an online context;
- a language strategy for the Convention; and
- the African Carnivores Initiative and the linkages between CITES and the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals, agreeing to establish an intersessional working group, aiming to make recommendations to the June 2021 meeting of the Animals Committee.
SC73 was the first CITES Standing Committee (SC) to be held online, which, as the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) analysis of the meeting notes, “turned out to be the most attended and proved that while physical meetings are still the preferred option, online formats can provide inclusion and transparency, while addressing complex issues.” For example, registration requests included “parties that had been unable to send representatives to previous face-to-face meetings of the Standing Committee.”
However, delegates were unable to complete the agenda, with several items, including the discussion of the terms of reference and modus operandi of the Big Cats Task Force and the intersessional working group on stocks and stockpiles (elephant ivory), being postponed due to lack of time.
Whereas much discussion around the roots of the pandemic has focused on the potential role of illegal wildlife trade, the ENB analysis notes that “it is just as critical to think of the risks and vulnerabilities caused by large-scale legal wildlife trade” – the backbone of the Convention. The intersessional working group on the role of CITES in reducing the risk of future zoonotic disease emergence associated with international wildlife trade is due to report back at SC74. The ENB analysis suggests its findings “will be key to understanding whether CITES has a role to play in reducing the threat of coronavirus pandemics.”
The aim of CITES is to ensure that international trade of wild animal and plant species does not threaten their survival. CITES parties regulate wildlife trade through controls and regulations on species listed in three appendices. [ENB Summary Report of SC73]