CITES Secretary-General's statement on communities, governance, incentives and sustainable use in combating wildlife crime - South Africa

Communities, governance, incentives and sustainable use in combating wildlife crime

26 – 28 February 2015

Glenburn Lodge, Muldersdrift, South Africa

Opening Speech by John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General CITES

Delivered by Tom De Meulenaer, Chief, CITES Scientific Support

Ms. Edna Molewa, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs of South Africa,

Mr Braulio de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity,

Representatives of the IUCN Sustainable Use and Livelihood Specialist Group and of the International Institute for Environment and Development,

Distinguished guests, friends and colleagues.

Thank you for inviting me to make some brief opening remarks to this Symposium ‘BEYOND ENFORCEMENT: Communities, governance, incentives and sustainable use in combating wildlife crime’. I regret that I cannot join you today but CITES is well represented by our Chief of Scientific Support Services, Tom De Meulenaer, who is reading this short statement for me.


Since 2004, the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP) has recognized that the implementation of CITES-listing decisions should take into account the potential impacts on the livelihoods of the poor. At the last meeting of the CoP held in Bangkok in 2013, Parties took another important step in recognizing that the implementation of CITES is better achieved with the engagement of rural communities.

The vision of CITES is to ‘conserve biodiversity and contribute to its sustainable use by ensuring that no species of wild fauna or flora becomes or remains subject to unsustainable exploitation through international trade, thereby contributing to the significant reduction of the rate of biodiversity loss and making a significant contribution towards achieving the relevant Aichi Biodiversity Targets’.

The changing scale and nature of illegal wildlife trade will be well known to all of you. Today we are not confronting small scale subsistence poaching; rather we are dealing with industrial scale poaching. Illegal trade in wildlife has become a sophisticated transnational form of crime, comparable to other malicious examples, such as trafficking of drugs, persons, counterfeit items and oil.  It is driven by rising demand, and is often facilitated by corruption and weak governance.  There is strong evidence of the increased involvement of organized crime groups and non-State armed groups. Illegal wildlife trade undermines the rule of law and threatens national security; it degrades ecosystems and is a major obstacle to the efforts of rural communities and indigenous peoples striving to sustainably manage their natural resources.

We are confronting a crisis and there is a need for immediate and powerful law enforcement that deploys the sorts of tools, techniques and penalties used to combat other serious crimes – along with the imposition of severe and well-publicized penalties that serve as a deterrent to others. Such efforts are best focused on the international illegal networks and on the kingpins who are driving these illegal activities – and significant efforts are underway in this regard across source, transit and destination countries.

However, succeeding over the medium to longer term to combat illegal wildlife trade requires us to engage more deeply with local communities who have the most to lose from illegal trade, as well as the most to gain by preventing it. Such efforts extend beyond combatting wildlife crime and extend to determining how natural resources are best managed and how local communities may derive development benefits from conservation through the sustainable use of wildlife – which can take many different forms, from wildlife-based tourism to the consumptive use of plants and animals.

CITES has two important Resolutions on this topic that have been adopted by the CoP. Resolution Conf. 8.3 (Rev. CoP13) on the recognition of the benefits of trade in wildlife and Resolution Conf. 16.6 on CITES and livelihoods.

Additionally, CITES Decisions 16.17 to 16.25, regarding CITES and livelihoods were adopted at COP16 in Bangkok in 2013. They contain the roadmap for how we address such issues between CoP16 and the next meeting of the CoP, CoP17, in late 2016. Basically, the Decisions provide for the development of a toolkit to assess impacts on livelihoods of CITES listings; the preparation of guidelines on preventing and mitigating any negative impacts; and the undertaking of relevant case studies, divided into species-specific studies and thematic studies. One of the planned thematic study areas is precisely ‘Wildlife crime and livelihoods of rural communities’. We are confident that the outputs of this symposium will contribute significantly to this component. We hereby also invite all participants to continue collaborating with CITES to further develop this particular case study for presentation, discussion and decision-making at CoP17.

In this regard, the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS), through the Department of Sustainable Development (DSD) of Colombia, and the CITES Secretariat organized a workshop on “assessing and addressing impacts of CITES decisions on livelihoods” in Cispatá, Colombia only last week. The purpose of this workshop was to showcase successful livelihood experiences and stimulate the exchange of lessons learned regarding the links between livelihoods and CITES-listed species.

A dialogue was also held on a draft handbook containing the toolkit and guidelines developed by the CITES Working Group on CITES and Livelihoods. The handbook was jointly prepared by by the Department of Sustainable Development of the OAS and the CITES Secretariat.  All Member States and organizations at the meeting where invited to contribute towards the final publication and allow use of their logos. A full report of the workshop will be available shortly – and we have recently created a portal on our website where information about livelihoods and CITES is available.

The Declaration adopted at the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade held in February 2014 also recognizes the negative impacts of illegal wildlife trade on livelihoods and the need to increase the capacity of local communities to seek sustainable opportunities for livelihoods. A follow up Conference to assess progress is planned for next month in Botswana. Today’s symposium in Muldersdrift, and its findings and recommendations, offers a great opportunity to give impetus to this process, which in turn can contribute to the implementation of the international mandates adopted by the Parties to CITES.

Tom will elaborate on these CITES-led processes during the course of the Symposium and again, I would like to encourage you all to take the opportunity to feed into these Party-led processes that will conclude at CITES CoP 17 here in South Africa in late September or early October 2016.

Many thanks for your attention and I wish you well with the Symposium.