What is CITES?

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, is an international treaty (CITES). It was created in response to a resolution adopted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature's members in 1963 (IUCN).

 It became effective in July 1975. There are 184 parties (including countries or regional economic integration organizations). The UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) is in charge of running the CITES Secretariat, which is situated in Geneva, Switzerland. 

The Convention's top decision-making body, the Conference of the Parties to CITES, comprises each of its signatories.

Objectives of CITES:

  • It aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
  • It accords varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants.
  • In order to ensure that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was not violated, the Secretariat of GATT was consulted during the drafting process.
  • Functions of CITES: 
  • The CITES operates by imposing restrictions on international commerce in specimens of particular species.  
  • All introductions from the sea, imports, exports, and re-exports of species protected by the Convention require authorization through a licensing system.  
  • Each Party to the Convention shall appoint one or more Management Authorities to oversee the licensing system and one or more Scientific Authorities to provide scientific advice on the impact of trade on the status of the species. 
  • The Convention's Appendices I, II, and III contain lists of the species that receive various levels or forms of protection from overexploitation.

Classification of CITES:

Appendix I contains a list of Species in danger of extinction. Only extraordinary circumstances enable the trade in specimens of these species.

Appendix II contains species that are not necessarily in danger of going extinct, but their trade has to be managed to prevent usage detrimental to their survival.

Appendix III: This Appendix includes species that are protected in at least one nation, which has requested assistance from other CITES Parties in policing the trade. Changes to Appendix III are subject to a different process than Appendices I and II because each Party may unilaterally update it.

CITES COP: Every two to three years, the Conference of the Parties (CoP) convenes. In years without a CoP, the CITES Committees (Animals Committee, Plants Committee, and Standing Committee) convene meetings; the Standing Committee also meets in years with a CoP. The Committee meetings are held in Geneva, Switzerland, if no other nation agrees to host. India hosted the third meeting of the CITES in New Delhi in 1981. They give the Parties a chance to: 

  • Review conservation progress for the species listed in the Appendices
  • Consider (and, if applicable, implement) recommendations to change the Appendices' listings of species;
  • Take into account discussion papers and reports from the Parties, permanent committees, Secretariat, and working groups
  • suggest actions to increase the Convention's effectiveness
  • Make the arrangements required to enable the Secretariat to operate efficiently, including adopting a budget.

Contribution of CITES: Nearly 35,000 different plant and animal species are governed by CITES. For the past 42 years, CITES has been at the forefront of the discussion surrounding the sustainable use of biodiversity. Its databases contain records of more than 12,000,000 international trade transactions from that time period, many of which benefited local communities.

It places the annual value of illegal commerce between $5 billion and $20 billion. CITES has been crucial in keeping in check the unlawful activities pushing numerous species toward extinction, depriving locals of development options, and depriving governments of potential income. 

To combat the illegal wildlife trade, the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL (the International Criminal Police Organization), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Bank, and the World Customs Organization have formed the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC). 

In order to help national enforcement agencies and regional organizations fight illegal wildlife trafficking, it pulls together the whole enforcement chain.

CITES COP19 2022:Some vital outcomes of COP19 of CITES are mentioned below:

  • At the 19th Conference of Parties (COP19) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, conclusions on reducing the likelihood of zoonotic diseases in the future were completed (CITES).
  • The directives were developed in response to the spread of diseases linked to international wildlife trade.  
  • The World Health Organization (WHO), the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and other relevant accords connected to biodiversity should all be consulted, according to CITES, which recommended parties to do so.
  • The goal was to detect potential new dangers and lower the hazards associated with pathogen spread, their spillover, and zoonotic disease transmission through global supply chains for animal trading. To manage and reduce pathogen spillover, it was decided to use a multi-sectoral approach under the direction of a single health expert panel.

CITES and India: Since 1976, India has been a CITES Party. India is known for having up to 7-8% of all the species listed under CITES due to its extreme diversity. India has four of the world's 34 global biodiversity hotspots: the Western Ghats, Sundaland, Himalayas, and Indo-Burma. India forbids international commerce in threatened wild species as an active CITES Party. 

India has implemented a number of efforts to reduce the risks posed by invading alien species. This is accomplished by controlling trade through import and export permits and certificates.

India and CITES COP19: Two Indian turtle species, the Leith's soft-shell turtle (Nilssonia leithii) and the red-crowned roofed turtle (Batagur kachuga), have been added to Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). On November 21, 2022, CITES loosened limitations on exporting furniture and handicrafts manufactured from Sheesham (Dalbergia sissoo), a type of North Indian rosewood. At the recent CITES meeting, India decided not to vote against a proposal to reopen the worldwide ivory trade.

Limitations of CITES: Some of the limitations of CITES are mentioned below:

  • It seeks to prevent unsustainable use rather than promote sustainable use (which generally conflicts with the Convention on Biological Diversity), though this has changed. 
  • By design and intent, it focuses on trade at the species level and does not address habitat loss; ecosystem approaches conservation or poverty. 
  • It makes no direct mention of market demand. It has been shown that CITES listings boost speculative speculation in some markets for high-value species. 
  • Increased on-the-ground enforcement is not supported by the funding available (it must apply for bilateral aid for most projects of this nature).

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