Africa: Cites - the Trade System That Doesn't Know That It Doesn't Know


Cites, the United Nations organisation which regulates wildlife trade, meets in Sri Lanka in May for its 18th session. First on its agenda should be its chronic inability to conserve the world's natural resources. It's a discussion the organisation has been avoiding for years. Here's why its approach is failing.

The obvious way to protect the natural world is through cautionary, conservation-based principles and conventions. Instead, Cites attempts to do this on the basis of trade.

It hasn't worked for the past 40 years of the organisation's existence, but signatory countries still believe trade is the way and refuse to be persuaded otherwise. Challenging their premise is a waste of time.

Conservation NGOs which should be highlighting Cites' failures aren't doing so. When asked why not, their response is generally "We know the system isn't great, but it is all we have".

When pushed, some admit they don't want to upset the Cites secretariat or the parties as they don't want to be uninvited to the working group meetings in Geneva or to the Conference of Parties, which would rob them of the status of "having a seat at the table". While signatories (governments) have an automatic invitation to Cites...

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