Dear all, 

Greetings, from the closing day of CITES COP 16 in Bangkok, where this year we’ve seen proposals for listing polar bears in Appendix I, several shark and commercial timber species in Appendix II, action on trade in African elephant and rhino products, and discussion and decisions on many other issues such as CITES and livelihoods, the International Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and the International Consortium for Combatting Wildlife Crime (ICCWC). This Conference of the Parties was shaped by the urgency of addressing the dramatic escalation of poaching of elephant and rhino in particular over the last few years, and the current global political focus on wildlife crime, although issues around sustainable use, local livelihoods, and incentives for conservation are never very far under the surface. For SULi members keen to review the action at the COP please join the CITES sub-group on DGroups, which has seen a lively exchange of news and views. 

SULi has been active for a little over a year now. Over this year we’ve laid the basis for sound governance, membership and communications for SULi as well as engaging actively in the IUCN WCC and the CBD COP and pursuing a number of policy and research activities. We now have a new membership, a new platform for day-to-day communications in DGroups, and a suite of ideas and concrete proposals for longer term directions emerging. However, a major priority now is to build on the experience and understanding gained in our first year to clarify SULi’s strategy, its “Unique Selling Point” – how it can best draw on its members to contribute effectively in the complex and crowded conceptual and institutional landscape of sustainable use and livelihoods. A second is establishing a funding strategy – while we are currently supported with core funding by the generosity of the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency, we need to ensure the sustainability of SULi itself. I’d always be keen to hear your views on either of these points.

However, the need to crystallise thinking on our specific niche and strategy doesn’t mean at the same time a number of initiatives are at various stages of development. On small scale fisheries, discussions are underway bringing together leading fisheries expertise with those working directly to support communities in fisheries management and livelihood efforts. There is an intense flurry of activity globally at the moment addressing fisheries, and yet there are concerns both that the interests and voices of small scale fishers are being left out, and that prevailing mainstream ideas about the best way to manage small scale fisheries for sustainability and food security are poorly empirically supported and may be quite wrong. Initial discussions are ongoing on an initiative bringing together positive experiences in small scale fisheries around the world, integrating natural and social science, and particularly highlighting examples of successful integration of scientific and traditional/local knowledge in management. This is being led by Despina Symons, Vivienne Solis and Jeppe Kolding. A first event – a panel discussion - is planned for the MARE Fishers and the Sea meeting in Amsterdam in May. Wild meat is another priority, and in southern Africa, SULi has been involved in work to take forward understanding and action on wild meat and food security in southern Africa – see more on the background to this in this issue. A further major issue is indigenous and traditional knowledge, and how it may be better integrated into wildlife assessment and management. One potential direction for this is looking at how it may be better integrated into Red Listings, working with Inuit Tapiirit Kanatami in Canada, the Medicinal Plants Specialist Group and others. 

With respect to CITES and wildlife trade, here at the CITES CoP a group of 14 SULi members met several days ago for a very constructive discussion of the best role for SULi to play in CITES. Overall we saw our major contribution as providing a platform for critical thinking on some of the strategic cross-cutting questions and issues for CITES. Two particular issues raised were the incorporation of indigenous knowledge into CITES non-detriment findings, and drawing on economic expertise (particularly the insights of industrial organization) to examine how the structures of trade chains affect conservation impact. Michael t’Sas Rolfes (SULi) and Alejandro Nadal (of CEESP Theme on Environmental Macroeconomics, Trade and Investment) will be involved in taking this work forward to develop an initial analytic framework – we will report back on this in the next newsletter. 

Finally, I would like to express my sincere thanks to our Co-Edito, David, who will be stepping down from his role as SULiNews editor due to other work commitments. David has been extremely generous with his time and his formidable IT and communications expertise, and has done an extraordinary job in establishing the SULi website and newsletter.  Thank you David! I’d also like to warmly welcome Sarah Doornbos, who is taking over David’s role. Sarah joins as technical lead and co-editor with Robin Sharp, whose tireless efforts under trying circumstances and outstanding editorial expertise make this issue possible.