Call for action rather than words at CITES opening ceremony

New momentum is needed to ensure that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) works better to conserve species which are under threat and to maintain economies which rely on them. That was the message at the opening ceremony of the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP15) to CITES in Doha, Qatar.

CITES opening ceremony in Qatar Photo: Nicki Chadwick

Willem Wijnstekers, Secretary General of CITES, said “CITES is in urgent need of action rather than words,” adding that “over the years, CITES has become the Convention with the most direct impact on species conservation and, as a result, is the most successful agreement in the area of biodiversity.”

Key decisions on the international trade of bluefin tuna, sharks, polar bears and coral, among many other species, will be decided at the conference, which runs until 25 March 2010. IUCN provides scientific and technical information to CITES.

Addressing representatives from some of the 175 parties to CITES, Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said “2010 was the year in which the world said it would reverse the rate of loss of biodiversity. It has not happened.” He added that “the challenge of this meeting and of the coming years is to renew our collective efforts and to evolve the work and the relevance of CITES onto a higher and even more effective level.”

It was also announced on Saturday that John Scanlon, a top advisor at the United Nations Environment Programme and former head of IUCN’s Environmental Law Programme, has been named as the new Secretary-General of CITES. Mr Scanlon will take up his post in May 2010.

IUCN media team:

Nicki Chadwick, Media Relations Officer, t +41 22 999 0229, m +41 79 528 3486, e.
Brian Thomson, Media Relations Manager, m +41 79 721 8326,


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