Undelivered intervention on Agenda item 15, Participatory mechanisms for rural communities in CITES

Undelivered intervention on Agenda item 15, Participatory mechanisms for rural communities in CITES

As the meeting drags on, Committee II has reached the night session (19:00-22:00) of 16 November, discussing CITES, and indigenous peoples and rural communities. Given the split view on the matter amongst Parties, the three agenda items (13-15) triggered long discussions. Respecting the late hour, the chair was not able to allow all observers to deliver their interventions on the last agenda item in this context, Agenda item 15 on Participatory mechanisms for rural communities in CITES. Sellheim Environmental, as part of the delegation of IWMC – World Conservation Trust, was amongst those observers not being able to intervene. Below is the intervention IWMC was to deliver in response to the tabled document by Eswatini, Namibia and Zimbabwe, which seeks, inter alia, to establish a Rural Communities Advisory Sub-Committee.

The way forward on this agenda item could not be agreed upon by consensus. It was therefore decided to move the issue to a working group that was established on agenda item 13, which would then deliver its report to the Standing Committee. The Standing Committee, in turn, would then discuss the matter and inform CoP20 on how to move this issue ahead.

IWMC intervention on Agenda Item 15

Madam Chair, 

As this is the first time we are taking the floor, we would like to thank the government of Panama for hosting this meeting and to congratulate you for having been nominated to lead this Committee and we would like to express our gratitude for your skills to steer it through heavy winds

I’m speaking on behalf of IWMC—World Conservation Trust, the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa, the International Fur Federation, the Sustainable Use Coalition South Africa and several other organisations, the list of which will be provided to the Secretariat. 

Yesterday, two important side events on CITES and indigenous peoples and local communities were held. While we were happy to see that particularly the evening session was well-attended, the night session was not. It almost seemed as if the indigenous representatives and experts were preaching to the choir. And with so many Parties absent, the way forward concerning participation of IPs and LCs in a snail’s pace will continue. After all, CITES does not seem to talk with IPs and LCs, it seems to talk at them. 

Consider the Arctic Council. Within four years of its establishment in 1996, two indigenous organisations were members while another four joined in the subsequent years to constitute the six Permanent Participants. In addition, the Indigenous Peoples Secretariat, based in Copenhagen, Denmark, assists the work of these Permanent Participants, who must be, and are, included in all decisions the Council takes. 

As outlined in Inf. Doc. 29, other conventions have mechanisms in place in order to include IPs and LCs in their decision-making processes. Of course, these are not perfect, but they nevertheless exist and can be improved! CITES, on the other hand, still lacks such processes —despite a zeitgeist that has clearly shifted towards more recognition, as our gender-debate yesterday demonstrated, and towards a more inclusive mode of decision-making. But is the warmth of the sun over Panama making us lethargic to the point where we cannot emulate the success of others whose example we should be following?

May we further remind 46 Parties to this Convention that you are also parties to the Aarhus Convention on participation in environmental decision-making and that you have obligations under that convention? And not to have a solid participatory mechanism for IPs and LCs in place for CITES seriously undermines the purpose of that convention.

Madam chair, to sum up my points: first, other bodies and conventions have managed to integrate IPs and LCs in their decision-making processes. Second, recognition and inclusion shape not only other international bodies, but also this one. And, lastly, Parties have legal obligations under international law to ensure effective participation of IPs and LCs. Needless to say, we urge Parties to support the Recommendations in the document before us and the establishment of a Rural Communities Advisory Sub-Committee. For if this Convention continues moving forward like a snail, it can join Achatinella and others and place itself on Appendix I eventually. Thank you. 

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