CITES does not seem to value concerns for livelihoods and food security

CITES does not seem to value concerns for livelihoods and food security

In a document brought forth by Botswana, Cambodia, Eswatini and Zimbabwe, the proponents aimed to include livelihoods and food security into the criteria for amending the CITES Appendices. At present, the criteria, which are set in Resolution Conf. 9.24 (Rev. CoP17), it is primarily biological and trade criteria that are used to table proposals to amend the Appendices. As such, as the Convention outlines in Article II, “Appendix I shall include all species threatened with extinction which are or may be affected by trade”, whereas “Appendix II shall include (a) all species which although not necessarily now threatened with extinction may become so unless trade […] is subject to strict regulation; and (b) other species which must be subject to regulation in order that trade […] may be brought under effective control.”

On Tuesday, 22 November, the morning session of Committee I at CoP19 discussed Document 87.1 to amend the criteria outlined in Resolution Conf. 9.24 (Rev. CoP17), as proposed by aforementioned countries. As expected, the European Union, the United States, the UK, Kenya, Burkina Faso as well as several other Parties spoke out against the document. One of the main arguments was that livelihoods and food security are to be dealt with on a national level and that these issues therefore fall outside the scope of CITES. As with previous agenda items, which aimed to improve the involvement of indigenous peoples and local communities (IPs and LCs), the issue is controversially perceived by CITES Parties.

Several Parties, however, spoke in favour of the tabled document, also providing ways forward to address the concerns by those Parties in opposition to it. Apart from the proponents, it was especially Japan, China, Tanzania and Cuba who voiced their support for the proposal, offering draft Decisions directed at different bodies of the Convention to move the issue further.

Several Observers, in favour and in opposition of the document, had already prepared their interventions, when the delegate from Israel raised a point of order under Rule 20.2(d) of the Rules of Procedure of the CoP. Under this rule, a Party has the right to “closure of the debate on the particular subject or question under discussion.” If this rule is invoked, the chair is required to move the motion to a simple majority vote. Following this, 58 Parties seconded Israel’s motion, 57 objected to it while 12 abstained. The discussion was therefore suspended. All Observers did therefore not get the chance to present their views.

Surprisingly, as subsequent ruling, the chair moved the entire document to a vote. Since the topic in question is of a substantive nature, a 2/3 majority is required. Document 87.1, however, did not find this support.

The consistent refusal to include livelihoods and food security issues within CITES is concerning, as previous decisions and motions on this issue have demonstrated. If the issue was indeed outside the scope of CITES, it appears illogical that several states time and again table this issue at different CoPs while others support it. The issue is crucial and can indeed be boiled down to a rather simple equation: If CITES drives people into poverty, many species might be lost. Not out of greed, but out of necessity.

CITES has once again demonstrated that a strategic inclusion of livelihoods and food security concerns is not of interest to the vast majority of Parties. Whether or not this will result in the withdrawal of Parties from the Convention remains to be seen. Yet, it is clear that the Convention does not act in accordance with international human rights standards pertaining to the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.

The agenda item might be opened again in the Plenary session on Thursday or Friday, 24 or 25 November respectively. Whether new developments will occur is unlikely, however.

Since the Observers could not present their interventions, the prepared intervention by IWMC-World Conservation Trust, the delegation of which Sellheim Environmental is a part, can be found below.

Undelivered intervention on Document 87.1

Mr Chair,

I speak on behalf of IWMC and several other organisations the names of which will be sent to the Secretariat.

The appreciation of the fact that CITES-listed species contribute to the livelihoods of millions is probably one of the most controversial issues for this Convention. When CITES was first adopted, the consideration of livelihoods was merely in its kids’ shoes and the focus rested solely on the protection of species. But, Mr Chair, looking at the academia, looking at international institutions and looking at the threats to the integrity of human and ecological systems all over the world, one thing has become abundantly clear: The concern for livelihoods and food security has exponentially grown since the early 1970s: as part of an expansive human rights discourse, as part of a sustainable development of human societies and ecosystems, and as part of successful conservation. 

Indeed, CITES success rests on the control of trade in endangered species. But this does not mean that the Convention, and with it this COP, can duck away from a changing zeitgeist that makes human societies — resource users — part and parcel of conservation initiatives. We cannot ignore the fact that, in light of a changing climate and biodiversity loss, food is becoming scarce in many regions. We cannot ignore the fact that illegal harvesting is also a result of prohibitions that did not take the human factor into account. And we cannot ignore the fact that primary reliance on biological criteria and the precautionary principle may in fact work against conservation, not for it. 

We therefore, respectfully, urge this COP to finally live up to its pledges concerning livelihoods, to adhere to standards enshrined in human rights instruments that most Parties in this room have ratified, and to finally include livelihoods and food security into the mechanisms to propose amendments of the CITES Appendices. This step is long overdue and if this COP still refuses to do so, Parties should ask themselves how to justify this rejection in light of development aid initiatives and, indeed, to work towards a world free of hunger. The only way to underscore CITES’ commitment to the wellbeing of this world is to adopt the Resolution before us. 

Thank you, Mr Chair. 

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