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UN wildlife protection agency 'violates' its own trade regulating rules

by Emmanuel Koro
23 Mar 2022 at 09:22hrs | Views
CITES 74TH Standing Committee Chair, Ms Carolina Caceres
The United Nations international wild trade regulating agency, CITES, continues to go through a dark passage from which it will likely emerge as the destroyer, rather than the saviour, of the world's iconic wildlife, said a concerned international observer this week.

The Managing Director of the U.S.A.-based Ivory Education Institute, Mr Godfrey Harris noted that CITES recently officially discussed how it might become involved in preventing zoonotic diseases - diseases that spread from animals to humans. He said that there is nothing in the CITES Convention that would permit the organisation to get entangled in such a subject.

"The rapidly stabilizing Covid-19 pandemic is just being used as an excuse to introduce a worldwide ban on trade in international wildlife," said Mr Harris. "It is an open secret among wildlife observers that the zoonotic disease issue was invented by animal right groups as a way for CITES to end all international trade in wildlife - the seeming goal of the State of Israel's U.S.A-born CITES consultant, William Clark, who introduced the issue in 2021 at the 73rd CITES Standing Committee Meeting."
During the week of 7-11 March 2022, the CITES 74th Standing Committee delegates and NGO representatives also discussed another anti-international wildlife trade-related issue - closing all domestic ivory markets in all CITES-member countries.

"It was yet another attempt to change the mission of CITES," said Mr Harris. "The organisation was designed to regulate international trade in endangered species, not end it. The wording is even embodied in the agency's name. It is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species."

He said that given its very name, CITES clearly was created to avoid the question of domestic trade. It is not the business of the United Nations to get into the internal affairs of its member states. Yet animal rights groups dislike all wildlife trade no matter how justified. They are working with "the major colonial powers of Africa to once again control wildlife policy as they once did, effectively disempowering independent sovereign nations from exercising their right to benefit from the assets found in their territories, including their wildlife.

"After nearly 50 years of trying to protect species that are endangered by poaching, over-hunting, commercial interests, habitat degradation and other causes, there are still pockets of powerful interests in the world determined to manage wildlife according to their Western values while ignoring the needs or goals of the people and countries that now own the wildlife," said Mr Harris in protest of CITES departure from its original mandate.

This departure from the CITES mandate triggered protests from pro-sustainable use Africans who were monitoring and following the CITES 74th Standing Committee discussions via YouTube, from Africa.

"CITES has [now] totally lost the plot and cannot at any stretch of the imagination be considered a conservation organisation as the wasteful destruction of valuable natural resources is the opposite of conservation or the wise use of renewable natural resources," said Mr Barry York of the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa, protesting the use of CITES meetings as platforms to discuss the needless destruction of stocks of elephant ivory.

Even representatives of CITES member countries were not impressed. Countries such as Japan and Zimbabwe reacted negatively to a proposal urging Japan to close its domestic ivory markets. Nevertheless, it is likely to appear on the agenda of the Conference of the Parties (CoP 19) in Panama in November this year.

Former CITES Secretary-General (1982-1990) and current President of the Switzerland-based IWMC-World Conservation Trust, Eugene Lapointe cautioned CITES not to allow itself to discuss issues related to domestic ivory trade because its mandate doesn't allow it to interfere with the internal commerce of member states.

"The fact that some parties have decided to implement stricter domestic measures on ivory trade does not constitute evidence that domestic trade is part of the CITES agenda and part of its terms of reference," said Mr La Pointe. "The text of the Convention is not at all for taking care of domestic activities. It's not CITES' responsibility."

Mr Lapointe's observation is similar to that made by the current CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero, who in a 2019 interview at COP18 in Geneva, Switzerland, confirmed then that the CITES Secretariat has no business in influencing nations to close or continue with domestic trade in ivory. He said that it is the sole responsibility of sovereign nations to decide on the issue of domestic trade in ivory.
 Over the years, the CITES member countries in favour of sustainable international wildlife trade have become increasingly worried about the tell-tale signs of anti-trade influence on almost all the discussion at CITES meetings. This influence is nearly always advanced by the major animal rights groups through major western countries in their determination to end man's use of all wild resources.

They feed the CITES Secretariat with sensational information about illegal trade that sometimes goes unchallenged, leading to decisions that harm both wildlife and people, worldwide, especially those from Africa. Mr Harris said that fortunately, Mr Lapointe caught them out once again.

"I have serious problems with the basis of all of the decisions we might be taking with respect to domestic ivory markets because they are based on two erroneous perceptions," noted Mr Lapointe.

"The first one is that legal domestic markets create opportunities for laundering illegal ivory.
"I have never heard any substantial evidence of such an occurrence. On the other hand, there are several examples of legal activities being deterrents for illegal ones. And even in CITES own history, we have two famous examples of how legal trade activities have come to the rescue of species.

"It is well known that the poaching of vicuñas for their hair [one of the two wild South American camelids] was driving the species to extinction but this was eliminated with the introduction of sheering roundups and the establishment of a perfectly controlled legal market. The species revived and continues to thrive."

Mr La Pointe went on to point out the second example of a legal activity saving an endangered species: "[It] is the story of [Nile] crocodiles" whose decline [was] created by illegal activities but was eliminated by the development of a robust mechanism [for legal trade].

His view is supported by Mr Harris who has written about the Nile crocodile: "Farmers in Africa were encouraged to take eggs laid by wild crocodiles to incubate them mechanically until hatching. Once hatched, these crocodiles were raised by the farmers for their meat and skins. This legal process produced valuable food for the domestic market and unmarred skins for the international market. The professionalism of the effort drove illegal poachers out of business, saved the remaining wild animals in their habitat and provided an enormously important source of protein and income for the African people."

Mr Lapointe said in total surprise to CITES' attempt to ignore wildlife conservation models that have worked for wildlife conservation, "Here we are applying a completely different principle to the activity dealing with ivory."

Banning the ivory trade, without addressing the demand side of the issue, will continue to give the poachers an enormous open market to exploit illegal trade in raw ivory. On the other hand, allowing legal ivory trade would take the market away from the poachers.

Sadly, the 74th CITES Standing Committee meeting ended in Lyon France on 11 March 2022 with many people wondering if it achieved anything worthwhile for global wildlife conservation. Elsewhere, Mr Harris said that he thinks the 74th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee was "basically a waste of time," despite the high marks those who attended will give it to justify their time.

He expressed concern at the lack of any important outcome from the 74th CITES Standing Committee meeting despite having spent multiple hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars preparing the papers for discussion, getting staff and many of the Standing Committee delegates to Lyon as well as "paying for their hotel accommodation, food and transportation for a week."

Mr Harris also wonders if the CITES 74TH Standing Committee Chair, Ms Carolina Caceres, could have used her powers more effectively to ensure that something substantive was concluded on the topic of zoonotic diseases.

In what clearly suggests that the meeting ended inconclusively, Ms Caceres announced this in this way: "It is my suggestion that the Standing Committee agree to submit the decisions found in paragraph 16 of the conference of the parties, with the amendments proposed by North America and the United States to 19.7A as well as the amendments in 19.7D, 7E, 7G, which were more editorial and it's also my suggestion that the Standing Committee also submit the amendments to resolution 10.21 found in paragraph 17 with the amendments that were provided by the European Union."

Did anyone really understand what the Chair was suggesting?
But she went on: "For the remaining issues that were raised by Israel, by the United States as well as by those parties advocating for the development of a full resolution (of the zoonotic disease issue) I suggest that the Standing Committee does not have time to appropriately consider those wide ranges of issues and so the committee can advance … the, the issues in the document and take note of all the other points that were raised and of course if parties wish to bring those to the attention of the Conference of the Part(ies) it is within their authorities to do so."

Mr Harris noted that such an inconclusive outcome was "typical of CITES."

"Keep all the results opaque," he said exposing the CITES tradition of ending meetings inconclusively. "Kick the issue down the road for further discussion. Never solve much of anything so the bureaucrats (in Geneva as well as the capitals of the former major colonial powers) continue to have work in the future.

"By leaving everything in a kind of a perpetual limbo, by continuous imprecise references to previous decisions, the bureaucrats assume free rein to manipulate the wording of any conclusion on any issue to suit whatever political end they are then favouring. It is yet another example of how CITES is in the pocket of the animal rights groups and the major former colonial powers."

About the writer: Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning independent environmental journalist who writes extensively on environment and development issues in Africa.

Source - Emmanuel Koro