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CITES Secretariat
International Environment House
15, chemin des Anémones
CH-1219 Châtelaine-Geneva, Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 917 8139/40
Fax: +41 22 797 3417
E-mail: cites@unep.ch 

Internet http://www.cites.org 


CITES was negotiated in 1973 to protect wildlife against over-exploitation and to prevent international trade from threatening species with extinction. It entered into force on 1 July 1975 and now has a membership of 151 countries. These countries act by banning commercial international trade in an agreed list of endangered species and by regulating and monitoring trade in others that might become endangered. 

Scientific Advisory Process

Scientific advice to CITES is organized at both the national and global levels. 

At the national level, each Party to the Convention is required to adopt legislation to nominate a national Scientific Authority. This Scientific Authority determines whether trade in any of the species included in the Appendices to the Convention from the country concerned may or may not be detrimental to its survival. However, not all Parties to CITES have adequate means to properly implement these requirements. At its 11th meeting, the Conference of the Parties (COP-11) approved a proposal by the Secretariat to develop and implement a programme through which assistance could be provided to Parties, to develop the capacity of their Scientific Authorities to make these so-called non-detriment findings. Funding for this programme was also allocated in the budget of the Secretariat for the years 2000-2002. 

The Scientific Authority also has responsibilities related to the conditions for keeping of species, analysis of proposals to amend the appendices or to prepare such proposals. It submits advice to a similarly designated national Management Authority that is responsible for issuing permits and certificates regulating trade under CITES. Each Party is required to submit reports on the trade in CITES specimens on an annual basis. The information in these reports is important for the Animals Committee and the Plants Committee with regard to their analysis of significant trade in particular animal or plant species (see below). COP-11 recognized the importance of this annual reporting by deciding that Parties to CITES should no longer allow trade in CITES specimens with a Party that has not submitted its annual report for three consecutive years. 

At the global level, CITES now has three Advisory Committees, reduced from 4 at COP-11, whose responsibilities and membership are outlined in a resolution of that COP. The committees and their tasks are as follows: 

1. Animals Committee: The membership of the Animals Committee is determined by each of the CITES Regions. These Regions select one or two persons, knowledgeable on CITES Animal issues, to serve on the Committee in the period between two Conferences of the Parties. The number of members depends on the size of the CITES regions. Africa, Asia, Central & South America and the Caribbean and Europe each have two representatives in the Committee. Oceania and North America have each one. Its tasks are to:
- Establish a list of those animal taxa included in Appendix II which are considered as being significantly affected by trade, and review and assess all available biological and trade information, including comments by the range States. The purpose of this process is to provide assistance to Parties to enable them to determine whether trade in a particular species from a particular country is detrimental to its survival or not. This involves analysis of information on the population status and population dynamics of species included in the appendices and to compare these with the level of trade. The Committee will then formulate recommendations to the Parties concerned that may involve establishment of management programmes, establishment of export quotas and further field studies. Details of this process are formally laid down by the Conference of the Parties in Resolution Conf. 8.9. 
- Undertake a regular review of the Appendices. In time, the population status of many species can change. This is something that may not be easily noticed, in particular when the species is not subject to the review mentioned under 1. above. In addition, in the earlier years of the existence of CITES, in particular in the seventies and the beginning of the eighties, several species were included in the appendices without the appropriate scientific justification being required. The Animals Committee will, for species that have already been included for some time in any of the appendices review its biological status, taking particular account of the currently valid criteria for inclusion of species in the appendices (contained in Resolution Conf. 9.24). In doing so, it is ensured that species included in the Appendices are there because there population status and the possible impact of trade on its survival justifies that status. 
- Make available advice on management techniques and procedures to range States that request this. Because the basic provisions of the Convention relate to the sustainable utilization of natural resources, it is important that the Parties can be assisted in developing programmes for the management of those resources. 
- Other tasks include providing advice to the Nomenclature Committee and dealing with issues such as the humane an ethical transport of live animals. 

2. Plants Committee: The composition of the Plants Committee is established in the same manner as for the Animals Committee. Its task (with the except of issues related to humane transport) are also similar to the Animals Committee, with the understanding that this committee deals with issues related to plants species included in the Appendices. 

3. Nomenclature Committee: As the name of the Committee indicates, it deals with issues related to nomenclature, of animals and of plants. Scientific studies frequently not only change names of species, but also describe new ones. It is in particular this last aspect that is important for the Parties. Newly described species are not necessarily newly discovered ones, but may also be the result of a re-interpretation of existing taxonomy. This last aspect has important implications for the population status of formerly and/or newly recognized taxa and needs to be regularly evaluated in the context of the non-detriment findings by Scientific Authorities. 
The two members of the Committee, one botanist and one zoologist, are elected by the COP. 

At COP-11, the Identification Manual Committee was terminated. Nonetheless, the CITES Identification Manual remains an important tool for customs, police and wildlife inspectors to determine whether animals and plants in international trade are subject to CITES controls. The CITES Identification Manual is prepared by the CITES Secretariat with assistance from the Scientific Authorities of many Parties. It is published in the three working languages of the Convention; English, French and Spanish. Additions and updates are published on a regular basis. 

Working Groups: The CITES Standing Committee plays an important role in steering the work and the performance of the Convention in periods between the meetings of the Conference of the Parties. The Committee itself does not have a specific scientific responsibility, since these have been delegated to the Committees mentioned above. However, the Standing Committee has the possibility to create working groups, dealing with particular aspects of the Convention. 

One such working group is the Timber Working Group, which was created in 1994. It has provided a large number of recommendations to COP-10 on all aspects of the implementation of the Convention for timber producing species, which were all adopted. The adoption of all recommendations by the Timber Working Group clearly demonstrated that CITES is capable of adapting itself to the regulation and scientific management of different patterns of sustainable trade. 

At COP-11, a Criteria Working Group was established. This working group has to evaluate the current criteria for the inclusion of species in Appendices I and II of CITES (as contained in Resolution Conf. 9.24), and determine whether these remain valid and applicable to and sufficient for all taxonomic groups of animals and plants. Representation in the working group is based on expertise on all major taxonomic groups and individuals are drawn from regional representatives to the Animals Committee and to the Plants Committee from each of the six CITES regions. The Criteria Working Group can involve, as and when necessary, up to four external experts in addition to representatives from FAO and the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), to assist in conducting the review. 

Information Technology

CITES' website is linked to the joint website of the biodiversity-related conventions (CBD, CITES, CMS, Ramsar and the World Heritage Convention). This is the result of the programme approved by the 20th Special Session of the UN General Assembly (June 1997) for the further implementation of Agenda 21, which gives special priority to collaboration among the Conventions and to enhancing information capacities as requisites for sustainable development. There is a growing recognition that while each Convention stands on its own, with its own defined objectives and commitments, there are also linkages and inherent relationships between all of them. The Conventions operate in the same ecosystems. The website offers a good comparative overview of the conventions, with links to each being listed according to 20 criteria. (see http://www.biodiv.org/rioconv/websites.html


In carrying out its tasks, CITES is assisted by the IUCN/WWF co-sponsored TRAFFIC Network (Trade Record Analysis of Flora and Fauna - for more information, see http://www.traffic.org) and members of the various Specialist Groups of the Species Survival Commission of IUCN. 

Prepared by Jan-Stefan Fritz for the Second Report on International Scientific Advisory Processes on the Environment and Sustainable Development, 2000
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