Conservation conferences provoke divergent reactions, and the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP18) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) was no exception. Soundbites emanating from Geneva over the last few weeks ranged from “success” and “celebrations” to “no faith” and “shattered”. Despite the dichotomy of views, it was clear that the 169 member governments and the 1,700 delegates, observers and journalists in attendance considered the decisions taken at the meeting to be highly significant.
CITES is an agreement among 183 countries that aims to regulate trade in animals and plants, ensuring that species throughout the world are not threatened by unsustainable use. In terms of its agenda, CITES CoP18 was one of the most ambitious meetings yet.
Given warnings from across the globe, including an IPBES report referring to “unprecedented” declines in our natural world and “accelerating” extinction rates, we clearly need to use every tool at our disposal, including this vital mechanism to tackle trafficking in species that are being threatened by trade. CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero’s opening remarks very much reflected this sentiment: “Humanity needs to respond to the growing extinction crisis by transforming the way we manage the world’s wild animals and plants. Business as usual is no longer an option.”
I have attended CITES meetings in the past, but this one felt different. Crucially, I’m now working for an organisation that has teams based in-country, working tirelessly at the coalface to deliver practical conservation solutions. This means that FFI is uniquely placed to translate everything that we were working towards at CoP18 into results on the ground. Our intimate knowledge of the conservation landscapes in which we work, rooted in engagement with locally based communities, governments, NGOs and businesses, complemented by our links with international organisations, corporations and multilateral bodies, ensures that our policy work is evidence-based, practicable and translatable.
Among the hundreds of issues relevant to FFI were several immediate priorities for us.