The Source ISSUE NO.5 20 August 2019 – CITES CoP18 Notes

Compiled by Emmanuel Koro, African environmental journalist who has extensively written on environment and development issues in Africa.

CoP18 press briefing by CITES Secretary General Ivonne Higuero (second from left), Rody Hay, Chair of Committee I CoP18 (second from right) and Craig Hoover, Chair Committee II (extreme right).

CITES Secretary General calls upon affected member countries to provide evidence of Western animal rights groups vote-buying scandal,

CITES rejects establishment of a Rural Communities Committee,

‘Elephant overpopulated SADC countries should tell Western nations to come airlift elephants devalued by the ivory trade ban or else we [will] cull them’

At a Palexpo press conference yesterday in Geneva, CITES Secretary General Ivonne Higuero was asked why the Secretariat is not investigating the ongoing Western animal rights groups influencing activities, in order to restore the integrity of the CITES voting process and the image of the organization.

THE SOURCE COMMENT: This comes at a time when fed up African countries could pullout of CITES in protest over a tainted voting process that robs them of their sovereign rights to trade in their wildlife products such as ivory and rhino horn.

“I have no evidence of vote-buying or anything like that happening,” said Higuero. “You (member countries that are complaining about vote-buying) have to present this evidence to the CITES Secretariat.”
She cited Resolution 17.3 (mostly ineffective, THE SOURCE notes) that calls for voluntary disclosure by whoever comes to attend CITES meetings and is not funded by his or her own government. However, even here at CoP18 there is evidence that delegates from ‘weak’ African governments are being sponsored in different ways by Western animal rights groups but did not declare this to the CITES Secretariat.

THE SOURCE COMMENT: The CITES Secretariat is also obviously aware and can’t deny that Western animal rights groups don’t only pay for a trip, food and accommodation, in order to influence a CITES outcome.

Higuero was quizzed further about what CITES is doing as a regulatory agency to address the ongoing and unfair shutting down of SADC countries’ ivory, rhino horn and hunting markets worldwide. She was asked how it would be possible for the CITES Secretariat to contribute towards the achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030 when hunting, ivory and horn trade markets for Africa were being shutdown worldwide.

In response Higuero did not explain how this was going to interfere with the attainment of SDGs. Instead, she said that shutting down domestic markets was being done by sovereign nations and CITES had no control over that.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, yesterday a Zimbabwean state veterinarian offered a solution to the elephant overpopulation challenge in SADC countries. “They should stand up to CITES CoP18 and tell the U.S., Europe and all the Western animal rights groups to come and airlift African elephants to their own countries or anywhere else they please since they [African elephants] have been devalued by the ivory trade ban and ongoing ivory markets shutdown,” he said.

The vet continued: “If they [the Western nations and their animal rights groups] don’t remove 40 000 excess elephants from Hwange National Park, for example, in the next few months, then Zimbabwe or another SADC country will be forced to do the right thing – cull the excess elephants so that other species and the remaining elephant populations survive.”

Some of the reasons cited for the abandonment of the Rural Communities Committee proposal included limited administrative and financial resources to run it.

THE SOURCE COMMENT: Other corrupt CITES vote-influencing activities happen well before CITES meetings. They include outright bribery; honoraria payments for lectures, Board of Director’s fees, research grants and official visits are made to bribable countries.

The Zimbabwean vet said that SADC countries should additionally sue the Western organizations for the costs of maintaining the excessive number of animals and for the general loss of lesser flora and fauna species.

CITES member countries, including the U.S. and some West and East African nations, rejected the establishment of a CITES Rural Communities Committee yesterday. Among other things the Committee was going to ensure that CITES decisions would in future, always be made after having assessed and eliminated their potential negative impact on indigenous and local communities.

Some of the reasons cited for the abandonment of the Rural Communities Committee proposal included limited administrative and financial resources to run it.

THE SOURCE COMMENT: What a let down for indigenous and local communities in whose hands lies the fate of the fauna and flora species that justify the existence of the CITES Secretariat and the holding of CITES meetings attended by world governments. We must never forget that rural communities matter.

Emmanuel Koro

Emmanuel Koro is a Johannesburg-based and international award-winning environmental journalist who has and continues to cover environmental issues in Africa.

Emmanuel Koro has 24 posts and counting. See all posts by Emmanuel Koro

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