69th Standing Committee Meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

This summary has been abridged from IISD Reporting Services.


The CITES SC69 meeting took place on 27 November – 1 December, 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. John Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES began the meeting by highlighting a recent UN General Assembly Resolution on tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife and called for increased efforts to put trade in CITES-listed timber on a legal and sustainable footing. He stressed the SC’s “supportive and non-adversarial” approach to CITES compliance matters. SC Chair Carolina Caceres (Canada) noted the packed agenda at SC69 and urged participants to summon a “spirit of collaboration” in order to complete the work required before SC70 and the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP18).

The SC considered administrative, financial and compliance issues, including on introduction from the sea of specimens from the North Pacific population of the sei whale. Switzerland announced it would provide 1 million Swiss Francs to the CITES Secretariat each year, starting in 2019, pending approval by its parliament for the budget increase. Sri Lanka announced the dates for CITES CoP18 in Sri Lanka (May 22 – June 3 2019).

Discussions deliberated throughout the week included (but were not limited to):

  • Issues of Malagasy timber trade, with the agreement to maintain the recommendation for parties not to accept exports or re-exports for commercial purposes from Madagascar of specimens of Diospyros and Dalbergiaspp.
  • Elephants and ivory, specifically commending efforts made or that are underway to close domestic ivory markets, and addressing progress on National Ivory Action Plans (NIAPs), including concerns related to the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) methodology. Parties including China, Hong Kong, Kenya, the Philippines, Thailand and Uganda were commended for the progress the Standing Committee considered they had made.
  • Matters of food security, livelihoods, engagement of rural communities in CITES and terminology related to local, indigenous and rural communities. Interventions from participants included pleas to consider the effects of CITES decisions on local people. This led to the agreement of a revised mandate for an intersessional working group.
  • Cooperation with other biodiversity related conventions, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), with special reference to the scientific and technical evaluation of listing proposals for commercially exploited aquatic species.
  • Combating wildlife cybercrime: at an event held alongside CITES SC69, the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) announced new EU funding to step up the fight against illegal wildlife trade, totalling USD 20 million for the implementation of the ICCWC Strategic Programme 2016-2020.
  • Disposal of confiscated specimens and specimens produced from synthetic or cultured DNA.
  • Purpose codes on CITES permits and certificates, definition of the term “appropriate and acceptable destinations,” electronic systems and information technologies and traceability
  • Various species-specific issues were raised including: Humphead wrasse, illegal trade in Tibetan antelope, rhinoceroses and interpretation of annotation #15, cheetahs, sturgeons and paddlefish, sharks and rays, African lion and illegal trade in eels, rosewood timber species, tortoises and freshwater turtles.
  • With regards to pangolins, deliberations primarily focused on interpretation of CITES Res. Conf. 13.6 and in particular, whether specimens of pangolins acquired before the species were listed in Appendix I in 2016 should be treated as specimens of species in Appendix I or II. The Standing Committee agreed that guidance on interpretation of this Resolution in this context should be provided by the CoP, and advised Parties that in the interim they should treat all specimens of pangolins as specimens of species in Appendix I. This issue will now be discussed at CoP18.