What is CITES?
CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between Governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
Widespread information nowadays about the endangered status of many prominent species, such as the tiger and elephants, might make the need for such a convention seem obvious. But at the time when the ideas for CITES were first formed, in the 1960s, international discussion of the regulation of wildlife trade for conservation purposes was something relatively new. With hindsight, the need for CITES is clear. Annually, international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and to include hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens. The trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including food products, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist curios and medicines. Levels of exploitation of some animal and plant species are high and the trade in them, together with other factors, such as habitat loss, is capable of heavily depleting their populations and even bringing some species close to extinction. Many wildlife species in trade are not endangered, but the existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important in order to safeguard these resources for the future.
Because the trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. CITES was conceived in the spirit of such cooperation. Today, it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.
CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of IUCN (The World Conservation Union). The text of the Convention was finally agreed at a meeting of representatives of 80 countries in Washington DC., United States of America, on 3 March 1973, , and on 1 July 1975 CITES entered in force. The original of the Convention was deposited with the Depositary Government in the Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish languages, each version being equally authentic.
CITES is an international agreement to which States (countries) adhere voluntarily. States that have agreed to be bound by the Convention ('joined' CITES) are known as Parties. Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties – in other words they have to implement the Convention – it does not take the place of national laws. Rather it provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level.
For many years CITES has been among the conservation agreements with the largest membership, with now 169 Parties.
How CITES works
CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls. All import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of species covered by the Convention has to be authorized through a licensing system. Each Party to the Convention must designate one or more Management Authorities in charge of administering that licensing system and one or more Scientific Authorities to advise them on the effects of trade on the status of the species.
The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the degree of protection they need. (For additional information on the number and type of species covered by the Convention click here.)
Appendices I and II
· Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction. Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
· Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.
The Conference of the Parties (CoP), which is the supreme decision-making body of the Convention and comprises all its member States, has agreed in Resolution Conf. 9.24 (Rev. CoP13) on a set of biological and trade criteria to help determine whether a species should be included in Appendices I or II. At each regular meeting of the CoP, Parties submit proposals based on those criteria to amend these two Appendices. Those amendment proposals are discussed and then submitted to a vote. The Convention also allows for amendments by a postal procedure between meetings of the CoP (see Article XV, paragraph 2, of the Convention), but this procedure is rarely used.
This Appendix contains species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade. Changes to Appendix III follow a distinct procedure from changes to Appendices I and II, as each Party’s is entitled to make unilateral amendments to it.
A specimen of a CITES-listed species may be imported into or exported (or re-exported) from a State party to the Convention only if the appropriate document has been obtained and presented for clearance at the port of entry or exit. There is some variation of the requirements from one country to another and it is always necessary to check on the national laws that may be stricter, but the basic conditions that apply for Appendices I and II are described below.
An import permit issued by the Management Authority of the State of import is required. This may be issued only if the specimen is not to be used for primarily commercial purposes and if the import will be for purposes that are not detrimental to the survival of the species. In the case of a live animal or plant, the Scientific Authority must be satisfied that the proposed recipient is suitably equipped to house and care for it.
An export permit or re-export certificate issued by the Management Authority of the State of export or re-export is also required.
An export permit may be issued only if the specimen was legally obtained; the trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species; and an import permit has already been issued.
A re-export certificate may be issued only if the specimen was imported in accordance with the provisions of the Convention and, in the case of a live animal or plant, if an import permit has been issued.
In the case of a live animal or plant, it must be prepared and shipped to minimize any risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment.
An export permit or re-export certificate issued by the Management Authority of the State of export or re-export is required.
An export permit may be issued only if the specimen was legally obtained and if the export will not be detrimental to the survival of the species.
A re-export certificate may be issued only if the specimen was imported in accordance with the Convention.
In the case of a live animal or plant, it must be prepared and shipped to minimize any risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment.
No import permit is needed unless required by national law.
In the case of specimens introduced from the sea, a certificate has to be issued by the Management Authority of the State into which the specimens are being brought, for species listed in Appendix I or II. For further information, see the text of the Convention, Article III, paragraph 5 and Article IV, paragraph 6.
In the case of trade from a State that included the species in Appendix III, an export permit issued by the Management Authority of that State is required. This may be issued only if the specimen was legally obtained and, in the case of a live animal or plant, if it will be prepared and shipped to minimize any risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment.
In the case of export from any other State, a certificate of origin issued by its Management Authority is required.
In the case of re-export, a re-export certificate issued by the State of re-export is required
In its Article VII, the Convention allows or requires Parties to make certain exceptions to the general principles described above, notably in the following cases:
· for specimens in transit or being transhipped [see also Resolution Conf. 9.7 (Rev. CoP13)];
· for specimens that were acquired before CITES provisions applied to them (known as pre-Convention specimens, see also Resolution Conf. 13.6);
· for specimens that are personal or household effects ([see also Resolution Conf. 13.7);
· for animals that were ‘bred in captivity’ [see Resolution Conf. 10.16 (Rev.)];
· for plants that were ‘artificially propagated’ [see Resolution Conf. 11.11 (Rev. CoP13)];
· for specimens that are destined for scientific research;
· for animals or plants forming part of a travelling collection or exhibition, such as a circus.
There are special rules in these cases and a permit or certificate will generally still be required. Anyone planning to import or export/re-export specimens of a CITES species should contact the national CITES Management Authorities of the countries of import and export/re-export for information on the rules that apply.
When a specimen of a CITES-listed species is transferred between a country that is a Party to CITES and a country that is not, the country that is a Party may accept documentation equivalent to the permits and certificates described above.
When the government of a State decides that it will be bound to the provisions of CITES, it can 'join' the Convention by making a formal declaration to this effect in writing to the Depositary Government, which is the Government of Switzerland. Once a document containing this declaration has been received by the Depositary, through the diplomatic channel, the Convention enters into force for the State concerned 90 days later (see Article XXI).
A State for which the Convention has entered into force is called a Party to CITES. Currently there are 169 Parties. Check the alphabetical or chronological list of Parties below.
A State that is a Party to CITES may withdraw from the Convention at any time by a process of denunciation (see Article XXIV).
The process of making a declaration to be bound to the provisions of CITES is called "ratification", "acceptance", "approval" or "accession". Ratification, acceptance and approval are legally equivalent actions but are only applicable in relation to the States that signed the Convention when it was open for signature, between 3 March 1973 (when it was concluded) and 31 December 1974. (Acceptance and approval are the actions taken by certain States when, at national level, constitutional law does not require a treaty to be "ratified".) All States that had signed the Convention have now ratified it. The term "accession" is used in relation to the States that did not sign the Convention (see Articles XIX, XX and XXI).
· list of Parties in alphabetical order
· list of Parties in chronological order
· list of Parties having accepted the amendment to Article XI of the Convention adopted at Bonn (Germany), 22 June 1979, entered into force on 13 April 1987
· list of Parties having accepted the amendment to Article XXI of the Convention adopted at Gaborone (Botswana), on 30 April 1983
The CITES Secretariat
The CITES Secretariat is administered by and is located at Geneva, Switzerland. It has a pivotal role, fundamental to the Convention and its functions are laid down in Article XII of the text of the Convention. They include:
· playing a coordinating, advisory and servicing role in the working of the Convention;
· assisting with communication and monitoring the implementation of the Convention to ensure that its provisions are respected;
· arranging meetings of the Conference of the Parties and of the permanent Committees at regular intervals and servicing those meetings (i.e. organizing them, preparing and circulating meeting documents, making necessary arrangements for delegates to attend the meetings, providing advice and support, etc.);
· providing assistance in the fields of legislation, enforcement, science and training;
· undertaking, under agreed programmes, occasional scientific and technical studies into issues affecting the implementation of the Convention;
· making recommendations regarding the implementation of the Convention;
· acting as the repository for the reports, sample permits and other information submitted by the Parties;
· distributing information relevant to several or all Parties, for example, proposals to amend the Appendices, sample permits, information about enforcement problems, national legislation, reference material or news of a new Party;
· issuing new editions of Appendices I, II and III, whenever there is a change, as well as of the Resolutions and Decisions adopted by the Conference of the Parties at its meetings, and information to assist identification of species listed in the Appendices; and
· preparing annual reports to the Parties on its own work and on the implementation of the Convention;
The Secretariat distributes information to the Parties mostly through meeting documents and Notifications. Except in very few cases, all documents are made available in the three working languages of the Convention (English, French and Spanish) and are posted on this website.
The staff list summarizes the responsibilities of each of the Secretariat’s staff and gives their contact details. The organigram and our photo gallery provide a more graphic display (please note that the images can take a long time to appear if you do not have a fast connection to the Internet).
Cooperation with other organizations
Goal 5 of the CITES Strategic Vision is to "increase cooperation and conclude strategic alliances with international stakeholders" and the Secretariat has entered into a number of general cooperation agreements with other organizations. These Memoranda of Understanding are as follows:
· Memorandum of Understanding among the Secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (SBC) and the Secretariat of the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the Montreal Protocal on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (the Ozone Secretariat) and the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
· Memorandum of Cooperation between the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Washington, D.C., 1973) and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (Nairobi, 1992) (see also the amendment)
· Memorandum of Understanding between the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES Secretariat) and the Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS Secretariat) (see also the new annex)
· Memorandum of Understanding between the General Secretariat of ICPO-INTERPOL and the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
· Memorandum of Understanding between the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and IUCN-the World Conservation Union, July 1999
· Memorandum of Understanding between the World Customs Organization (WCO) and the CITES Secretariat
· Memorandum of Understanding between the Task Force for Co-operative Enforcement Operations directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora (Lusaka Agreement Task Force) and the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
· Memorandum of Understanding between the Board of Trustees, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AB, United Kingdom the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
· Memorandum of Understanding between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) of the United Kingdom (UK) and the Secretariat to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
· Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement/Clark R. Bavin National Fish & Wildlife Forensic Laboratory and the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
· Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concluded between TRAFFIC International, on behalf of the TRAFFIC Network and the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (the CITES Secretariat)
How is CITES financed?
The core administrative costs of the Secretariat, the Conference of the Parties and its subsidiary bodies, the Standing Committee and the other permanent committees, are financed from the CITES Trust Fund. This Trust Fund is replenished from contributions from the Parties to the Convention based on the United Nations scale of assessment, adjusted to take account of the fact that not all members of the United Nations are Parties to the Convention.
The status of contributions to the CITES Trust Fund is shown here.
The annual distribution of unpaid contributions of the Parties is shown here.
This information will be updated on a monthly basis.
Any activity that is not funded by the Trust Fund requires funding from external sources. These externally funded projects or activities are usually derived from Resolutions and Decisions adopted at the meetings of Conference of the Parties.
Attached is a list of projects that are based on Decisions adopted at the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Bangkok, 2004) and are still contingent to the availability of funds and therefore need financial support from external sources. As mentioned in most Decisions, Donor Parties, aid agencies, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations are urged to assist in the provision of funding for these projects.
The attached tables contain a summary of all the external funds received by the Secretariat for project implementation during 2004, 2005 and 2006.
Besides funds coming from Governments, non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations and companies are also sources of external funding for CITES projects. The list of approved donors is available here.