Representatives of more than 160 governments will begin meeting on Monday in Panama to make decisions which will affect the future conservation of nearly 600 species of animals and plants.
The World Wildlife Conference — also known as CITES CoP19 — will take place from November 14 to 25. In total, more than 2,500 people will be there to take part in, or follow, the ultimate decision-making body of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
CITES regulates the world’s trade in threatened species of animals and plants. A total of 183 countries and the European Union are Parties to the convention and every two or three years, they take part in the meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP).
This is the 19th time they have met in the past 50 years, since CITES was established in 1973.
The meeting will look at 52 proposals to decide on amending the CITES Appendices.
Some of the species to be discussed include, amongst others, nearly 200 tree species, sharks, lizards, frogs, birds, elephants, rhinos, and hippos.
It will also consider the contribution CITES can make to broader issues such as: reducing the risk of transfer of diseases from animals to humans or zoonosis (such as Covid-19) in the international wildlife trade and the regulation of biologically or genetically modified species.
It will also include discussions on inclusion, to try to find ways of ensuring that women, young people and indigenous people and local communities are better represented and better acknowledged for the contribution they make to conservation.
The first week will be taken up with in-depth discussions on the draft decisions, draft resolutions and amendment proposals, in two main committees. Those committees will make recommendations that, in the final few days of the meeting, will go to a plenary stage for final agreement.
All decisions will come into force 90 days after the CoP finishes — to allow parties to put in place all measures necessary for their enforcement.
CoP19 comes at a crucial moment. This year has seen a number of significant scientific reports which have highlighted the need to halt, and even reverse, biodiversity loss, if the planet and human well-being is to be sustained.
The three main threats to wild plants and animals are habitat loss, climate change and overexploitation.
It is significant that the meetings of the Conference of the Parties of the major multilateral environmental agreements, whose decisions can change the course of the triple planetary crises they are confronting, are taking place now and before the end of the year: CITES on wildlife in Panama City, Ramsar Convention on wetlands in Wuhan and Geneva, UNFCCC on climate change in Sharm El-Sheik, and the CBD on biodiversity in Kunming and Montreal.