October 15, 2019
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    CITES to Combatting illegal wildlife trade Featured

    April 22, 2019

    The 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered species will be held from May 22 to June 3 at the BMICH Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora [CITES] is an international agreement between governments. It ensures that the international trade of wild fauna and flora does not threaten their survival. It is one of the most strong Conventions to regulate the international trade of wild animals and plants through its authorized permit/licensing system which ensures the listed species of over 36,000 animals and plants are sustainable, legal and traceable.

    Signed in Washington DC on 03.03.1973. Entered into force on 01,07.1975. As of 30.06.2018, 183 States [182+1EU] Parties are members.The number of States that are parties demonstrates its strong international nature and the importance in regulating International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in especially member countries. The UN Sustainable Development Goals, under Goal 15 [15.7 and 15C] specifically addresses the tackling the illegal trade of wild animal and plants.

    CITES in Sri Lanka

    Sri Lanka acceded to the Convention on 04.05.1979. The managing agent is the Department of Wild Life.Sri Lanka is a dualist country hence we require national legislation to implement international Conventions that are ratified and/ or acceded by Sri Lanka. It has been nearly four decades and we still have not been able to enact national laws to give effect to CITES in Sri Lanka. National laws in the implementation of CITES are critical in nature as it will thereafter supersede any CITES regulation in Sri Lanka. In order to monitor the trade in the protected species national law is the only way to empower government officials to act and regulate human behaviour. This measure will not only curtail the smuggling of our own wild life, but would contribute to apprehend wild life trafficking in the international arena that takes place using of our ports, airports and in Sri Lankan waters.

    The policymakers too could use this legislation to ensure the conservation and trade in wild life. Further it is vital to note that CITES cannot be fully implemented until and unless national measures are in place to fulfill that purpose. The Amendment to Flauna and Flora Protection Ordinance 22/2009 and that of Customs Ordinance 02/2003 are inadequate to give effect to what is envisage by CITES in Sri Lanka. This inadequacy and/or absence of national legislation has placed Sri Lanka in Category 3 by the CITES Secretariat at present.

    International audience

    In the absence of specific legislation, the role of Sri Lanka Customs in their efforts in detecting illicit wild life trading is commendable. The 2012 detection and forfeiture of African Blood Ivory container in transit and the 28 containers of Rosewood in 2014 drew strong international attention and very high degree of international media attention to Sri Lanka. The public destroying of the African Blood Ivory container was witnessed by the Secretary General of CITES who visited Sri Lanka as a special guest. This was once again a first visit of its kind to the South Asian Region.

    The international nature of the CITES coupled with the fact that Sri Lanka is the host has opened many a eye especially in the international arena and there is tremendous pressure on the GoSL to enact national legislation at least in the year 2019.

    The European Union is interested in national legislation being drafted as CITES is one of the Conventions to facilitate GSP+. An undertaking had already been given by GoSL in 2017 to implement Conventions under GSP+ consideration. Forum on Disarmament and Development, have decided to canvass the importance of national legislation in Sri Lanka to implement CITES. During his visit the Secretary General of CITES too had emphasized the importance of enacting national legislation to implement CITES in Sri Lanka to elevate it to Category 01.

    Sri Lanka has undertaken the mammoth task of hosting the Conference of the Parties [Cop18] in the year 2019. The event will take place from May 22 till June 3 at the BMICH with a major international gathering of participants taking part in the CoP18. After 38 years, India having hosted the CoP in 1981, the South Asian region is hosting the CoP in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is fortunate that it receives immense support of and is assisted by all the States who are members to CITES in the upcoming event.

    The CITES Secretariat in Sri Lanka, Department of Wild Life and the Ministry of Wild Life, Tourism and Christian Religious Affairs are on a mission to expedite the process to introduce local CITES legislation ahead of the CoP in May 2019 as a measure to uphold its international reputation and to receive international aid for the future endeavours of the country.

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