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World Wildlife Conference nears

In less than 100 days, the entire CITES community will gather at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa for the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

The upcoming CoP17 will be the largest ever CITES CoP. CoP16 in Bangkok in 2013 was the largest meeting of the Conference of the Parties up to that point in time. For CoP17, the number of working documents submitted for discussion has increased by 29% and is at a record number. This reflects the ever growing level of interest in CITES and its role in regulating legal trade in wildlife and wildlife products and combating illegal trade in wildlife.

During the meeting - to be held from 24 September to 5 October – the 182 Parties to CITES will collectively evaluate the progress made since the last CoP in 2013, and take decisions on what additional measures are needed to end illicit wildlife trafficking.

Parties will also consider a number of proposals to bring additional species under CITES trade controls, as well as to tackle issues concerning livelihoods, the review of significant trade, traceability, and the effectiveness of CITES implementation, among other items.

“CITES CoP17, or the World Wildlife Conference, is shaping up to be one of the most critical meetings in the 43 year history of the Convention and it is attracting massive interest from right across the globe,” said CITES Secretary-General, John E. Scanlon.

“We are excited that soon some of the world’s best minds in the conservation space will be in our country to learn, share experiences, and to chart a new way forward in the field of species conservation,” underlined Mrs Edna Molewa, Minister of Environmental Affairs of South Africa.

Parties will consider 62 proposals to change the CITES Appendices, which list species subject to CITES trade controls, including proposals to add additional sharks, rays and over 250 timber species.

The CoP will also address some difficult and contentious issues to do with divergent approaches amongst CITES Parties on matters affecting trade in elephants and their ivory, as well as rhino horn. The issue of sustainable use of wildlife and the livelihoods of rural communities is high on the agenda, while a resolution for a fast and effective peer review process for checking on sustainability assessments will be considered.

A draft resolution on corruption and wildlife crime will furthermore be examined for the first time, while proposals to reduce demand and better engage with local communities to ensure they benefit from wildlife will also be discussed. More than 100 side events are requested for the margins of the meeting in addition to a number of high-level ones.

Preparatory meetings are already underway between the Parties, made up of 181 states and the European Union.

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