Remarks by John Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES made during the Geneva Environment Network briefing on the Outcomes of the Nagoya Biodiversity Summit

Geneva, Switzerland, 10 November 2010

CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon with Minister Koichi MIZUSHIMA and Mr Masaaki YAMADA of the Japanese Mission in Geneva (Japan is president of CBD CoP10)


Let me start by extending my sincere congratulations to the Government of Japan, through Minister Mizushima, for achieving a successful outcome in Nagoya. The diplomatic effort put into the meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) – both before and during the CoP - coupled with announcements of additional financial commitments, was critical.

The diplomatic effort was obvious to many of us based here in Geneva through the various briefing sessions held by the Permanent Mission of Japan in the lead-up to the CoP, which helped to build a positive momentum in the lead-up to the Nagoya CoP.

There was also a broad community of interest in the CoP from within and outside of the United Nations (UN) system, which also helped build momentum.  By way of example:

  • the Environment Management Group of the UN - which comprises all of the funds and programmes of the UN, its specialized agencies, as well as the secretariats of multilateral environment agreements (MEAs), including CITES - released a joint statement on “Advancing the biodiversity agenda”.  It also produced an extensive report on how the entire UN system can contribute towards the biodiversity agenda, and Hossein Fadaei from the EMG Secretariat is with us today;
  • over 40 members of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development attended the CoP and engaged in numerous events, and it is good to see James Griffiths with us this morning from the WBCSD;
  • many international and national organizations, including those represented on the panel – IUCN and WWF – were extremely active in the lead-up to Nagoya, and at the CoP itself;
  • and the list could go on – with full details being available from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Secretariat.

My particular focus was on the role of the biodiversity-related conventions, and in particular the Ramsar Convention, World Heritage Convention, Convention on Migratory Species and CITES, and their working relationship with the CBD.

The three objectives of the CBD are all of relevance to the biodiversity-related conventions, and in particular the objectives relating to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. 

Each of the biodiversity-related conventions contributes towards achieving the CBD objectives.

On September 2, 2010, the Secretariats of five biodiversity-related conventions participated in a retreat held in Geneva. The Retreat was an initiative of the Executive Director of the CBD in response to requests by other convention secretariats for a joint meeting before the UN General Assembly High-Level Event on Biodiversity and the Nagoya CoP.

There were a number of outcomes from the Retreat – and the minutes are publicly available – of which there are three I would like to focus upon today.

The outcomes included:

  • Agreement amongst the Secretariats that the CBD Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011- 2020 could serve as useful framework that is relevant for all biodiversity-related conventions, taking into account their already-existing strategies related to biodiversity and the independence of their governing bodies.
  • Noting the scope of some targets in the draft Strategic Plan were regarded by some Secretariats as being too limited, in view of previous targets and the findings of Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 (GBO 3).
  • And, most importantly, agreement amongst the Secretariats that revised and updated national biodiversity strategies and action plans (NBSAPs) should be able to cover the full range of activities needed to implement all of the biodiversity-related conventions.

Four of the biodiversity-related convention Secretariats carried this message to the CoP though an agreed joint intervention to the High-Level segment of the CoP’s Plenary session - noting that the CBD Secretariat was responsible for organizing the meeting itself. The delivery of such a joint statement was a first in the history of the CBD, and we are most grateful to colleagues from Japan for making it possible.

The joint statement included the following statements, and I quote:

  • “Each of the conventions I am speaking for today has a very specific mandate, and while they may be more targeted in scope than the CBD, they contribute towards achieving the same objectives of supporting the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
  • …while we may have unique histories and mandates, and in some cases different Parties, we are joined by a common objective of supporting the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and by a collective desire to see more effective implementation of conventions at the country level, including through making best use of National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans.
  • States have already invested significant time, effort and financial resources into the negotiation, ratification and implementation of each biodiversity-related convention, with major milestones having been achieved in Stockholm in 1972 and Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
  • We need to recognize and learn from this vast body of experience in considering the 2020 targets, as we continue to build on the scientific, legislative, administrative, and other capacities that have been progressively built to implement these conventions over the past 40 years.
  • We believe that the adoption of an inclusive strategic plan with robust and relevant targets that enables the reality of each country to be reflected through their National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans, will contribute towards more coherent and effective on-the-ground action.

The full statement is available on the CITES website, as well as the website of the other conventions that were party to the statement – Ramsar, World Heritage, and Migratory Species. 

The outcomes of the Retreat, together with the joint statement delivered at the CoP, reflect a new era of cooperation amongst the biodiversity-related convention Secretariats – one that fully respects the autonomy of each governing body, and has its sights firmly fixed on more effective ‘on-the-ground’ implementation at the national level. 

In this context, important outcomes from the Nagoya CoP include the:

  • decision adopting the Strategic Plan 2011-2020 – which, for example, urges Parties and other Governments, to support the updating of NBSAPs and the mainstreaming of biodiversity at the national level, taking into account synergies amongst biodiversity-related conventions in a manner consistent with their respective mandates;
  • decision on implementation of the CBD and Strategic Plan – which, for example, invites Parties and Governments to involve national focal points of all of the biodiversity-related agreements, as appropriate, in the process of updating and implementation of the NBSAPs and related enabling activities;
  • decision on Co-operation with other Conventions and International Organizations etc. – which, for example, urges Parties to consider close collaboration at the national level between the focal points for the CBD and for other relevant conventions…and requests the Executive Secretary to consider ways to assist Parties to reflect the full range of activities of all biodiversity-related conventions in the revision of NBSAPs.

One could also reference the decisions that address: South-South Cooperation; the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation; Science; Invasive Alien Species; Forests; National Reporting; Marie and Coastal and Inland Waters.

In addition, as was reiterated this morning by Minister Mizushima, Japan has announced 2 billion US dollars for three years commencing in 2010 for the revision and implementation of NBSAPs etc, and other governments have also pledged additional funding.  Further, the 5th Replenishment of the GEF includes US 1.2 billion dollars for biodiversity, and half a million US dollars is available through the GEF to each eligible country to revise its NBSAP.

In light of the findings of GBO 3 it is abundantly clear that we need “all hands on deck” in achieving the three objectives of the CBD.

The four biodiversity-related conventions – Ramsar, World Heritage, Migratory Species and CITES – are all critical to achieving these objectives.

International environmental governance (IEG) is a long-standing and on-going debate.  Most recently I participated in an event at the World Economic Forum on the topic, where all manner of options were again debated, including a new specialized agency. 

Whatever view one has on IEG, what is clear to me is that there are massive opportunities for improvements within the existing system – by making it work better.

And how well we work together is more about management than governance.

The CITES Secretariat and our brothers and sisters in the other biodiversity-related conventions can be counted upon to work better together to deliver more effective results ‘on-the-ground’ at national level, in-line with our respective mandates and under the authority of our respective governing bodies. 

Decisions of the Nagoya CoP, especially in relation to the NBSAP, coupled with the funding available through the GEF and countries such as Japan; provide an unprecedented opportunity for more coherent and effective implementation of each country’s particular biodiversity commitments ‘on-the-ground’ in achieving the three objectives of the CBD. 

We now need to support countries in bringing different focal points together in the revision and implementation of NBSAPs, and to link such plans to other processes such as the UN Development Assistance Framework, or UNDAF. 

By way of example, just a few days ago I addressed the 37 range States of the African Elephant and encouraged them to look at building relevant components of the agreed African Elephant Action Plan into their respective NBSAPs, as doing so could open up new windows for further funding and more effective implementation.

This is where our energy and attention will be focused as we move forwards – on enhancing our effort for more effective and coherent ‘on-the-ground’ implementation.

Thank you to the Geneva Environment Network for organizing this briefing session and to all of you present here today.