At its 13th meeting (CoP13, Bangkok, 2004), the Conference of the Parties (CoP) discussed issues related to the use of
computerized systems to meet obligations set out in the Convention and related
Resolutions and Decisions. Some Parties expressed the view that the development
of an electronic licensing system would greatly assist in the handling and
processing of CITES applications, the issuance of electronic permits and the
collation and dissemination of CITES trade information.
Electronic permitting was further discussed
by the CoP at its 14th meeting (CoP14, The Hague, 2007), where Parties adopted
Decision 14.55, extending the mandate of the Working Group on Information
Technologies and Electronic Systems, and Decision 14.56 directing the Secretariat
to prepare a CD-ROM and Web-based toolkit on electronic permitting systems for
consideration at the 57th meeting of the Standing Committee. The toolkit on
electronic permitting systems would include:
a) advice on the use of common information exchange formats,
protocols and standards for use with electronic permitting systems;
b) advice on the use of electronic signatures and other electronic
c) advice on the development and implementation of interoperable
information exchange pilot projects on electronic permitting systems;
d) a list of Parties willing to assist less developed countries in
developing electronic permitting systems;
e) a list of Parties currently using electronic permitting
f) information on new developments in the use of
electronic documents by relevant organizations.
At its 15th meeting (Doha, 2010), the CoP
adopted Decision 15.54 where Parties are encouraged to use the CITES
Electronic Permitting Toolkit found on the CITES website to develop or update
national electronic permitting systems.
The CoP also adopted Decision 15.56
directed to the Secretariat:
a) In collaboration with the Working Group on Information Technologies
and Electronic Systems, the Secretariat shall, subject to external funding:
b) update the CITES electronic toolkit according to new electronic
permitting standards and norms;
c) work with relevant international organizations and initiatives
related to electronic permitting systems to raise awareness of CITES business
procedures and permitting requirements; and
d) organize capacity-building workshops to assist Parties in using the
CITES electronic permitting toolkit to develop, implement or update electronic
Version 2 of the toolkit provides advice on
the use of common information exchange formats, protocols and standards, advice
on signatures and other electronic security measures, and information on new
developments in the use of electronic documents by relevant organizations, for Parties
implementing CITES electronic permitting systems, or for Parties developing and
implementing interoperable information exchange pilot projects on electronic
The toolkit is a work in progress; it will continue
to be updated with new developments related to electronic commerce and
documentation and incorporate new standards and norms. It must also continue to
be tightly integrated with the norms pertaining to other documentation
accompanying specimens of CITES-listed species in trade.
In the planning and design phase of the
toolkit, the Secretariat and the Working Group on Information Technologies and
Electronic Systems were presented with three primary challenges. First, the
toolkit had to be harmonized and compliant with paper-based permitting
procedures, so that Parties would have the choice of using new electronic
permitting systems or existing paper-based systems. Second, harmonization with
international standards and norms, particularly those developed by UN/CEFACT
and the WCO was necessary to allow integration with national projects
establishing single-window initiatives. Last, the toolkit had to be designed
with sufficient flexibility to accommodate future developments and updates to
international standards and norms.
Work achieved in the drafting of the CITES
electronic permitting toolkit met a need expressed by Parties that have
developed or are developing electronic permitting systems.
This need refers to the lack of guidance on
how to ensure interoperability among national electronic permitting systems and
compliance with international standards and norms, which results in a
duplication of effort and an inability to exchange electronic permit data
easily and in a timely manner.
Parties can use the advice provided herein
in order to exchange permit data electronically should they wish to do so.
The toolkit promotes the use of standards
and norms that are needed when implementing electronic exchange procedures. At
the international level, Parties can integrate CITES electronic permits in Single
Window environments, thereby contributing to more efficient trade procedures.
The toolkit also represents a new level of
cooperation with organizations and initiatives aiming to facilitate trade,
ensuring greater security and less fraud, and harmonizing documentation in
international commerce. As more Parties establish Single Windows and require
electronic documentation as pre-requisites for international trade, CITES will
be well poised to adapt and contribute to these new initiatives.
Moving towards CITES electronic
An important initial implementation step in
the move towards establishing an electronic permitting system is to describe
the existing paper-based and/or electronic CITES data management system and the
current technical environment. This is commonly called the ‘as-is’ description,
and this step will help to clarify and determine the future tasks to be
considered during the development and implementation of the electronic
permitting systems. Describing the current CITES data management process is
essential for an understanding of who is involved, how they are connected to
one another, and whether the current data exchanges are paper-based, electronic
or a combination of both. For example, the relationships between the Management
Authority and other bodies and agencies should be documented in order to obtain
a picture of who may be affected when a process undergoes a modification or
major change, and after identifying all the parties involved, the specific
processes relative to each can be described.
The description of the current CITES data
management process should include the processes related to the exchange of data
and information between CITES Parties. The type, structure and format of the
data and information exchange should be detailed and may be documented as case
studies, activity diagrams, or process chains. Close scrutiny should be paid to
data security and legal issues, and security restrictions may be set by the
Management Authorities or by higher-level government agencies, or result from
past procedures and existing restrictions. Legal restrictions and requirements
which may affect the way CITES data or other data is reported may be set by
appropriate regulatory bodies. Technical or security related legal requirements
(e.g. electronic signature requirements) may be set by national governments,
regional organizations or other legal authorities, and these may have an impact
on planned CITES electronic permitting systems.
The description of the ‘as-is’ situation
should include a description of currently used software applications and
supporting hardware. Existing software and/or hardware may be capable of
supporting future technical requirements and documenting these possibilities
may help with planning and budgeting.
When analysing existing e-permitting
systems, it may be necessary to identify legacy-related issues such as whether
there is a national legal requirement in force that mandates paper certificates
or permits and, if so, can the requirement be changed and when might the change
occur. Other considerations concern contractual constraints related to the
currently installed software or hardware, and whether there is an internal
canonical data model for CITES data. If the latter is the case, the model could
be affected by any decisions to adhere to an international data model standard.
Any review of existing e-permitting systems
should identify, prioritize and fully describe any current problems related to
its implementation. A careful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the
current e-permitting systems should be completed, taking into account the
different experiences of CITES Authorities, Customs, and commercial and private
After the review, it is possible to move on
to developing implementation scenarios for an e-permitting system, and two
steps should be considered.
• Defining the proposed data exchange between CITES
Authorities, and between Management Authorities and businesses (these
interaction levels are often referred to as Government-to-Government (G2G) or
Business-to-Government (B2G) interactions).
• Defining the types of application or interface that are
proposed for the exchange of data. Examples of these include Web services,
electronic forms (e-forms) or file transfers exchanged directly between
agencies/users or through a Web-based application.
Key decisions affecting implementation of
electronic permitting systems include define the interaction level at which the
system will operate (e.g. only between selected government agencies, between
Management Authorities and selected commercial traders, or between Management
Authorities and all users of the system), how data will be exchanged, and what
kind of interface will be used.
The next major step in the process towards
establishing an electronic permitting system is to describe the long-term
objectives of the national e-permitting system, also known as the ‘to-be’
description. The topics to be considered are similar to those described in the
‘as-is’ documentation, and it is important that stakeholders are consulted
actively in defining the objectives of the electronic permitting system.
The ‘to-be’ description should consider the
vision and goals to be achieved, including any restrictions or requirements
which will need to be addressed. These will typically be motivated by factors
such as security concerns, technical issues as well as CITES requirements. The
description should include any anticipated future data exchange initiatives
between internal or external parties and their processes, including an
indication of timeframes, such as when a data exchange initiative is to start;
future developments that will or may affect the plan; and relevant technical
specifications of these initiatives.
The ‘to-be’ description should consider the
feasibility of converting all current paper-based processes to a fully
electronic system, or to support a paper and an electronic system in parallel.
For either scenario, a predicted timetable will be necessary. The conversion
scenario will need to consider any requirements for supporting
computer-to-computer, computer-to-human (human-to-computer) and/or
human-to-human data exchange processes, as necessary. The ‘to-be’ description
will also need to consider security requirements for data exchange, all known
planned requirements of related partner agencies (e.g. if a Customs inspection
system requires real-time access to CITES permit data via Web services) and
what the anticipated impacts on CITES processes would be.
Finally, the ‘to-be’ description should
estimate any benefits in terms of resource optimization or reduction of staff
costs that may result from an electronic permitting system.
 The CITES e-permit XML schema which is presented in the toolkit (see Annex X) has been designed to support all implementation scenarios regardless of the technical interface used. However, an existing environment or the desired environment may have impacts or restrictions that will affect the implementation scenarios.