Message of CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero for World Environment Day, 5 June 2020

World Environment Day this year is a celebration of nature and our planet’s rich and essential biological diversity. All living things on Earth, including human beings, are interconnected in the web of life and, as beneficiaries of a healthy nature, it is our duty to carry out the urgent work to conserve it.

Never have we been so keenly aware of both our dependence on nature and of the consequences of our actions on the very ecosystems upon which we rely for all our basic needs - from food, to clean air and water, to shelter, medicine and energy.

Humanity stands at a crossroads: if we remain on our current course, with unsustainable human activities driving degradation and loss of habitats, conversion of wild areas to productive land uses without limits, and overexploitation of species and ecosystems, all intensified by climate change, we will accelerate species extinction and put the balance of life on Earth in great jeopardy.

The first tools to reach for in our policy toolbox to reduce these threats are the existing environmental frameworks. This includes CITES, which provides for the regulation of the trade in threatened species of wild animals and plants, and those of other environmental conventions that enshrine conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. It is imperative to fully implement and reinforce these tools to address the current threats to nature and biodiversity and sustain the protection it provides for human well-being.

The current pandemic has caused such terrible economic and human distress and has thrown a stark light on the consequences of unregulated and risky interactions with nature in general, and wildlife in particular. Yet the crossroads on which we stand is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for comprehensive and transformative policy shifts that may have sounded impossible only a few months back.

CITES is a dynamic Convention that is continuously evolving to ensure that it adequately and effectively regulates international trade to prevent around 36,000 species of plants and animals from being overexploited. Every three years, Parties come together to review implementation of the Convention and to adapt its scope to the issues and species requiring its attention. While CITES has a specific mandate and focus, the Secretariat will work with Parties to reflect on how the Convention and its Resolutions can most effectively contribute to mitigate risks of zoonotic diseases spreading, for example, from wildlife to livestock and humans by identifying points of intervention from source to destination. We are also strengthening our collaboration with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and with other relevant partners towards an integrated approach to sanitary measures applied to trade in wild animal products.

The Convention is and will remain critically important in ensuring that no species of wild plants and animals go extinct because of international trade. Full implementation of the CITES regulatory framework, ensuring that international trade in wild species is legal, sustainable, and traceable, and the continued combat against the illegal wildlife trade, are essential to reduce risks to nature, wild species and human beings.  

It’s time to acknowledge the innumerable benefits nature provides to us every day. It’s time to reverse the trend of biodiversity loss so that nature can continue to provide its services to all living things that share this planet and to those who will follow in our footsteps. It’s time to take care of nature so that nature may take care of us. In short: it’s Time for Nature.

 My best wishes for a healthy World Environment Day!