CITES EXCLUSION OF CIVIL SOCIETY PERPLEXES OBSERVERS
The unprecedented decision by the standing committee of CITES yesterday, to exclude civil society organizations and NGO’s, including WWF, AWF and others from its deliberations on the illegal trade in ivory has shocked the global conservation fraternity and prompted already a wave of protests from those affected. Suspicion on the sponsors of this exclusion now focuses on the main beneficiary countries of illegal trade in ivory, such as China, especially as the exclusion was demanded by Kuwait on behalf of the Asian member countries. ‘Shutting the door into our faces will not help the perpetrators of poaching, of illegal trade in blood ivory and beneficiaries like China first and foremost. We shall leave no stone unturned to prove to the world who is behind excluding us from these crucial talks, and that it was done to evade a ton of evidence we were going to present in these meetings’ said a regular source close to one of the global leaders in conservation before adding ‘ … we are in fact helping CITES to finance a number of initiatives to combat poaching and stop the illegal trade and while we appreciate that the Secretariat in Lusaka has a different view from the one taken by member states, should this decision not be reversed we may have to review our position as our own donors and supporters expect no less of us. There are other important issues on the agenda too, like the trade in rhino horn, or the fate of the Asian tigers and it is clear that there are some very dark and regressive forces at work trying to prevent the truth from coming out. If this decision is allowed to stand it will severely impact on the standing and ability of CITES to be a force for good, a force pro conservation and will have been taken over by anti conservation countries’.
The news were received with incredulity by many of the East African conservationists, NGO’s and even the tourism industry and there were prompt allegations being made of a large scale cover up being initiated behind closed doors to whitewash the tacit complicity of CITES member states in not preventing importation of blood ivory into their countries. Said a regular source from Nairobi overnight: ‘Only yesterday were news broken that blood ivory is on open sale in China. Imagine we would go there and poach their prized panda bears, they would execute us. But importing blood ivory from Africa, that seems in order. The Chinese, it should be openly said, are the biggest drivers of poaching in Africa and their government is doing very little to stop it. They must introduce new legislation to prohibit trade, processing and possession of ivory and give it the same penalties as they do when it comes to their panda bears. But it is obvious, while China professes friendship for Africa they buy our politicians and totally disregard our culture, our heritage and our wildlife. They treat us like barbarians and the behaviour of many Chinese here in East Africa is living proof of how racist they are’.
Sharp words and acid allegations, understandably made out of frustration when hearing that the Asian representative country of CITES Kuwait had voted to close the doors to the public together with such notorious countries like Iran, against reportedly the strongest opposition by countries like Kenya and the UK.
In latest news however it was confirmed that the Standing Committee, which governs CITES affairs in between the tri-annual global conference, revisited their decision following high level interventions and that a second vote then re-admitted NGO’s and civil society groups to the meeting, but not before the damage was already done and leaving in particular countries like China under added scrutiny over their words versus their actions.
Watch this space.