Ramsar at the 4th Conference of the Parties to the CBD: Secretaries-General stress synergy

Ramsar at the 4th Conference of the Parties to the CBD: Secretaries-General stress synergy

7 May 1998

6 May 1998

[Note: Mr Orenstien's report was published by ECO (Issue no. 1, 6 May), the newsletter produced by NGOs following the developments at the CBD's COP4, and broadcast by the biodiv-conv e-mail mailing list also on 6 May.]

Convention on Biological Diversity
Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties
Bratislava, Slovak Republic, 4-15 May 1998

Secretaries-General Stress Synergy with CBD

Although the CBD is the most comprehensive and global of environmental conventions, it needs to work closely with other agreements that are narrower in focus and as a result often more effective in their own areas of operation. This message was delivered on the opening day of COP-4 by the Secretaries General of a number of other conventions. Particularly strong statements came from the SG of two of the long-standing conventions, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Convention on Wetlands.   Izgret Topkov, SG of CITES, welcomed the opportunity " to underline once again the importance, the necessity of close cooperation between our conventions". Delmar Blasco, SG of Ramsar, stressed "the absolute commitment of the Ramsar Secretariat to continue to seek synergy with all environment and sustainable resource use-related conventions.

Mr Topkov, in particular, provided the parties with clear examples of the strength and flexibility that CITES continues to show in its restricted, but very important, mandate. Commercial exploitation, he pointed out "is the second major cause of depletion of wildlife resources, next only to the destruction of habitat". In 1994, the 8th CITES COP adopted new criteria for listing species on its Appendices. In the crucial area of enforcement, Mr Topkov informed the Parties CITES has signed Memoranda of Understanding with both Interpol and the World Customs Organisation, entering a working phase with common publications and training courses.

Mr Topkov stressed CITES’ willingness to work closely with the CBD. The two Secretaries signed a MoU in March 1996, and last year at CITES COP 10, the Parties adopted a resolution on 2 Cooperation and Synergy with the CBD", drafted with the active participation of the CBD.

As the interaction between trade and environment issues grows, CITES’ specific focus on international trade in wildlife and wildlife products can be of great value to the CBD. CITES assists the SCBD in keeping up with developments at the WTO, and can help the WTP to "overcome fears, suspicions and misunderstandings and semantic differences" that stand in the way of cooperation between these two very different regimes.

The clear message from Mr Topkov’s address was that other environmental treaties can do the most to assist the CBD in achieving its own objectives by maintaining - while doing all they can to improve synergy among conventions - their status as separate bodies with strongly focused, clearly defined mandates. This message was made even more explicit by Delmar Blasco: "Sometimes it appears that there are too many treaties and instruments in force, and that the world could do better with less of them. Yet, all of them have a history and a raison d’etre behind them. Rather than enter into the painful exercise of trying to rationalise the number of instruments, with the risk of never-ending disputes about which are more or less relevant than the others, I think a more constructive approach consists of making them to be mutually supportive."

This message, from the most venerable and effective of international instruments in the field of conservation of biodiversity, is one that we urge the Parties to heed. As CITES passes its 25th anniversary and Ramsar its 27th, their individual relevance - and those of related conventions - continues as great as the need to seek synergy among them. With all these conventions working together, as Mr Blasco concluded " It is possible to make it work. We must do it".

Ron Orenstien
Humane Society of the United States