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- In ensuring wildlife trade is legal, sustainable and traceable, CITES also provides a framework to protect animal welfare and raise awareness of health risks
- To aid vaccine work and study, CITES is working to expedite transport of scientific specimens and biological samples
This can happen at several points of interaction between humans and animals, including farming, hunting and fishing, the sale or purchase of specimens, their transport, processing or storage. It can also include non-commercial wildlife management.
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Moreover, as we have seen increasingly discussed by experts in the media, habitat encroachment, land conversion and deforestation for intensive agriculture, and our globalised trade and travel networks, among other factors, also allow for increased contact with animals.
International trade is one of these human-animal interfaces. Through it, animals and animal products are introduced to new environments, along with the pathogens they might carry.
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It is important to note that CITES, as an international legally-binding agreement, regulates cross-border transactions. Public health and veterinary quarantine are mentioned in the convention as areas where parties may adopt stricter national measures in addition to those required by CITES. Domestic regulation of production and markets is relevant as it affects international trade.
However, with so many products dependent on a global supply chain, the international-domestic distinction may seem blurred.
Within this mandate, the CITES secretariat supports the efforts of signatory states or parties to ensure that international wildlife trade is legal, sustainable and traceable. This could provide a solid basis for contributing to other regulatory objectives related to trade, like mitigating the risks of diseases spreading.
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By strengthening existing partnerships, CITES’ grasp on the international wildlife trade can serve to identify points of intervention throughout the supply chain. For example, we work with the World Organisation for Animal Health towards an integrated approach to sanitary measures for trade in wild animal products.
This includes promoting better national coordination between the veterinary and wildlife management authorities, and awareness-raising on health risks posed by wildlife pathogen spillovers.
We also work with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to enforce the convention’s requirements on animal transport. The IATA Live Animals Regulations and the CITES guidelines for non-air transport of live animals provide a legal framework to protect the welfare of animals in international trade and could potentially be strengthened to further reduce health risks.
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In collaboration with the UN Conference on Trade and Development, UN Economic Commission for Europe and others, we support electronic solutions for CITES permit management. Automating CITES procedures can help enforcement agents check across other trade requirements, including biosecurity requirements.
CITES also matters for the movement of scientific specimens and biological samples needed for the detection of diseases or the development of diagnostics and vaccines. A new guidance on simplified procedures for expedited cross-border movement of biological samples is under development.
CITES is highly effective with a strong mechanism for monitoring compliance. Full compliance with the convention will remain critically important so that no wildlife species go extinct because of international trade. CITES, as a focused and dynamic agreement, can keep interactions between humans and wild animals safe and sustainable, reducing risks to nature, ecosystems, wild species and human beings.
Ivonne Higuero is CITES secretary-general