Given our country is a signatory to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), which is supposed to ensure that the international trade in animals and plants does not threaten their survival, I was shocked to hear that CITES has not been modernised since it entered in to force in 1975.
CITES still uses the 1970s paper-based system to facilitate and monitor the legal trade in endangered species. It is astonishing that this is still the case in the 21st century, particularly given the legal trade is valued at over US$320 Billion annually. There can be NO excuse for any country to maintain this obsolete system.
The transition to an electronic permit system, which is fully integrated with customs to ensure traceability from source to destination, is long overdue, particularly since this archaic system means that is easy to launder of illegal items into the legal marketplace. In addition, it is critically important that any electronic permit system is secure and trustworthy. So, I was delighted to hear that the eCITES BaseSolution was developed jointly between CITES, UNCTAD, with the support of the Swiss and Sri Lankan Governments.
To-date, Sri Lanka is the only CITES signatory country to implement this system and this needs to change. Rolling out the eCITES BaseSolution over all 183 signatory parties will cost in the region of US$30 Million in total, with the first 20 signatories costing US$3 Million. For a legal trade worth over US$320 Billion annually, these roll-out costs are minimal.
Whilst wealthy countries should cover the cost themselves, donations should be made for developing countries to implement the eCITES BaseSolution; such donations can be made available via the World Bank’s Global Wildlife Program.
As my local MP, I request that you seek support from our government and the responsible department to implement the eCITES BaseSolution not only in our own country, but across all CITES signatory parties by the next CITES Conference of the Parties in 2025.
As part of this support, and to ensure that implementation occurs with the urgency needed – given an electronic permit system has been discussed for nearly a decade without any progress – any signatory party that refuses to implement the eCITES BaseSolution or wants to implement an electronic permit system of their own design, which is not considered to be as secure, and so is less trustworthy, must have trade restrictions imposed, this may take the form of reduced export and/or import quotas.
In not modernising this CITES permit and trade monitoring system in nearly 50 years, we as a signatory, have let down the world’s precious wildlife and the natural world more broadly. This needs to change, urgently, by closing the loopholes that this obsolete permit system provides to traffickers.
I look forward to a response addressing the precise points raised above. Please note I am not interested in a response consisting of banal statements about the government’s current commitment to tackling the illegal wildlife trade.