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CITES refers to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The necessity to protect endangered species became evident since 1960’s, when the cases of trade of rare animals and plants considerably increased. The convention was drafted by 1963 resolutions adopted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. It was later agreed in 1973 in Washington DC and entered into force in 1975. This paper looks at the dynamics of CITES in protecting endangered species of wild flora and fauna. Moreover, it looks at the effectiveness of its prime mandate.


During the Washington DC meeting held on 3rd March 1973, 80 states converged, and the text was agreed on. CITES refers to an international treaty aimed at protecting animals and plants from extinction due to international trade. Within the agreement, the plant and animal species are protected to ensure the trade does not endanger them. The agreement was signed to make the courtiers work in close collaboration to regulate international trade of fauna and flora and ensure this business does not spoil harmony of nature. CITES provides a raw of effective legal policies, aimed at protecting rare species of animals and plants from illegal trade, which can lead to their extinction.

Global Relevance of CITES

CITES is the largest ever existing multinational treaty involving the conservation of wildlife (Sheikh and Corn 2016). For example, with the exception of 12 states, all the UN members support the treaty (Sheikh and Corn 2016). It was made possible after regional economic organizations were granted power to act as member states in CITES. Additionally, CITES increases its significance in the international level by being the organization with the largest number of wildlife species under protection. Currently, about 5000 fauna species and 29000 flora species are under the protection of CITES (Sheikh and Corn 2016). CITES also works in partnership with other major global wildlife conservation organizations, such as The World Wildlife Fund, The Sierra Club, and Oceana. A non-profit organization known as Conservation International that fights for conservation of endangered species all over the world is also a major partner to CITES.

How CITES is Related to Sustainable Development

Sustainable development can be defined as any progress that meets the current generations need without compromising that of future generations. It mainly focuses on socio-political, ecological, and economic well-being. According to a press release by the CITES secretariat, the policy is inextricably tied to several sustainable development goals that span a global scale (Sheikh and Corn 2016). The major goal of the treaty is the preservation of natural ecosystems, on which wild flora and fauna depend. For example, in the UN summit, held in New York in 25th September, 2015, 17 goals were drafted which contained a total of 169 targets that addresses the illegal trade of endangered wildlife species (Sheikh and Corn 2016). Some of these goals included taking immediate actions to end the poaching and/or trafficking of endangered species so as to reduce the supply and demand of endangered species. Another goal was the engagement of global community in pursuing the fight against trafficking and poaching while at the same time advising local communities on how to achieve the sustainable opportunity in their daily livelihood. Moreover, the question of sustainability is further addressed by the first goal of the UN summit, that is to bring an end to poverty (Sheikh and Corn 2016). In my view, this is especially effective since providing local communities with alternative livelihoods that do not contribute to the problem of endangering wildlife is a pragmatic step in ending over-poaching of the endangered species. A contributing factor of illegal poaching is poverty and lack of economic well-being in the local communities. Another step that the summit addressed that could be effective in meeting CITES’s mandate is the legalization and control of game hunting and trade. This is because the demand for some products of game will never cease due to the cultural significance of the products in some societies (Sheikh and Corn 2016). An example of this is ivory in the Asian communities (Sheikh and Corn 2016). This step could work by providing ivory that has been derived from animals that have died from natural causes or by the legal obtainment of ivory from animals without necessarily killing them.

The primary action, presupposed by the treaty, is conservation of water. Water is necessary for the survival of the species no matter whether it is a plant or an animal. The main aim is to ensure that future generations will have access to the same species diversity. If the water is maintained, then the ecosystem is also safe ensuring sustainability. The development, thus, aims at improving water quality through proper management and avoiding pollution. Managing ecosystem requires proper water supervision to ensure achievement of sustainable development. As evident from the observations, it implies that both the CITES and sustainable development of water have the same objective of ensuring conservation of species to avoid extinction.

Water is necessary for agricultural purposes as well. It is through this sector the food shortage that had led to extinction can be resolved; therefore, this objective is included in the scope of aims of the CITES. Industries are known to utilize the water for their processes; sustainable use of water by the industry ensures proper future and protects water from pollution to avoid extinction of rare species. These sustainable methods are included in the list of CITES objectives of preventing elimination of rare species (UNDESA 2016). Domestically, there is excessive water consumption, which seems to spoil the balance with the regions suffering from water shortage. Proper use of water will ensure that ecosystem does not interfere with the land sustainability.

Rational use of sea water resources aims at protecting species in the oceans and seas. The main reason here is to conserve and use the resources sustainably, such as the oceans, sea, and other marine related. Due to climate changes, pollution effects, and environmental degradation, the oceans have become vulnerable, and the species are likely to be wiped out. Sustainable development goals have led to increased conservation of life within water ecosystem, therefore, vast protection of the marine ecosystem should be provided.

Sustainable development on life on land aims at the protection and restoration of forests. The goal is to ensure sustainable use of ecosystem. It encourages actions towards combating desertification. It also aims at reversing and stopping land degradation focusing on reducing biodiversity loss (Sheikh and Corn 2016). These mechanisms are supposed to protect the terrestrial ecosystem aiming at ensuring sustainable future. Due to this goal, about 15.2% of water and terrestrial environment had been put under protected area in 2014 (UNDESA 2016).

Who Is Involved in the Policy Process

The treaty has about 183 memberships consisting of countries offering protection to over thirty-five thousand species. Due to the agreement, the world has been able to prevent illegal trade and ensure sustainability by encouraging conservations. Human factors have endangered several species; they include tiger, elephant, and rhino among others. The demand for tusks led to the illegal poaching that has drastically reduced the number of wild animals. The trade in wildlife is estimated to be worth billions of dollars; hence, there is the need to regulate the trade. The convention was motivated by the fact that trade takes place across border countries, and hence, the need to initiate cooperation among the states appears. International cooperation, thus, became inevitable to ensure conservation by regulating trade activities that endanger the life of species (Sheikh and Corn 2016).

CITES’ Policies

It is the convention’s policies that guarantee the protection of the animals and plants. One of the policies related to wildlife trade policy that specifies conditions under which trade is be conducted. The policy requires importing and exporting countries to keep on voluntary supervision over the wildlife policies regarding a trade that relates to any species listed in the convention. Such mentoring should be done to ensure that all the environmental and social issues emerging around wildlife conform to the international trade. The participating parties should share any review conducted by the concerned parties as per earlier resolutions. The convention also made policy to ensure that every party follows the guidelines or principles that embrace the use of sustainable use of biodiversity on non-detrimental findings. This policy is to ensure that there is no exploitation of the biodiversity (Sheikh and Corn 2016).

The second policy offers guidelines on certificates and permits issued to exporters or importers that must use within six months of issuance. The agreement also provides for proper treatment of species considered to be endangered and those that have the potential of being endangered. All these policies have one objective that is aimed at protecting the fauna and flora to eradicate extinction and ensure sustainable future. It is the duty of the Conference of Parties to provide policies formulated as per their meetings. The convention’s secretariat, however, makes the recommendations on the policies that may be adopted by the Conference of Parties.

Wildlife trade policy offers the following to the parties to CITES:

  • Prepare a methodical inventory of policy-related information and activities in order to manage the species listed in the CITES convention;
  • Develop indicators and criteria for creation of policies and defining the species to be included in the CITES list;
  • Consult and include relevant stakeholders in the process of policy performance evaluation;
  • Empower authorities by improving their policy-related knowledge, which concerns the trade of the rare and prohibited species.

The aim of the Wildlife trade policy, adopted by the CITES includes:

  • Increasing awareness about the details of wildlife trade policy;
  • Making multidisciplinary dimensions of wildlife preservation and management more visible and available;
  • Building political will to make improvements in policy content;
  • Bringing potential benefits to the countries-members to CITES in different spheres, including environmental, social, economic, and policy improvements.

One of the requirements of the second policy is the presence of Appendix-I specimens. It requires import and export permits, provided by the CITES. One of the conditions of the permission, which may be given by CITES, is when the purpose of the import is detrimental to the species’ survival, not primarily commercial, and the importer has all the required equipment to properly house and care for animals and plants (US Fish & Wildlife Service 2012). The documents for the export require a permit, which may be granted upon the condition that the export will not be harmful to the species’ survival.

Who Makes the Policies?

The parties meet every three years to take new policies per the needs that appear between sessions. Members can, however, gather at a special assembly to discuss any current issue affecting the convention. For regularly meeting to occur, one-third of the members must support the request. The convention has a secretariat that puts any recommendation to the conference for consideration. Any member state that has any suggestion or proposal brings it forth to the members who vote for or against. Any amendment must be communicated to the secretariat, and recommendation is given to the parties during which any party has 60 days to forward it to the secretariat (Sheikh and Corn 2016, p. 6).

Reasons for Policies Formulations

The main cause of the formulation is to offer a guideline to the body and the states at large. The policies stipulate the accepted way of behaviour and how such behaviours should be achieved. They help to identify and offer categories of endangered species. Also, policies provide conditions under which trade takes place no matter whether it is import or export. The policies spell out how to conduct trade with non-member states. Any recommendation to be adopted must meet certain criterion as stipulated in the articles. The convention does this to ensure there is sustainable future by ensuring conservation of over 35,000 species. Without the policies, it would be impossible to regulate trade and ensure that species are not extinct. To be able to do this, the policies aim at eliminating illegal trade and rare species poaching (Sheikh and Corn 2016, p. 8)

How the Policies Are Applied

All countries or states that joined the convention are legally bound to ensure that the procedures of the convention are applied. The parties agree voluntarily to implement the conventions’ policies at the national level. The convention only acts as a guideline to the members, and its policies do not supersede the national policies or laws regarding the conservation of the species. The national policies should be done to incorporate the CITES’ policies (Kooten and Bulte 2000, p. 45). To the non-member states, it does not bar business, but it puts the non-members into the task to ensure that they adhere to the policies. It is the primary role of the party countries to ensure the treaty’s policies enforced. Lack of enforcement authority puts the burden on the parties to the convention to enact laws that illegalize any trade that does contravene the convention’s principles and lay penalties on offenders. The treaty provides for how countries should handle live specimen, a record of exports and imports in Article VIII (Sheikh and Corn 2016).

Social and Economic Criteria Tied to CITES’s Policy

Apart from international trade, geographical and biological considerations, other factors, such as societal considerations and economics, come into play when CITES takes on their task wildlife conservation (Sheikh and Corn 2016, p. 12). Conservation itself incurs certain costs that should be considered so as to achieve optimal outcomes. Thereby, certain economic incentives must be present to encourage effective wildlife conservation (Kooten 1993, p. 60). During decision making, many states ignore the economic benefit that comes with conserving wildlife through activities, such as tourism, and allow illegal poaching and/or trafficking of wildlife under the wrong premise (Sheikh and Corn 2016). Moreover, proponents of game trafficking and poaching do not consider sustainability of their primary economic activity as they indiscriminately harvest endangered species (Kooten and Bulte 2000, p. 43).

CITES uses several economic instruments to further their mandate. One of these economic instruments is the promulgation of common norms and values (Kooten 1993, p. 61). This involves persuading individuals or organizations to handle wildlife in socially desirable manner. This may be done through encouraging activities, such as community policing (Sheikh and Corn 2016). This involves convincing citizens to give information about poachers to member states’ governments. Another activity that could be used to show people the economic benefits of wildlife is to tell them to protect habitats and ecosystems of wildlife since wildlife directly affects them. Another social economic criterion that CITES uses in creating policies is enforcing control and legal commands through coordination with member states’ governments (Sheikh and Corn 2016, p. 12). This has especially been effective since most member states have enacted laws that facilitate the apprehension and conviction of poachers and game traffickers. Provision of market incentives is another socio-economic criterion that CITES uses to enact policy (Neher 1990, p. 45). This has been facilitated by CITES’s third appendix that allows foe controlled trade and hunting of certain species provided that governments benefit from such trades.

Major Parties to the Convention

The major contributing countries inform of external trust funding include European Commission followed by the United States with a substantial amount of contribution. Northern Ireland, China, Germany, Norway, Qatar, Japan, Denmark, Great Britain, and Sweden are also considered the major donors to the treaty. These countries’ continued support has enabled the capacity building, enforcement, and state legislation. The UAE also forms a significant share. The parties to the agreement are 183 members; the other continents are equally represented though not as a unit but rather individually (Neher 1990, p.46). All the parties of the convention work in close cooperation. Known as the Conference of Parties, they make policies and delegates to the secretariat. The secretariat, on the other hand, helps to coordinate the convention’s activities, does the communication, implementation, and recommendations to the conventions. The convention, also, allows the United Nation and its special agencies to be entitled at the conference who act as observers only.

The United Arabs Emirates

The UAE was one of the signatories to the convention, notably having joined the convention in 1990 (Neher 1990, p. 56). It is indeed one of the primary members making it seven votes when deciding on any matter. As a member of the convention, the UAE has worked towards ensuring the protection of fauna and flora. It is has been seen in their attempt to save some of the plants and animals viewed as vulnerable. Although the UAE did take the long path to join the treaty, there is no doubt the country has demonstrated commitment towards the achievement of sustainable future and ensuring the protection of the fauna and flora. The UAE on 3rd December 2003 held a meeting aimed at conserving culture and heritage (Kooten and Bulte 2000, p. 43). The country has demonstrated the effort needed to run several projects designed to saving the wildlife species. Because their actions range from related forums to physical activities, the UAE indeed has showed the spirit of conservation of fauna and flora (World Wide Fund for Nature 2016).

In their Marine Conservation Forum held in 2006, the UAE has proved their commitment towards sustainable future. The move was meant to offer preservation of the UAE Gulf species. The Gulf is the home to five species of coral reefs. The forum focused on identifying threats to the species as well as sharing common knowledge on them. Within 2006-2008, the UAE community also worked towards saving the Gulf tree that has heavily relied on by both human being as well as other animals to provide food, shelter, and medicine. This event is sponsored by the HSBC Bank and takes place under the leadership of Sheikh Hamad bins Mohammad. The UAE hosts one of the international programs that aim at promoting environmental conservation between 2010 and 2015. The Heroes of UAE is another project that deals with environmental sustainability. The protection came as a realization to conserve water that is the home for several species, such as Arabian Tahir, Mountain Gazelle, Branford’s Fox, and Arabian Leopard among others. The UAE has also shown a lot of effort trying to conserve the coral reef under threats of extinction (World Wide Fund for Nature 2016).


The CITES’ policies and laws aim at protecting the animal and plant species. In their articles, Parties to the Convention have outlined several principles that seek for promoting their objectives towards conservation of plants and animals’ species. Article II of the convention provides for such principles that serve as the founding policies. In Appendix I, the convention spells out their policy on species considered as endangered by international trade. The species in this category are subjected to strict regulations aimed at protecting them from extinction (World Wide Fund for Nature 2016). The same article stipulates in Appendix II that strict regulation is put to ensure that species that may not be threatened today have the potential to be protected in the future. The next guiding principle is stated in Appendix III which provides for every country to identify any species they feel threatened by commerce and is subject to regulation within their jurisdiction. The last principle states that no trade on species considered of the Appendices I, II, and III shall be allowed save for convention’s provision (Sheikh and Corn 2016).


The principles of CITES target everyone be it members or non-members. To the member countries, it stipulates what the importing country and its citizens should do to ensure they adhere to the policies and agreements of the convention. Important to notice that the agreement aims at promoting best practices by eliminating aspects of poaching, and provides a stable ground for traders. Non-members who meet the conditions for permit issuance are also granted permits to trade within the international market. The principles of convention give an outline to members on how business conducts the primary role to ensure both plants and animals are protected from exploitation (United Nations 2016).

Results of the CITES

The CITES performance has improved the conservation call for biodiversity. They have worked with government agencies, INTERPOL, and wildlife agencies to combat crime against fauna and flora. The convention has worked with different organizations and has adopted several measures aimed at ending poaching as seen (Kooten 1993, p. 65). The convention has organized several workshops in various parts of the world, aimed at educating people on the need to conserve the environment with focus to fauna and flora. Measures have been taken to ensure elimination of illicit trafficking, particularly in Siamese rosewood. Due to CITES and in conjunction with national authorities, the convention has managed to conduct certain operations, such as PAWS, INFRA TERRA, and URSA, which primary targets are at wildlife trafficking and environmental criminals (World Wide Fund For Nature 2016).

Due to the adoption and worldwide recognition of the CITES, many countries joined the movement of global environmental conservation. The success of biodiversity conservation is tied to the convention’s call to ensure both fauna and flora is not wiped out. In 2003, Hong Kong Launch No 9 in collaboration with CITES authority has achieved recommendation for concealing ivory that was hidden in the fish vessel. The search led to the imprisonment of the owner of the ship and notification sent to parties. Another great contribution of the CITES is seen under the US Fish and Wildlife divisions wherein they have managed to institute legal actions against illicit trade as noted in No. 2004/38. Royal Chitwan Park in collaboration with the Nepalese Army has been outstanding in their struggle against poaching of endangered species, such as tigers, rhinos, and leopards. Per the notification No. 2006/20, about 30 people were sentenced with regards to illegal trade of endangered species. In Notification 2006/44 sent to the parties, the HaiPhong office has been exemplary in gathering information that has led to the recovery of over eight tons of ivory. All these cases are demonstrating the effort that has been put by the convention through their following awareness programs (Sheikh and Corn 2016).

The convention lacks enough enforcement agencies in foreign countries to help in the monitoring. The penalties levied on the violations are small or weak to deter the practice of illegal trade. Another problem facing the CITES is a lack of full cooperation or implementations of the legislations aimed at promoting the convention’s policies. Some parties are yet to form Management Scientific Committee, hence, not able to enforce the policies of the treaty. In 2014, about 50% of the members had not established legislations to outline protocols for the confiscation of illegitimately traded species. Some parties do not have enough resources to employ a specialized team, or even if they do have, the priority on conservation is low. Corruption has also played a role in slowing down the success of the implementation as wildlife poachers have colluded with the law enforcing agencies (Sheikh and Corn 2016).

Positive Results

The result of the convention is so far better than before: because of the treaty various wildlife awareness campaigns have been done. Several legal cases have been instituted; these cases have led to the imprisonment of poachers and illegal traders. Despite the commitment of the parties, several incidences have been reported both to members and non-members who present a great challenge to the convention. The countries may make a commitment, but the culture of a nation may not necessarily reflect it. More campaign awareness needs to be inculcated to every citizen to avoid seeing the rare species as a source of income ready to be cashed, but as a source of life to the future generations too. Some countries, such Nigeria, had been put under the recommendation for suspension for failure to implement the policies of the convention at their national level (Sheikh and Corn 2016, p. 12).

Effectiveness of the Policies

The agreement has been effective in its objective. It has been able to recruit more members since it was initiated. Several arrests have been made to help curb the illegal trade. More concern for the environment has been developed. Several environmental rehabilitations have been witnessed all over the world.


The convention faced several challenges in its effort to ensure sustainable trade aimed at protecting the plant and animal species. The following recommendations are necessary to aid the work of the convention. The convention needs to increase its investment from the member’s contributions. The contributions also need to be done when they are due. Per the CITES, some members usually pay in arrears. The finance issue will be of great importance to enable them to effectively achieve their objectives. They also need to reach to non-members to bring everybody on board to steer the call for conservation.

The second essential element is collaborations. The CITES needs to establish more collaborations with other agencies to help in investigations of the cases relating to poaching. Though several steps have made, more efforts are required to develop the relationship. It will be easier to achieve the common goal when everyone is on board. The convention needs to invest more in the law enforcement agencies and to equip them with recommended skills necessary to identify and combat crime.




Kooten, G. (1993). Land Resource Economics and Sustainable Development: Economic Policies and the Common Good. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Kooten, G. and Bulte, E. (2000). The Economics of Nature. Oxford, UK: Blackwell

Neher, P., (1990). Natural Resource Economics: Conservation and Exploitation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press

Prins, H., Grootenhuis, J. and Dolan, T. (2002). Wildlife Conservation by Sustainable Use. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Sheikh, P., and Corn, M. (2016). The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Congressional Research Service, pp. 1-16.

Shleifer, A. and Vishny, W. (1998). The Grabbing Hand: Government Pathologies and their Cures. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2016. Water and Sustainable Development. [Online] Available at [Accessed 27 December 2016].

United Nations. (2016). The Sustainable Development Goals Report. New York: United Nations.

US Fish & Wildlife Service. 2012. CITES Permits and Certificates. [Online] Available at [Accessed 11 January 2017]

World Wide Fund for Nature. (2016). The United Arabs Emirates. [Online] Available at [Accessed 27 December 2016]

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