Basic and Backgrounds

  • CITES(the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention) is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals.
  • It was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • The convention was opened for signature in 1973 and CITES entered into force on 1 July 1975.
  • CITES is legally binding on state parties to the convention, which are obliged to adopt their own domestic legislation to implement its goals.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN

  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) officially International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources is an international organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
  • It is involved in data gathering and analysis, research, field projects, advocacy, and education.
  • IUCN’s mission is to “influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable”.


  • Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
  • It accords varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants.
  • In order to ensure that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was not violated, the Secretariat of GATT was consulted during the drafting process.


Conference Of Parties

  • Plant Committee
  • Animasl Committee
  • Standing Committee
  • Cities Secretariat
  • UN Environment
  • The CITES Secretariatis administered by UNEP (The United Nations Environment Programme) and is located at Geneva, Switzerland.
  • It plays a coordinating, advisory and servicing role in the working of the Convention(CITES).


  • The CITES works by subjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls.
  • All import, export, re-export and introductionfrom the sea of species covered by the Convention has to be authorized through a licensing system.
  • Each Partyto the Convention must designate one or more Management Authorities in charge of administering that licensing system and one or more Scientific Authorities to advise them on the effects of trade on the status of the species.
  • Appendices I, II and III to the Conventionare lists of species afforded different levels or types of protection from over-exploitation.

Classifications of CITES Appendix

  • Appendix I:It lists species that are in danger of extinction. It prohibits commercial trade of these plants and animals except in extraordinary situations for scientific or educational reasons.
  • Appendix II species:They are those that are not threatened with extinction but that might suffer a serious decline in number if trade is not restricted. Their trade is regulated by permit.
  • Appendix III species:They are protected in at least one country that is a CITES member states and that has petitioned others for help in controlling international trade in that species.


  • The Conference of the Parties (CoP) meet every two to three years.
  • The CITES Committees (Animals Committee, Plants Committee and Standing Committee) hold meetings during each year that does not have a CoP, while the Standing committee meets also in years with a CoP.
  • The Committee meetings take place in Geneva, Switzerland, unless another country offers to host the meeting.
  • The latest COP was CITES COP18that took place in August 2019 at Geneva, Switzerland.
  • CITES COP3 took place in Indiain 1981 in New Delhi.
  • They provide the occasion for the Parties to:
    • Review progress in the conservation of species included in the Appendices;
    • Consider (and where appropriate adopt) proposals to amend the lists of species in Appendices I and II;
    • Consider discussion documents and reports from the Parties, the permanent committees, the Secretariat and working groups;
    • Recommend measures to improve the effectiveness of the Convention; and
    • Make provisions (including the adoption of a budget) necessary to allow the Secretariat to function effectively.

CITES Contribution

  • The CITES regulates international trade in close to 35,000 speciesof plants and animals.
  • CITES has been at the cutting edge of the debate on the sustainable use of biodiversity for the past 42 yearsand it has records of over 12,000,000 international trade transactions in its data-bases for that period – trade which on many occasions has benefitted local communities, such as with the vicuña in South America.
  • Illegal tradeis estimated by it to be worth between USD 5 billion and USD 20 billion per year. CITES has played a pivotal role in containing the illegal activities that is driving many species towards extinction, and depriving local people of development choices and governments of potential revenue.
  • The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime(ICCWC), a consortium of the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Bank and the World Customs Organization has been established to tackle illegal wildlife trade. It brings together the entire enforcement chain to assist national enforcement authorities and regional bodies to combat illicit trade in wildlife.

CITES and India

  • India is a CITES Party since 1976.
  • Due to its extreme diversity, India is recognized all over the world for harbouring up to 7-8% of all the species recorded by CITES.
  • Out of 34 global biodiversity hotspots in the world, India has 4 of them: Western Ghats, Sundaland, Himalayas and Indo-Burma region.
  • As an active CITES Party, India prohibits the international trade of endangered wild species.
  • India has placed several measures to control the threats from invasive alien species.
  • This is done by regulating the trade by export certificates and import permits.

India at COP18/2019

  • India has proposed to remove rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo) from Appendix IIof CITES. The species grows at a very fast rate and has the capacity to become naturalised outside its native range, it is invasive in other parts of the world as well.
  • India has also proposed to transfer small clawed otters(Aonyx cinereus), smooth coated otters (Lutrogale perspicillata), Indian Star Tortoise (Geochelone elegans) from Appendix II to Appendix I, thereby giving more protection to the species.
  • The proposal also includes inclusion of Gekko geckoand Wedgefish (Rhinidae) in Appendix II of CITES


General limitations about the structure and philosophy of CITES include:

  • By design and intent it focuses on trade at the species level and does not address habitat loss, ecosystem approaches to conservation, or poverty;
  • It seeks to prevent unsustainable use rather than promote sustainable use (which generally conflicts with the Convention on Biological Diversity), although this has been changing.
  • It does not explicitly address market demand.
  • CITES listings have been demonstrated to increase financial speculation in certain markets for high value species.
  • Funding does not provide for increased on-the-ground enforcement (it must apply for bilateral aid for most projects of this nature).

Way Forward

  • More regular missions by the Secretariat (not reserved just for high-profile species);
  • Improvement of national legislation and enforcement; better reporting by Parties (and the consolidation of information from all sources-NGOs, TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network and Parties);
  • More emphasis on enforcement-including a technical committee enforcement officer; the development of CITES Action Plans (akin to Biodiversity Action Plans related to the Convention on Biological Diversity) including designation of Scientific/Management Authorities and national enforcement strategies;
  • CITES would benefit from access to Global Environment Facility (GEF) funds, although this is difficult given the GEFs more ecosystem approach-or other more regular funds.
  • Development of a future mechanism similar to that of the Montreal Protocol (developed nations contribute to a fund for developing nations) could allow more funds for non-Secretariat activities.