India’s Abstention in CITES vote on reopening ivory trade

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    • Recently, India decided not to vote against a proposal to re-open the international trade in ivory at the ongoing conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
      • The proposal to allow a regular form of controlled trade in ivory from Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, was defeated 83-15 in Panama City.

    Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Agreement

    • Aim: 
      • To ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species.
    • Protection: 
      • Today, it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 37,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.
    • Enforceability of the Convention:
      • CITES is an international agreement to which States and regional economic integration organisations adhere voluntarily. 
      • States that have agreed to be bound by the Convention (‘joined’ CITES) are known as Parties. 
      • Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties – in other words they have to implement the Convention – it does not take the place of national laws. 
      • Rather it provides a framework to be respected by each Party, which has to adopt its own domestic legislation to ensure that CITES is implemented at the national level.
    • Permit System:
      • All import, export and re-export of species covered under CITES must be authorised through a permit system.
    • Appendix: 
      • CITES Appendix I lists species threatened with extinction — import or export permits for these are issued rarely and only if the purpose is not primarily commercial. 
      • CITES Appendix II includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction but in which trade must be strictly regulated.
      • Every two years, the Conference of the Parties (CoP), the supreme decision-making body of CITES, applies a set of biological and trade criteria to evaluate proposals from parties to decide if a species should be in Appendix I or II.
    • Memberships:
      • For  many years CITES has been among the conservation agreements with the largest membership, with now 184 Parties.
      • India became the 25th party — a state that voluntarily agrees to be bound by the Convention — in 1976.

    Status of the International Ivory Trade 

    • Globally banned in 1989 when all African elephant populations were put in CITES Appendix I
    • The populations of Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe were transferred to Appendix II in 1997, and South Africa’s in 2000 to allow two “one-off sales” in 1999 and 2008 of ivory stockpiled from natural elephant deaths and seizures from poachers.
    • Subsequently, Namibia’s proposal for allowing a regular form of controlled trade in ivory by delisting the elephant populations of the four countries from Appendix II was rejected at CoP17 (2016) and CoP18 (2019). 

    Source: IE