Lots of conferences, but are we making progress?

Lots of conferences, but are we making progress?

CITES Delegates rejected 3/4 proposals to increase trade regulations on shark species.

Last week marked the end of the 2010 COP-15 meeting of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. CITES–an agreement between 175 international Parties–was first drafted in 1963, to ensure that the global trade of 33,000 species of wild plants and animals does not endanger any species’ ability to survive. The delegates at this year’s Convention, held in Qatar, rejected several proposals that could have expanded animal rights, especially the rights of aquatic species. The Parties failed to pass regulations which would have tightened controls on trade for several species of hammerhead, whitetip, and dogfish sharks. One proposal to protect porbeagle shark species did receive the required approval of 2/3 of the Parties, although it passed by only one vote. The CITES delegates also rejected proposals to strengthen restrictions on the trade of pink and red coral, the Atlantic bluefin tuna, and the polar bear.

Like the results of the COP-15 UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in December, the COP-15 meeting of CITES does not imply much progress towards a global understanding of the need to transform interactions between humans and the environment and pursue more sustainable lifestyles. Bluefin tuna stocks have been reduced by 75% and we’ve lost 30% of tropical coral species since the 1980s, but global leaders still resist policies that limit what citizens may have on their plates or risk reducing monetary profits from trade. However–despite these financial gains–what about the loss of life and biodiversity? What about cruelty to animals themselves? Stuart Beck, the UN Ambassador from Palau (Micronesia), condemns the inhumane, unsustainable practice of shark-finning, saying, “I am sure that, properly prepared, bald eagle is delicious. But, as civilized people, we simply do not eat it.”

Another upcoming event will direct international attention towards animals, the environment, and climate change: the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, held in Cochabama, Bolivia. The Conference is scheduled for April 19-22, 2010; until then, seventeen working groups are setting the meeting’s agenda and investigating the issues, which include Mother Earth Rights, Indigenous Peoples, Climate Debt, and Agriculture and Food Sovereignty. This “alternative people’s conference” will welcome civil society participants from 94 countries and representatives of at least 70 governments. One goal of this meeting is to shape an international Climate Justice Tribunal and determine how to enforce member nations’ adherence to policies that reduce global GHG emissions and climate change. If this is accomplished, we may be able to find a solution to some of the CITES failures by establishing a new global entity that regulates the rights of animals, nature, and indigenous populations.

Photo courtesy of David Biesack