The ceremony was opened by Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra with a ceremonial striking of the gong.
As with so many CITES Conferences of the Parties in the past controversy wasn’t long in arriving.
The Thai PM said in her speech that her government would “work towards amending the national legislation with the goal of putting an end to ivory trade and to be in line with international norms.”
What exactly that means is open to interpretation. Does that mean stopping the illegal trade in ivory?
Does it mean closing one of the largest domestic markets for ivory in the world?
If so, when and how?
While IFAW welcomes the news that things will improve in Thailand we’ll be watching closely.
As long as elephants are being killed for their ivory there should be no legal ivory trade.
The second key issue to arise on the day was the matter of secret ballots.
There are two proposals to stop the practice of secretive ballots at CITES in the name of transparency.
The proposals from the EU, Mexico and Chile are supported by the US, the Democratic Republic of Congo and numerous other countries. In opposition both China and Japan spoke extensively in favour of keeping secret ballots, also supported by some countries.
Their argument is that secret ballots allow smaller countries to withstand pressure from countries who might use their economic might to influence countries to do their will.
On the other side is the reality that delegates here are speaking on behalf of their citizens and should be held accountable by the citizens they represent.
If, for example, a majority of citizens in a particular country are in favour of stopping the international trade in polar bears, don’t they have the right to know their representatives are properly representing their interests?
The discussion continues today. IFAW will continue to advocate for openness and transparency and most of all, wildlife.
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