WATCH: Groundbreaking decisions for migratory species

A week ago the IFAW team had arrived for Advocating species listings at CMS in Quito, Ecuador.

Now the 11th Conference of Parties of the Convention of the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) of Wild Animals ended with groundbreaking decisions to increase wildlife conservation and wellbeing for many animal species around the globe.

Thirty-one migratory species have been adopted into the conventions list of protected species, including  21 shark  species. Amongst them some of the most endangered, like the sawfishes, mobula rays and hammerhead sharks. Also the polar bears, the Mediterranean beaked whale and a number of migratory bird species have been listed, and should gain much better protection in the near future.

In addition a number of wide-reaching decisions have been taken on the conventions strategy, priorities and governance which shall make this United Nations agreement much more effective, more influential and with more conservation results to deliver.

I am so proud that IFAW has played a substantial role in paving the way over the last years to bring these proposals on the agenda and to gain the wide support from the CMS Parties who finally adopted all decisions by consensus.

Even if not all 120 countries parties to CMS were able to send their delegations, the unanimous support of all present can be taken as a clear commitment to turn the decisions into action.

But believe me, the consensus did not come easy.

We have been working in strategic coalitions and partnerships with other NGOs and officials; we have submitted our expertise in writing to working groups and committee meetings and entered uncountable discussions over time. And on account of our expertise, we assisted in the drafting of a number of the proposed resolutions, like the one on sharks and rays.

Of course, our involvement on the ground in wildlife habitat areas and our assistance to governments, for example in capacity building, has helped a great deal to build our reputation and trust with our partners.

And not all we wanted has been achieved nor all is as good as needed.

The African Lion was proposed to be listed on App.II of CMS, but the dispute amongst the African range states made that impossible. So the listing proposal had to be turned into a resolution, which now calls on the countries sharing lion populations to exchange information and increase cooperation for the good of these grand cats survival.

To complete the package for the conventions good governance it was proposed to develop a compliance mechanism to enable the convention to review the state of how the parties are doing in implementing the decided commitments and identify measures to overcome shortfalls. This was unfortunately watered down to the point that another 3 years will go before the Parties may decide at their next Conference of the Parties to develop such instrument.

Parties left the CMS Secretariat in a miserable situation, without adequate budget. On the one hand, through all the good decisions, they increased rightly the tasks and obligations for CMS but on the other hand were not willing to also ensure the needed resources necessary to realize the commitments.

But overall the outcome is historical, and may be a landmark in wildlife conservation worldwide. CMS is well positioned to play a major role in protecting the ecological integrity of nature, contributing to realize a truly green and therefore sustainable economy, through policies and implementation plans guided by ecological and biological sustainability, the ethical treatment of animals and the precautionary principle.

Just prior to the breathtaking official opening ceremony of the conference on the 4th November I was invited to speak at the opening press-conference, alongside with the Minsters of Ecuador and Gabon, with the Head of CITES and Philippe Cousteau. As the sole representative of civil society I was able to set the stage for the media to understand some of our priorities and the role of NGOs within CMS.

As IFAW has been a partner of CMS almost since its invention about 35 years ago, I was very happy to the increased interest in the conference. Over past decades I have seen that CMS as such, and even more the role of migratory species conservation generally, has long been undervalued.

Elephants, sharks, whales, lions, raptors and many more are keystone species in regards to human-wildlife interrelations.  Their protection should be top political priority as their conservation status and natural well-being is a clear indicator for the overall state of nature, for their habitats and migration routes with all its biodiversity.

Their well-being is key to maintain nature’s gifts to humankind, like ecosystem services, so vital to all our livelihoods. They are key to boost peaceful cooperation amongst range states across borders which they cross on their migrations. And many of them are national charismatic icons, deeply rooted in people’s cultures, religions and emotions.

The Ecuadorian government has done a great hob hosting the conference and encouraging a very precautionary, conservation-minded atmosphere. We would expect nothing less from the country host, home tothe paradise of Galapagos, and the first country to have adopted  the concept of “Rights of Nature” within their constitution.

Ecuador titled for the conference that it is “Time for Action “, which is very true. After all the successful action taken in preparation for this meeting and during the conference to come this these groundbreaking decisions, it is now high time for action to turn the great commitments of the conference into real impact to make this precious planet a better place for animals and people.

After some rest, we will continue our efforts.

--PP

RELATED: At CMS, working to reconcile “green“ values to include animal welfare

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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