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Cites reluctant to turn the screws on ivory world’s deadbeat nations – analysis

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THE EU has recommended that the conservation treaty organisation Cites enforce an immediate suspension of trade for Angola, Laos and Nigeria.

This comes after the three countries failed to provide progress reports on their National Ivory Action Plans (NIAPs).

The EU made the call at a meeting last week of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) in Geneva, Switzerland.

The meeting, which was to review progress reports for the ivory plans of 19 countries, had mixed results.

In 2013, 19 countries involved in the illegal trade in ivory were identified and asked “to strengthen their controls of the trade in ivory and ivory markets, and help combat the illegal trade in ivory”.

They were categorised as: “primary concern” (eight: China, Kenya, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Uganda, Tanzania and Vietnam); ”secondary concern” (eight: Cameroon, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Mozambique and Nigeria); and “important to watch” (three: Angola, Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic).

Each plan had to outline urgent measures to combat illegal trafficking and poaching, “including legislative, enforcement and public awareness action as required along with pecified timeframes and milestones for implementation”.

But John Sellar, former chief of enforcement at the Cites Secretariat, said: “If you look at the agenda of the current meeting, you’ll see there are some 70 documents to be considered, spread across 62 distinct agenda items.

“How carefully,” he asks, “can they be scrutinised and meaningfully discussed in a five day meeting?”

Some countries – notably China, Hong Kong, Kenya, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – have been hailed as a success. According to the committee review, the six nations have “substantially achieved” all their NIAPS conditions.

The committee has defined simple criteria to indicate whether a NIAP has been ‘substantially achieved’.

Traffic, a leading global wildlife trade network, hailed the achievement of these countries “as a remarkable success”, stating that with Thailand in particular there had been a significant reduction in the illegal trade in ivory products.

The organisation noted that in 2013 more than 14 000 ivory related products were traded illegally, but as of last year this figure had decreased to 2 780.

These results, say Traffic, revealed that Thailand was “beginning to see results and shows the efficacy of implementing NIAPs”.

But not all countries were properly implementing their NIAPs. Others had inadequate plans and three were simply not doing anything.

The committee’s assessment was that Malaysia, Uganda, and Tanzania, as countries of primary concern, had not yet “substantially achieved” their NIAPs.

Mozambique had fallen way short of meeting the conditions of its NIAP in most areas.

The NIAP for the Democratic Republic of Congo, said Terese Hart, director of a wildlife project representing a team of field biologists in the DRC, “has caused no change on the ground”.

She said: “Cites should reinstate a trade ban on the DRC until real ability to act on a plan is shown”.”

Angola, Laos and Nigeria flagrantly ignored Cites requests by failing to submit any progress reports on their NIAPs at all.

The EU, which provided funds that enabled the Cites Secretariat to appoint a part-time NIAP consultant in Africa and Asia to support countries to develop NIAPs, said Angola, Laos and Nigeria’s non-compliance was “a serious issue” and recommended at the Geneva meeting an immediate trade suspension against those countries.

However, the US, Norway and Switzerland called for a delay in implementing the recommendations until the EU submitted them in writing.

The committee accordingly delayed any action on the EU’s recommendations.

Mary Rice, executive director of the Environmental Investigation Agency, said: “the Cites Secretariat has the teeth to take decisive action, but seems unwilling to use them.”

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