The CITES Plants Committee is a part of the Convention in charge of overseeing the implementation of the CITES plant trade provisions. Made up of delegates from CITES member states, it meets regularly to discuss issues relating to plant conservation, the sustainability of trade in plant products and other international regulatory issues.
The ATIBT was represented by a delegation comprising Franck Monthe, CITES Project Manager, Nicolas Bayol, Chairman of the Forest Industry Commission and Research Director at FRMi, and Robbie Weich, from TRADELINK and representative of the AIMEX association of timber importers from the State of Pará in Brazil. This participation was particularly important as several exploited tropical species have been listed in the CITES appendices, and the European Union had expressed its desire to strengthen measures for delivering import permits and had submitted a document proposing sustainability criteria for non-detriment findings relating to timber, document PC26 Doc. 18.
The ATIBT had several objectives for this session of the Plants Committee:
- To mobilise Central African countries and other CITES Parties in a joint action to highlight the limitations of the European Union's proposal as contained in document PC26 Doc. 18. This document proposes new sustainability criteria for non-detriment findings relating to timber. The European Union considers that a species listed in the CITES Appendices and subject to forest management can only be considered fully sustainable if the forest demonstrates full regeneration and recovery capacity, i.e. a "regeneration" Index (which appears to be similar to a "recovery" rate) of 100%, a requirement that goes beyond those set out in the national regulations of producer countries. EU planned to apply a standardised sustainability indicator relating to a threshold of the Regeneration Index to accept timber from species listed in Appendix II of CITES on EU markets. Following a number of concerns and limitations raised by Committee members, particularly countries from Asia, North America and Africa, as well as observer States Parties (countries that are not members of the Committee) such as Cameroon (see the background document here), Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, the DRC, Russia, Togo and Zimbabwe. In particular, the Parties were concerned about the lack of precision in the terminology used, the unsuitability of the approach to the context of certain countries, the lack of scientific justification to support the proposals made, and the potential risks for those involved in the sector and local populations. The Plants Committee took note of the concerns raised by document PC26 Doc. 18 and invited the Secretariat to publish a Notification to the Parties in order to transmit to the European Union the comments in response to this document. The exchanges on this document are available here between 1:13 and 1:48. The ATIBT had the opportunity to share its analysis of this EU document with a number of Parties.
- To share the ATIBT's actions and projects in favour of sustainable forest management in Central Africa with the members of the European Union's SRG (Scientific Review Group) and other participants in the Plants Committee. This exchange took the form of a side-event on sustainable forest management in Central Africa. The aim was to present the forest management tools used in the region, to demonstrate that they do not threaten the survival of a group of species whose vulnerability has been studied, and to highlight the crucial role of the industrial forestry sector. In addition, the ATIBT has shared the practical forest management plan (available here), a series of guides produced by the DYNAFAC collective, such as the practical guide to tree plantations in the dense rainforests of Africa, the technical guide to drawing up and implementing a wildlife management plan, and the methodological guide to installing trails to monitor the growth, mortality and phenology of tropical trees. These resources have been made available to participants. All these guides are available here.
- Understand the reasons for the delays in delivering CITES import permits to the European Union. The ATIBT had the opportunity to discuss with the member countries of the European Union's SRG the difficulties associated with the issue of CITES import permits and the repercussions on the players in the sector in Central Africa. The main reasons for the difficulties identified are as follows:
- Delays from exporting countries in responding to concerns raised by CITES scientific bodies in Europe regarding permit applications. The ATIBT proposes to facilitate these exchanges by acting as a mediator.
- Non-compliant and unofficial documents provided with permit applications. To remedy this situation, the ATIBT suggests that the European Union make available an exhaustive list of documents required to facilitate the issue of import permits. This list would be drawn up in collaboration with forest concession holders and communicated to the scientific authorities of the countries concerned. It would also be beneficial to store these documents on a freely accessible platform. The SRG highlights the necessity of complete, officially validated documents and data. The European Union recommends that exporters provide export permits directly to importing countries as soon as they are obtained, in order to speed up the issuing of import permits.
The results achieved at the CITES Plants Committee are the fruit of the consolidation of recent partnerships with Latin American members, the IWPA association, as well as fruitful exchanges with many countries in Asia and Africa. A promising dialogue has also been initiated with the SRG and the delegations of the EU countries, which can be pursued in the future to facilitate the implementation of CITES-related measures.
The next stages of the CITES project will involve implementing activities to facilitate the issuing of import permits, monitoring the development of non-detriment findings in the various Central African countries, and consolidating partnerships between the various tropical countries. The ATIBT will also monitor the work underway within CITES on the Non-Detriment Finding for timber.
During this meeting of the Plants Committee, the ATIBT was able to take part in several "inter-sessional" working groups:
- Study of important trade on a national scale
- Identification material for specimens of species listed in the CITES Appendices
- Identification of timber and other wood products
Franck Monthe - ATIBT