China celebrates 30 years of conserving and sustainably using biodiversity through CITES
Thirty years ago today, China became the 63rd Party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It was the first multilateral environmental treaty that the country joined. This important anniversary is being marked by a celebration involving representatives of 31 Chinese Ministries and Departments in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Commenting on the 30th anniversary, Mr John Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General, said: "Our common goal is to save species at risk of imminent extinction by making them subject to particularly strict regulation, and to ensure that international trade in biodiversity remains legal, sustainable and traceable. I would like to congratulate and thank the Chinese CITES authorities for their substantial ongoing efforts to address these universal goals, particularly in the fields of national legislation, law enforcement, scientific research, capacity building and public awareness".
"As the international community prepares for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in Rio in 2012, it is crucial to learn from the contribution of CITES and the Chinese CITES authorities to achieve sustainable development. By protecting wildlife through an integrated strategy, addressing social, economic and environmental elements, China is making encouraging headway in the conservation of wild fauna and flora and is generating critical lessons for advancing sustainable development", declared Mr. Sha Zukang, UNCSD Secretary-General.
The rapid economic development experienced by China in recent years has created new challenges and opportunities for the conservation and sustainable use of wild animals and plants, such as snakes, crocodiles, ginseng, tropical timber species, turtles, seahorses and other marine species.
China has taken significant domestic measures to meet those challenges and the resources it devotes to the implementation of CITES trade regulations are significant. Its 130 full-time staff and 22 branch offices in China, in addition to the offices in the Special Administrative Regions, makes China's CITES Authority one of the largest in the world.
"The Chinese Government has paid great attention to the conservation of wild fauna and flora. Entering into a new century, we have made a huge investment in ecological development programmes, including the Natural Forest Protection Programme and the Wildlife Protection Programme, which have effectively restored forest ecosystems and recovered protected wild fauna and flora", declared Minister Jia Zhibang of China's State Forestry Administration.
China is now going through one of the most dynamic and fast-paced changes in human history, with strong implications in terms of demand for and use of wildlife resources. The concept of a "harmonious society" is the ultimate goal of the Chinese leadership. Such a society has the clear objective of building harmony between human beings and nature, that is, working to ensure sustainable development. A balanced and harmonious approach to development will benefit not only wild fauna and flora but people as well.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "China's evolution into one of the world's major economies comes with opportunities and responsibilities. China has demonstrated its commitment to some of the major challenges we face today. A transition to a low- carbon, resource-efficient green economy has the sustainable management of 'natural capital' as one of its overarching goals".
"CITES is among the central and key delivery systems to achieve this and China is a key partner. I am sure that over the coming years, this partnership will continue to mature and evolve to an even higher level in support of a sustainable 21st century in Asia and beyond," he added.
China also plays an ongoing active role in CITES affairs at the international level. Two recent examples of China's high-political commitment are an international workshop on the conservation and sustainable use of the saiga antelope that China hosted last September, and the attendance of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao at the International Tiger Forum held last November in Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation.
Next week, China will also host the first major international workshop on the conservation and management of and trade in Asian snakes.