Success at CoP

Namibia strongly believed the matter was already exhaustively discussed during CoP 17 in South Africa.

27 August 2019 | Environment

Namibia and other several other South African countries have successfully defeated a proposal to close all remaining legal domestic ivory markets at the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The meeting will adopt decisions and resolutions to expand and further strengthen the global wildlife trade and is taking place until Wednesday.

The proposal on the closure of domestic ivory markets was made by Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Liberia, the Niger, Nigeria and the Syrian Arab Republic.

“We defeated the proposal by Kenya and others on the closure of the domestic market without going to vote,” environment minister Pohamba Shifeta told Namibian Sun.

Speaking at CoP18 against the proposal, Shifeta said Namibia strongly believed that the matter was already exhaustively discussed during CoP 17 in South Africa and therefore there was no need to reopen the same discussion.

Shifeta argued that the proposition made to close ivory markets was not backed by science.

According to the proposal by Kenya and others, maintaining a domestic ivory market creates opportunities for laundering illegally obtained ivory, presents monitoring and enforcement challenges, in particular due to the difficulty of policing online trade, and undermines ivory bans in other countries by providing an alternative outlet to which suppliers and traffickers can relocate.

“Namibia would like to reiterate the fact that closing the legal domestic market does not mean that there will be no more demand for the product.

“In fact, those who used to get it legally will try by all means to get it from illegal suppliers and this will have serious negative impact on elephant population as this will only entice the criminals in the illegal market to satisfy the demands,” said Shifeta.

He said the proponents had not demonstrated their claim that all domestic ivory markets were linked to illegal killing and trade.

“Additionally and most importantly, domestic markets are outside the mandate of this Convention. In fact this issue if allowed to sail through here has a potential to eroding sovereignty of states,” said Shifeta.

“Even if it is found in the future that empirical evidence back this proposal, other means have to be found to deal with the matter rather than ignoring the Public International law which is unequivocally opposition to the proposal before us. This proposal is bad in law.”

Shifeta further argued that the proposal was in sharp contrast with the Vienna convention on the law of treaties of 1969, which is an international agreement regulating treaties between states (including CITES).

“Namibia deeply disagrees with such a proposal and that as parties here we have no mandate to extent the jurisdiction of the convention to encroach in the sovereignty of member states. And, I repeat, there is no legal basis on which this forum can use to throw a net of this convention beyond its jurisdiction.”

He said the issue of domestic trade was not even supposed to feature on the CITES agenda at all.

“We fully agree with the Secretariat that the text of the CITES Convention only talks about international trade.”

He therefore said that the proposal must be unreservedly rejected and in future, issues outside the mandate of the Convention must not appear on the agenda at all.


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