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CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention) is an international agreement between governments, drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The text of the convention was agreed upon in 1973, and CITES entered into force on 1 July 1975. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival and it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 33,000 species of animals and plants. In order to ensure that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was not violated, the Secretariat of GATT was consulted during the drafting process.[1]

Only one species protected by CITES, the Spix's Macaw, has become extinct in the wild[2] as a result of trade since the Convention entered into force (but see case studies in Hutton and Dickinson[3] and Stiles[4] for further discussion of the role CITES has played in the fate of particular species).


Background and operation

CITES is one of the largest conservation agreements in existence. Participation is voluntary, and countries that have agreed to be bound by the Convention are known as Parties. Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties, it does not take the place of national laws. Rather it provides a framework respected by each Party, which must adopt their own domestic legislation to implement CITES at the national level. Often, domestic legislation is either non-existent (especially in Parties that have not ratified it), or with penalties incommensurate with the gravity of the crime and insufficient deterrents to wildlife traders.[5] As of 2002, 50% of Parties lacked one or more of the four major requirements for a Party: designation of Management and Scientific Authorities; laws prohibiting the trade in violation of CITES; penalties for such trade; laws providing for the confiscation of specimens.[6]

The text of the Convention was finalized at a meeting of representatives of 80 countries in Washington, D.C., United States, on March 3, 1973. It was then open for signature until December 31, 1974. It entered into force after the 10th ratification by a signatory country, on July 1, 1975. Countries that signed the Convention become Parties by ratifying, accepting or approving it. By the end of 2003, all signatory countries had become Parties. States that were not signatories may become Parties by acceding to the Convention. As of 21 April 2009, 175 States had become Parties to the Convention with Bosnia and Herzegovina being the latest.[7]

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