Opening Remarks by Ambassador Bathsheba Crocker at World Wildlife Day 2023 Celebration
Conservatory and Botanical Garden, Geneva
Thank you very much, Nicola, and good afternoon, everyone. Happy World Wildlife Day. I was telling some of you before that this is actually my first time at the botanical garden in Geneva so I’m pleased to have this opportunity to see this incredible institution but mostly just delighted to be with all of you here today and want to extend my thanks to the Geneva Environment Network for hosting such an important event.
Today, as has been said, marks the 50th anniversary of the agreement on the final text of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which was signed at the State Department in Washington, D.C.
In the past 50 years, CITES has become the signature international agreement for safeguarding the world’s wild plants and animals from exploitation due to international trade. It is the key tool to ensure that trade in species is legal, regulated, and sustainable. CITES now counts 184 contracting parties and protects nearly 40,000 species against exploitation in trade – which is a commendable achievement.
I am proud to speak today—not only because of the special connection the United States shares with CITES as its first signatory—and you can imagine that it’s not always that I get to say the United States was the first signatory of a treaty – but also because of my own appreciation for wildlife conservation, and endangered species.
I grew up spending summers sort of between two places. One was Zimbabwe where my mother was born and where my grandparents still lived at that time, so I spent part of my childhood seeing the elephants, and the rhinos, and all the other wildlife in Africa and across African countries. But I also spent the other part of my summers in the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York, where my grandfather was a key conservationist. That’s something that my father carries on today, where my father’s family has been going for many generations, and so I really have seen this issue starting when I was a kid. Also CITES, having been signed in Washington, and because of that background, was one of the first things that I studied in the way of international agreements and I can say truthfully really formed part of the reason why I decided to engage in international affairs and international relations so it’s particularly meaningful for me to be here today.
We are of course gathered here because we appreciate what a rich and beautiful world we live in, and we recognize the responsibility we all carry to protect it for future generations. The threats to the species of our planet are even greater today than they were 50 years ago as exploitative trade, environmental degradation, and habitat loss continue to threaten the world’s biodiversity. And All countries must take bolder action to address these challenges.
In the United States, we’ve strengthened our laws and prosecuted the poachers and criminal organizations who traffic wildlife while increasing our support of partner governments to build international capacity to stop poaching and illegal timber harvesting.
Together with the government of Norway and others, the United States is also developing the Nature Crime Alliance to aggressively pursue the powerful criminal networks that engage—not only in wildlife trafficking—but also in illegal logging, mining, fishing, and land conversion that destroy natural habitats and precious ecosystems.
We also launched a new alliance with Canada and the UK last summer to tackle illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing to bring greater transparency to seafood supply chains and combat the harmful practices that are contributing to the collapse of critical ocean ecosystems.
On ocean conservation, the United States recently announced an ambitious new effort called the Ocean Conservation Pledge to encourage countries to protect or conserve 30 percent of their national waters by 2030. 16 countries have already joined this “30 for 30” pledge that strengthens our shared commitment to protect ocean biodiversity and animal habitats.
These alliances and pledges—in tandem with the work of CITES and the UN Environment Program—are a testament that today’s theme of “Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation” is uniquely fitting. International cooperation is the key and remains the key to countering animal exploitation and biodiversity loss.
So let’s use today to celebrate our collective accomplishments of the past 50 years of CITES, while renewing our shared commitment to bold, collective action to protect and conserve the world’s ecosystems and the creatures that inhabit them. Thank you.
See more photos from the event on U.S. Mission Geneva’s Flickr page.