Today is the start of the two-day plenary marathon in which all of the decisions taken in the Committees during the past 10 days will be formally approved and adopted by all participants. There are almost 70 agenda items and 42 proposals to address in only 12 hours of plenary – working out to a little more than six minutes per item. Considering that we suspect several proposals to be reopened, this means some items will only get a cursory nod before the chair will signal adoption, writes Sue Mainka, Head of IUCN’s Science and Learning.
The meeting is being chaired by a Qatari gentleman, an advisor to the government, who was also our host last Saturday during an excursion to an Arabian oryx reserve near Doha. He is a very deliberate and quiet Chair but gets the job done within the previously prescribed schedule. In the morning they work through the mundane issues of nominations for committees and the budgets and financial reports. Documents covering cooperation with other agencies and links with the post-2010 processes are also adopted.
Meanwhile, in the press centre, IUCN provides a source of diversion by means of a press briefing on CITES’ broader issues and the future of the Convention. The Internet is down and the plenary agenda isn’t very newsworthy yet so our session is quite well attended. Richard Emslie (IUCN African Rhino Specialist Group), Holly Dublin (IUCN African Specialist Group), Peter Paul van Dijk (Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles Specialist Group) and Steve Broad (TRAFFIC) are the panelists and each provides a few minutes of impressions on the issues, successes and challenges of CITES CoP15. Several of the journalists who joined us last evening for a press dinner are there and an interesting set of questions is posed and answered. For example, if CITES is getting more engaged in commercial species, as evidenced through all the marine fish proposals, have they also addressed timber? Or, what about the link between ivory sales as signals and incidences of poaching; or would you consider CITES CoP15 a success or failure in terms of marine species? The panel does a great job of answering all these questions and more. Afterwards, several of us have follow-up interviews with journalists from the AP and Reuters news agencies so the coverage and profile for IUCN should be great.
In the afternoon, the monotonous routine of adoption of documents by consensus continues. Looking around at delegations, it’s clear that energy levels are waning. The Internet is still down and without e-mail as something to do, people are slouched in their chairs and nodding off to the soft tones of the Chair’s voice. Near the end of the afternoon, the Internet comes back and the Philippines re-opens debates about captive breeding of parrots. These two events bring the hall back to life in time for adjournment.
Mental exhaustion is setting in after more than two weeks of meetings exploring the arcane minutiae of CITES as well as the high profile discussions on flashy species like tuna and elephants. Tonight will provide some welcome relief as I’m planning a trip to the Soukh and a meal at the Iranian restaurant. Only one more day to go and CITES CoP 15 will be a part of history.