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Environmental, Natural Resources, & Energy Law

IELP Students and Faculty Provide Expertise at Recent International Convention on Endangered Species in Bangkok Thailand

April 05, 2013

Lewis & Clark’s International Environmental Law Project (IELP) is not a typical law clinic, as its involvement at the negotiations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in demonstrates. While in Bangkok in March, IELP students and faculty worked with governments and conservation organizations on a range of issues, and their work found its way into the formal parts of the negotiations. Here are just a few of the things IELP accomplished at the negotiations:

IELP students wrote statements for, or provided information to, a range of governments that were used as part of the debate. Sierra Leone read, almost verbatim, an intervention prepared by IELP student Amelia Schlusser on the need for more capacity building programs for developing countries. Israel and the Democratic Republic of the Congo used information prepared by IELP students Don Gourlie and Lia Comerford when speaking about the effects of climate change on species conservation. Indonesia used a fact sheet prepared by another IELP student, Victoria Johnston, to challenge the exclusion of feces, urine, and ambergris as specimens covered by the Convention. Don, with IELP Professor Erica Lyman, also drafted negotiating text that governments adopted that requires countries to submit samples from major ivory seizures to forensic labs for genotyping—hopefully a meaningful step toward targeting enforcement efforts in major poaching locations.

Professors Lyman and Wold provided the 20+ governments in West, Central, and East Africa with advice and negotiating text on managing trade in rhino horn and elephant ivory. Professor Lyman, for example, advised Kenya’s lead negotiator on rhinos in his bilateral negotiations with South Africa on how to restrict trade in rhino horn but also the problem of re-export of rhino hunting trophies to consumer States, such as Vietnam and China. Managing re-exports is a particular thorny issue: many legitimate hunting trophies are obtained in one country but mounted by a taxidermist in neighboring countries, so countries did not want to ban all re-exports; however, Vietnamese criminal syndicates are using European proxies to re-export rhino horn to Vietnam to avoid a ban on exporting rhino horn by Vietnamese nationals from South Africa to Vietnam. 

Professor Lyman also worked with governments to revisit the issue of how to define a “hunting trophy.” The problems she identified about three years ago are now beginning to emerge with respect to rhino horn trade, and in Bangkok the Parties agreed to review once again the definition of “hunting trophy.”  

Professor Wold proposed that governments take action to investigate and develop recommendations for improving enforcement of trade rules relating to pangolins (scaly anteaters). These animals are in illegal trade in the tens of thousands despite a prohibition against commercial trade. It may be a first in the history of CITES that a non-governmental observer, as IELP is called, proposed during a floor debate that governments take action, which the governments then adopted. To pull this off, Wold worked closely with the United States and the Philippines, neither of which would make the proposal, but both said they would make statements in support. After voicing their support, the chair responded that he heard no objection to the proposal and that he considered it adopted by consensus. Sarah Perelstein, who was in IELP last year, got the ball rolling by documenting the immense illegal trade in pangolins.

Professor Wold had another issue adopted that he has been working on for about 13 years related to permits for marine species taken on the high seas. Success on this issue, known as introduction from the sea, required working closely over many years with the governments of Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the United States, and Argentina, as well as the European Commission.

All seven IELP students (including Ben Saver, Mandy Rude, and Michael Kearney), as well as Professors Lyman and Wold, provided advice to organizations and governments on the rules of procedure, an issue that played center stage at this meeting as some governments sought to make the use of secret ballots more difficult.

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