Yesterday and today, rural community leaders from around the world voiced their concerns about several proposals that were considered at the CITES 17th Conference of the Parties in Johannesburg. One set of proposals related to the sale of elephant ivory were particularly controversial. Community leaders from Namibia gave impassioned speeches in support of sustainable use of natural resources utilization to the benefit of local communities that live with and manage wildlife, including elephants. Their comments earned applause by many in the room.
Later, community leaders from Canada, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Kenya all spoke in favor of establishing a rural communities permanent committee within CITES. Attendees continued to applaud the interventions of the community leaders.
CITES decisions are typically made by politicians and government employees from around the world, but those decisions often have significant impacts on rural communities that usually cannot send representatives to international meetings. The speeches given at CoP17, however, show that rural communities are paying attention to CITES, and they would like to have some say in how their wildlife is regulated.