New Ways to Improve the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES): exchanging knowledge to protect wildlife and public health

Lead Research Organisation: Northumbria University
Department Name: Fac of Arts, Design and Social Sciences


The global wildlife trade has been thrust into the international discourse in light of the coronavirus pandemic. As debates surge in regard to whether or not to ban all or part of this lucrative, and many argue necessary, trade, my research has the potential to have significant environmental, social and political impacts. This stems from the evidence my research has provided for improvements to how the Convention on the International trade in Endangered Species (CITES - the main global instrument for regulating wildlife trade) is currently implemented and complied with, and discovery of gaps in the Convention. This Follow on Funding project promises to strengthen the impact of that research even further by developing knowledge exchange and dissemination activities in collaboration with new stakeholders and user communities-EcoHealth Alliance, United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (UNFAO), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS).
This project is a timely and important knowledge exchange and dissemination of findings from my Leadership Fellowship "Lessons Learned on the Implementation of and Compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): three case studies of best practice" (AH/R002584/1). In the original project, I investigated how to improve national CITES legislation in order to help curb the extinction of 1 million species due in part to overexploitation and illegal wildlife trade. My participants largely agreed CITES' implementation and compliance are a part of the solution, but indicated the urgent need to expand CITES' remit or seek other global solutions. In addition, now wildlife trade and trafficking have (again) been linked to zoonotic disease, such as the coronavirus pandemic. This project aims to explore unforeseen and emergent pathways to impact stemming from my Leadership Fellowship to improve wildlife trade regulation 3 ways:
1. To work in collaboration with new partners (EcoHealth Alliance, UNFAO, UNODC and CALS) to have a significant and transformative effect on the ongoing debates about:
a. The link between wildlife trade, animal health and welfare, and public health
b. Wildlife trafficking as a transnational organised crime fuelled by corruption
c. Legal definitions of wildlife
2. To enhance the value and benefits of my AHRC-funded research beyond academia, by directly sharing/transferring the original project data to the workstreams of relevant stakeholders.
3. To enlarge the contribution of my Leadership Fellowship in terms of public engagement and policy formation related to inevitable changes to wildlife trade regulation (CITES and other emerging mechanisms) stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

To achieve these aims, my project has 4 main objectives:
1. To co-host with EcoHealth Alliance, UNFAO, UNODC and CALS 4 knowledge exchange workshops related to the ongoing debates about wildlife (Aim 1).
2. To share/transfer data from the original project into practitioner databases and relevant programmes as a Visiting Researcher with UNODC (Aim 2).
3. To develop an UNODC open access Education 4 Justice module informed by my original project (Aim 3).
4. To collaborate with an experienced journalist to craft 4 short documentary videos of the evolving wildlife trade debates and regulations (Aim 3).

The knowledge exchange and dissemination of findings are targeted at new audiences-the public and supranational stakeholders influencing policy (not CITES and the parties' authorities) over a 10-month timeframe. The project's findings will be shared via Policy Briefs containing co-produced policy recommendations from the co-hosted workshops, 4 short documentary videos, an Executive Summary and 1 peer-reviewed journal article. The activities will be advertised through my extensive professional and social media networks as well as those of my partners


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