UNCTAD and CITES hold meeting on traceability system for international trade in python skins from South-East Asia

31 October 2013

The Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Mr. John Scanlon, and high-level officials of UNCTAD, have met with key players to discuss a traceability system that will ensure a sustainable and legal supply of South-East Asian python skins, pursuant to decisions taken by the Parties to CITES.​

A wide range of stakeholders took part in the meeting, which was held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on 17-18 October 2013. These included State representatives from the CITES management authorities of Indonesia, Malaysia and Viet Nam; and representatives of the private sector, including of luxury brands, as well as tanners involved in the trade in python skins; together with database management experts and other members of the secretariats of CITES and of UNCTAD.


The meeting was chaired by the Chairman of the CITES Working Group on Snakes, Mr. Mathias Lörtscher, and was financed by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) under the second phase of the BioTrade Facilitation Programme.

UNCTAD–CITES Meeting, 17 - 18 October 2013, Geneva

Welcoming the 62 participants to the meeting, Mr. Guillermo Valles, Director of UNCTAD's Division on International Trade in Goods and Services, and Commodities, expressed his satisfaction at the presence of such a wide range of stakeholders. "UNCTAD and CITES will continue to provide a platform that brings together key players from government, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and international, regional and national organizations, to discuss the issues and further define the next steps," he said. "This meeting is an example of that collaboration."

Mr. Don Ashley, UNCTAD and CITES consultant, presented a draft study entitled Traceability Systems for a Sustainable International Trade in South-East Asian Python Skins. The aim of the study was to gather information on current options for traceability systems that could be applied to the trade in South-East Asian python skins to ensure that the trade meets the CITES criteria, namely that the trade is sustainable, legal and verifiable. The information from this report, along with information that the CITES secretariat may obtain from other sources, will be presented to CITES intergovernmental bodies - namely the Animals Committee and the Standing Committee - in 2014 and 2015. The committees will then make recommendations for consideration by the seventeenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES in 2016.

In bringing together such a wide range of stakeholders, UNCTAD and CITES aimed to ensure that the consultation process was as inclusive and transparent as possible. With this aim in mind, interested parties were asked to present their current and proposed projects connected to traceability issues, including barcode and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tagging, DNA and stable isotope traceability projects, and public-private partnerships for sustainability and database-management systems.

The presentations were followed by a round-table debate on the findings of the consultant's report and the different options proposed for a viable marking system for python skins that could satisfy the requirements both of the CITES Parties and of the private sector.

Mr. Scanlon, in his closing remarks, underlined the importance of traceability for the CITES Convention and its mission to ensure that wild species that were traded internationally were not over-harvested in the wild. He pointed out that new technological advances were providing traceability tools that could assist CITES in that mission. He also noted that increased collaboration with private-sector stakeholders was an important element in developing those technologies, and in putting them to use in the field. Expressing the view that for the future, it would be important to look for common elements in different traceability systems, Mr. Scanlon said: "Even when we look at snakes, there is a multiplicity of approaches that have been taken; is there some common approach that can be taken with respect to traceability across species that are in international trade?" Finally, he reminded those present that "we live in an evolving world, and the combined experiences of the meeting's participants create valuable input for the regulatory bodies, such as CITES, as they seek to move forward."