wildlife protection NurPhoto/Getty Images

A Virtuous Cycle for Conservation

As the world seeks to eliminate poverty while conserving nature, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora provides a viable framework for making the two efforts mutually reinforcing. When poor people are given a stake in the wildlife trade, they become wildlife's most ardent defenders.

NEW YORK – Poor and rural people around the world rely on plants and animals for shelter, food, income, and medicine. In fact, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 15) on sustainable ecosystems acknowledges many developing societies’ close relationship with nature when it calls for increased “capacity of local communities to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities.” But how is this to be achieved?

The 1975 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) provides a viable framework for reducing poverty while also conserving nature. It regulates the harvesting and exchange of more than 35,000 wildlife species across a range of locales.

Nature has been described as the “GDP of the poor.” The CITES framework, combined with strong national conservation policies, can simultaneously protect wild species and benefit poor, rural, and indigenous people, by encouraging countries and communities to adopt sound environmental management plans.

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