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CITES update: success from the get-go

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Poster for WWF and Avaaz's media stunt at the CITES opening ceremony, March 2013. "You don`t need superpowers to be a hero!" with Miss Universe 2005 as Wonder Woman greeting delegates. 20 kids dressed up as tigers and elephant handing out WWF position. © WWF/AvaazPoster for WWF and Avaaz’s media stunt at the CITES opening ceremony, March 2013, with Miss Universe 2005 as Wonder Woman greeting delegates, and 20 kids dressed up as tigers and elephants handing out leaflets. © WWF/Avaaz

Policy work can sometimes be disappointing. Hours of talking, ‘working the room’ (as my good friend and roommate here in Thailand likes to say) to meet delegates, and staying up late to work on the development of policy text – and the outcome can still go the wrong way.

Not today though!

Today was the first day of the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to CITES. Conversations around the opening ceremonies are often focused on the dancers, singers, light shows and other artistic ways that host governments entertain the 2,000 odd delegates, observers and media who attend the COP.

In Bangkok, though, the buzz has been about the pledge in the opening speech of the Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to end ivory trade in her country. This is a major success as Thailand has one of the largest markets for illegal ivory from African elephants. See our full story on this wonderful news.

The opening ceremony was also of particular pride to the British in the room as a video (see below) was shown of the Duke of Cambridge. His heartfelt speech highlighted the seriousness of the illegal wildlife trade and the urgency in reversing the current trends. He said the delegates can make the difference at this COP, on CITES’ 40th anniversary.

We agree with him. Prime Minister Shinawatra has already shown that words spoken in that conference room could make the world of difference for species such as elephants. Here’s the prince’s video message to CITES:

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