Here we open our coverage from Rome of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention of Migratory Parties:
CMS COP9 High level Opening Ceremony, 1st December 2008
CMS COP9 High level Opening Ceremony Speech by
CEO, WDCS International:
"It is rare that one NGO speaks for all NGOs, and I am honored to have been given this opportunity. For one thing, it means that I can look around the room at my NGO colleagues here and see all of them sitting on the edge of their seats wondering precisely what I am about to say on their behalf!
Despite our differences in recent years, I feel much closer to them all than I have in the past. In early 2007, WDCS, together with our colleagues represented here, awoke to the shock of the first cetacean species, the baiji, or
Yangtze River dolphin, becoming extinct under our watch. And so we reluctantly joined that club of conservation NGOs that mourn the permanent loss of species due to human activities. It has been a sobering time, as we survey several other whale and dolphin populations reduced to no more than a few hundred individuals. But, like our colleagues, we are not daunted.
We can not afford to be daunted. Never before have the threats been so great; the impacts of human activities so strongly felt: climate change, bycatch, habitat loss, noise, pollution and teetering ecological balances.
Has there ever been a more difficult time for those that swim, fly, walk or run across invisible borders?
But never mind the scale of what we face. Along with our colleagues who also Partner with CMS, we remain determined that there are solutions to slow the tragic loss, to rescue the future, even as the time frame to 2010 tightens day by day and the situation for many species and populations deteriorates rapidly.
Thinking about CMS’s key role before the CoP, I have been struck by how much the economic and political events of recent months reveal the interconnected nature of our world. Yet, the common perception of conservation seems to be that we remain a few steps behind, removed
from global politics.
In the early 1980s, when the United Nations General Assembly asked the World Commission on Environment and Development to formulate a ‘global agenda for change’, the sheer scale of the environmental and policy landscape seemed to be our foe. The world appeared to be a big place; there was so much we didn’t know. We were all grappling with how to imagine solutions that could fit in with the existing structures of the world – a world that was, and is, defined by borders.
It was at this time that CMS was born. And CMS remains today one of the most enlightened initiatives of the global community during the past 30 years. Even though the world has been slow to recognize the invitation, CMS offers a key to looking past borders, a key to cooperation.
Perhaps because NGOs and the animals we care about so flagrantly cross jurisdictions that countries have responsibilities to defend, the NGO community has left the view of a world with borders behind us.
Perhaps NGOs have the freedom simply to interpret CMS as being about ensuring the protection of animals as they traverse the landscapes of their lives – regardless of where their homes are. These are lives that we now understand are socially complex. These are lives that have evolved in a thousand different forms, yet resonate as similar to our own. These are lives that bring richness to our
lives just by being on this earth with us. I am sure that my colleagues would agree with me in saying that we understand that the greatest obstacle now is not the tyranny of the commons but the tyranny of borders – borders that are about land, sea, policy, law, interest and the mind.
Each NGO has its own mandate and style but in this room we do share an important agenda. We all know that isolated initiatives will not work. And we believe that CMS offers the key to looking past borders, the key to connectivity.
We know that recognizing connectivity brings with it responsibility – responsibility to respect that we must protect what we share, to act while we can, and to work in Partnership.
Over the past three years, the Partner NGOs to CMS have worked hard to deliver positive progress toward the commitments made during the last CoP. We have all invested heavily in this work and have been welcomed by the Secretariat as serious stakeholders in the conservation progress that has been jointly achieved.
For WDCS’s part, we were honored to be a Founding Partner to the Year of the Dolphin. We worked closely with CMS, ACCOBAMS, ASCOBANS and TUI throughout the successful campaign and gained a wealth of experience through this close Partnership. WDCS is confident that the Year of the Gorilla will be equally successful. We have also been pleased to participate in the development of the two newest aquatic mammal agreements, in the
Islands and Western African regions, as part of the CMS marine mammal conservation network which also includes ASCOBANS, ACCOBAMS, Mediterranean Monk Seals MoU, Wadden Sea Seals Agreement, and the Indian/Pacific Ocean Dugong MoU. Indeed, we believe that CMS now commands an important international, and increasingly central, position in aquatic mammal conservation. This global network of marine mammal agreements will be at the core of future conservation in a challenging environment.
The Secretariat report that is before you on CMS Activities with Partners
demonstrates that CMS’s network of relationships now contributes substantially to the global CMS agenda. Partner NGOs are increasingly prepared to demonstrate our commitment, to bear scrutiny and be accountable. We all believe that CMS is important to the future and we want to continue in Partnership. In return we ask that all of us here – NGOs and Governments together – agree to walk through the door that CMS opens; that all of us here look past the borders and seize the opportunity for connectivity and a shared future.
And that together we repay the richness that we’ve received from our swimming, flying, walking or running friends by giving them our steadfast commitment that we will ensure their protection and the protection of our shared habitat on earth.
On behalf of the NGO Partners to CMS, I wish you well for the deliberations of this CoP."