(DOHA)—The 15th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES officially opened this afternoon in Doha, with thousands of delegates spread throughout the Doha Sheraton Conference Center.
The opening ceremony, filled with ceremonial music and dance, included speeches from the Qatar Minister of the Environment, Abdullah bin Aaboud al-Midhad, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, and the Secretary-General of CITES, Willem Wijnstekers.
The Environment Minister expressed "pride and glory" for his country hosting a conservation meeting of this importance -- the first time a CITES Meeting of the Conference of the Parties has been held in the Middle East.
Mr. Wijnstekers averred that CITES is "in need of action more than words" and wondered aloud if the developing world had been let down by the Convention, which lacks full levels of capacity building and wildlife law enforcement to support wildlife conservation activities where they are perhaps needed most.
Ironically, today was all about words. Tomorrow too (adoption of the working program and rules of procedure for the meeting, reports from the various Committee Chairs on what has happened since the last CITES meeting in 2007, etc.). I'm ready for more action than words. And the wildlife of the world, as the Secretary-General says, needs it too.