Corruption Crackdown & Precious Timber Dominate CITES Agenda

CITES addresses African Rosewood crisis

Wed 22 Nov 23


Trade in precious timber was among the discussion points during the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Geneva earlier this month.

Over 600 delegates, including 15 international organisations and representatives from indigenous communities worldwide, attended the 77th Standing Committee for CITIES.

The Chair of SC77 and Head of the United States CITES Management Authority, Naimah Aziz, provided the opening address, emphasised the importance of “supporting legal, traceable and biologically sustainable trade in wild plants and animals” before stating CITES, after 50 years, “is robust and effective in achieving its mission now, as it was then.”

That includes global trade in at-risk timbers, with Wood Central revealing last week that the EU will, for the first time, criminalise the trafficking of timber as part of their beefed-up Green Deal.

On the first day, CITES discussed the Rosewood crisis in Africa, with Chinese traders now turning to West Africa, notably Mali, where they are over-harvesting and exporting rare and endangered timber on an industrial scale.

More than 40 rare and endangered timber species are on the CITIES Appendix list, with a listing “meaning that the trade of the raw wood, either in log, board, or veneer form, is restricted,” according to Wood-Database.

“On some species, the restriction is even greater and includes even finished products made of or including a protected wood: one of the most common instances of this is with guitars made of Brazilian Rosewood.”

The committee heard existing and new compliance cases “relating to the application of Article XIII of the Convention regarding unsustainable, non-compliant or illegal trade in West African rosewood, African teak, Asian elephants, birds and sharks,” according to the CITIES communiqué. 

Trafficking of conflict and illegal timbers has been in the news after the release of a groundbreaking report by the FACT Coalition, Dirty Money and the Destruction of the Amazon: Uncovering the US Role in Illicit Financial Flows from Environmental Crimes.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which manages the CITES Illegal Trade Database, has noted “an alarming increase” in timber trafficking connected to drug cartels, money laundering and corruption.

CITIES play a vital role in regulating the timber trade and ensuring that rare and at-risk timber is not over-harvested, with the committee stressing the importance of combating corruption and encouraging parties to integrate financial crime investigations into wildlife-related crimes.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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