CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Because the trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. CITES was conceived in the spirit of such cooperation. Today, it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.

CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of IUCN (The World Conservation Union). The text of the Convention was finally agreed at a meeting of representatives of 80 countries in Washington D.C., on 3 March 1973, and on 1 July 1975 CITES entered in force.

For many years CITES has been among the conservation agreements with the largest membership, with now 183 Parties.

The CITES Secretariat is administered by UNEP and is located at Geneva, Switzerland. It has a pivotal role, fundamental to the Convention and its functions are laid down in Article XII of the text of the Convention.

The Secretariat promotes the cooperation with other organizations and a number of general cooperation agreements have been already established

In this context and taking into account the long standing (more than 35 years) and very successful experience of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in implementing Customs (ASYCUDA) and Customs-related Integrated Management Systems in around 100 countries around the world, UNEP CITES Secretariat and UNCTAD have signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), in mid 2014, to enhance their cooperation, in particular, by promoting the automation of electronic certification, control and monitoring of international trade in CITES-listed species of wild fauna and flora.

The collaboration between the UNEP CITES Secretariat and the ASYCUDA Centre of Excellence, and HM Customs Department Gibraltar resulted in the design of the aCITES system (Electronic CITES Certification System) as an integrated management system that fully automates the control and monitoring of issuance, monitoring and control of CITES Certificates, and can interoperate with any Customs IT system

aCITES automates the processes of

  • Submission by the traders of the applications for CITES certificates – B2G,
  • Evaluation of applications by the national CITES Management Authority (MA) and Scientific Authority (SA), as applicable, and issuance of electronic CITES Certificates – G2B,
  • Control by Customs of exports and imports of in CITES-listed species vs. valid CITES Certificates – G2G, and
  • Monitoring of the usage of issued certificates by both control authorities.

aCITES allows the exchange of safe electronic messages between governmental authorities and businesses at a national level as well as between exporting and importing countries. It also includes efficient risk-management and anti-fraud features.

aCITES is based on international standards and recommendations, e.g. World Trade Organisation (WTO), United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) eBusiness standards, World Customs Organisation (WCO) Data Model etc.

aCITES is being enhanced and maintained/supported and distributed by the ASYCUDA Centre of Excellence. UNEP CITES Secretariat and/or ASYCUDA Centre of Excellence can organize joint training courses at national and regional level.