William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review


Erica Lyman


This Article proposes that the CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora] compliance mechanism is fit-for-purpose in its design but its application is biased against source countries and ignores consumer countries both as drivers of illegal wildlife trade and as noncompliant actors. Bringing a justice-based sensibility to the application of the CITES compliance process requires a whole-of-supply-chain analysis and, drawing on the core relational foundations of the treaty, an international perspective, to identity the root causes of non-compliance that allow illegal trade to fester. Ultimately, the compliance mechanism must gel with the machinery and spirit of the treaty by reflecting the relational dynamics of illegal wildlife trade. Of course, illegal international wildlife trade takes at least two Parties, a source country and a consumer country.

Part I of this Article provides an overview of the CITES permit regime, and Part II overviews the compliance and enforcement framework of the treaty. Part III examines past compliance actions and the evolution of the compliance mechanism, revealing that in its original form, the compliance mechanism took a relational approach that waned over time, giving way to the biases inherent in the geopolitics of international law. Part IV reflects on this evolution and posits that a distributionally just compliance mechanism could drastically draw down illegal wildlife trade. The Conclusion states that application of the compliance mechanism with a whole-of-supply-chain perspective reflects an approach that is both rooted in justice and ultimately more effective in tackling the global illegal wildlife trade.

This abstract has been taken from the author's introduction.