GSPC Target 11

Objective I: Plant diversity is well understood, documented and recognized

Objective II: Plant diversity is urgently and effectively conserved

Objective III: Plant diversity is used in a sustainable and equitable manner

Objective IV: Education and awareness about plant diversity, its role in sustainable livelihoods and importance to all life on earth is promoted

Objective V: The capacities and public engagement necessary to implement the Strategy have been developed


This target is unique in the context of the GSPC in that its implementation, monitoring and review is through linkages with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) under its Plants Committee. This target is clearly consistent with the main purpose of CITES, which states in its Strategic Plan agreed in 2001  "No species of wild flora subject to unsustainable exploitation because of international trade."

CITES provides the international framework for the protection of wild flora threatened by international trade. The Convention aims to protect plant and animal species listed in its Appendices against over-exploitation caused by international trade and to ensure that this trade is sustainable.

The collection of certain rare or commercially desirable plant species for trade poses a major threat to their survival in the wild. This is especially the case where their habitat itself might be threatened or where the species occur naturally in low numbers. 

Traditionally the plants covered by CITES have been ornamental (such as orchids and cacti) threatened by commercial collecting from the wild for gardens and greenhouses. However, more attention is now being focused on the major commercial groups of internationally traded species such as timbers and medicinal plants.

International monitoring and control of the trade in threatened plants through CITES is today the principal means of international cooperation and monitoring of plant trade.

CITES allows trade in plant species that can withstand current rates of exploitation, but prevents trade in those that face extinction.

Download an introduction to Target 11 here.

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The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is also known as the Washington Convention. It is arguably the most powerful of the international biodiversity conventions because its provisions are translated into law in the countries which sign up to it.

CITES has been in force for over 30 years and has been ratified by over 170 countries.

The Convention operates through the issue and control of export and import permits for a number of clearly defined species listed in three Appendices.

Appendix 1 includes plant species threatened with extinction for which international trade must be subject to particularly strict regulation, and only authorised in exceptional circumstances. Approximately 300 plant species are included in Appendix 1.

Appendix 2 includes species that are not threatened with extinction at present, but may become so if unregulated trade continues. Trade is permitted under license of both wild and artificially propagated material, provided an appropriate permit is obtained. Over 28,000 species are included in Appendix 2, including the entire orchid and cactus families.

Appendix 3 lists species that are threatened locally with extinction through commercial exploitation and therefore are subject to trade controls within certain countries. Only a handful of plants are listed on Appendix 3, but over the past 15 years, some countries have used this Appendix to help control international trade in certain tree species.


The implementation of this target relates to Targets 4 and 6 of the Aichi targets of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020:

T4: By 2020, at the latest, Governments, business and stakeholders at all levels have taken steps to achieve or have implemented plans for sustainable production and consumption and have kept the impacts of use of natural resources well within safe ecological limits.

T6: By 2020 all fish and invertebrate stocks and aquatic plants are managed and harvested sustainably, legally and applying ecosystem based approaches, so that overfishing is avoided, recovery plans and measures are in place for all depleted species, fisheries have no significant adverse impacts on threatened species and vulnerable ecosystems and the impacts of fisheries on stocks, species and ecosystems are within safe ecological limits.


The implementation of CITES internationally is facilitated by a Secretariat based in Geneva, Switzerland. The international CITES Secretariat, which is funded by contributions from each Party, assists national CITES Authorities and arranges a meeting of representatives from the members of CITES (Conference of the Parties) every three years. The aim of these meetings is to review the working of the Convention and to consider alterations to its Appendices (species listings or delistings). Amendments agreed come into force 90 days after the meeting of the Conference of Parties.

Each member nation is responsible for the implementation of CITES in their own jurisdiction, including the appointment of at least one Management Authority and Scientific Authority.

Member states are required to have their own national legislation to implement the Convention and this may be stricter than the provisions of the Convention itself. CITES provides a baseline for the regulation of trade in wild plants, and some countries apply stricter rules, for example prohibiting all exports of their native wild plants.

In addition to providing national legislation, CITES member states are encouraged to develop and implement effective management programmes for the conservation and recovery of species, so that the species will no longer meet the criteria for inclusion in the Appendices.


National CITES Authorities

Within each member nation a CITES Management Authority is operated by the appropriate administrative office, designated by government. The responsibilities of the Management Authority in relation to plant species include:

  • To make national policy on wildlife trade issues.

  • To prepare and circulate official information on CITES.

  • To provide information about CITES to traders, NGOs and the public.

  • To issue permits and certificates.

  • To inspect and monitor incoming plant material in cooperation with national customs officers.

  • To detain illegally traded plants and to pursue prosecution of the trader.

  • To undertake training.

  • To provide co-ordination with the CITES Secretariat.

  • To liaise with the National Central Bureau of Interpol. 

  • To monitor the level of trade, in the form of annual and biennial reports to CITES.

  • To set up a strategy for seized or confiscated plants. 

Within each member nation a CITES Scientific Authority should also operate under the auspices of a designated body, again usually governmental. CITES specifies that the Scientific Authorities should be independent of Management Authorities in order to provide independent scientific advice.

There are a range of different models for Scientific Authorities, some are government departments or agencies, some are independent research institutions and some are based on a committee structure with a wide range of membership reflecting the variety of species listed in the Convention.

Tools and resources

Please also check in the database of Tools of Resources for Case Studies relevant to this target.

A CITES manual for botanic gardens

Although aimed specifically at botanic gardens, this manual provides a clear introduction to CITES and its implementation that is relevant to all. 


GSPC_CITES_Poster (1524KB)

This poster provides an overview of the areas of synergy and cooperation between the GSPC and CITES 



This target  is very closely linked to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), sharing  the same objectives. CITES states in its Strategic Plan agreed in 2008-2020 (CITES Res. Conf. 16.3) “Conserve biodiversity and contribute to its sustainable use by ensuring that no species of wild fauna or flora becomes or remains subject to unsustainable exploitation through international trade, thereby contributing to the significant reduction of the rate of biodiversity loss and making a significant contribution towards achieving the relevant Aichi Biodiversity Targets” CITES now has 175 signatory countries, including the UK and all other EU countries. All signatories must abide by internationally agreed rules that regulate the import, export and transhipment of protected flora and fauna. 

The Global Assessment of Cacti, published in 2015 by the IUCN SSC Cactus and Succulent Specialist Group, found that the illegal trade of live plants and seeds for the horticultural industry and private collections, as well as their unsustainable harvesting are the main threats to cacti, affecting 47% of threatened species (

Similarly, the international trade in timber is worth hundreds of billions of dollars every year and the increasing demand for luxury timber items is threatening the survival of many timber species.  In recognition of this, at the last Conference of the Parties to CITES (COP17), all Dalbergia rosewood and palisander species found across the world, have been brought under CITES trade controls.   In all, more than 300 tree species were added to CITES Appendix II in 2017. Particular concerns for CITES with respect to plants include controlling trade in tree species and their multiple derivatives (ranging from precious timber, logs and sawn wood to guitars and other musical instruments), the suspected undocumented trade in orchids, and trade in the highly valuable African cherry, East African sandalwood and agarwood. Almost 30,000 plant species are now protected under CITES, especially in its Appendix II.

In 2013, the Global Timber Tracking Network started a collaborative project using DNA and isotope-based tools for identifying key timber species and their origins. This will enable customs inspectors and other border police to confidently determine the geographic origin of logs and wood products.

TRAFFIC promotes international co-operation to address wildlife trade issues, with particular emphasis on advising CITES in the decision-making processes. To ensure that international wildlife trade is at sustainable levels and does not pose a threat to the conservation of species.  (

 Other Useful Information

The Fair Wild Standard contributes to the implementation of existing trade legislation such as CITES ( and facilitates the process of exporting registered plants and animals, through the publication of guidelines. (Supporting the Implementation of ISSC-MAP in CITES through the Non-Detriment-Finding-Process)

Illegal logging and trade in Rosewood from Madagascar remains at alarming levels. More than 4,000 tons of rosewood suspected to have been illegally exported from Madagascar were seized by authorities in various transit and destination countries between November 2013 and April 2014. In 2014, the CITES Plants Committee recommended that Madagascar extend its zero export quota for ebonies, rosewoods and palisanders until August 2015 to avoid potential compliance measures in the future for the significant levels of illegal trade in these timber species. Find out more


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