International Judicial Monitor
Published by the International Judicial Academy, Washington, D.C., with assistance from the
American Society of International Law

Spring 2014 Issue

100 Ways


International Law: One Hundred Ways It Shapes Our Lives

100 Ways

Seeing elephants in their natural habitat on a camera safari, enjoying rare orchids on special traveling display, or observing rare giant pandas from China at a zoo.

By: James G. Apple, Editor-in-Chief, International Judicial Monitor, and President, International Judicial Academy

(In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Society of International Law in 2006, the Society published a pamphlet titled International Law: One Hundred Ways It Shapes Our Lives. The Introduction gives an explanation for its conception: an affirmation that “international law not only exists, but also penetrates much more deeply and broadly into everyday life than the people it affects may generally appreciate.” This column seeks to elucidate and elaborate on many of the 100 ways briefly presented in the ASIL pamphlet.)

Beneath the continuous controversies about global warming and climate change there is another important issue that will have a great effect on the future lives of humans. That issue is the growing extinction of animal and plant species that has been occurring with increased frequency. It is an especially important because many species of plants may have the capability of providing organic compounds useful in the treatment of human disease.

The issue of animal and plant extinction is more complex than even climate change because of the estimated number of species, especially plant species, that have not yet been discovered and thus unknown. Added to that issue is the fact that many plant species have become, are now becoming and will become extinct. Scientists simply cannot supply these numbers, although there have been efforts to offer what some scientists are reasonable estimates, since they are given in the context of broad parameters.

The World Wildlife Fund has issued commentary on this state of affairs:

Surprisingly scientists have a better understanding of how many stars there are in the [i.e. our] galaxy than how many species there are on earth....The rapid loss of species that we are seeing today is estimated by experts to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate.

According to the WWF there could be as many as 10,000 species that go extinct every year. It concludes:

Unlike the mass extinction events of geological  history, the current extinction challenge is one for which a single species – ours – appears to be almost wholly responsible.

What, it might be asked, does all of this have to do with international law. And the answer is that the issue of animal and plant extinction is one that is addressed by an international treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, better known as CITES.



CITES is a convention that came into being in 1963 at a meeting of the World Conservation Union (now known as the International Union for Conservation of Nature). One of the main reasons for the creation of CITES was the growing international trade in plants and animals, which recently has been estimated to be worth billions of dollars.

A commentary published by CITES describes its work as:

[S]ubjecting international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls. All import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of species covered by the Convention has to be authorized through a licensing system. Each Party to the Convention must designate one or more Management Authorities in charge of administering that licensing system and one or more Scientific Authorities to advise them on the effects of the trade on the status of the species.

The text of the Convention was agreed to at a meeting of representatives of 80 countries in Washington in1973. The Convention entered into force on July 1, 1975. The original document was written in five languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian and Chinese.

There are two kinds of members of the Convention, those states that agreed to be bound by the terms of the Convention, which are called Parties, for which the Convention’s terms are binding. Other states that are non-parties adhere to the provisions of the Convention voluntarily. CITES now has 180 Parties.

The Convention provides varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species (approximately 5,000 species of animals and 30,000 species of plants). The Convention contains three “Appendices” which are lists of species of flora and fauna that come under the protection of the Convention.

The activities of CITES include:

  • contributing to the implementation of relevant outcomes to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (2012);
  • contributing to the conservation of wildlife as an integral part of the global ecosystem on which all life depends;
  • promoting transparency and wider involvement of civil society in the development of conservation policies and practices; and
  • ensuring that a coherent and internationally agreed approach based on scientific evidence is taken to address any species of wild fauna and flora subject to unsustainable international trade.

CITES also cooperates with other organizations engaged in similar activities relating to the saving of species including “biodiversity and other conventions,

international environment organizations, international organizations dealing with natural resources, international trade and development organizations, international law enforcement organizations, and international financial institutions.

ASIl & International Judicial AcademyInternational Judicial Monitor
© 2014 – The International Judicial Academy
with assistance from the American Society of International Law.

Editor: James G. Apple.
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