We arrived at about 7:30am at the Sandton Convention Center to get in line for our official CITES passes – to get involved in a CITES CoP you have to sign up in advance and can only collect your pass at the event.
After some milling around with my fellow IFAW youth delegates we discovered the exhibition hall which serves as a platform for extensive media attention and educating the public on specific organisation’s ideas and ideals for appendix changes. It was here that I was able to 1) increase my network and 2) learn about certain species and the justification about their proposed uplisting. I was also able to chat to my friends from Blood Lions who are creating incredible awareness about how the canned hunting industry is being perpetuated through cub petting and walking with lions.
The experience was very interesting because I was able to truly recognise the complexities of international change making and also see the detrimental effects of uninformed opinions from the well-meaning public. I say this in the gentlest of ways because I too was a dogmatic bunny hugger (I still am) and I know that our passion for the environment can sometimes cloud our judgement in making useful compromises. Sustainability is the most important thing we can aim for but high impact policy making comes at a price. I’ll be honest it breaks my heart that I can’t simply stop a trade or change mindsets but I am understanding more and more about the importance of actually listening to and engaging with communities and technical foreign policy.
On a personal note I have accepted that, although it is vital for me to understand foreign policy (which I am actually studying), my passion for change lies in education, empowerment and a more holistic view of the world.