The CITES electronic permitting toolkit

At its 13th meeting (CoP13, Bangkok, 2004), the Conference of the Parties discussed the use of electronic permitting systems to trade in CITES specimens (see document CoP13 Doc. 45). Some Parties expressed the view that the development of such a system would greatly assist in the handling and processing of CITES applications, and the collation and dissemination of CITES trade information.

The Conference of the Parties further discussed electronic permitting at its 14th meeting (CoP14, The Hague, 2007) [see document CoP14 Doc. 40.1 (Rev. 1)], and adopted Decision 14.56 directing the Secretariat, in cooperation with the Standing Committee Working Group on the Use of Information Technologies and Electronic Systems, to prepare a CD-ROM and Web-based toolkit on electronic permitting systems for consideration at the 57th meeting of the Standing Committee (see document SC57 Doc. 25).

Thanks to funding from the European Community and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Secretariat and the Working Group were able to complete this toolkit and presented it at CoP15 (Doha, 2010).

At that meeting, the Conference of the Parties adopted Decision 15.54, which encourages Parties to use the CITES Electronic permitting toolkit. In Decision 15.55, the Standing Committee is directed to extend the mandate of its Working Group on Information Technologies and Electronic Systems, whose tasks include "collaborating with the Secretariat in updating the toolkit with new information related to the use of common information exchange formats, protocols and standards and electronic signatures."

View version 2 of the CITES electronic
permitting toolkit in html format or
download the pdf version

The CITES electronic toolkit was updated in 2013 according to new electronic permitting standards and norms.

At its 16th meeting(Bangkok, 2013), the Conference of the Parties revised the Resolution on Permits and certificates [see: Conf. 12.3 (Rev. CoP16)] to include references to the use of electronic documents and to recommend that Parties using or developing electronic permits and certificates adopt the standards recommended in the toolkit.

At the same meeting, Parties also adopted Decision 16.54, which directs the Standing Committee to extend the mandate of its Working Group on Information Technologies and Electronic Systems and entrusts it with different tasks, such as, inter alia:

  • collaborating with the CITES Secretariat in the drafting of funding proposals related to the development of CITES e-permitting systems;
  • working with the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business, the World Customs Organization and other relevant organizations to ensure the alignment of CITES e-permits with international trade standards and norms; and
  • facilitating the development of a ready-to-use electronic CITES permitting for Parties in developing regions, and supporting the participation of these parties in the Working Group.

Partner organizations

International Air Transport Association (IATA)

The Secretariat met with IATA to discuss possible collaboration with its e-freight project. IATA e-freight is an initiative for and by the air cargo supply chain. It involves carriers, freight forwarders, ground handlers, shippers, Customs brokers and Customs authorities. It replaces paper documents with electronic messages, thereby reducing costs and improving transit times, accuracy and the competitiveness of airfreight.

UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre

UNEP-WCMC, supported by the European Commission,  is currently developing a mechanism to facilitate the electronic exchange or verification of CITES-Permit data among Management Authorities. The tool, known as EPIX (Electronic Permit Information eXchange), is being developed so that participating Management Authorities can exchange data regardless of the type of information-management system used by each Authority. This mechanism is being developed in communication with the CITES e-permitting working group which is developing standards for data electronic exchange.

EPIX allows participating Parties to query and retrieve electronic permit information through a secure website. EPIX is also CITES e-permitting toolkit compliant, which means that Parties wanting to make their data available through the toolkit protocol can do so.  EPIX has the potential to become a clearing house and conduit for CITES permits,  if Parties are supportive. In this role, EPIX would  facilitate the flow of permit information/queries among Parties with e-permitting systems.  This would establish  EPIX as a central system that effectively monitors, manages and bridges the gap of communication among e-permitting systems, making the process of e-permitting much easier and more sustainable.  EPIX would connect Parties directly and they would avoid the current need to establish numerous bilateral connections.

United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT)

The Secretariat met with UN/CEFACT to acquire knowledge on new international standards and norms developed to improve the ability of the public and private sectors  to exchange services and goods effectively. Discussions also centered on developing methods to facilitate trade transactions through the use of information technologies.

World Customs Organization (WCO)

WCO was also contacted for information on their Customs Data Model v. 2 and the recently published WCO Customs Data Model v. 3, and their relevance to the development of CITES electronic permits and certificates. The WCO Customs Data Model establishes a standard, international and harmonized data set that meets governments’ requirements for international trade and that is geared exclusively to the requirements of an automated environment. The Data Model also provides Parties to the revised Kyoto Convention with a global Customs standard to implement provisions dealing with reduced data requirements and electronic submission of declarations and supporting documents.

PROJECT “CITES electronic permitting in the Member Countries of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO)”

Reports of the  Member Countries of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization

More information

Global Wildlife Program Virtual Knowledge Exchange - Implementing electronic CITES Permits to improve control of trade in wildlife

Slides used in the presentation

Background information about the presentation

CITES and the advent of electronic permitting. CITES World. Issue Number 18, July 2009

CITES Electronic Permits and Certificates: Lessons Learned for the Development of a Permit or Certificate to Regulate Access to Genetic Resources

Report of the regional meeting on information management and electronic CITES permitting, Brasilia, 26-28 October, 2011

UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre. (2010). Progress Report on EPIX (Electronic Permit Information eXchange) for the facilitation of expeditious, electronic exchange or verification of data from CITES permits among Management Authorities. Cambridge, UK: UNEP-WCMC.

Zúquete, Ana Gamboa. Bases para la implantación de un sistema de licenciamiento electrónico CITES en Portugal. Máster en Gestión, Acceso y Conservación en Comercio: El Marco Internacional. Baeza (Jaén), España: Universidad Internacional de Andalucía, 2010.

Final report of the Regional workshop for Central America and the Dominican Republic - Capacity building on new technologies and electronic permitting, Managua, Nicaragua, 27-29 June 2011 (Spanish only)