1996 was a relatively quiet year in the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) community, with the focus on the 1997 Conference of the Parties (COP) to be held in Harare, Zimbabwe. The growth in CITES membership slowed during 1996 with only one new state joining the treaty ranks: Mongolia, which became the 132d party.
1996 was also a particularly difficult year, as the United States did not pay all of its assessment. The United States reduced its contributions from an expected $1.3 million to $700,000. Controversy continued between the CITES community and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which controls staff hiring in the Secretariat. At its 36th meeting in January 1996, the Standing Committee decided to write the Executive Director of UNEP objecting to the process whereby the Deputy Secretary General of CITES was selected and UNEP's assessment of a 13 percent administrative overhead charge for CITES projects.
The trend of increased attendance at Committee meetings, which are held between the Conferences of the Parties, was reinforced during 1996. The 13th meeting of the Animals Committee in September attracted more than 100 individuals, representing 55 parties, plus industry and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The Committee has a scientific focus and is primarily concerned with the listing and delisting of species on the appendices of CITES. The Committee decided to recommend to the 1997 COP the delisting of 16 Appendix II non-traded or rarely traded species. There was discussion about bear trade, even though the Committee lacks authority to take affirmative steps. The Committee also drafted resolutions for consideration of the next COP on the issues of hybrids, trade in captive-bred species, and transborder movement of personally owned live Appendix I animals.
In accordance with the wishes of the COP, the Standing Committee awarded a contract to an outside organization to report on the effectiveness of CITES as an international agreement. The contract was awarded to Environmental Resource Management (ERM) of the United Kingdom, which in September submitted the first part of the report to the Standing Committee. As a starting point for the study, ERM surveyed states parties and associated NGOs about their perceptions of how the Convention was or was not working. The initial proposal for the study came from a number of states parties who