Timeliness and data quality of ETIS must be maintained
The Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) is a CITES-mandated database and programme managed by TRAFFIC on behalf of the Parties to CITES. The ETIS objectives include establishing an information base on illegal trade in elephant specimens, measuring illegal trade trends, and assessing linkages to CITES actions. TRAFFIC is mandated in Res. Conf. 10.10. (Rev. CoP18) to collect, manage, and analyse data on seizures of elephant specimens and to prepare and submit ETIS reports to the Standing Committee (e.g., SC74 Doc. 68) and the Conference of the Parties (e.g., CoP19 Doc. 66.6). Annex 3 of Res. Conf. 10.10. establishes the ETIS report as the “foundation for identifying Parties to participate in the National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) Process”, on which the Standing Committee makes a final decision following the Secretariat’s recommendations.
In 2020 and following the Parties’ request at SC69, the ETIS database was launched into ETIS Online to provide an interactive portal allowing Parties to view, download and submit seizure data relating to their country (or territory). Response from the Parties was overwhelmingly positive, with over 100 data providers registered to ETIS Online from over 60 Parties and with over a third of 2021 seizure data recently submitted using the portal.
Following a request by the Parties to the Standing Committee (SC69, 2017), an external review of the ETIS programme (CoP19 Doc. 21) was commissioned by the CITES Secretariat in 2020. Completed in 2021, the review found that “the overall analysis is data-driven and quantitative at its core, and TRAFFIC is objective in its use of available data, the analytical approach and reporting” (SC74 Doc. 12). ETIS received an overall satisfactory score (using a rating scale consistent with UNEP guidelines), ranking highly satisfactory for Strategic Relevance and moderately likely for Sustainability due to funding inconsistencies.
Following the external review, recommendations outlined in CoP19 Doc. 21 propose specific amendments, most substantially to Annex 1 of Resolution Conf. 10.10 “Monitoring illegal trade in ivory and other elephant specimens”. TRAFFIC supports most of the recommendations outlined by the Secretariat in Doc 21. but is concerned about the suggested amendments that will change the annual submission date of ETIS data from 31 March to 31 October. This change will impose an on-average added delay of 1-year to the timeliness of ETIS data reported to SC and CoP, as detailed in CoP19 Doc. 66.6 Part VI – “ETIS Data submission timeline”. It is also unclear whether the alignment of the submission date to 31 October (which is the submission deadline of the Annual Illegal Trade Reports, AITR; Res. Conf. 11.17 Rev. CoP18), will also entail data being submitted first to the AITR before reaching ETIS. The latter data submission mechanism can compromise data quality and management efficiencies, given the different database structures and reporting guidelines of AITR and ETIS. Resolving such data management issues will likely impose even greater delays in the timeliness of data presented to the Parties in ETIS reports to SC and CoP. Additionally, it is noted that ETIS Online, which has seen widespread uptake by the Parties, provides built-in error checks during the data submission process. Hence TRAFFIC strongly suggests keeping the submission date of ETIS data as 31 March and the mechanism of data submission as direct submissions on ETIS Online to ensure that the timeliness and data quality of the system are maintained and to continue to deliver the most accurate and up-to-date information for CITES decision making.
Lastly, TRAFFIC thanks the Parties who provided funding to support ETIS’ development and implementation since its inception. Following the review, the ETIS team is looking forward to working with the Secretariat and the MIKE-ETIS TAG on improving aspects of the ETIS programme as prioritised in CoP19 Doc. 21. However, considering the external review conclusions that “Funding inconsistency and uncertainty is an impediment for meeting the ETIS objectives, enhancing its functionality and ensuring its robustness” (SC74 Doc. 12), and as suggested in the amendments to Annex 1 of Res. Conf. 10.10. (Rev. CoP18), TRAFFIC encourages the Parties to secure a regular funding mechanism to ensure that ETIS can meet its operational requirements to deliver on the objectives and to implement the recommendations of the ETIS review.
TRAFFIC publications related to ETIS.