Concept Note for World Wildlife Day 2023 – and celebration of 50 years of CITES


On 20 December 2013, at its 68th session, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed 3 March – the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973 – as UN World Wildlife Day (WWD) to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. The UNGA resolution also designated the CITES Secretariat as the facilitator for the global observance of this special day for wildlife on the UN calendar. World Wildlife Day has now become the most important global annual event dedicated to wildlife.

WWD celebrates the beauty, richness, diversity and the contribution that wild animals and plants make to our world and our lives. It serves to ‘celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. It should celebrate the intrinsic value of wildlife and its various contributions, including its ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic contributions to sustainable development and human well-being.’

The UNGA has on numerous occasions[1] expressed deep concern about environmental crimes, including trafficking in endangered and, where applicable, protected species of wild fauna and flora, and emphasized the need to combat such crimes by strengthening international cooperation, capacity building, criminal justice responses and law enforcement efforts.

Theme for WWD 2023

This year’s theme recognizes that CITES’s successes – indeed almost all successful conservation actions, depend upon cooperation. It is such an important and complex subject that no one government or organization, including the United Nations, can tackle the issue without collaboration and sharing of experience and expertise. So, the theme this year is ‘Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation’.

The idea of a partnership inevitably means different things to different people. Some will see the most impactful conservation partnerships as taking place at the international level between organizations, while others may see small groups living alongside nature as having the most beneficial partnership for wildlife conservation.

In order to capture as many different partnerships as possible, WWD 2023 will focus on partnerships at three levels: international; regional and national; and local.

‘Partnership stories’, i.e. successful case studies, will be identified for each of these three groupings to illustrate that work needs to be done at all levels in order to safeguard the future of species currently threatened with extinction, and to secure a healthier planet for all.

As a further subset of this conservation work, two specific subject areas have been selected to illustrate partnerships in these specific areas: business & finance; and marine life & oceans.

Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC) and Youth representatives will be specifically invited to contribute to the ‘partnership stories’, as two stakeholder groups that CITES has been working towards ensuring meaningful representation.

It is important that this WWD should be inclusive of and should offer hope and direction for a broad audience such that it feels like there are actions they can take that will contribute to conserving nature. It is our intention that the event and the other materials generated for WWD 2023 will be consistent with this aim.

CITES @ 50

This World Wildlife Day 2023 falls on the 50th Anniversary of CITES coming into being. Since its inception, CITES has stood at the junction of trade and conservation. It has sought to build partnerships and reconcile differences between the groups that are guided and governed by its regulations. World Wildlife Day 2023 acknowledges the significant contribution CITES has made to sustainability, wildlife and biodiversity conservation and how this contribution has been enhanced by the bridge-building and partnership work done within the CITES framework. It also recognizes how CITES has partnered and collaborated with other conventions, UN agencies and other organizations in the service of the broader UN goals, such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Post-2020 Framework on Biodiversity (which has just been adopted at CBD CoP15 in Montreal in December).

Although it has not normally been the aim to put CITES at the centre of WWD, this year this important milestone will be marked through greater visibility and emphasis for CITES and the work it has done and continues to do in the service of wildlife conservation.

An intrinsic part of the event will be a celebration of the 50th anniversary; a look back at the journey CITES has taken and a look forward to the contribution it continues to make and the role that it will play in the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework – and for the next 50 years to come.


Partners play an important role in making WWD a success. Existing partners include UNDP, IFAW and Jackson Wild, who contribute to the content of the WWD event in different capacities (described below) and also to the logistics and run-up to the day. For WWD 2023, additional strategic partners, such as National Geographic, have been brought on board to augment the public perception of WWD and the surrounding activities.

The event

On 3 March 2023, the CITES Secretariat will collaborate with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (US-FWS), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the Secretariat of the Global Environment Facility (GEF Secretariat) to hold the first WWD event in Washington D.C., the birthplace of CITES. The National Geographic Society has graciously offered its Grosvenor Auditorium as the venue of WWD 2023.

Jackson WILD and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) have once again offered to organize the WWD Film showcase and the youth art competition, respectively, to showcase the power of visual arts that could bring people together to raise awareness and promote discussions among different parts of the world.

[1] Latest on 23 July 2021 through UNGA Resolution A/RES/75/311