CITES as Global Governance: Paths to Consensus and Defining Nature Through Uncertainty

Tuyen Le*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


As concern over various environmental issues has risen at the international level, questions regarding what constitutes “nature” and how it should be portrayed and treated have gained a greater sense of urgency. This paper explores varying concepts and attributes of nature articulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (“CITES”). Much of the research on CITES comes from the fields of policy and ecology, exploring matters of biodiversity, sustainability, enforcement, functionality, and evaluation of CITES as a “success” or “failure” of policy, with little focus on issues of cultural context and ambiguities. In contrast, within the social sciences, the contemporary literature is broadly dedicated to critiquing the static, dualistic ideas of nature upon which environmental regulations are based. However, what is often missing from this discourse is how environmental policies often have an implicit understanding that these static conceptions of nature are not accurate–that within the environmental legislation process, there is “an awareness, for example, of the messy, improvised character of knowledges about nature”. This paper explores CITES’s understanding of nature, how it characterizes nature, and how these conceptions become implemented in legislative practice. It illustrates CITES as a manifestation of what Krueger calls a regulatory process of “coded and recoded text with material implications” (p. 880), wherein a relatively unchanging set of legislation can create “multiple, even contradictory, outcomes coexisting simultaneously in the same system” (p. 872).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-144
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of International Wildlife Law and Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Law


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