My first CoP Experience

My first CoP Experience
September 4, 2019 10:09 am Blog

My name is Mercy Koomson, a Wildlife Manager at the Kotoka International Airport in Ghana, and a graduate of the 2018/2019 Master’s Program in Management and Conservation of Species in Trade, at the University of Andalucia. As one of the 34 graduates from the 2018/2019 edition of the ‘CITES Masters’ program’ in Spain, the 18th Conference of Parties (CoP18) was my first opportunity to see everything I learnt in school come to life. Unlike the mock CoP we had during our time at the University of Andalucia, this real conference was divided into two committees in separate halls. At each committee meeting, working documents and proposals were discussed.

The conference turned out to be very political, with heated debates, building of alliances, and voting on proposals and documents at play. Even after a proposal is adopted, a Party could still ask the chair to reopen the proposal and go through the voting process again, provided the Party gave a valid reason. It was interesting seeing Parties putting in all the effort to have proposals accepted or rejected.

A screen with voting results.
The results on proposal 8 on the Southern white rhino.


Among the delegates introducing proposals, were my colleagues from all over West Africa, and course mates from the Master’s Course in Spain. I could not have wished for a bigger sign of hope and excitement for what’s to come in my career because these are people I relate with. Someday, I also hope to be a delegate for my country. I started preparing for this role by observing all proceedings at the committee meetings and learning a thing or two on how to make submissions.

Meeting my course mates and lecturers also provided me with the opportunity to revive some of the bonds we built back in school. Some were excited to share after-school experiences and progress in their careers. A few even played a big part in getting their countries to be certified as compliant to the CITES regulations. The lecturers also provided a wealth of advice on ways I could support and strengthen CITES implementation in Ghana.

A group of people posing for a picture.
Reuniting with some friends and colleagues.


Outside the main conference and side events, I had the opportunity to further learn and network at a meeting organized by WA BiCC. This meeting allowed colleagues from the CITES Master’s program to present an overview of their theses from school to everyone present. We did not have the opportunity to see everyone’s project back in school, because we all presented our theses remotely. I learnt a lot from what my colleagues had worked on, and it provided an opportunity to collaborate on some of these projects.

A woman doing a PowerPoint presentation in a room.
My presentation during the meeting with past students of the Master’s program.


The CoP18 was a load of knowledge sharing and networking, but my travel wasn’t all about work. I had the chance to explore the beautiful sceneries in Geneva, and even caught glimpses of France. All in all, it was a life-changing experience and I am eternally grateful to WA BiCC for this great opportunity. I am hoping that this turns out to be my first of many CITES Conference of Parties to come.

A woman standing outdoors.
Exploring beyond borders. I visited France a few times during my stay in Geneva.




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