The 19th World Wildlife Conference opened in Panama’s capital on Monday with a call to action at this crucial time for humanity and measures to protect species and recover the balance in nature.

Also known as the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES COP19, the event opened with CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero acknowledging that much is expected of the attendees to effectively combat the environmental crises humanity faces.

COP19 will present more than 50 proposals to address broad environmental issues, including creating mechanisms to guarantee the participation of indigenous peoples, local communities, youth and women in sustainable development, said Higuero.

“I deeply feel that we are at a crossroads where the stakes are high, and the decisions you make in this forum will determine not only the kind of world we leave to our children and all generations to come, but the one we will have to live in in the coming months and years,” she said, noting “the overexploitation of our wild flora and fauna, and crimes against wildlife, have repercussions on habitats, ecosystems, biodiversity and our well-being.”

The acting deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, Sonja Leighton-Kone, pointed out the need to “reverse the triple planetary crisis of climate change, loss of biodiversity and pollution” to ensure a “common future.”

COP19, which ends on Nov. 25, gathers delegates from 184 countries and regions and representatives of international agencies, organizations and institutions to tackle the global trade in animal and plant species.

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