High-level Debate on Illegal Wildlife Trade
4 March 2015, General Assembly
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we stand together to mark World Wildlife Day and to develop more effective partnerships at global, regional and local levels, let me start by commemorating the rangers and scouts who over the past year have lost their lives, or have been seriously injured, battling organized crime groups whilst protecting the world’s natural resources. In so doing, let us together commend the thousands of front-line officers in Africa, Nepal, South East Asia, Mexico and elsewhere who, on a daily basis, risk their lives so future generations can enjoy wildlife and biological diversity in its natural habitat.
Wildlife and forest crime has become a transnational organized crime, ranking up there with the trafficking of human beings, drugs and arms, in terms of its capacity to cause severe social instability, spoil sustainable development prospects, and undermine justice and human rights of entire local communities.
The transnational nature of wildlife trafficking makes these criminal activities highly relevant to the mandates and work of the UN, particularly within the framework of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).
In Vienna and elsewhere, Member States have sent a very clear message to UNODC. In 2013, the ECOSOC Resolution 2013/40 entitled “Crime prevention and criminal justice response to illicit trafficking in protected species of wild fauna and flora”, urges us all to help Member States prevent, combat, investigate and prosecute illicit trafficking in wild flora and fauna-- and to consider making illicit trafficking in protected species of wild fauna and flora a “serious crime”. It identified a series of essential activities, such as developing legislation and criminal justice systems that can effectively investigate, prosecute and sentence criminal actors in source countries and also in end-markets. By calling for a 4 year sentence for perpetrators of wildlife crimes, the resolution triggered the application of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and allows for greater international cooperation to combat this crime.
One year ago, we commemorated World Wildlife Day for the first time. Since then, we have witnessed a number of arrests of high- profile criminals, including the arrest of the most wanted ringleader of a poachers’ network in Nepal, and of the leader of an ivory smuggling ring in East Africa. These arrests are encouraging. Let us continue working together, so these successful examples of the rule of law at work do not constitute “isolated wins” but become more commonplace. Let us further strengthen our partnership, so these criminals do not continue to operate with impunity.
Success also has other faces. Nepal, for example, achieved zero poaching over the past year for rhinos, tigers and elephants. In fact, no tigers were killed in Nepal in the past three years.
Globally, however, the illegal wildlife trade flourishes. It is not only the iconic species that are being targeted by criminal syndicates, but a number of other species, such as the pangolin. One of the most trafficked animals in the world, this mammal could be extinct before many people have even heard of it.
We have an urgent and shared responsibility to address this organized crime, and curbing the demand for wildlife in all parts of the world is clearly the other major challenge. Because law enforcement and community development alone, essential as they are, will not deliver lasting results, unless complemented by effective demand reduction activities, including education.
In this connection, the report just out last week, that the Government of China imposed a one-year ban on ivory imports, effective on 26 February, is nothing less than a very welcome step forward, and a clear demonstration of commitment that should serve as a model for other countries who currently have legal trade in ivory.
This is why an integrated, multidimensional and international approach is critical, bringing together all stakeholders from the bottom up, each with its specific expertise and mandate.
Last year, UNODC launched the Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime. Whilst firmly anchored in the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the initiative is also grounded in the firm conviction that we must forge strong partnerships with actors in and out of government, and across the UN, if we wish to achieve results. Our office’s narrow, but specific, contribution is to deliver assistance at the global, regional and national levels, to help Member States put in place appropriate legislation and improved law-enforcement capacity to investigate and to build cases that will allow for the successful prosecution and sentencing of these crimes by criminal justice systems everywhere.
Addressing the proceeds of crime and preventing money laundering is equally important, and so we are helping in the creation of networks among prosecutors, investigators and other officials for more effective cooperation, investigation and prosecution.
We consider it crucial to work with other UN agencies and civil society organizations to promote education and public awareness campaigns everywhere. We stress the importance of sustainable livelihood schemes for communities in source countries, because we know they are highly vulnerable to illicit markets and organized crime. We also know that the protection of wildlife and forests, so future generations can enjoy biodiversity, creates jobs and safer communities for people in a great number of regions.
With key partners, we must bring home to consumers that their demand for the products of poaching has a very negative and irreversible impact on people and the planet. To produce persuasive arguments and develop evidence-based government policies, however, we need more and better research and data on wildlife and forest crime. For this reason, we already started work on a global report on wildlife crime, expected to be published in late 2015.
A good example of joint action is the Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytical Toolkit, produced and implemented under the International Consortium to Combat Wildlife Crime (ICCWC). The aim of the toolkit is to help Member States assess the strengths and weaknesses of their wildlife crime legislation, as well as of their criminal justice and preventive response capacities. Bangladesh, Peru, Nepal, Gabon, Botswana, Mexico and Vietnam have already implemented the toolkit. Tanzania, Angola, Madagascar, Congo and Kenya are to follow this year.
So far, the Toolkit assessments have identified a number of cross-cutting challenges among source countries. Common challenges include: (1) legislation that is inadequate to address the transnational nature of organized wildlife crime; (2) lack of national inter-agency coordination to plan and conduct joint criminal intelligence gathering and operations; (3) weak capacity to investigate and prosecute, including weak forensic capabilities; (4) general lack of awareness of the linkages among wildlife protection, sustainable rural livelihoods and security; and (5) under-equipped front-line staff to protect wildlife in parks.
In 2014, UNODC published the Guidelines on Methods and Procedures of Ivory Sampling and Laboratory Analysis. The aim is to promote the use of science, specifically using DNA to identify the age and origin of elephant ivory. We are currently in the process of developing similar guidelines for timber. Ivory and timber sampling will enable countries to move from crime scene investigation to the courts of law for more effective prosecution.
The joint UNODC--World Customs Organization Container Control Programme is also being used to stop the illegal flows of wildlife products. The programme provides training to customs and law enforcement officials for better container profiling and identification of illegal shipments in key ports used for the embarkation of ivory and other illicit goods.
We have also undertaken several national legislative reviews in Tanzania and Vietnam to strengthen national laws so that these crimes can be successfully prosecuted and sanctioned. In Gabon, we have worked with the Government to develop intelligence and investigation capacities of wildlife crimes, placing two senior intelligence experts at the National Parks Agency. We have deployed experts in other countries as well as, including in Tanzania, Kenya, Senegal, Vietnam and Thailand
Action involves focussing on the needs and capacities of source, transit and destination countries. Good results are being achieved but their sustainability is contingent on forging effective partnerships where each stakeholder’s expertise is used efficiently in mutually reinforcing ways, avoiding duplication of efforts.
At UNODC, our specific contribution is to address wildlife crime in the framework of transnational organized crime. We are highly motivated to join others to reduce and stop this crime.
We take this opportunity to thank the Group of Friends on Poaching and Illicit Wildlife Trafficking, led by Germany and Gabon, for their leadership in raising more awareness for this issue, identifying needs for action, and spurring the development of a more coherent agenda within the United Nations on poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking.
We also wholeheartedly thank the President of the UN General Assembly for his unique and tireless leadership and support over the past months to provide a forum for wildlife crime, which was also highlighted in last week’s High-Level General Assembly Thematic Debate on “Integrating Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in the Post-2015 Development Agenda”. We are also looking forward to the President’s participation in the upcoming Crime Congress in Doha, where wildlife and forest crime will also feature prominently.
Finally, we also wish to express our deep appreciation to the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General for their extraordinary efforts to ensure that wildlife crime is addressed as a serious crime, considering its implications for development, peace and security in many regions of the world.
We sincerely hope that when we meet again next year to commemorate this day, we will have more evidence to suggest that the partnership to combat wildlife and forest crime we are all working on is yielding further results and reducing the levels of poaching.
Thank you for your attention.