Governments Recommit to Tackle Illegal Wildlife Trade as Serious, Organized Crime
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Leaders from over 80 countries recognized illegal wildlife trade as a “highly organized, sophisticated criminal activity” that takes place on an industrial scale and threatens regional and national security.

Government representatives recognized that no one country, region or agency can tackle illegal trade in wildlife, and called for collective action across source, transit and destination States.

In a declaration, leaders recommend a number of actions to tackle wildlife crime.

12 October 2018: The 2018 London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade agreed on a renewed global commitment to tackle wildlife crime, recognizing the importance of increased political support at the highest levels to combat illegal trade in wildlife. The declaration adopted at the conference: describes the impact of illegal trade in wildlife; calls for tackling the illegal trade in wildlife as a serious, organized crime; recognizes the need to address demand for illegal wildlife products; and recommends partnerships to combat wildlife crime.

The Government of the UK hosted the conference, which brought together global leaders from over 80 countries and other stakeholders in London, from 11-12 October 2018. It built on previous conferences on illegal trade in wildlife held in London (2014), Kasane, Botswana (2015), and Hanoi, Viet Nam (2016).

In the declaration, government representatives recognize that tackling illegal trade in wildlife remains “an urgent global issue,” and acknowledge the “significant, detrimental economic, environmental, security and social impacts of the illegal trade in wildlife,” including dramatic declines in the populations of protected species like elephants and rosewood, and the pushing of other species into the endangered category. The declaration recognizes illegal wildlife trade as a “highly organized, sophisticated criminal activity” that takes place on an industrial scale and threatens regional and national security, resulting in cross-border incursions with networks that are often the same as those that enable drugs and human trafficking, money laundering and weapons trafficking.

Illegal trade in wildlife is often associated with devastating economic, social and environmental impacts.

On natural resource management, the declaration underscores the contribution of sustainable natural resource management to habitat conservation and maintaining ecosystem integrity. The declaration recognizes the impact of illegal wildlife trade on sustainable livelihoods of communities, and observes that sustainable natural resource management can support decent jobs for local communities. Further, the declaration highlights that countries have an obligation to uphold agreements with indigenous and local communities (ILCs).

On corruption, the document observes that illegal trade in wildlife fuels corruption, creating insecurity and undermining the rule of law, hindering economic growth opportunities. It states that corruption, organized crime and associated illicit financial flows related to the illegal wildlife trade take resources away from government revenues.

To tackle the illegal wildlife trade, government representatives recommend deploying the full range of legal frameworks, public and private tools and responses to tackle other transnational organized crimes, including those accepted by UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions and decisions by Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). They further recommend, inter alia: reducing barriers to law enforcement collaboration; increasing action to tackle illicit financial flows associated with wildlife trafficking and reduced corruption, including the use of financial investigation techniques; treating wildlife offenses as predicated offenses; and taking action to strengthen anti-corruption and money-laundering activities, including raising awareness on the seriousness, impact and potential profits of wildlife crime.

On partnerships, the declaration outlines a number of actions to support sustainable livelihoods, build capacity for wildlife management departments and promote international cooperation on the issue. Government representatives recognize that no one country, region or agency can tackle illegal trade in wildlife, and call for collective action across source, transit and destination States. They further encourage coalition building to scale up the global and regional response to wildlife crime.

CITES Secretariat Officer-in-Charge David Morgan welcomed the momentum generated by the 2018 Conference. He said that “legal, sustainable and traceable trade can have great benefits for the livelihoods of people and the conservation of many species,” but emphasized that illegal trade in wildlife is “highly destructive” and “often associated with devastating economic, social and environmental impacts.” [Conference Website] [CITES Press Release] [London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade (October 2018): Declaration]


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