The illegal trade in wildlife products is estimated to be worth billions of dollars per year and is one of the most profitable transnational criminal activities globally. Despite efforts to protect wildlife from illegal trade at the local, national, regional and international levels, several iconic species remain endangered. Engaging and encouraging local communities to find sustainable solutions for wildlife conservation, together with strengthened law enforcement measures, is essential for a comprehensive response to the challenge of protecting wildlife from illegal trade. From 1-3 March 2016, 300 Representatives from Countries, Intergovernmental organisations, non-governmental organisations, business representatives and the broader civil society were gathered in The Hague, the Netherlands for the international wildlife conference: Save Wildlife: Act now or Game over. The conference was organized by the Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands, the Hague Institute for Global Justice and the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit. The conference has build on the London and Kasane Conferences on the illegal wildlife trade, and has set the stage for the Hanoi Conference, due to take place later in 2016.
Sustainable livelihoods, economic development and law enforcement
This 3-day conference brought together key stakeholders, including Ministers from the EU and beyond, private sector leaders, charities and NGOs. The conference focused on how to act on lessons learned and explored new, concrete solutions to tackling wildlife crime and thus concentrated on two themes: sustainable livelihoods and economic development, and strengthening law enforcement. The objectives for the conference in The Hague were firstly to reinforce political commitments and coordination with regard to the design and implementation of effective measures that can conserve wildlife, prevent and combat the drivers of the illegal wildlife trade. Secondly to provide a platform to discuss and agree on concrete actions, i.e. wildlife deals, to be implemented by different configurations of stakeholders. Thirdly to promote wildlife deals as a concept that takes declarations and resolutions a step further, translating them into actions and finally to exchange views on the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking.
The first day of the conference, on 1 March, started with a plenary opening session, where a welcome speech was given by H.E. Martijn van Dam, Chair of the Conference, Minister for Agriculture of the Netherlands. His welcome speech was followed by a keynote speech of John E. Scanlon AM, Secretary-General, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The plenary session also included a wildlife quiz and speeches by Dr. Abiodun Williams, President, the Hague Institute for Global Justice and Claudia A. McMurray, Senior Counselor, the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit. The afternoon of the first day was dedicated to a plenary introduction about the working groups and an interactive session.
The second day was focused on reaching “wildlife deals”: concrete, cross-sectorial deals by different configurations of stakeholders which will have a direct impact and which represent creative, shared commitments. Participants came together in six working groups regarding technology, demand reduction, finance, tourism and sustainable livelihoods. The wildlife deals will seek to reinforce and prompt real action in the several areas. A total of 13 wildlife deals were concluded during the conference.
EU Action Plan
On this second day the EU commissioner Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, introduced the EU action plan against Wildlife Trafficking. The action plan is intended to help to protect biodiversity, enhance economic development and contribute to peace and stability. According to the EU Commissioner the EU has a responsibility to take the lead. After all the EU is to a certain extend part of the problem. With a huge internal market and ample opportunities to be used a transit region the Commissioner highlighted the need to get make sure the EU legislation and enforcement efforts are of the highest quality. The EU is active but still needs to do more. That is why this action plan lists 32 actions grouped under 3 headings:
1. Prevention: the urgent need to tackle demand and supply;
2. Enforcement: rules and regulations need to be effective;
3. Partnership: use all tools available to us and ensure all of our partners are working together effectively.
On 3 March, World Wildlife Day, was the final day of the conference. This day gave the participants the opportunity to discuss the outcomes of the previous days and contribute to identifying key challenges and commit to concrete actions. Participants recognised the political momentum to stop the poaching crisis and put an end to illegal trade in wildlife and its products as expressed in particular by the London and Kasane declarations, UN General Assembly resolution and numerous measures taken in appropriate international fora such as CITES and UNODC. The problems arising from poaching and illegal crime in wildlife are a disrupting force for a broad range of issues. First of all it leads to an enormous loss of biodiversity with certain species facing the threat of extinction. Secondly, there is a disruptive socio-economic impact on local communities living close to the animals. The sheer scale of the problem and the extremely violent nature of poaching, criminal gangs and terrorist organisations as well as the vast sums of money involved require international and coordinated action. Throughout the chain of illegal trade from source, transit and destination countries tailor made projects focusing on concrete solutions on the ground are needed to ensure concerted efforts. These projects require active participation from all stakeholders particularly local communities, ngo’s and private sectors. According to Martijn van Dam, this wildlife conference has made clear that the international community stands ready to translate the political momentum from the London and Kasane conferences into concrete action. The Conference has shown that if we act now the fight against poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking can be won. It’s game on![number of readers: 1003]
A selection of relevant publications from the Peace Palace Library collection
- Bowman, M. J., “A tale of Two CITES: Divergent Perspectives upon the Effectiveness of the Wildlife Trade Convention”, Review of European Community and International Environmental Law, 22 (2013), No. 3, pp. 228-238.
- Couzens, E., “CITES at Forty: Never Too Late to Make Lifestyle Changes”, Review of European Community and International Environmental Law, 22 (2013), No. 3, pp. 311-323.
- Hutton, J. and B. Dickson (eds.), Endangered Species: Threatened Convention: The Past, Present and Future of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, London, Earthscan, 2000.
- Lanchbery, J., “The Development of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora”, Verification: Arms Control, Peacekeeping and the Environment, 1996, pp. 383-400.
- Rademeyer, J., Killing for Profit: Exposing the Illegal Rhino Horn Trade, Cape Town, Zebra Press, 2012.
- Reeve, R., “The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)”, in: G. Ulfstein, T. Marauhn and A. Zimmermann, Making Treaties Work: Human Rights, Environment and Arms Control, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007, pp. 134-160.
- Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, CITES Handbook, Châtelaine-Geneva, CITES Secretariat, 2003.
- Stejskal, V., “Trade in Endangered Species CITES, Czech Environmental Law Yearbook, 1 (2004), pp. 49-56.
- Wiersema, A., “Uncertainty and Markets for Endangered Species under CITES”, Review of European Community and International Environmental Law, 22 (2013), No. 3, pp. 239-250.
- Wijnstekers, W., The Evolution of CITES: A Reference to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, Châtelaine-Geneva, CITES Secretariat, 2003.