WCS representatives are attending the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in London. We spoke with Sue Lieberman, Vice President for International Policy, about the importance of the event. Among other things, she spoke of her hope that governments will go beyond earlier commitments and treat wildlife crimes as serious transnational crimes.
As an organization, WCS works to combat wildlife trafficking in more than 30 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean, both nationally, regionally, and between continents; we also work at the global policy level. Our recommendations for the conference are based on this work.
WCS: What are WCS's priorities for the summit?
Sue Lieberman: There are a few things on our list. These include:
- Focusing on trans-continental linkages: The London 2014, Kasane 2015, and Hanoi 2016 Conferences focused on Africa and Asia linkages, and trafficking in ivory and rhino horn (as well as some other species). Those linkages are important to continue to focus on. However, WCS hopes the conference can also focus on the emerging Asia-Latin American nexus in wildlife trafficking. Several governments from Latin America will attend the conference. We are working with our partners in the countries we work in in South and Central America to help focus attention on wildlife trafficking from that region as well.
- Highlighting the linkages between illegal wildlife trade and security (national, border, and livelihoods security), corruption, and money laundering: In many countries, it is not capacity, legislation, institutional reform, or poverty that are the true obstacles—rather, the government in question does not prioritize wildlife trafficking as a crime area to invest resources into and hold their agencies accountable to taking effective actions. The London Conference offers an opportunity to engage at a high-level with countries and make a compelling case for why they should prioritize wildlife trafficking as a form of serious crime.
- Promote private sector coalitions: We believe it is vital for the Conference to include the private sector, particularly the shipping and transport industries that have a major role to play in combating wildlife trafficking. The successful United for Wildlife International Taskforce on the Transportation of Illegal Wildlife Products, led by HRH The Duke of Cambridge and Lord Hague of Richmond (WCS has a representative on the Taskforce), has played a critical role in galvanizing leaders in the global transportation industry to identify and subsequently take measures to help stop illegal wildlife trade. We believe those efforts should be highlighted at the Conference, and we also recommend engaging the banking industry in efforts to halt the illegal currency flows associated with trafficking.
Highlight the compelling need to close markets for illegally traded wildlife products: It
is vital to
ensure that the markets providing an outlet for illegally trafficked wildlife and wildlife products are shut down through legal and regulatory reforms. We note that improved awareness of these laws
will enhance compliance, but awareness without laws and their effective enforcement is just entertainment. WCS advocates a focus on effective legal and regulatory reforms to close markets for illegal wildlife—including
discussion of case studies of successful legislative and regulatory change to
strengthen wildlife crime laws
and regulations and improve their enforcement to
make it more difficult for consumers to
purchase illegally (and unsustainably) sourced wildlife products. We
encourage the Conference to focus on the closure of domestic ivory markets—as called for both by the
IUCN World Conservation Congress and the CITES Conference of the Parties. It
will be important to recognize those governments that have moved to close their domestic ivory markets, and call on
other countries that have not yet done so to take strong action to close their domestic ivory markets.
WCS: What does the organization hope will be accomplished?
SL: We hope that governments go beyond a reiteration of earlier commitments, and agree to work together to truly combat wildlife trafficking, by: treating wildlife crime as serious transnational crime; using intelligence-led enforcement; and prioritizing investigations and enforcement that disrupt and dismantle criminal networks. Also:
- We want to see governments show high level political will to combat the corruption that drives and facilitates wildlife trafficking.
- We want to see significant attention focused on illegal international trade in live animals, whether for the high-end collectors’ trade, the pet trade, or the food trade.
- We want to see significant attention focused on illegal wildlife trade involving Latin America and the Caribbean, in addition to that involving Africa and Asia.
- Finally, we want to see private, bilateral government, and multilateral donors and agencies commit significant increased funding to combat wildlife trafficking.
WCS: What events will WCS be participating in?
SL: We are actively engaged with both the Conference and the pre-Conference events.
Pre-Conference (Oct. 8-10)
- Oct. 8 and 9: WCS staff will attend and engage with the INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group meeting.
- October 9: WCS staff are presenting at and attending the Conference, “Evidence to Action: Research to Address Illegal Wildlife Trade.”
- October 10:
is co-hosting a session with the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and
United for Wildlife, titled, “The Wildlife Trafficking Security Nexus:
Targeting the Organised Crime Threat”. A WCS expert based in Africa will report
on recent research on the relationship between organised crime, wildlife
trafficking, and security issues is sub-Saharan Africa.
- October 10: WCS is
participating in the launching/signing of the United for Wildlife Financial
Taskforce, which will work with banks and other financial institutions on
stopping the money laundering associated with wildlife trafficking.
Conference (Oct. 11-12)
- October 11: WCS will attend a special session of the Elephant Protection
Initiative, hosted by President Bongo of Gabon. The Government of Nigeria is
expected to sign the EPI as part of the event. WCS is an official EPI partner
- October 12: WCS is opening with the keynote and is chairing the official
session on illegal trade in live animals. This is the first time at one of
these high level summits/conferences on illegal wildlife trade that trade in
live animals will be highlighted—and it is a major threat to many species. This
session also has two government officials from Latin America (Mexico and
Colombia), and will focus attention on the problem in that region as well
(which is often not addressed).
- October 12: WCS is part of a special exhibit on SMART.
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