Helen Clark: Speech at the “Wildlife and Forest Crime” event

27 Sep 2015

President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Dr. Cristián Samper;

Hon. Edna Molewa, Minister of Environment of South Africa;

Hon. Grant Shapps, Minister of State of the United Kingdom;

Executive Director of UNODC, Mr. Yury Fedotov;

CITES Secretary General, Mr. John Scanlon;

Poaching and illicit trafficking in wildlife is a global challenge which requires a global response. This vile trade is forcing endangered species to the brink of extinction.

Wildlife trade is among the largest illegal trades in the world, generating more than USD 20 billion in profits annually. Yet while criminal networks profit, countries and communities are the big losers. Wildlife trafficking and poaching reduces biodiversity, destroys fragile ecosystems, threatens lives, fuels corruption, and undermines governance.

To turn the tide on wildlife poaching and trafficking, global responses need to be strengthened. All possible support must be provided to the countries and communities on the front line of these serious criminal activities.

A historic year for international community to stop illegal trafficking of wildlife

This week, United Nations Member States agreed on the ambitious and transformational “Agenda 2030” which recognizes wildlife crime as a threat to sustainable development.

The new agenda has two Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with an explicit focus on maintaining the integrity of the natural ecosystems which underpin our development and wellbeing. Environmental crimes, both marine and terrestrial, are targeted under these two goals:

– SDG14: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”. This goal calls for an end to illegal and unreported fishing, and destructive fishing practices.
 
– SDG15: “Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss”. This goal has targets aimed at stopping the poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna.

These new goals reflect the importance which Member States place on addressing the global wildlife crisis across the source, the transit, and the receiving countries.
 
We heard a similar message at the UN in July when the General Assembly adopted its first ever resolution on “Tackling illicit trafficking of wildlife”.

That resolution expressed serious concern over the steady rise of poaching and illegal trade in wildlife. It called for urgent action to put in place integrated approaches which reflect the interlinkages of wildlife poaching and trafficking with poverty eradication, biodiversity, economic growth, and sustainable livelihoods.

I commend the Governments of Gabon, Germany, and the more than eighty other sponsors who made that historic UN resolution a reality. It represents the culmination of years of advocacy and co-ordination among many partners. 

From agendas and resolutions to action

Taken together, the UN Resolution and the SDGs provide a strong vision, mandate, and framework which the international community can use to accelerate efforts to stop the illegal trade in wildlife.

Yet we all know that the resolution and the SDGs will remain mere words on paper unless they can be translated into action.

To address both the supply of and demand for illegal wildlife products, institutions and law enforcement must be strengthened at all levels across all affected regions and countries.

National and international legislation and sound rule of law frameworks are needed to enable the prosecution of poachers and all who benefit from this illicit trade, including large criminal networks and corrupt officials. Action to reduce the demand from the countries receiving trafficked wildlife products must also be taken.

Equally important is the need for an assault on poverty, the creation of sustainable livelihoods, and the full engagement of local communities in decision-making. Community-based natural resource management has proven to be a highly effective way of reducing the trade in endangered wildlife. It encourages local support for conservation through income generation, and helps with the management and monitoring of whole ecosystems.

UNDP and UN system partners are increasing their response

The United Nations system – working closely with governments, communities, civil society organisations, NGOs, and the private sector – is already taking many steps to respond to the call for greater action. 

At the request of the Secretary-General, many UN agencies, including UNDP, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), are working closely with the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trafficking in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to scale up their efforts and provide a more co-ordinated response.

At UNDP, with financial support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and in collaboration with other partners such as the World Bank, we are responding to the poaching crisis with a three-pronged approach focused on:

•    creating economic opportunities for communities;
•    strengthening governance and law enforcement; and
•    reducing the demand for illegal wildlife products.

We look forward to working with all partners to make the new global and national initiatives which are taking shape across affected areas a success.

In conclusion, significant progress has been made this year on tackling the illegal wildlife trade. Many stakeholders have contributed to this progress; from leaders dedicated to the cause to rangers on the front lines; from the United Nations itself to law enforcement officials, civil society activists, NGOs, private sector CEOs, and celebrity advocates.

But we can do more, and we must. The UN resolution and the SDGs provide a framework for our collective efforts.  Working together, we can end the illegal trade in wildlife. UNDP is totally committed to this objective.