Ahead of CITES COP17, UN launches new initiatives to tackle illegal wildlife trade
May 29, 2016  //  By:   //  Blog Post  //  No Comment

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 4.23.48 AMOn the road to the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), new initiatives at the United Nations are bringing new data and raising awareness about the complexity and multidimensional impacts of the illegal wildlife trade.

On May 24, 2016, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) launched its inaugural World Wildlife Crime Report, an analysis of the effects of poaching and illegal trade of thousands of species, not only in terms of environmental degradation but also as potential drivers of conflict. The report also calls attention to shared responsibility in the identification of products made from illicit flora and fauna in traditional industries such as furniture, fashion, and food.

Supported with data provided by the partner organizations under the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), including the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the World Customs Organization (WCO), one of the report’s main message is that wildlife and forest crime is not limited to certain countries or regions, but is a truly global phenomenon.

Wildlife trafficking is recognized both as a cause of environmental damage and a specialized area of organized crime. Using the World Wise database on seizures related to wildlife crime from 120 countries, the report evidences the extreme diversity of this illegal activity. More than 7,000 species are included in the seizures and no single one represents more than 6% of the total. Furthermore, no single country represents more than 15% of the seized shipments.

“The launch of the first ever World Wildlife Crime Report shows that the response to wildlife crime is coming of age. This comprehensive global report is rooted in the best data and case studies available, is backed by in-depth analysis, and demonstrates a heightened sense of rigor in the way in which we report on wildlife crime” said John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES, “hundreds of additional species of animals and plants, including 250 tree species, are being considered for global protection under CITES at COP17“, and the report demonstrates that “combating wildlife crime warrants even greater attention and resources at all levels”, he highlighted.

UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov, reinforced the main messages about shared and urgent responsibility to address the issue of illegal wildlife trade:”The desperate plight of iconic species at the hands of poachers has deservedly captured the world’s attention, and none too soon” he said, “if we want to get serious about wildlife and forest crime, we must shore up our collective response” and close gaps on legislation and action, warned Mr. Fedotov.


Complementing the report, on May 25, the second session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) served as the scenario to launch the One UN Campaign against illegal trade in wildlife, led by UNEP, UNDP, UNODC and CITES. The campaign involves the use of UN Ambassadors to raise public awareness on illegal wildlife trade, which will be followed by more targeted demand reduction initiatives. “People are the cause of this serious threat to wildlife and people must be the solution” CITES Secretary-General said. “We must go hard on enforcement to confront the greed and reach out to hearts and minds of the people to overcome ignorance and indifference. This UN and CITES campaign can help inspire the masses to protect our most precious and vulnerable wildlife from being driven to extinction through illicit trade”. UNEA-2 also held a High-level Panel session on illicit wildlife trafficking.

On World Environment Day 2016, revolving around the theme of illegal wildlife trade, new reports will be released, including a report by UNEP on the first analysis of the environmental impacts of illegal trade in wildlife.

CITES COP17 – the World Wildlife Conference – will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa September 24 to October 5, 2016.

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About the Author :

Natalia Escobar-Pemberthy joined the GEG team in September 2011as a research assistant for the UMass Center of Governance and Sustainability. Natalia graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2005 and its currently a PhD Student in the Global Governance and Human Security program at UMass Boston

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