Statement by Ambassador Jürgen Schulz at the panel discussion on tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife

03.03.2017 - Press release

Dear Mr. President,
Dear Mr. Secretary-General,
Dear Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you all for joining us for today’s discussion. I am sure everyone here in this room is aware that poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking have become high-priority issues for the international community. We have discussed this topic at many events related to the environment, security and social issues over the last few years. And we can look back on game-changing decisions such as the agreement reached last year at the 17th CITES COP in Johannesburg to improve the National Ivory Action Plan process.

Even though we have witnessed progress in areas such as resource protection and seizures along the main illegal trade routes, poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking continue to cause irreversible damage to biodiversity and threaten local economic development. This is particularly devastating to many developing countries which rely heavily on their tourism industries.

It is especially alarming that wildlife crime, estimated to be worth between USD 7 and 23 billion per year, also fuels organized crime and possibly helps finance terrorism. This type of crime is attractive due to the potentially high profits involved and the low risk of punishment or detection. Furthermore, wildlife crime feeds money laundering and provides a breeding ground for corruption, especially in fragile and conflict-ridden zones.

Corruption is a primary enabling factor for the illegal wildlife trade in range, transit and destination countries. Corruption allows black markets to develop and illegal products to mix with legal products. It reduces opportunities for businesses to generate legitimate revenue and makes it harder for people to make a livelihood. It undermines enforcement efforts to curb poaching and trafficking, and hinders attempts to apprehend and prosecute perpetrators.

It should be clear that we are talking about more than just protecting wildlife and biodiversity. We are dealing with threats to peace and stability. The illegal wildlife trade hinders sustainable rural development and threatens regional security. And this is why it should be regarded as a key area for foreign policy efforts.

So what can we do? First, due to their proximity, local communities are well-situated to become involved in the process to find lasting solutions. We should support such communities in their efforts. People living side-by-side with wildlife can provide a first line of defense and serve as the eyes and ears to law enforcement agencies. To help them help themselves, we must strengthen their rights and responsibilties related to managing wildlife, and support their livelihoods by developing real economic opportunities. Supporting local populations means creating stability and resilience.

The General Assembly has called on its members to “prohibit, prevent and counter any form of corruption that facilitates illicit trafficking in wildlife and wildlife products,” and CITES has passed a resolution specifically targeting corruption which facilitates wildlife crime. As the current holder of the G20 presidency and guided by the G20 Anti-Corruption Implementation Plan 2017-18, Germany has made it a priority for 2017 to address the link between illegal wildlife trade and corruption, a problem increasingly recognized as such by the international community in recent years.

We believe that the illegal wildlife trade both facilitates and is facilitated by high levels of corruption, and that this relationship must be addressed in sustained multi-sector dialogue at both the international and domestic level. We must direct our collective efforts to strengthening and enhancing legislative frameworks, enforcing existing laws, making permit systems more resilient against corruption and ensuring that investigations of wildlife crimes also cover corruption-related offenses.

So far, I’ve focused primaily on countries of origin. But we must also continue raising awareness of these problems in transit and destination countries. We need to focus on reducing demand for wildlife products and changing consumer behavior. People still pay large sums of money for illegal wildlife products. They use them for a myriad of purposes such as status symbols, medicines, pets, and fashion or cultural items. For example, the myth that rhino horn cures disease helps it fetch roughly USD 26,000 per kilogram on the black market. That makes it almost as valuable as gold! We need to know who consumes illegal wildlife products and for what reasons. And we need to improve public awareness and education, fully enforce the law and follow through with investigations and prosecutions.

The demand, transit and supply of illicit wildlife harms the security of states across several continents. At this point, I would like to pay special tribute to China, Malaysia and Vietnam, which have made great efforts to combat wildlife crime and have stepped up efforts to confiscate illegally traded ivory. We have already begun to see encouraging results from collaborative efforts between source, transit and donor states. In some regions, the number of illegally hunted African elephants has stagnated, and key populations are starting to recover in certain ecosystems such as the Serengeti in Tanzania.

But to continue this important work, we need more support. Tackling the illegal wildlife trade requires not only sufficient financial and personnel resources, but collaborationand political will on all levels. I commend all partner countries who have stepped up their national efforts to tackle poaching and wildlife trafficking. And at the international level, I commend the World Bank for its initiative to enhance donor coordination on tackling wildlife crime. I appeal to all relevant partners to contribute to its success and continued development.

In order to improve research and global reporting on wildlife crime, Germany believes it is critical to support the UNODC’s work and its Wildlife Crime Report. This is why Germany has pledged EUR 200,000 this year to help publish the next edition of the Global Wildlife Crime Report.

As Deputy Secretary-General Eliasson pointed out earlier: “Poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking threatens the United Nations’ three founding pillars: Peace and Security, Sustainable Development and Human Rights. In response, it requires a foreign and security policy answer.”

I hope today’s discussion will help us get closer to finding practical solutions to this great political and moral challenge.

Thank you.

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