Your Royal Highness, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.
I first want to thank Her Majesty’s Government and His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, and His Royal Highness, the Duke of Cambridge, for their leadership in combating wildlife trafficking, and for bringing together a wide variety of perspectives in this forum. It is only through collective action that we can protect the world’s wildlife sanctuaries and help impacted communities achieve a secure and sustainable future.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted a high-level event on the issue last November, which mobilized the international community in a call to action. She noted that wildlife trafficking, like other forms of illicit trade, relies on porous borders, corrupt officials, and organized criminal networks, all of which undermine our collective security and prosperity. Secretary of State John Kerry similarly supports robust action and partnerships to combat the illegal trade in wildlife and to strengthen law enforcement cooperation across borders against illicit networks engaged in this activity.
Trafficking in wildlife is not a benign activity. It is a criminal threat that requires a criminal justice response. Time is our enemy as we work to save endangered wildlife and our world heritage.
In many parts of the world, we are witnessing the involvement of dangerous criminals in what used to be considered a conservation issue. By some conservative estimates, the illegal trade in wildlife is worth $8-10 billion each year.
Traffickers are drawn to the high profit potential and low risk of detection and prosecution.
Park rangers are frequently outmatched by well-equipped poachers; in fact many park rangers have been killed while trying to protect their parks and the wildlife that roam freely in them.
We are committed to helping our partners fight back and prevent greater insecurity and destabilization.
We have taken a comprehensive approach to this issue; not only for the purpose of conservation, but also from a security perspective that requires a strengthened law enforcement and criminal justice response.
In April 2013, the UN Crime Commission adopted a resolution introduced by the United States and Peru entitled, “Crime prevention and criminal justice responses for illicit trafficking in protected species of wild fauna and flora.” This resolution advocates for a comprehensive approach to combat wildlife trafficking, notably by encouraging member states to designate wildlife trafficking as a “serious” crime, thereby unlocking the ability of governments to utilize the international cooperation tools contained within the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. We also applaud the UK as G8 host this year and welcome the efforts of the G8 Roma-Lyon Group to address wildlife trafficking.
The Department of State has been engaged on the diplomatic front to raise the profile of wildlife trafficking as a criminal concern in bilateral and multilateral fora including: APEC, ASEAN, East Asia Summit, U.S.-China Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation, and the G8 Roma-Lyon Group. We are also developing innovative public-private cooperation through cooperative platforms at the OECD and the World Economic Forum to combat illicit trade including wildlife trafficking, human trafficking, counterfeit medicines, narcotics, and other emerging threats.
The Department of State has also provided regional law enforcement training targeting supply and demand regions for wildlife trafficking at the International Law Enforcement Academies in Gaborone and Bangkok.
By placing wildlife trafficking within the context of our broader goals of combating corruption, dismantling transnational organized criminal networks, and promoting the rule of law, we can leverage our respective political will and capabilities to enforce our laws, prosecute wildlife traffickers, and repel poachers before a slaughter, and punish illicit actors whose criminal intent is to pillage, profit from, and destroy our ecosystems, habitats, and communities.
We believe the experience of the regional Wildlife Enforcement Networks holds promise for a concerted effort to strengthen enforcement and prosecution. These networks – linking law enforcement and environment officials, prosecutors, and policy makers and supported by donors and NGOs – combat wildlife trafficking through training, capacity-building, and information exchange. USAID has invested $17 million since 2005 to support ASEAN-WEN’s and South Asia WEN’s efforts to combat illegal wildlife trafficking through the initial ASEAN-WEN Support Program, the current ARREST Program, and INTERPOL’s Project PREDATOR. The United States has provided more than $7 million since 2005 to support wildlife conservation in Central America and the Dominican Republic, including funding for the Central American Wildlife Enforcement Network (CAWEN). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides $10 million annually for wildlife protection throughout Africa and Asia targeting elephants, rhinos, great apes, and marine turtles. Funds are used to prevent poaching and to improve investigation and prosecution of wildlife crimes.
We continue to work to strengthen existing partnerships and build support for a global system of regional wildlife enforcement networks (WENs) to improve enforcement effectiveness, coordination, and cooperation. In March 2013, the Department of State sponsored the first meeting to convene all the existing WENs, plus countries that may create WENs in their regions, on the margins of the CITES Conference of Parties-16 held in Bangkok, Thailand. We have actively supported the development of new regional WENs in Central Africa and the Horn of Africa to share cross-border information and to conduct exchanges. Staying ahead of these illicit networks will take a global effort, with all of us working collaboratively across sectors, governments, and organizations.
The United States stands ready to work with our partners both bilaterally and multilaterally, with civil society and the private sector, to combat these threats. We must be bold, decisive, and fight networks with our own networks.
Through collective action and a multi-sector approach, we can constrict the global illegal economy, downgrade the threat posed by poachers, and help communities nurture transformative and sustainable markets, moving their economies into the investment frontiers of tomorrow and safeguarding their human capital, national assets, and natural resources.