Good morning. It’s such a privilege to be here today with all of you.
I want to thank Ivonne Higuero, CITES, and ICCWC for your partnership in bringing together this Fourth Global Meeting of Wildlife Enforcement Networks.
And I want to thank all of you for being here.
I’m here today because the United States remains determined to end transnational wildlife trafficking and other nature crimes.
I am here today as a representative of the U.S. Department of State because very early on, successive Secretaries of State recognized and called out the direct threat wildlife trafficking poses to national security.
I am here today because wildlife trafficking undermines economic prosperity and communities’ livelihoods; it fuels corruption; it spreads disease; and it pushes species to the brink of extinction. Wildlife trafficking threatens our values, our governance structures, and the rule of law.
And you – as defenders of the rule of law – are exactly the right group of committed people we need for this battle.
We need to work together to stop criminals profiting from this trade.
One way we do that is be helping to fund organizations and entities committed to combating wildlife trafficking. Just since 2014, we have dedicated more than $800 million to the cause. This year alone, we estimate providing close to $130 million.
Now, I don’t need to tell all of you that the only time criminals care about borders is when they hide behind them.
Nor do I need to tell all of you that cross-border and international cooperation, communication, and coordination are essential to finding criminals and bringing them to justice.
That is why the United States is so committed to regional WENs and to global enforcement efforts. And that is why we sponsored this fourth Global Meeting of WENs.
We want to foster a global network of dedicated officials, committed countries, devoted organizations, and regional WENs…all working together toward shared goals.
Having said that, it bears noting that we have come a long way in improving our capacity to detect and interdict trafficked wildlife and fight nature crime.
There are numerous examples of cases where transboundary cooperation resulted in seizures and arrests, not to mention successful investigations and prosecutions.
Our individual and collective successes illustrate how far we have come. But I encourage all of us to remain cognizant of how dire the situation remains.
Over the next two days, we look forward to hearing your stories, experiences, challenges, and lessons learned.
These discussions will help to reflect on progress since the third Global Meeting of WENs and further explore how to enhance collaboration and communication among networks, across networks, and across regions.
With representatives from every region here, we hope to gain a clearer picture of where the gaps are and identify new or emerging areas for engagement.
In this regard, I applaud the work done by countries to consolidate the South American Wildlife Enforcement Network (SudWEN) under the leadership of Peru.
And I hope all of us will keep in mind the idea of convergence – links between wildlife trafficking and other nature crimes including criminal forms of logging, mining, land conversion, and associated criminal activities, as well as crimes associated with fishing.
We need to recognize the importance of tackling corruption and money laundering, as they fuel and facilitate nature crimes at every stage of the illegal supply chain through source, transit, and destination countries.
The United States has been working on this combined approach for several years under a priority initiative on Combating Nature Crimes. And we’re pleased to be working closely with the Government of Norway and others on the development of a new global partnership – the Nature Crime Alliance. We look forward to sharing our experiences with these initiatives.
In closing, I hope over the next two days you’re able to make connections and contribute to building a shared global network of cooperation, communication, and commitment.
We have to work together to halt these terrible crimes and the risk they pose to our security, people, and the planet.