Good morning. It is a pleasure to see all of you again. I’m Monica Medina, the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Oceans and Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
I was pleased to deliver welcoming remarks when these SudWEN meetings opened and am pleased to be part of your closing ceremonies. I’m grateful for all of your excellent progress over these weeks and share my great hopes for this critical law enforcement network in 2022.
Congratulations on coming up with a joint terms of reference. It’s a great starting point for your upcoming work.
Thank you again to UNODC and the ICCWC for your partnership in bringing together this meeting of the South American Wildlife Enforcement Network – SudWEN. And thank you – all of the national participants in these meetings – for your knowledge and dedication in these discussions.
The common sense of purpose which you have demonstrated is inspiring. And, the Department of State is proud to support you in these very important conversations and collaborations.
When I spoke to you at the opening of the meeting, I assured you that the Biden Administration is deeply committed to combating nature crimes, in particular wildlife trafficking. Your participation in SudWEN demonstrates your countries’ national commitments to do the same. Your efforts under the SudWEN umbrella are critical for greater regional cooperation to deal with this continent-wide problem.
You’ve covered a lot of ground – on key elements such as training and capacity building, judicial awareness raising, communication and intelligence sharing, and convergence with other crimes associated with wildlife trafficking.
Having agencies from across your governments and countries come together to talk about needs and priorities for the SudWEN will better prepare the region to combat these pernicious crimes and help us achieve our shared goal of eliminating them.
Cooperation as part of SudWEN can help you capitalize on your strengths and achieve great successes in the enforcement and prosecution of these crimes. Better enforcement and prosecution can also help each of your countries achieve its goals for biodiversity conservation and ensuring that your communities maintain their natural heritage and can benefit from it over the longer term.
Your collaboration in sharing information about traffickers and their networks will lead to smarter transboundary investigations and – perhaps most importantly – convictions of the criminal groups involved and the dismantling of these networks.
We see your network as an excellent mechanism for building capacity, intelligence sharing, and action on the ground in combating wildlife tracking – including addressing associated financial crimes, such as money laundering and tax evasion.
The United States, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, will also continue to support your efforts by basing wildlife law enforcement attaches in American embassies in Lima and Brasilia who are working hand in hand with your law enforcement agencies to specifically focus on wildlife trafficking.
We are also working with our partners in USAID on the Combating Transnational Conservation Crimes in the Amazon. We know that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, criminal networks trafficking in wildlife continue to operate – and so our work to stop them must also continue.
The United States is pleased to continue our close cooperation with UNODC and all the members of the ICCWC consortium to strengthen SudWEN’s effectiveness. SudWEN can be more than the sum of its individual member states: it can help coordinate regional and sub-regional support to protect wildlife and it can provide a unique pool of technical, law enforcement and prosecutorial expertise to address the multi-faceted challenges of wildlife crime.
Thank you for your time and energy over these past three weeks. Again, my congratulations for your efforts to strengthen the SudWEN by developing its Terms of Reference – a major step toward our common goal of ending wildlife trafficking.
I look forward to learning about your law enforcement and prosecution successes over the coming years. Thank you very much.