The UN General Assembly has adopted a wide-ranging resolution on illicit wildlife trafficking urging states to end the “abhorrent” multi-billion dollar trade often associated with organised crime networks, armed groups and terrorist organisations.
“Illegal wildlife trafficking not only threatens species and ecosystems, it affects the livelihoods of local communities and compromises efforts towards poverty eradication and the achievement of sustainable development,” said Denis G. Antoine (Grenada), speaking on behalf of General Assembly President Sam Kutesa ahead of the consensus adoption of the draft resolution entitled, “Tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife”.
Given the role of organised crime networks, armed groups and even terrorist organisations in illegal wildlife trafficking, the “scourge” also carried with it serious security implications for many countries and regions. He went on to say it was essential to take decisive steps at national level to prevent, combat and eradicate the illegal trade in wildlife, on both the supply and demand side, including strengthening the legislation necessary for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of the illegal trade.
Emmanuel Issoze-Ngonget, Gabonese Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Co-operation and Regional Integration, introduced the draft resolution and stressed poaching was an environmental, economic and social threat. He said the illicit trade was worth an estimated $19 billion per year and represented the fourth largest illegal trade in the world. It was estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 elephants were killed each year on the African continent.
Adding his voice to the consensus was Botswana’s delegate, who said the resolution re-affirmed the international community’s respect for natural capital as well as the intrinsic value of biological diversity.
“Just like violent extremism and terrorism, wildlife trafficking has been on the rise with criminal gangs and cartels harvesting tons of elephant tusks and rhino horns for profit,” he said, adding countries must forge resilient partnerships against these armed gangs and criminals.
Equatorial Guinea’s speaker said the adoption of the resolution marked an important step in the fight against the illicit trade in wildlife and asked governments and non-government organisations to strengthen their support in order to help States implement it.
The delegate from the United Kingdom said the text demonstrated a powerful and growing consensus the illegal trade in wildlife must be stopped. The iconic animals the resolution would help to protect held a special place in human hearts he said, adding having those issues recognised at the highest levels of the United Nations was a crucial step.
“We cannot lose the momentum we have worked so hard to build,” he said, stressing the need to keep the “abhorrent trade” in wildlife on the international agenda.