Innovations in Counter Wildlife Trafficking Conference

14 - 15 March 2017

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Each year, billions of dollars in illegally harvested or taken wild fauna and flora (including timber) move across borders, often through the activities of international crime networks. This global trafficking problem is also often associated with the spread of zoonotic infectious disease. Rich in biodiversity, but also known for its porous borders, weak laws and patchy enforcement, Southeast Asia is a global hotspot for the poaching, trafficking and consumption of illegal wildlife and their parts.

While recent programs led by the ASEAN-WEN and its Special Operations Group, WCO-RILO, and INTERPOL have helped increase enforcement action on the ground, prosecutions and convictions are not occurring at the level and frequency necessary to dismantle and stop the criminal syndicates profiting from illegal trade in wildlife.

Government officials cannot act effectively to protect wildlife and ecosystems without the backing of strong laws or the proper application of existing laws (including wildlife laws and the full spectrum of other laws than can be used to prosecute wildlife crime) to acts of organized crime. The review and analysis of national legislation is necessary to better understand CITES/wildlife protection-legislation and to identify major weaknesses, loopholes, jurisdictional overlaps, and provide a basis for recommendations on how to rectify or improve them.  

Despite the need, strengthening wildlife laws is not currently a political priority in the region, and remains sidelined on the legislative agenda. Other laws that are applied to organized crime in drug, human and arms trafficking are often also appropriate to organized wildlife crime, but are not being applied as such.  

By elevating the issue of wildlife crime and wildlife law reform, partners can assist champion Judiciaries (Asian Judges Network on the Environment), AGs (Attorneys General) and Parliaments from the ASEAN Inter Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) to gain a solid legal foundation to fully enforce wildlife laws that will help catalyze a significant shift in the regional trade context. Strengthening relevant laws and their enforcement remains the biggest challenge ahead, but represents a crucial strategy to create effective deterrents for illegal wildlife trade, and dismantle the criminal syndicates behind it. Legislators and policy makers are vital in the fight against wildlife crime, specifically through their support in strengthening national laws, and the development of region-wide regulations. Legislators also decide on budget prioritization for line agencies combatting wildlife crimes, and elevating this issue to a higher level could result in additional funding being allocated across the region to more effectively combat wildlife crime. 

Novel judicial innovations and policies are also crucial to sustain wildlife enforcement efforts (e.g. wildlife/ environmental crimes sentencing guidelines, standards for the application of the precautionary principle, and the defense of strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP), aimed at ensuring the effective enforcement of remedies and redress for violation of environmental laws, creation of special writs, rules of procedure, provision of locus standi for wildlife, etc.

The objectives of this Thematic Session are:

  1. To increase knowledge on policy options, programs and various strategies for strengthening CWT responses to concerned stakeholders.
  2. To explore innovative platforms, policies and judicial innovations which can be used to counter wildlife trafficking.
  3. To identify collaboration and partnerships opportunities, or joint projects across the policy and legal programs of CWT or environmental protection agencies.

Text from the Thematic Sessions Highlights document.
All photos from this event were taken by USAID AsiaCC BY 2.0.

Preliminary Materials


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