Illegal wildlife trade will be discussed today at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in the largest Ministerial gathering to convene during this current poaching crisis.
The illegal trade in wildlife is global and diverse in nature. From the poaching of rhinos in Africa supplying Asian demand for horn to the illegal harvesting of timber in tropical countries that ends up as paper, pulp, or furniture in European countries, the environmental crime network stretches far and wide.
According to a Rapid Response Assessment released this week by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Interpol, international trade in illegally logged timber, illegal fisheries, and other poached wildlife is estimated to cause a loss of resources worth USD 48-153 billion annually.
The theft of this natural capital has environmental, social and economic impacts which become a barrier to sustainable development. Illegal logging, fishing, and poaching can lead not only to species extinctions but also to the direct loss of a country’s source of revenue. National security has also become an issue as militias use the proceeds of illegal wildlife trade to fund their activities.
UNEA’s High-level Segment Ministerial Plenary will highlight the most important barriers governments face in their efforts to enforce legislation surrounding wildlife trade. It will also identify ways in which the United Nations could provide additional support to national efforts in implementing existing international commitments, including those under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
With the development and launch of Species+, the Checklist of CITES Species and the upgraded CITES Trade Database, UNEP-WCMC is already assisting national CITES authorities by providing them with easy access to the information they need to issue permits on a daily basis and meet international commitments. The centralized Species+ portal contains information on taxonomy, legislation, distribution and relevant trade restrictions for all species that are listed in the Appendices of CITES and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), as well as those covered by the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations. In future, Species+ will also allow national systems to be synchronised globally, further strengthening international efforts to tackle illegal wildlife trade.
In addition, together with our partners we have also piloted an Electronic Permit Information Exchange system (EPIX) which allows Parties to share permit information electronically, and validate permits as a measure to counter fraud and illicit trade. CITES Parties have requested our support to develop this system further and offer Parties in developing regions a ready-to-use electronic CITES permitting system that will extend their control over the trade transactions.
We have also developed a method of estimating the monetary value of CITES-listed animal species. While providing important information on the value of the wildlife trade, it could also be extended to highlight the financial impact of illegally traded wildlife due to lost revenues.
It is anticipated that today’s event will lead to a UNEA resolution that will support efforts to maintain and build momentum to address the illegal trade in wildlife. Consideration will also be given to the options of addressing it at the next session of the United Nations General Assembly, sending a clear signal to the world that illegal wildlife trade will not be tolerated.