Drive to root out corruption fuelling wildlife crime
Two days ahead of the UK Prime Minister’s Anti-Corruption Summit on 12 May, representatives of more than 60 countries met at the Foreign Office in London to discuss how to eliminate the corruption that fuels the illegal trade in wildlife.
Speakers included UK's Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Rory Stewart, CITES Secretary General John Scanlon, Director of Treaty Affairs of the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes John Brandolino, and Kenya’s Senior Deputy Solicitor General Ms Muthoni Kimani.
“Many crimes against the environment go hand in hand with corruption," said WWF-UK’s Chief Executive David Nussbaum, who facilitated the discussions. "Whether it’s bribery of those charged with defending wildlife against poachers, back-handers to policymakers, or falsifying permits, powerful criminal forces are driving an unprecedented spike in the illegal wildlife trade. This devastates wild populations, threatens local people and destabilises development, security and the rule of law."
“The UK government has driven international progress on illegal wildlife trade, and deserves credit for shining a spotlight on the involvement of corruption in this serious crime," Nussbaum added.
"Today, representatives from around the world identified lack of accountability and effective deterrents, low or irregular pay for government staff, and the perception wildlife crime has no serious consequences as areas requiring action. Countries that have not already done so should also ratify the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime and the UN Convention against Corruption.”
TRAFFIC, which is part of the new network for Countering Conservation-related Corruption (3C), has identified corruption as a key factor enabling wildlife crime and strongly welcomed the attention being given by the UK government in addressing the issue.
“Corruption threatens to undermine action against the organized criminal networks whose activities decimate wildlife and undermine good governance, the rule of law and the well-being of local communities," Sabri Zain, TRAFFIC’s Director of Policy. "We strongly urge that guidance be developed for countries to assist them in mitigating the risks of corruption in the wildlife trade chain.”
The illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be the fourth largest transnational illegal trade, after narcotics, counterfeiting, and human trafficking. Around 30,000 African elephants are killed by poachers each year. Over a million pangolins were estimated to have been poached in the past ten years. And between 2000 and 2014, the parts of at least 1,590 tigers were seized in Asia.
In February WWF, along with Transparency International and the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, brought together experts from conservation and anti-corruption organisations, government and academia to discuss corruption and conservation.
The participants agreed to form the Countering Conservation-related Corruption (3C) network and committed to work together to identify, record, prevent and combat the corruption which affects populations of wild animals and plants, and undermines the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.