Illegal wildlife trade is a key component in serious organised crime and impacts on wildlife, peoples lives, economies, governance and the rule of law. The London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade in October 2018 has resulted in the following declaration which we think is worthy of publishing in full. Governments have acknowledged the crucial place that illegal wildlife has in serious organised crime, the impacts of this crime – not just on wildlife but on people lives, and the need to work together to reduce demand. There was a further agreement to target the finances of those involved in these illegal activities – as the Duke of Cambridge reminded us in his opening speech “Remember – Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion, not murder “. The two-day conference which attracted over a 1,000 delegates was preceded by several other high-level events including INTERPOL’s 29th Wildlife Crime Working Group meeting, the Machine Learning and Data Sharing to combat IWT’ workshop, Evidence to Action and Community Voices.
Will this be the start of a seachange in government behaviour including judicial process, anti-corruption and transboundary cooperation?
Read the declaration below
1) We, the representatives of Governments, gathered in London on 11 and 12 October 2018, recognising the significant detrimental economic, environmental, security and social impacts of the illegal trade in wildlife, make the following political commitment and call upon the international community to act together to support and build urgent collective action to tackle the illegal wildlife trade as a serious crime carried out by organised criminals, and to close markets for illegally traded wildlife.
2) In so doing, the Governments and Regional Economic Integration Organisations which have adopted the London 2014 Declaration and Kasane 2015 and Hanoi 2016 Statements on Illegal Wildlife Trade reaffirm our determination to address the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products and to implement the commitments made in those declarations. Those who were not participants to the original declarations now affirm our determination to combat the illegal wildlife trade in this Declaration.
Impact of illegal trade in wildlife
3) Tackling the illegal wildlife trade remains an urgent global issue. It contributes to dramatic declines in the populations of many protected species, found across all continents, from elephants, rhinos, grey parrots and pangolins to sturgeon and rosewood, as well as increasing the number of endangered species. Demand for illegal flora and fauna products spans multiple species and market drivers, and these pressures on wildlife populations are additional to, but not limited to, other pressures such as increasing human populations, change of land-use, pollution and changing environmental conditions. The illegal wildlife trade is often a highly organised, sophisticated criminal activity that is taking place on an industrial scale.
4) The illegal wildlife trade is also a great threat to national and regional security, resulting in cross-border incursions with networks that support it often being the same as those that enable money-laundering, weapons, drugs and human trafficking including modern slavery.
5) The illegal trade in wildlife is severely impacting many species that are already threatened with extinction, as well as pushing other species into the endangered category. It fuels corruption which creates insecurity and undermines the rule of law, hampering opportunities for economic growth. Sustainable management of natural resources can contribute to the conservation of vital habitat and maintain the integrity of ecosystems, whilst engaging local communities, generating decent jobs and serving to combat the illegal wildlife trade.
6) Organised crime, corruption and associated illicit financial flows related to the illegal wildlife trade take resources away from government revenues.
7) It is important to highlight the impact of the illegal wildlife trade on the sustainable livelihoods of communities, and the importance of countries’ obligations to uphold agreements made with indigenous and local communities.
8) Tackling illegal wildlife crime and associated anti-poaching activities have a considerable cost implication forcing governments to commit limited funding away from conservation activities.
Tackling the illegal wildlife trade as a serious and organised crime
9) The illegal wildlife trade, too often seen only as an environmental issue, is conducted on an industrial and transnational scale, in many cases for high profit. To tackle these serious transnational crimes, we need to deploy the full range of public and private tools, legal frameworks and responses developed to tackle other transnational organised crimes, which has been accepted by the CITES Conference of the Parties and the UNGA resolutions. While such responses are being deployed, they would benefit from a more systematic implementation on a wider scale. Further reducing barriers to law enforcement collaboration, both internationally and within countries, is vital to ensure we deploy the full range of tools and techniques for combatting serious and organised crime.
10) We will increase action to tackle the illicit financial flows associated with wildlife trafficking and related corruption, including the increase of use of financial investigation techniques and public/private collaboration to identify criminals and their networks.
11) We welcome action taken, in accordance with domestic law, as appropriate, to treat wildlife offences as predicate offences, including for money laundering crimes, as defined in the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime. We will also make strong use of the UN Convention against Corruption to prevent and combat corruption related to the illegal wildlife trade and wildlife trafficking.
12) We will take action to strengthen anti-corruption and money-laundering activities and, where relevant, legislation as it relates to wildlife trafficking offences, including raising awareness among relevant criminal justice system professionals on the seriousness, impact and potential profits of wildlife crime. We will endeavour to share experiences and best practice in this area.
Working in partnership
13) By addressing local livelihoods, including generating decent jobs, people will have alternative and sustainable ways to support themselves and, in some case, benefit directly from wildlife. We will work to support sustainable livelihoods which provide an alternative to engagement in the illegal wildlife trade. We recognise the essential engagement role and rights of local communities and indigenous people to ensure a sustainable solution to addressing the illegal wildlife trade. We also recognise the importance of local communities acknowledging the value of protected species and habitats, and the benefit this value can bring.
14) We recognise the importance of capacity building for wildlife management departments. We welcome the efforts made by countries in tackling the illegal wildlife trade, such as establishing enforcement coordination mechanisms, closing domestic ivory markets where they contribute to poaching and the illegal trade, providing equipment and training for developing countries and joint international enforcement operations.
15) We recognise the need for involvement and action of Government Ministries and agencies as well as sub-national authorities beyond those focused on the environment or nature conservation in order to address the systemic and criminal factors facilitating and benefitting from the illegal wildlife trade.
16) We recognise that international cooperation is essential, with full engagement by Governments in relevant bilateral, regional and international mechanisms. Through engagement with local communities, the private sector, NGOs and academia, as well as bringing in new partners, we will build and strengthen sustainable, long-term partnerships to change incentives for those involved in the illegal wildlife trade. We will harness technology and share and scale-up successful and innovative solutions.
17) We welcome the commitments by countries and others to working to combat international wildlife trafficking in collaboration with local communities to ensure sustainable livelihoods. It is critical to focus on well-managed places in source countries where the relationships with local communities can be nurtured over time.
18) We also welcome increased cross-border source, transit, and destination country cooperation and other activities to address the illegal wildlife trade including through bilateral, regional and multilateral agreements and mechanisms, whilst facilitating the regulated, sustainable and legitimate use of the natural resources we all depend upon.
19) We recognise the need to address demand for illegal wildlife products. Until now, the resource and effort spent globally on reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife and wildlife products has been small in comparison to other types of intervention.
20) To end the illegal wildlife trade, it is imperative that any steps taken to tackle the demand for these products are based on evidence and built on best practice. We recognise the importance of research to understand market drivers so that effectiveness can be increased. We also recognise the need to tailor research to the specific drivers of illegal use of a species or product. Similarly, we recognise the need for greater investment in tools, data analysis and funding. We welcome steps taken by countries and organisations to understand and target specific drivers in demand reduction campaigns and commit to learning from these examples, sharing best practice and evaluating impact. We recognise the powerful impact of government-led behaviour change campaigns, and welcome efforts by countries to increase these campaigns in order to reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife and wildlife products.
We welcome positive action taken by Governments, the United Nations, conferences of parties to international agreements, the private sector and non-governmental actors to combat the illegal wildlife trade. These actions have been taken within countries and across national borders to implement their various obligations and commitments. We confirm our intention to build upon the successes already achieved and to this end we commit ourselves to enhance our individual and collective efforts to meet our existing commitments.