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London Conference round up: Is the tide finally turning on illegal wildlife trade?

 

WWF-UK’s species conservation work is almost exclusively focused on protecting species abroad. This means I work from our base at the Living Planet Centre in Woking focused mostly on activities happening thousands of miles away. However, this week the global attention on one of our priority issues – the illegal wildlife trade – was focused right on our doorstep, in London.

On 12 and 13 February, 46 governments gathered at Lancaster House at the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, hosted by the UK government. The aim was to inject a new level of political momentum behind efforts to stop the illegal wildlife trade. The result was a strong declaration setting out agreed actions those countries will implement to eradicate the market for illegal wildlife products; to strengthen law enforcement efforts and ensure effective legal frameworks and deterrents are in place; and to promote sustainable livelihoods through positive engagement with local communities.

Group photo of the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade. Photo courtesy of Foreign and Commonwealth Office.Group photo of the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade. Photo courtesy of Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

This came about following the international conference on illegal wildlife trade that WWF-UK’s President HRH The Prince of Wales hosted in May last year, which set the scene for the government-led conference this week. Since May, ourselves and TRAFFIC have been working with the UK government in the preparations for this conference. All of that hard work has finally paid off, and here’s why…

Strong language in the declaration

The text includes all the key actions that are needed to make the difference in stopping wildlife crime. We’ve been supporting the Marrakech Declaration, proposed by the African Development Bank, which set out a ten point action plan for tackling wildlife trafficking. I’m pleased to say those actions have been included in the London Declaration, and more.

Zero tolerance

It also calls for zero tolerance on corruption. The illegal wildlife trade drives bribery and corruption, and is an important element to tackle, given the governance problems in some of the countries worst affected by this trade.

Negative impact on livelihoods

It recognises the negative impact of illegal wildlife trade on sustainable livelihoods and economic development and sets out measures for supporting local communities in partnerships for conserving wildlife. You can learn more about some of the work we support and its success in reducing poaching with the Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC).

HRH The Duke of Cambridge speaking at the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade at the Natural History Museum. Photo courtesy of Foreign and Commonwealth Office. HRH The Duke of Cambridge speaking at the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade at the Natural History Museum. Photo courtesy of Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Now those governments need to take those commitments from London and implement them at home. This means engaging all relevant government departments in the issue. It shouldn’t only be the role of environment departments, where it is so often left – focusing on the ‘wildlife’ in wildlife crime when it is actually a serious ‘crime’. We need other departments – like Justice – to ensure it’s tackled as a serious crime and penalties given act as deterrents; Defence to support enforcement authorities; Finance to allocate appropriate resources, and others.

The actions need to be implemented at a scale and urgency commensurate to the problem. Plus we need to know that they have been delivered. Thankfully, the London Declaration sets out a way forward that includes progress assessment over at least the next twelve months, taking note of the appointment of a UN Special Representative on illicit wildlife trafficking which we believe is a strong way to ensure delivery, and Botswana offering to host another conference in early 2015 to review the progress.

HRH The Duke of Cambridge with John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade at the Natural History Museum. Photo courtesy of Foreign and Commonwealth Office. HRH The Duke of Cambridge with John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade at the Natural History Museum. Photo courtesy of Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Last but not least, civil society has a vital role to play in holding governments accountable to the commitments they have made this week. The Conference has received a lot of media attention – in the UK and internationally – which is great to raise awareness of the issue and what governments have said they will do. We will continue to monitor progress and will report on successes, as well as where action may still need to be improved.

On the subject of communications, we were delighted to share a video that we produced on the issue of illegal wildlife trade with the participants at the Conference reception held at the Natural History Museum on Wednesday evening. The reception was attended by government delegates, NGOs, private sector, celebrities and other stakeholders. There were an array of exhibitions on the solutions needed to tackle the issue, and we were pleased to be able to help the UK government with the preparations for this great event.

HRH The Duke of Cambridge gave an inspiring speech at the reception, and in fact HRH The Prince of Wales and both of his sons participated in the event yesterday to support the efforts against this crime – an issue they are very passionate about. We can be hopeful that with the attention of government leaders, British royalty and the general public following this Conference, we can turn the tide on this devastating illegal trade.

What are your views on the results of the London Conference? Let us know by leaving a comment here on Heather’s blog.

We heard you ROAR – Thousands of you signed up for our Thunderclap to tell leaders from around the world to #endwildlifecrime. A big thank you to you all for your support.

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