Wildlife crime could be a source of future pandemics; tackling it must be embedded into international criminal law


HONG KONG, CHINA – Media OutReach – 15 October 2020 – The Global Initiative to End Wildlife Crime today
released details of a possible new groundbreaking legal agreement on tackling
wildlife crime that could help avoid future wildlife-related pandemics.

Credit: Peter Chadwick ©Photographers Against Wildlife
Crime™. Further press materials can be downloaded here.

 

The form of this agreement would be a Protocol
under the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime
(UNTOC), the main international legal instrument in the fight against transnational
crime.

 

“The current international legal framework for
addressing wildlife crime is inadequate and it leaves us vulnerable to future
wildlife-related pandemics,” said John E. Scanlon AO, chair of The Global
Initiative to End Widlife Crime (EWC). “We need transformative changes to
ensure our international legal framework for addressing wildlife crime is fit
for purpose in a post COVID-19 world and today we are releasing details on how
we can scale up our collective efforts to end wildlife crime.”

 

Government representatives, crime experts and civil
society partners are currently meeting in Vienna to discuss the global
challenges of transnational organized crime at the tenth session of the
Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Convention against Transnational
Organized Crime. The proposed new Protocol will be discussed during a virtual
side event organized by the EWC at the COP on Friday 16th October at
2pm (UTC+2), register here.

 

The proposed “Protocol against the Illicit Trafficking in Specimens
of Wild Fauna and Flora
“, would
criminalize the intentional illicit trafficking of specimens of wild fauna and
flora.  The negotiation and adoption of
any new Protocol is a matter for States (countries), and whether these proposed
reforms move ahead will be determined by the States Parties to UNTOC.

 

States Parties to the proposed Protocol would agree to
adopt legislation establishing as a criminal offence the illicit trafficking of
any whole or part of a wild animal or plant, whether alive or dead.  Among other commitments they also agree to the
exchange of information on known organized groups suspected of taking part in
illicit trafficking and the means of concealment of contraband, the sharing of forensic
samples, verifying the validity of documents, enhancing controls on the means
of illicitly transporting specimens and taking measures to discourage
demand. 

 

If a Protocol is adopted, this would be the fourth Protocol
to UNTOC, the others being on human trafficking, migrant smuggling, and illicit
manufacture and trafficking in firearms. 

 

The Protocol would signify recognition by States
Parties of the devastating scale, nature and consequences of wildlife crimes,
of the need to scale up collaborative efforts to prevent and criminalize them,
and provide States with the means to do so.

 

“The current international framework does not adequately
reflect the interconnected nature of wildlife trade, biodiversity protection,
ecological sustainability and both public and animal health,’ said Lisa
Genasci, CEO of ADM Captial Foundation, host of EWC. ‘We need urgent action
from governments to help restore wildlife populations and prevent future
pandemics.”

 

This
is the second briefing paper on international law reform released by EWC, with
the first being a set of proposed amendments to the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
to include public health and animal health criteria
into the Convention’s decision-making processes.

 

Scientists estimate that 6 out of 10 known infectious
diseases in people are zoonotic,
meaning they are  transmissible
between animals and humans.  Of the
emerging infectious diseases, 3 out of 4 originate from wildlife. Scientists
are increasingly worried about the spread of zoonotic
pathogens and, in light of the devastation caused by
COVID-19, their potential humanitarian and economic impact

 

Meanwhile, the World
Bank
has estimated the value of illegal logging, fishing and wildlife
trade at USD$1 trillion or more per year, when taking into account
the impacts of such crimes on esosystems and the services they provide, the
loss of government revenue, and the value of the contraband.

“Illicit
trafficking in wildlife exacerbates corruption, insecurity, and poverty, has a
devastating impact on entire ecosystems, including their ability to sequester
carbon, and it poses a risk to public and animal health” Scanlon said.  “Yet there is no global agreement on wildlife
crime. Given the enormous consequences for people, our planet and our health,
now is the time to move forward with bold and necessary reforms. We must leave
the next generation with a system that is fit for purpose in a post COVID-19
world, one that helps ensure a healthy and prosperous planet, and gives us the
best chance of avoiding future pandemics.” 

 

EWC, is an
initiative of organizations working on wildlife crime and trade related issues
and is hosted by the Hong Kong based ADM Capital Foundation, chaired by Scanlon
and
with a Steering Group comprising the Born Free Foundation, the Global
Environmental Institute the ICCF Group and the Food and Land Use Coalition. More information on the Initiative, including its
Steering Group, the organizations that have signed up as Champions of the
Initiative, and its Special Advisers and Supporters, can be found on the EWC website
here.

 

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