Wildlife trafficking is a crime that spans the globe, giving criminals billions of dollars in illegal proceeds, driving endangered species closer toward extinction, and fueling corruption. Now the international community has new tools to fight this crime.
The UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ, or UN Crime Commission) in Vienna overwhelmingly adopted a resolution on April 26, jointly introduced by the United States and Peru, to classify wildlife trafficking as a "serious crime" as defined by the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime. The resolution is a recognition on the part of Member States that law enforcement is an essential component in combating wildlife trafficking. The resolution helps unlock international law enforcement cooperation, provided under the Convention, including mutual legal assistance, asset seizure and forfeiture, extradition, and other tools to hold criminals accountable for wildlife crimes. The U.S.-Peru resolution builds on U.S. efforts with the UN General Assembly, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), East Asia Summit, and the G-8 Roma-Lyon Group over the last year to build support in the fight against wildlife poaching and trafficking.
Dozens of park rangers are killed each year across Africa, standing on the front lines to protect their national parks and the wildlife that roam freely throughout central Africa. Just last month, armed poachers crossed national borders into Chad to massacre nearly 100 elephants for their ivory. Over 250 elephants were similarly slaughtered last year in Cameroon. These horrific crimes underscore the need for innovative, international action to both protect wildlife and to prevent, prosecute, and punish criminals that seek to profit from illegal trafficking and poaching.
The U.S. delegation to the UN Crime Commission seized on this year's theme, "emerging forms of crime that have a significant impact on the environment," to advance U.S. efforts to encourage governments to apply law enforcement and criminal justice resources to undermine the criminal networks that deal in wildlife. Brian Nichols, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, amplified the message that wildlife trafficking not only pushes more species toward extinction, but also undermines security, stability, and the rule of law in the communities where criminals ply their trade during his intervention.
To build further support, the United States also hosted a side event during the Commission, "Sustaining a Secure Future: Combating Wildlife Crimes," bringing together a panel of experts from the World Bank, World Customs Organization, and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) to highlight ways to strengthen law enforcement capacities to combat wildlife crimes. The side event addressed the multi-dimensional scope of the problem, highlighting the need for coordination between national, regional, and global partners and organizations in the face of cross-border wildlife crime. The United States continues to support these partnerships, such as the International Consortium to Combat Wildlife Crime, which includes the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), INTERPOL, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Bank, and the World Customs Organization.
U.S. actions at the Crime Commission are just part of our efforts to build the capacity of law enforcement and criminal justice officials around the world to dismantle the illicit transnational networks involved in wildlife trafficking. You can read more about the Crime commission proceedings on the UNODC website.