Helen Clark: Speech as Guest of Honour at the Conference on Stopping Wildlife Crime and Advancing Wildlife Conservation: A Call to Action

May 10, 2014

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator

Speech as Guest of Honour
 at the Conference on 
Stopping Wildlife Crime and Advancing Wildlife Conservation: A Call to Action
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

I thank the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania for hosting this important conference addressing the elephant poaching crisis in this country and the illicit trade in wildlife products. UNDP is proud to be a partner of Tanzania’s efforts to turn the tide on this abhorrent trade.

We take note of some of the actions which have been announced and agreed at this summit, including:

•    Establishment of the Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA) to streamline wildlife management in wildlife areas outside core protected areas.

•    Recruitment of additional managers to enhance the Government’s “boots on the ground” initiative.

•    Establishment of a code of conduct and enforcement board to regulate the professional conduct of rangers.

•    Expansion of the current anti-poaching Task Force to an Inter-Ministerial Task Force for Wildlife Management in the country.

•    Establishment of an ivory registry for record keeping and secure storage of ivory stockpiles.

•    Improvement of co-ordination and governance of community engagement in wildlife conservation.

Other actions include:

•    Faith communities recommitting to work together to address the challenges, including public awareness.

•    Industry leaders and the private sector setting up a Natural Resources Stewardship Council.

•    The decision to convene a regional conference at a ministerial level in October to look at cross-border issues.

The poaching crisis poses development, environmental, and security challenges. On this continent and elsewhere it is pushing vulnerable and endangered species toward extinction; it fuels corruption and conflict; it destroys lives; and deepens poverty and inequality. These challenges and finding solutions to them have been at the heart of this conference here in Dar es Salaam.

I personally have had the experience of visiting some of Tanzania’s magnificent parks and reserves. The conservation of wildlife species here is of great importance for biodiversity and ecosystems, and it is also of considerable economic and social benefit to local communities and the nation as a whole. Ending poaching, conserving wildlife, and ending the illegal wildlife trade will help reduce poverty and contribute to sustainable human development which is at the heart of UNDP’s work around the world.

UNDP is committed to working in partnership with the Government of Tanzania and other governments and partners to stop this trade. We bring to the table our global expertise in building strong institutions and the rule of law, and on poverty eradication and environmental protection.

We see the poaching crisis being addressed through three key strategies: generating sustainable livelihoods for communities; strengthening law enforcement; and reducing the demand for illegally traded wildlife.

•    Addressing rural poverty and creating opportunities for sustainable livelihoods is a critical element of curbing wildlife poaching and trafficking. This illegal trade seriously undermines community livelihoods and prospects for sustainable development.

The social and economic benefits of conservation of wildlife in Tanzania’s parks and reserves should be going to local communities and the nation. Community-based tourism, jobs in wildlife and park management, and government revenue-sharing from tourism can all help reduce poverty and inequality, including for women, youth, and marginalised groups. The illegal trade, however, benefits lawbreakers who are often not from the local community, with the big profits flowing to sinister criminal syndicates.

This is theft of a public good – it sees nations’ natural resources and potential being squandered for the private gain of a few.

The ramifications of this can be widespread – fear of encountering armed criminal gangs in parks and reserves may dissuade international visitors from even coming to a country – thereby depriving other parts of the country of potential tourism revenues.

Community-based natural resource management has been shown to be effective in reducing illegal wildlife trade. It encourages local support for conservation through income generation, and it helps with the management and the monitoring of the whole ecosystem, including of wildlife.

UNDP already works closely with partners in a number of countries to design and implement public, private, and community-level partnerships which co-manage wildlife resources. Where rights are devolved to communities, we have seen massive recovery of wildlife populations. Namibia and Kenya are emerging examples of this with their conservancy approaches. Tanzania is also doing a huge amount of work through its wildlife management areas. Community based initiatives must be given the support they need to deliver incomes to rural people through tourism and other sectors.

If local communities are kept out of the equation, however, they may turn a blind eye to poaching, or, driven by poverty, local people may be recruited into poaching gangs and organised syndicates. But if they can get a bigger share of the legal revenues from tourism and more secure rights to land and natural resources to support their livelihoods, and if measures are put in place to protect their crops, livestock, and lives from the dangers of human-wildlife conflict, then they will be an important part of the solution to the trafficking problem.

•    Strengthening governance is critical to combating the illegal wildlife trade. Illegal practices flourish where institutions and law enforcement capacities are not as robust as they need to be. Once these practices are entrenched, they breed corruption, undermine the rule of law and democracy, and increase the risk of conflict and more crime.

To respond to these complex challenges, UNDP is bringing its expertise in law reform and enforcement, fighting corruption, and building the capacity of institutions to the task, linking it to our Global Anti-Corruption Initiative.

In areas like the Ruaha ecosystem, UNDP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) have been funding local level responses, supporting Tanzania National Parks to improve communications systems, intelligence gathering capacities, and the training of rapid response teams. I look forward to visiting the Ruaha area tomorrow. Other partners have been doing similar work in other crucial areas across Tanzania.

We also need to support better monitoring of what is happening, so that our responses to poaching and the illegal trade are based on proper information. UNDP has contributed to the funding of Tanzania’s elephant census and to the organization of the recent roundtable on the country’s poaching and trafficking challenges.

At the national level, law enforcement efforts can be boosted through the creation of wildlife crime units which co-ordinate park rangers and police, intelligence, and other security services. Magistrates and judges need to have a comprehensive understanding of the legal system to ensure that wildlife crime is punished to the full extent of the law.

•    The challenge of reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife is a global one. Countries with high consumption of illegally traded wildlife, however, often also face threats to their own wildlife. We think that one strategy to address consumption in these countries is to raise awareness of the threats to their own iconic species. As well, uch more can be done through public awareness-raising about the damage which people trading in and buying ivory, rhino horn, and other illegal products are doing to iconic species.

UNDP and other agencies with a global presence can help share experiences of combating the illegal wildlife trade across countries and regions. South-South and other co-operation for tracking down criminal syndicates should be maximised.

We are slowly seeing an increase in funding to tackle the issues from both countries where the poaching and trafficking is occurring and a wide range of development partners. UN agencies, the World Bank, the Regional Development Banks, and multilateral and bilateral partners are helping at the global, regional and national levels.

The Global Environment Facility has been a very important funder of national, community, and cross-border strategies on wildlife trafficking - as provided for in its biodiversity strategy and now, particularly, under its new dedicated Programme Three on wildlife enforcement. The recent large replenishment of the GEF will help sustain this effort, and I thank all contributors who have made this possible.

INTERPOL, NGOs, the private sector, and many dedicated people are also doing what they can to tackle the problem.

It is important that the combined efforts of us all are well co-ordinated to get the maximum possible benefit from the funding available.

UNDP is mandated to lead the co-ordination of the UN development system, at the country level. We also support government leadership of co-ordination of partners in many countries. 

In Tanzania, which is suffering so greatly from the illegal wildlife trade, we are working with the Government on the national strategy to combat wildlife poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife products. The strategy aims to strengthen law enforcement, improve the livelihoods of affected communities, and promote international dialogue. Together we can all work to change the cost-benefit calculation for conservation within communities in tangible terms, through community-based natural resource management and income generating activities.

At the Government’s request, we will continue to work for co-ordinated partner responses to help fund the strategy, building on the financial and technical efforts of the Government of Tanzania itself which is leading the roll-out of the efforts to combat poaching.

Today, following this dynamic summit, which UNDP has been proud to support, I am pleased to declare that, as part of our medium and long term commitment to Tanzania on this crucial issue, UNDP is prepared to support the Government at its request to assess the size of its ivory stockpile, and, with government, to bring together the appropriate parties to manage that process. We are also committed to playing a convening role in the creation of an inter-ministerial unit to enhance co-ordination and co-operation within government on addressing wildlife crime, and are willing to assist in the development of the appropriate fiduciary mechanisms, the form of a basket fund, to support the government’s lead role in the national response on wildlife conservation.

In conclusion, UNDP sees a strong role for development actors working alongside governments, communities, and the private sector to stop the illegal wildlife trade. We hope that today’s summit will generate even stronger commitments to that end. At UNDP, we will do whatever we can to contribute, recognising that much more can and must be done to curb poaching and stop the vile and illegal wildlife trade.

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