Helen Clark: Keynote Speech at the ‘Giant’s Summit’ on Wildlife Crime

Apr 29, 2016

I am delighted to be at this important summit here in Kenya, a world leader in tackling the illegal wildlife trade, and to visit the Mount Kenya Safari Club, which holds an important place in the history of wildlife heritage preservation in East Africa. I applaud the leadership, concrete actions, and results just outlined by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.

Wildlife poaching and the illicit trade of wildlife and forest products are abhorrent. This multi-billion dollar worldwide trade is a security issue, an environmental issue, and a development issue. It is pushing vulnerable and endangered species toward extinction. At the current rate of loss, the Giants Club predicts that African elephants could disappear from the wild in our lifetimes.  The illicit trade is also fuelling corruption and conflict, destroying lives, and deepening poverty and inequality.

If not addressed decisively, illicit poaching and wildlife trade will have significant national economic impacts. Here in Kenya, wildlife tourism attracts more than one million tourists per year, generates more than twelve per cent of national GDP, and directly employs more than a quarter of a million Kenyans. As Kenya moves to realize its Vision 2030, conserving its wildlife will be critical for achieving middle-income country status. Growth in returns from high value tourism and related sectors would play an indispensable part in that.

The importance of combatting illegal wildlife trade for the 2030 Agenda

Tackling the illegal wildlife trade is also central to making progress on the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG15 has targets aimed at stopping the poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna. This reflects the importance which UN Member States place on addressing the global wildlife crisis across the source, transit, and receiving countries. 

We heard a similar message at the United Nations last July when the General Assembly adopted its first ever resolution on “Tackling illicit trafficking of wildlife”. It expressed serious concern over the steady rise of poaching and of the illegal trade in wildlife. It called for urgent action to put in place integrated approaches which reflect the interlinkages of wildlife poaching and trafficking with poverty eradication, biodiversity, economic growth, and sustainable livelihoods.

We must all work together to stop this horrific trade

Many stakeholders have already contributed to progress; from leaders dedicated to the cause to rangers on the front lines; from the United Nations itself to law enforcement officials, civil society activists, NGOs, private sector CEOs, and celebrity advocates. I commend the Governments of Gabon, Germany, and the more than eighty other sponsors who made that historic UN resolution a reality. It represents the culmination of years of advocacy and co-ordination.

Together, the UN General Assembly resolution and the SDGs provide a clear mandate for global action. Putting these commitments to work in Africa, and securing a future for the great gentle giants of this continent, the African elephants, require political will, financial resources, and technical capacity. 

At this Summit we can move towards lasting solutions to conserving elephant habitats, supporting community conservation, and combatting illegal wildlife poaching and trade across the continent.

Moving from agendas to action

To address the supply of and the demand for illegal wildlife products, institutions and law enforcement must be strengthened at all levels across all affected regions and countries.

National and international legislation and enforcement capacity are needed for the arrests and prosecution of poachers and of all others who benefit from this illicit trade, including large criminal networks and corrupt officials. Action to reduce the consumer demand in countries receiving trafficked wildlife products is also needed.

Equally important is the need for a war on poverty, the creation of sustainable livelihoods, and the full engagement of local communities in decision-making. Community-based natural resource management has proven to be a highly effective way of reducing the trade in endangered wildlife. It encourages local support for conservation through income generation, and helps with the management and monitoring of whole ecosystems.

What is UNDP’s approach to wildlife crime?

At UNDP, we are committed to helping to stop the illegal trade, contributing through our global presence and our expertise in governance, the rule of law, poverty eradication, and environmental protection. 

With financial support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and in collaboration with other partners such as the World Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), we are responding to the poaching crisis with a three-pronged approach focused on:

•    addressing rural poverty and creating opportunities for sustainable livelihoods. This is a critical element of UNDP’s contribution to turning the tide on wildlife poaching and trafficking

•    strengthening governance and law enforcement. UNDP is bringing its expertise in law reform and enforcement, fighting corruption, and building the capacity of institutions to the task;

•    reducing the demand for illegal wildlife products. As global co-ordinator of the UN development system, and as an active participant in donor forums at the country level, UNDP is well placed to support governments to co-ordinate anti-poaching and anti-trafficking efforts.

UNDP works closely with partners in a number of countries to design and implement public, private, and community-level partnerships which co-manage wildlife resources. For example:

•    In Kenya, we support the Kenya Wildlife Service and NGO partners, in particular in the Amboseli-Chyulu  ecosystem. There we are seeing how community-based natural resource management can also be very effective in reducing illegal wildlife trade. With financial support from the GEF, we are investing in the increasingly successful conservancies approach, in which Kenya is a world leader. Through our GEF-funded Small Grants Programme, we have supported the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association, a national network organisation. We stand ready to increase the scope of our support for community-based approaches in future.

•    In Central Africa, UNDP has long supported conservation programmes for forest elephants and their habitat in the Tri-National Dja-Odzala-Minkebe (TRIDOM) tropical wilderness in the Gabon-Congo-Cameroon inter-zone. 

•    In Botswana, UNDP supports community conservation around the spectacular Chobe National Park. 

•    In Uganda, UNDP is helping make the wonderful Kidepo National Park a first class tourist destination once again. 

•    In Namibia, our work has led to a Protected Areas system with rights devolved to communities. The system includes 59 Community Conservancies with more than 230,000 members who manage and conserve their own areas. The result has been massive recovery of wildlife populations outside national parks and reduced poaching throughout the country.

•    In Tanzania, which suffers so grievously from the illegal wildlife trade, UNDP has worked with the Government on the national strategy to combat poaching and trafficking. The strategy aims to strengthen law enforcement, improve the livelihoods of affected communities, and promote international dialogue. UNDP also supports park operations, law enforcement, and the development of tourism and livelihoods opportunities in the Ruaha and Kitulo National Parks, as well as several forest nature reserves.

As well, UNDP is increasing its support to regional frameworks aimed at addressing illegal wildlife trade, such as the new African Union Common Strategy on Illegal Wildlife which was launched in Brazzaville, Congo, last year, and then ratified by the African Union and African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN).   

Looking ahead at new commitments, UNDP is a key partner of the new Global Wildlife Programme, spearheaded and financed by the GEF, in partnership with other organisations, including the World Bank. Under this programme, and working with African governments and other partners, UNDP is beginning to programme $60 million of new GEF financing to frontline conservation on the continent.  

The focus of this work will be on activities aimed at creating incentives for conservation, like new conservancies, and better managed protected areas. UNDP will also fund activities which focus on the disincentives: tackling poaching through more investments in law enforcement, improving the capacity of judicial systems, and putting in place stronger wildlife laws and policies. This work includes support to a new ‘ports of excellence’ initiative aimed at tackling trafficking at ports between Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, and boosting South-South Co-operation to tackle this issue.

To conclude

The attention of so many influential people and institutions on this issue here today is an important step forward. By coming together, we can find and implement the solutions which will protect elephants, as well as the natural landscapes on which Africa’s wildlife depends; and further the commitment to deliver on the frontline protection aspects of the Elephant Protection Initiative, announced in London in February 2014. 

We can take pride in and have a sense of confidence in our actions and the significant commitments being made at this summit. But let us not be complacent; let us be sure as we look back on this time that we know we acted when we could and as much as we could, before it was too late.

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