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

October 15, 2020 - 02:25
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 todayreleased details of a possible new groundbreaking legal agreement on tacklingwildlife crime that could help avoid future wildlife-related pandemics.

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


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


"The current international legal framework foraddressing wildlife crime is inadequate and it leaves us vulnerable to futurewildlife-related pandemics," said John E. Scanlon AO, chair of The GlobalInitiative to End Widlife Crime (EWC). "We need transformative changes toensure our international legal framework for addressing wildlife crime is fitfor purpose in a post COVID-19 world and today we are releasing details on howwe can scale up our collective efforts to end wildlife crime."


Government representatives, crime experts and civilsociety partners are currently meeting in Vienna to discuss the globalchallenges of transnational organized crime at the tenth session of theConference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Convention against TransnationalOrganized Crime. The proposed new Protocol will be discussed during a virtualside event organized by the EWC at the COP on Friday 16th October at2pm (UTC+2), register here.


The proposed "Protocol against the Illicit Trafficking in Specimensof Wild Fauna and Flora", wouldcriminalize the intentional illicit trafficking of specimens of wild fauna andflora.  The negotiation and adoption ofany new Protocol is a matter for States (countries), and whether these proposedreforms move ahead will be determined by the States Parties to UNTOC.


States Parties to the proposed Protocol would agree toadopt legislation establishing as a criminal offence the illicit trafficking ofany whole or part of a wild animal or plant, whether alive or dead.  Among other commitments they also agree to theexchange of information on known organized groups suspected of taking part inillicit trafficking and the means of concealment of contraband, the sharing of forensicsamples, verifying the validity of documents, enhancing controls on the meansof illicitly transporting specimens and taking measures to discouragedemand. 


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


The Protocol would signify recognition by StatesParties 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 adequatelyreflect the interconnected nature of wildlife trade, biodiversity protection,ecological sustainability and both public and animal health,' said LisaGenasci, CEO of ADM Captial Foundation, host of EWC. 'We need urgent actionfrom governments to help restore wildlife populations and prevent futurepandemics."


Thisis the second briefing paper on international law reform released by EWC, withthe first being a set of proposed amendments to the Convention on InternationalTrade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to include public health and animal health criteriainto the Convention's decision-making processes.


Scientists estimate that 6 out of 10 known infectiousdiseases in people are zoonotic,meaning they are  transmissiblebetween animals and humans.  Of theemerging infectious diseases, 3 out of 4 originate from wildlife. Scientistsare increasingly worried about the spread of zoonoticpathogens and, in light of the devastation caused byCOVID-19, their potential humanitarian and economic impact


Meanwhile, the WorldBank has estimated the value of illegal logging, fishing and wildlifetrade at USD$1 trillion or more per year, when taking into accountthe impacts of such crimes on esosystems and the services they provide, theloss of government revenue, and the value of the contraband.

"Illicittrafficking in wildlife exacerbates corruption, insecurity, and poverty, has adevastating impact on entire ecosystems, including their ability to sequestercarbon, and it poses a risk to public and animal health" Scanlon said.  "Yet there is no global agreement on wildlifecrime. 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 leavethe next generation with a system that is fit for purpose in a post COVID-19world, one that helps ensure a healthy and prosperous planet, and gives us thebest chance of avoiding future pandemics." 


EWC, is aninitiative of organizations working on wildlife crime and trade related issuesand is hosted by the Hong Kong based ADM Capital Foundation, chaired by Scanlonandwith a Steering Group comprising the Born Free Foundation, the GlobalEnvironmental Institute the ICCF Group and the Food and Land Use Coalition. More information on the Initiative, including itsSteering Group, the organizations that have signed up as Champions of theInitiative, and its Special Advisers and Supporters, can be found on the EWC websitehere.