Congo RC at African wildlife conference

Apr 27, 2015

Opening Remarks from the UN Resident Coordinator, Congo Republic
International Conference on Illegal Exploitation and Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora and in Africa
Brazzaville, 27th April 2014

Your Excellences,
Honourable Ministers
Members of the Diplomatic and International Community,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

On behalf of the United Nations in the Republic of Congo, and representing my esteemed colleagues, UN representatives from Congo, the Africa region generally and worldwide, we are honoured to be here today and to make clear the ongoing support of the UN in combatting poaching and tackling the illicit trade in wild fauna and flora.

This abhorrent trade is a development, environmental, and security challenge, one of great concern to the United Nations. It is pushing vulnerable and endangered species toward extinction, fuelling corruption and conflict, and putting lives and livelihoods at risk.

We applaud the leadership being taken today by the Congo in hosting this “action conference”, action based because we will work together these coming days to develop a strategy by Africa, for Africa and of Africa for tackling illicit trafficking and exploitation, a strategy that in due course we hope to see endorsed by the African Union, a strategy that can guide and support Africa-wide and national efforts to combat poaching and illegal trade of wild fauna and flora in the months and years ahead. Proof indeed to the world that Africa takes its commitment to safeguarding natural resources and combating illicit trafficking seriously.

We have heard of the loss to poachers of considerable numbers of African elephants in forest habitats in the Congo Basin, World Heritage sites like the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, or of uncontrolled bushmeat trade or the loss of our mighty forests to criminal exploitation. However this is not just about individual species of elephants, or even more broadly about animals being lost from the wilds. It is not just about losing timber and our forests. This is in fact a human development issue. People’s lives are being lost as rangers confront poachers, rural communities are being torn apart by poaching; tourism numbers are at risk of falling in countries that desperately need the income; villages watch forests felled with little financial return. Local economies are deeply damaged. The reality is that wildlife and forest crime equates to the theft of a public good.

This issue must be tackled nationally, but it must also be tackled regionally. The United Nations stands firm in its support for both approaches and applauds the regional approach being taken, by the African Union member states, by the Congolese Republic, by us all, in tackling illicit trafficking and exploitation of wild flora and flora.

In our response, we must continue to utilize key international instruments we have to tackle this issue: in particular, the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the Convention on International Trafficking in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). We must support the implementation of the UNTOC and support the CITES Secretariat and the work of national CITES management and scientific authorities in curbing trafficking. The Republic of Cong, like all of us, is firmly resolved to combat the illicit trafficking and exploitation of wild flora and fauna.

Within the UN we have different agencies, specialist and generalist, supporting governments and civil society in tackling this problem, such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), amongst others. Each plays key interrelated roles.

UNDP is playing a convening role, assisting countries with the development of national strategies to combat wildlife crime and a technical and financial role through its substantial Global Environment Facility (GEF) Programme in Africa, where it is supporting field based projects; such as assisting park managers and rangers in tackling poaching on the ground. This programme continues to develop with more support being rolled out in the months ahead.

Support to the judiciary and to legislative processes is core to work of both UNEP and UNODC. Similarly, customs control is crucial. The World Customs Organisation, with UNEP, has initiated the Green Customs Initiative. Linked to this, are the UNODC Container Control and anti-money laundering programmes. A regional UN-REDD illegal timber trade initiative of FAO, UNEP and UNDP in East Africa is newly launched. Communications and awareness raising and reducing demand, is also crucial to the work of several of our agencies including UNDP and UNEP.

But much more needs to be done. We need more cooperation between source, transit and consumer countries. We need more support to social and economic development activities including livelihoods diversification, community based natural resource management and decentralised resource management approaches to bring value, aesthetic and financial, of wild flora and fauna to communities and provide a disincentive for illegal trade. We need more focus on governance and the rule of law and we need more national and regional cooperation.

But we can get there: by working together and showing our commitment. Cohesion in the implementation of cross-border activities is a key in the success of our strategy. Steadily we are seeing more action on the ground and more finance available. The UN stands firm in its own commitment to combat illicit trafficking in Africa. We support and applaud the bold efforts of Congo, of African nations and the African Union. Let’s work together to create a strong African strategy to combat poaching and exploitation. These are our resources. We must protect them for our common future. Together we can tackle this vile trade. Thank you.

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