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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Deputy Secretary-General: Statements

New York, 4 March 2015 - Deputy Secretary-General's remarks to the General Assembly on World Wildlife Day [As delivered]

I warmly welcome the sustained and vigilant attention of the General Assembly to the critical issue of wildlife crime.  I am grateful to the President for convening this high-level event.

And I would also like to recognize and thank the Governments and Missions of Gabon, Germany and Thailand for their active role, and for convening the High-level Stakeholder Dialogue on Illegal Wildlife Trade yesterday at the World Conservation Society Central Park Zoo. A well-chosen location for making that message. And the Secretary-General was happy to send a message to this important event.

As we all know, the UN General Assembly has proclaimed 3 March as World Wildlife Day, in commemoration of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. 

On this special observance of the Day, the UN system, its Member States and a wide range of partners from around the world are highlighting the simple, yet firm and urgent, message – and the theme of this year’s World Wildlife Day –  namely that “It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime”. Very succinctly put and straightforward – and, indeed, absolutely necessary.

Illegal wildlife trade has become a mushrooming transnational form of crime, following in the footsteps of other pernicious examples, such as trafficking in human beings, in drugs and in counterfeit items. 

It is driven by rising demand and compounded by corruption and weak governance.  There is growing evidence of the increased involvement in this illicit and insidious trade by organized crime networks and non-State armed groups.

Illegal wildlife trade undermines the rule of law and threatens national security.  It degrades ecosystems and is a major obstacle to the efforts of rural communities and indigenous peoples to manage their natural resources in a sustainable way. 

The massive scale of this dangerous practice is degrading habitats, corrupting officials and causing the loss of vital tax and tourist revenue.

This is an issue that goes well beyond the affected species of wild fauna and flora and beyond environmental impacts.  It represents a grave economic, social and security challenge and concern.  It is a threat to all three pillars of the United Nations – peace and security, sustainable development and human rights.

Over the past few years, many Member States, regional bodies and UN entities have spoken out.  The Security Council has adopted several resolutions on wildlife poaching in the Central African region.  By adopting the Outcome Document from Rio+20, 2012, the General Assembly has recognized the multiple impacts of illegal wildlife trade and the need for firm and swift action.

Coordinated UN efforts through UNEP, UNDP and UNODC are to promote alternative livelihoods, raise awareness, strengthen the rule of law and improve the data and evidence base for our interventions.

The UN family is also actively involved through its cooperation with the International Consortium on Combatting Wildlife Crime.  The CITES Convention, INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization, the African Union and others also play important roles in these combined efforts.

Mr. President and dear colleagues and distinguished guests,

If we are to take wildlife crime seriously, there has to be now a mobilisation of such efforts, nationally and internationally and across entities and disciplines.

This work must translate into tangible and well-coordinated support for wildlife and forest rangers, customs officers, prosecutors and others in the front lines protecting wildlife.

As we increase enforcement efforts, we also need to address the market factors behind the demand for illegally traded wildlife.  We know that distorted demand is a key driver of the poaching of elephants and rhinos.  Comprehensive and effective public information campaigns are needed to raise awareness and knowledge.

Wildlife products are widely used as medicines, food, building materials, furniture, cosmetics, clothing and accessories.  Getting serious about wildlife crime means enrolling the support of all sectors of society involved in the production and consumption of wildlife products.

Legal frameworks and law enforcement are central to our work.  Law enforcement must be supported by the wider community.  The private sector and the general public in all countries can play a major role by, for example, refusing to buy or auction illegal ivory and rhinoceros horn.  They and you can insist and ensure that products from the world’s oceans and tropical forests have been legally obtained and sustainably sourced. 

You may have seen in the paper today the picture of burning ivory horns in Kenya. 15 tonnes of ivory horns were burned publicly, and of course that was a sign that one starts to take this seriously now, to stop this trade. But what is also tragic is to see what is behind this 15 tonnes of horn being burnt, if you take into account that every 15 minutes an elephant is killed, and see the number of horns assembled – only part of the total – being burnt publicly. I commend the Kenyan authorities for doing that today.

In closing, I would acknowledge that we are making some progress in combating illegal wildlife trade. Not least because of the efforts of you in this room and those outside who feel strongly about this. But much more needs to be done and all of us have a role to play.

On this World Wildlife Day, let us send a powerful message to all consumers, suppliers and governments that we are united against wildlife crime and criminals.

Crime against wildlife is a threat to a sustainable future.  On a deeper lever, it represents a contempt and a lack of respect for life on this planet, whether it is the life of human beings, animals or plants.

Let us recognize that, in essence, everything living in our world is connected and interrelated.  Let us recognise that we need to make peace with Nature, including with the wonderful wildlife, living side by side with us on this planet.

Thank you.

Statements on 4 March 2015