Dr. Maria Böhmer,
Ambassador Collin Beck,
Ambassador Heiko Thoms,
Ambassador Norachit Sinhaseni,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to join you to discuss wildlife’s contribution to sustainable development.It is clear that humans and wildlife are inseparably dependent on each other – ultimately, if one suffers, the other will suffer too.
We reap multiple socio-economic benefits from wildlife in the form of food supply, pollinators, pest control, medicinal use and genetic resources, just to mention a few. Wildlife and natural landscapes are also the mainstays of tourism in many countries. In addition to this instrumental value, as humans, we must also respect the intrinsic value of other species and remember our responsibility to protect them.
Our wildlife faces two main threats: habitat loss and illegal trade.
Wildlife and biodiversity in general are threatened by land use change and land degradation, deforestation, pollution, climate change and ocean acidification. These are all issues that also threaten the well-being of human beings and sustainable development. When natural habitats for wildlife are degraded and biodiversity is lost, crucial ecosystem services are compromised also for humans, most often affecting first the poor and the most vulnerable, women and children.
In addition to protecting the habitats of wildlife, we need also to protect it against illegal hunting, poaching and trafficking. Global trade in illegal wildlife is a growing illicit economy, estimated to be worth billions of US dollars annually. It poses a major threat to many species on the brink of extinction.
While we need to address illegal poaching directly, we must also take measures to end the demand for illegally traded wildlife and wildlife products. Without a large and growing demand, there would not be a large and growing supply.
There is also growing evidence of the link between wildlife conservancy and peace and security. Crime syndicates involved in illegal poaching and trafficking of wildlife are also often connected to the illegal drugs trade or other forms of trafficking. These involve sophisticated supply chains using modern technology, as well as bribes and corruption, to deliver the goods to buyers.
The nature of wildlife crime has also changed. There is growing concern that, instead of rifles and traps, poachers are using more and more sophisticated and powerful weapons, some of which are acquired, it is believed, from armed conflicts in the regions.
This brings us to the question of what is being financed with this illegal trade. As you may know, the Security Council adopted two resolutions in January, one relating to the Central African Republic, the other to the Democratic Republic of Congo, that stated that the illegal wildlife trade was financing organized crime in the region.
The Secretary-General’s report that preceded these resolutions highlighted the increasing links between poaching, weapons proliferation and regional insecurity. It is clear that wildlife poaching is not only an environmental matter or a question of conserving certain endangered species. It is a matter of peace and security, personal security, good governance and social cohesion. Therefore we need to support efforts such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, to curb this illegal trade.
As you know, the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals has just concluded its stock-taking phase. During the thematic discussions Member States gave prominence to biodiversity and wildlife. They highlighted the need to safeguard and protect ecosystems and ecosystems services and halt the loss of biodiversity. As well as to tackle the root causes of these phenomena.
The work on SDGs continues this week. It is clear that, our efforts towards sustainable development cannot yield irreversible results without protection of biodiversity and wildlife.