30 July 2015
Sixty-ninth session, 100th Meeting (AM)

Speakers Call for Concerted Action to Crush Multibillion-Dollar Illicit Wildlife Trade as General Assembly Adopts Sweeping Text

Addressing a range of issues, the General Assembly today adopted a decision on the world body’s review of the implementation of outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society, filled a position in the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and adopted a wide-ranging resolution on illicit trafficking in wildlife, taking steps to encourage States to end the “abhorrent” multibillion-dollar trade often associated with organized crime networks, armed groups and terrorist organizations.

“Illegal wildlife trafficking not only threatens species and ecosystems, it affects the livelihoods of local communities […] and compromises efforts towards poverty eradication and the achievement of sustainable development,” said Denis G. Antoine (Grenada), speaking on behalf of General Assembly President Sam Kutesa ahead of the consensus adoption of the draft resolution entitled, “Tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife” (document A/69/L.80).

Given the role of organized crime networks, armed groups and even terrorist organizations in illegal wildlife trafficking, that “scourge” also carried with it serious security implications for many countries and regions.  He went on to say that it was essential to take decisive steps at the national level to prevent, combat and eradicate the illegal trade in wildlife, on both the supply and demand side, including strengthening the legislation necessary for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of the illegal trade.

Also speaking before the adoption was Emmanuel Issoze-Ngonget, Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Regional Integration of Gabon, who introduced the draft resolution.  Stressing that poaching was an environmental, economic and social threat, he said that the illicit trade was worth an estimated $19 billion per year and represented the fourth largest illegal trade in the world.  It was estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 elephants were killed each year on the African continent.

The illicit trade also posed risks to the environment, health and the economies of countries, undermining the stability of local businesses, diminishing investment and threatening viable development programmes, and was a source of national and regional instability, involving armed groups and contributing to the proliferation of illegal weapons.  A concerted effort from the international community was needed, he said, stressing that source, transit and destination countries must work together to reduce both supply and demand for illegal wildlife products.

The draft resolution, joined by more than 70 States, presented an opportunity to coordinate action at the global level.  It considered varied dimensions of the phenomenon, recognizing, in particular, that the trade was a type of transnational organized crime and a threat to the rule of law and good governance.  By the text, the Assembly called for active cooperation and for more significant regional cooperation, and asked the United Nations and its specialized bodies to support Member States through capacity-building.  It also called on the Secretary-General to name a special envoy on the issue and to report annually to the Assembly.

Speaking after the adoption, the speaker from Germany — which, along with Gabon, co-chaired the Group of Friends on Poaching and Illicit Wildlife Trafficking — said that around 100 elephants died each day in Africa at the hands of poachers.  Wildlife was in more danger than ever before, despite all efforts taken at national and regional levels.  It was time for global concerted action on the problem.  The scale and nature of wildlife crime had become a global issue that required the participation of all stakeholders.  “The fight against wildlife crime is our common, shared responsibilities,” he said.

The representative of the European Union said the high number of co-sponsors of the resolution showed a growing awareness of the threats posed by wildlife crime.  The illicit trade demonstrated that criminal organizations took advantage of every Government weakness and could threaten the achievement of sustainable development and national security.  The resolution adopted, though a great success, was only a first step, he said, hoping that an even more action-oriented resolution would be considered next year.

Adding his voice to the consensus was Botswana’s delegate, who said that the resolution reaffirmed the international community’s respect for natural capital, as well as the intrinsic value of biological diversity.  “Just like violent extremism and terrorism, wildlife trafficking has been on the rise with criminal gangs and cartels harvesting tons of elephant tusks and rhino horns for profit,” he said, adding that countries must forge resilient partnerships against such armed gangs and criminals.

Equatorial Guinea’s speaker said the adoption of the resolution marked an important step in the fight against the illicit trade in wildlife, and asked Governments and non-governmental organizations to strengthen their support in order to help States implement it.

Meanwhile, the representative of Argentina said that the resolution referred to the illegal trafficking in flora and fauna.  In that regard, through the provisions of the resolution, United Nations specialized funds and programmes must align themselves with resolution 2013/40 of the Economic and Social Council.

The delegate from the United Kingdom said the text demonstrated a powerful and growing consensus that the illegal trade in wildlife must be stopped.  The iconic animals that the resolution would help to protect held a special place in human hearts, he said, adding that having those issues recognized at the highest levels of the United Nations was a crucial step.  “We cannot lose the momentum that we have worked so hard to build,” he said, stressing the need to keep the “abhorrent trade” in wildlife on the international agenda.

In other business today, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a draft decision entitled, “Overall review by the General Assembly of the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society” (document A/69/L.83).  By the text, the Assembly decided that its high-level meeting on the overall review of the implementation of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society would be held on 15 and 16 December 2015.

Also today, the Assembly appointed Takeshi Akamatsu (Japan) to fill a vacancy on the ACABQ arising from the resignation of Toshihiro Aiki (Japan), effective 15 August 2015.  Nominated by the Group of Asia-Pacific States, Mr. Akamatsu would fill the position for the remaining period of the term of office of Mr. Aiki, which expired on 31 December 2016.

For information media. Not an official record.