I warmly welcome the continued attention on the critical issue of poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking. And I am grateful to the Governments of Gabon and of Germany for organizing this high-level event and for the commitment they are showing to end these cruel and destructive crimes.
While there are signs that the poaching of elephants has levelled off in the last year, it is still at unsustainably high levels. Overall, wildlife and forest crimes are taking place at unprecedented levels.
Some of the figures are staggering. Compared to 2007, illegal killing of the African rhino has increased exponentially – 13 rhino were killed in 2007, 1,000 in 2013 in South Africa alone, and over 700 were killed so far this year. Even in the case of the elephant population, more elephants are being killed than are born. At this rate, we will face local extinctions of elephants within a decade.
UNODC informs us that poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking are among the most lucrative criminal activities in the world. And the UN Crime Commission and INTERPOL confirm that operations are increasingly conducted on a large scale by transnational organized criminal groups, often in cooperation with armed extremist groups. The illegal trade and illegal taxation of charcoal, for example, is a major source of income for Al Shabaab in East Africa.
The massive scale of this illegal trade is degrading habitats, corrupting local officials and causing the loss of vital tax and tourist revenue.
This is clearly an issue that goes well beyond the affected species of wild fauna and flora and environmental impacts. It is a grave economic, development, social and security concern. It is a threat to all three pillars of our Organization – peace and security, sustainable development and human rights.
Over the past few years, many UN entities have spoken out on the issue. The Security Council has adopted several resolutions on wildlife poaching in the context of the Central African region. In adopting the Outcome Document from Rio+20, the General Assembly has recognized the multiple impacts of illicit wildlife trafficking and the need for firm and strengthened action.
The CITES Convention, INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization, the African Union and others have also raised their voices.
These expressions of concern must translate into tangible and well-coordinated support for wildlife and forest rangers, customs officers, prosecutors and others on the front lines.
The UN family is actively involved through its cooperation with the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime.
Our efforts, through UNEP, UNDP and UNODC, encompass promoting alternative livelihoods, raising awareness, strengthening rule of law and improving the evidence base for our interventions.
Wildlife crime is increasingly being recognized by Member States as a serious crime. Some States are exploring the possibility of a Protocol on illicit wildlife trafficking under the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
As we increase enforcement efforts, we need to address the market fundamentals behind the demand for illegally traded wildlife. Demand is a key driver of poaching of elephants and rhinos. Comprehensive public information campaigns are needed to raise awareness.
Over the past year we have seen source, transit and destination States destroy confiscated specimens, such as elephant ivory – destroyed in ceremonies in China, France and the United States, and rhino horn – destroyed in ceremonies in the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic just last week.
These high-profile events will not in themselves stop illicit wildlife trafficking. But they provide States with a public opportunity to express strong intent to bring this illegal and deplorable trade to an end.
UN Goodwill Ambassadors are also reaching out to audiences that may not otherwise hear the vital message about the devastating impacts of illicit wildlife trafficking.
We are making progress, but much more needs to be done and we all have a role to play.
Let us send a powerful message through the United Nations that we are united against criminals in this despicable trade. And that we are united in support of sustainably managing our natural resources for the benefit of all people as well as animals and the habitat. We need Peace with Nature.
I am glad to see so many distinguished guests here today. I urge all of you to redouble your efforts to bring an end to poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking.