No alternative to international cooperation for combatting wildlife crime between Africa and Asia

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Bangkok (Thailand), 17 December 2021 - Over 200 law enforcement and criminal justice representatives from 34 countries in Africa and Asia gathered to discuss cooperation on interception, investigation and prosecution of wildlife and forest crime cases on 30 November 2021.

The Wildlife Inter-Regional Enforcement (WIRE) meeting was jointly hosted by the Anti-Smuggling Bureau of General Administration of China Customs and the UNODC Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crimes. During the 3-day meeting, criminal justice practitioners came together with the aim to improve communications and coordination to tackle the most serious forms of illegal wildlife trade.

In his opening remarks, Mr. SUN Zhijie, Director General, Anti-Smuggling Bureau, General Administration of Customs of the People's Republic of China, highlighted the need to share responsibilities through a common governance, balance between law enforcement and conservation efforts and increased cooperation between countries.

Ms. Miwa Kato, Director of UNODC’s Division for Operations, stressed that “there is no alternative to international cooperation, be it formal or informal, if we want to sustainably disrupt criminal networks involved in the trafficking of wild fauna and flora”.

Police, prosecutors, wildlife and customs officials worked in four groups on controlled deliveries, financial investigations, mutual legal assistance, and forensics. Delegates discussed challenges and opportunities, sharing best practices, and working on case examples. Almost 15 bilateral meetings took place between national authorities to discuss ongoing cases, strengthen transnational cooperation and organize joint investigations.

The WIRE meeting also served as a platform to debrief on Operation Mekong Dragon III (OMD III). Customs authorities from 20 countries and territories took part in OMD III from June to September 2021 coordinated by China Customs, Viet Nam Customs, RILO AP and UNODC. Seizure results indicate that the illegal wildlife trade in East and Southeast Asia is returning to pre-COVID levels. During OMD III, 525 seizures were made, including 85 cases of wild fauna and flora. Click here to learn more about OMD III.

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The 2021 Asia Environment Enforcement Award (AEEA) ceremony took place during the WIRE meeting. Individuals and organizations were awarded for their achievements in combating environmental crime. Click here to learn more about the winners of the 2021 AEEA.

Accepting their award in the collaboration category, Mr. Pongtep Buasap, from the Enforcement Division of Thai Customs Department said that “together with China and Viet Nam Customs, we have proven that a strong commitment in international cooperation with our counterparts in the end yields positive results. This Award shall set a good example for all law enforcement agencies to cooperate even more closely with one another”.

The WIRE meeting concluded with the recommendation for a ‘Call to Action’ to improve inter-regional coordination on different levels. With the overall support of UNODC and its partners, the delegates committed to a series of concrete operational activities to be conducted over the next 6 months leading to the disruption and prosecution of wildlife crime across Africa and Asia.

Quotes from participants:

The WIRE meeting brought together key actors in the fight against illegal wildlife trade across continents into a single platform and thereby initiate dialogue and linkages between them – Anonymous

The topics under discussion were all relevant and crucial as they reflect current cross-border challenges being experienced worldwide – Anonymous

Recommendation: Continue to expand the network to the other regions as well aiming to build a global network of law enforcement officers (Customs, Police, AML, Forensic etc.) – Anonymous

Recommendations: Somehow face to face meeting is better than virtual meeting because we can use the whole time for meeting (not distracted by other issue in the working place) – Anonymous

Click here to learn more about UNODC's Regional Programme for Southeast Asia.

Click here to learn more about UNODC’s Global Programme on Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime in Southeast Asia.