Nairobi (Kenya), 7-9 December 2022 – Concerned by emerging threats and rising levels of wildlife crime in the Horn of Africa region, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Member States established a regional initiative called the Horn of Africa Wildlife Enforcement Network (HAWEN) in 2017 to strengthen regional cooperation. HAWEN operates from the IGAD headquarters in Djibouti and is composed of wildlife conservation authorities representatives from seven Member States: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda.
This regional initiative supports the African Union (AU) and IGAD wildlife management strategies, recognizing that intergovernmental cooperation has proven a powerful tool to address wildlife trafficking.
In 2018, HAWEN developed an Action Plan built on five objectives to combat wildlife crime aiming at (i) developing, strengthening and aligning policies in the region, (ii) generating knowledge and sharing information, (ii) building and strengthening the capacity of law enforcement stakeholders at national and regional levels, (iv) encouraging research and use of technology in law enforcement operations, and (v) building partnerships.
At the end of 2022, IGAD and UNODC, with the support of the CITES Secretariat, joined forces to convene the 5th HAWEN Executive Committee Meeting in Nairobi. During the meeting, participants reviewed the 2018 Action Plan and took stock of the current and emerging challenges affecting HAWEN, using the ICCWC Guidelines for Wildlife Enforcement Networks (WENs). Thanks to this tool, HAWEN Member States were able to self-assess their standing vis-à-vis five categories: membership, governance, finance, support, and deliverables. The assessment highlighted areas for improvement in HAWEN, such as the need to expand its membership to additional national institutions involved in combating wildlife crime, create more awareness about HAWEN's role in the region and to ensure sustainable funding for its Secretariat.
At the opening of the event, the Principal Secretary of the Wildlife State Department of Kenya, Ms. Sylvia Kihoro affirmed that “Wildlife trafficking is a form of transnational organized crime recognized at the international level, which cannot be addressed by one country alone but should be a collective effort. HAWEN has the possibility to improve intergovernmental cooperation to prevent and combat wildlife crime in the region.”
Taking into account the results of the assessment, HAWEN members updated the 2018 Action Plan and agreed on initiating its expansion to other relevant authorities and institutions in its member countries. With this new step, HAWEN is looking at becoming an anti-trafficking framework and key actor for countering wildlife crime in the region.