17 November 2023, Lima and Vienna - Today Peru takes the lead in combating wildlife crime as the South American Wildlife Enforcement Network (SudWEN) launched its New Chairmanship. The inauguration event gathered representatives from 11 South American countries participating in SudWEN, as well as delegates from the U.S., Peruvian government institutions and international organizations in Lima, Peru and Vienna, Austria.
For the coming two years, Peru will take on SudWEN’s Chairmanship, which will be steered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and coordinated by the Specialized Prosecutor's Office in Environmental Matters (FEMA). The network will seek to strengthen cooperation and dialogue between law enforcement agencies in the region, improve capacity building and training and promote regional cooperation and information sharing to address this critical issue.
SudWEN is supported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), who, together with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the ECOS project, are contributing to strengthening the Network's capacity to combat the illicit trafficking of wildlife in the region, given the increasing scope and scale that these crimes are experiencing in the region.
In the opening remarks, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Peru, Ignacio Higueras Hare, mentioned the importance that Peru assigns to its environmental foreign policy, which constitutes one of the key pillars of Peru's outreach. The deputy minister emphasized that assuming the presidency of the SudWEN Network is an important demonstration of the strength of Peru's environmental foreign policy and a recognition of the significant role that Peru plays in this matter.
Subsequently, Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director of UNODC, stressed that under Peru’s leadership SudWEN will become even stronger with the support of its members. Together we can end wildlife crime and preserve the region's biodiversity, ensuring a healthy and functional ecosystem for future generations.
This comes at a critical time for wildlife conservation in South America. The region is a major source, transit, and destination point for illegal wildlife products, with wildlife trafficking generating significant profits for criminal organizations. Wild birds, reptiles and some marine species are among the most trafficked species in the region.
Criminal organizations derive substantial profits from the illicit trade of wildlife, posing a grave menace to biodiversity and the health of ecosystems, national security and the livelihoods of millions of people that depend on natural resources. The 2022 World Wildlife Trade Report by CITES estimates that the global illegal trade in wildlife generates an annual revenue of USD 7 to $23 billion per year.
Ambassador Roberto Rodriguez Arnillas, General Director for Multilateral and Global Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru and responsible for presiding over the SudWEN Network on behalf of his country, highlighted that Peru's appointment as the president of the network signifies a significant step in the country's efforts to strengthen law enforcement capabilities at the national and regional levels, enhance legal measures against the illicit trafficking of wildlife, and raise awareness about the importance of wildlife protection.
Likewise, the Senior Prosecutor Dr. Karina Diana Vargas Quiñones, National Coordinator of the Specialized Prosecutors for Environmental Matters (FEMA) of Peru, who will assume the as General Coordinator of the Network, emphasized that the event marks the beginning of a crucial phase in the fight against the illegal trafficking of wildlife, to establish itself as an effective channel of cooperation, facilitating the exchange of experiences and the strengthening of capacities. To achieve this, she proposed as the first activity a regional situational diagnosis that identifies species, routes, criminal modalities, procedures, and weaknesses in border controls. This approach will allow for a solid baseline and will guide effective strategies to combat the illegal trafficking of wildlife in the region.
Peru’s appointment as the Chair of SudWEN represents an important step in the country’s efforts to strengthen national and regional enforcement capacities, increase legal measures against wildlife crimes, and create awareness on the importance of protecting wildlife. It’s also a recognition of its leadership and commitment to address wildlife trafficking and protect endangered species across the region.
Finally, the Chargé d'Affaires of the United States Embassy in Peru, John McNamara, indicated that his country will continue to support UNODC, ICCWC, and the countries of South America in strengthening legislation and law enforcement capacity, reinforcing international cooperation and information exchange for cross-border investigations that yield tangible results in the fight against the illicit trafficking of wildlife.