This decision is a great victory in the fight against wildlife crimeThe European Commission and Dutch Presidency of the European Union today launched an intergovernmental European Action Plan against wildlife trafficking.

IFAW welcomes this comprehensive approach to tackling wildlife trafficking and the elevation of wildlife crime on the political agenda as a serious crime. 

This decision is a great victory in the fight against the criminal gangs and overlords involved in the trafficking and poaching of some of the worlds most endangered species.

The announcement follows more than three years of IFAW campaigning and provides a strong framework for European countries to step up their role in this global fight.

IFAW has long believed that only an Action Plan of the type that exists for other serious crimes such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, and terrorism can provide the necessary tools and political and policy framework, as well as accountability, to allow Europe to play a vital role in global efforts to tackle wildlife crime adequately.

Along the road we have had many successes:

  • two Resolutions in the European Parliament calling for an EU Action Plan
  • a European Commission conference on wildlife trafficking at which IFAW made the case for an EU Action Plan and
  • goodwill from many in the Commission and Member States in our efforts.

The broad range of actors and tools required to combat wildlife crime require an Action Plan that includes measures beyond those only under the direction of DG Environment and Environment

Ministries in Member States; including but not limited to Development, Home, Justice, EEAS, Trade and Taxud (Taxation and Customs Union). As with other Action Plans, the Wildlife Trafficking Action Plan provides a mechanism to ensure concerted action among these players, all vital to successfully address illegal wildlife trade within and outside of the EU. Such coordination would allow, for example, proactive financial investigation and requirements within future trade agreements.

By accepting IFAW’s call for this hybrid instrument – largely intergovernmental and interdepartmental – it provides for coordinated action on wildlife crime to take place, without taking further sovereignty away from member states on issues such as home affairs nor necessitating treaty change.

The 5-year (2016-2020) action plan sets a rather comprehensive outline of actions for various actors (Commission, Member States, Europol, High Representatives of Foreign Affairs, etc.) with three priorities:

  1. preventing wildlife trafficking addressing its root causes,
  2. implementing and enforcing existing rules and combating organised wildlife crime more effectively, and
  3. strengthening the global partnership of source, consumer and transit countries against wildlife trafficking.

Key aspects of the action plan include:

  • Increased and effective funding support to developing countries using the Conservation Strategy for Africa as a basis and funding streams, such as European Development Funds, for wildlife trafficking work
  • Improved care of confiscated live animals through all Member States establishing facilities for temporary care of animals, mechanisms for long-term rehoming and cooperation between Member States
  • Member States amending national legislation for wildlife crime to be recognised as serious crime
  • Mechanisms for interagency cooperation  (e.g. Task forces, MoUs) within Member States (customs, police, inspection, CITES)
  • Cross-border cooperation of Member States with Europol and Eurojust facilitating joint operations and investigation teams
  • Improvements streamlining in data collection with Member States providing qualitative and statistical data to Commission (checks, investigations, seizures, prosecutions, cases, judgements); Database of cases to be established by ENPE
  • Address cybercrime by engaging business sector, capacity building for specialised cybercrime units
  • Working within CITES  – At 17th Conference of Parties propose species listing for some animals being unsustainably traded to the EU for exotic pets; resolution on corruption; trade suspensions for non-compliance
  • Using EU trade policies, instruments and high-level meetings to place wildlife trafficking on the agenda
  • Tackling organised crime more effectively, including cybercrime and money laundering and wildlife trafficking
  • Awareness raising demand reduction targets created for priority species and countries (to be determined)
  • Plans to further limit trade in ivory within from EU with Commission guidelines to suspend export of raw pre-Convention ivory
  • Increased checks at border-crossings, but also internally at pet shops and breeders
  • Assessment of the effectiveness of the Environmental Crime Directive 2008/99
  • Continued Funding support to ICCWC

A staff working document (insert hyperlink when available) outlines data, evidence and analysis in support of the Action Plan. The Commission will monitor implementation with a twice a year review by EU Wildlife Trade Enforcement Group and a progress report submitted to Parliament and Council by July 2018 and a full evaluation in 2020.

IFAW welcomes the proposed actions, but notes our calls for comprehensive annual reporting on wildlife crime statistics and targeted funding for some of the actions do not appear to be included in the action plan. Still, this is a major step forward for tackling wildlife trafficking and ensuring the EU acts as a leader both at home and globally.

Negotiations between the European Commission and Council will start in late March with the conclusions expected to be adopted in June.  IFAW will be working hard between now and then to ensure a robust Action Plan is endorsed.

–SS

Staci McLennan, IFAW’s EU Political Officer, Wildlife Programmes, contributed to this report.”

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Article source: IFAW

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