UK Members of Parliament joined their Malawian counterparts to urge more young parliamentarians to engage in wildlife conservation issues.
A UK parliamentary delegation that visited Malawi on a training programme regarding issues-based campaigning and youth engagement under the UK chapter of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA UK), also included a wildlife conservation briefing hosted by the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust and the Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus (MPCC).
Hon. Alex Major, MPCC co-chair and MP for Kasungu West, said, “So many factors, from human health and agriculture to our water and energy supplies, rely on the protection and sustainable use of our natural resources. It is ultimately one of the greatest challenges we face, and we as opinion leaders and representatives of our constituencies need to ensure conservation is prioritised.” He added, “We hope that more young parliamentarians join the MPCC with a view to become tomorrow’s conservation ambassadors.”
The MPCC was launched on in August 2015 by His Excellency the President, Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika, as a multiparty coalition of MPs committed to conservation and natural resource-based economic growth. Participation is open to any member of parliament, with over 40 members from all represented parties. Work has included support for both amendments to the Environment Bill the National Parks & Wildlife Act, both of which are expected to be tabled in Parliament next month.
Speaking on behalf of the UK delegation, Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth, Sutton & Devonport, said, “It is really very encouraging to hear how members of different parties are coming together to tackle pressing conservation issues with the bigger picture in mind, especially when it comes to wildlife crime. “Our visit to Malawi has focused on strengthening capacity and the engagement of youth through the National Assembly, and we wholeheartedly encourage that young parliamentarians join the MPCC as a platform for learning and action.”
Colville added, “We also learnt a great deal about the progressive work that Malawi government and its NGO partners are embarking in the fight against illegal wildlife trade, and we look forward to following news on this in the coming months.”
Lilongwe Wildlife Trust’s Executive Director, Jonathan Vaughan, said, “We are strong advocates for the work of the MPCC, and we would like to thank the visiting UK Members of Parliament for their interest in and support for wildlife conservation in Malawi”.
Malawi Government has responded with several initiatives including the country’s first specialised multi-agency Wildlife Crime Investigations Unit, with funds provided through the British Government’s DFID Challenge Fund via Lilongwe Wildlife Trust and IFAW. 60 arrests for wildlife trafficking have been made since June, 16 of whom have been sent to prison for up to 14 years. The Amendment Bill for the National Parks and Wildlife Act is expected to come to Parliament in November which will further strengthen penalties and act as a deterrent for would-be wildlife criminals.
Malawi was recently named as a ‘country of primary concern’ for its role as a major transit hub in the illegal ivory trade in a recent report published by TRAFFIC and ETIS (Elephant Trade Information System), alongside Togo, Malaysia and Singapore.