On 12-13 February I chaired the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, which was organised by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in conjunction with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development and the Home Office. I would like to inform the House of the outcomes of the conference and to explain how the UK Government will take forward further action to combat the illegal wildlife trade.
The London Conference brought together over fifty countries and international organisations to agree new and bold measures to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, signalling a new level of political commitment to tackle the issue. As well as the devastating consequences for biodiversity and the environment, the illegal wildlife trade is a serious criminal industry worth billions of pounds, which damages local communities and sustainable development, particularly in Africa.
Participating governments at the conference agreed a political declaration that should mark the turning point in the fight to save endangered species and to end the illegal wildlife trade. Governments committed to action designed to strengthen law enforcement, reduce demand and support alternative livelihoods of communities affected by poaching and the trafficking. Notably, governments committed themselves for the first time to renounce the use of products from species threatened with extinction, which sends the strong signal that governments will not procure the things that drive demand for illegal wildlife products. Governments also went further than earlier commitments and promised to support the current position within the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) to prohibit commercial, international trade in elephant ivory until the survival of elephants in the wild was no longer threatened by poaching. Governments also committed to treating poaching and trafficking in wildlife as a serious, organised crime; the same category as trafficking in drugs, arms and people.
Implementation of all the commitments made in the political declaration will be reviewed at a follow-up conference, to be held in Botswana in early 2015.
The London Conference also provided a platform for governments to make new commitments, including the Elephant Protection Initiative, launched by the governments of Botswana, Chad, Ethiopia, Gabon and Tanzania. These governments committed to an extended moratorium on the sale of ivory and also to put all ivory stocks beyond economic use, showing their determination that it is the Elephants that hold value for them and their communities, not their tusks. In response, the partners would access a fund to support measures contained in the African Elephant Action Plan. HMG committed to match the first tranche of private sector funding for the Elephant Protection Initiative, amounting to £1million.
The UK Government’s approach to tackling the illegal wildlife trade following the London Conference is set out in the UK Government ‘Commitment to Action’, published on 5 February 2014. This includes the provision of a £10 million fund to help governments, NGOs and charities tackle illegal wildlife crime across the world and help deliver the outcomes of the London Conference; continued funding and active engagement and leadership in CITES; and a guarantee of funding for the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) until 2016. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will continue to use its network of diplomatic posts to influence international efforts to combat the illegal wildlife trade, including through supporting anti-poaching and trafficking initiatives, promoting demand reduction measures and providing support to the government of Botswana in preparing for the follow-up conference on the illegal wildlife trade in early 2015.
I have laid a copy of the London Declaration on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, and of the Elephant Protection Initiative, in the Library of the House.
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