YE Minister of State for Culture and Tourism Tadelech Delecho; YE the Director General of the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen. The British Secretary of State for the Environment was extremely sorry she could not attend this important meeting on the Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) and has asked me to speak on her behalf.
All of us here are united in a common purpose. We want to secure a future that is bright and prosperous for both people and the remarkable diversity of wildlife around us. I am lucky enough to live in a compound in Addis Ababa which is astonishingly rich in wildlife – and enlivened by the recent reappearance of a couple of leopards after an absence of many years. We want to work together to ensure that people in the future have similar opportunities to experience and enjoy the richness of nature and to eradicate a key threat to that possibility – the illegal wildlife trade (IWT).
This is an issue which matters greatly to us all, including the United Kingdom. And it is worth restating briefly why it matters. It matters because the trade drives corruption and instability and funds serious and organised crime. It matters because wildlife resources are being stolen from communities, on a scale never seen before, undermining sustainable economic development. It matters because this threatens the very existence of some of the world’s most iconic and treasured species.
It is a truly global issue. All of us are affected. The organised criminal networks behind the trade do not respect borders. They operate across continents. All of us need to act – and to do so quickly.
In February last year, the UK Government hosted the London Conference on IWT: I was privileged to be there. In the presence of Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, the Presidents of Botswana, Gabon, Tanzania and Chad; the Foreign Minister of Ethiopia; and senior representatives from 40 other countries, the EU and 10 international organisations all came together to agree an ambitious Declaration.
In London, we made commitments to reduce demand, strengthen enforcement and support sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by the IWT. We sent an unequivocal message to poachers and traffickers around the world: that this abhorrent trade will not be tolerated.
Specifically, we were delighted that the EPI was launched at the London Conference. The excellent news that Uganda, The Gambia, Malawi and, most recently, Kenya have since joined the founding members shows that there is real demand for an Africa-led initiative to end the terrible poaching of elephants. The UK FCO and Ministry for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs remain committed to working with the African EPI members to help support the EPI. The initiative is a vitally important element in tackling the IWT. And today’s meeting is a critical next step in securing a strong and unified response to the crisis.
In March, high level representatives from around the world gathered once more at a conference in Kasane, Botswana to assess progress since London and agree urgent new measures to tackle the trade. The UK was pleased to support Botswana in hosting this event and congratulates Botswana on its success. We are now looking forward to working closely with Vietnam as hosts of a third high level Conference in 2016.
In July the first UN resolution on the IWT was agreed in New York. This resolution demonstrates a powerful and growing consensus: that the IWT is an issue worthy of global attention, at the highest levels of government. An annual review at the UN General Assembly will ensure it stays on the agenda. The UK commends the hard work and dedication of Gabon and Germany in leading this and we are proud to be a co-sponsor.
In August the UK launched the 2nd round of its IWT Challenge Fund, providing a further £5million to projects around the world tackling IWT on the ground.
Overall, much has been achieved in the last year.
Countries around the world are strengthening their legal frameworks against the trade;
New programmes of work are underway in destination states to reduce consumer demand for illegally-traded wildlife products;
Cross-border enforcement efforts have resulted in numerous successful seizures and arrests; and
Several countries have burned stockpiles of illegal ivory. Earlier this year I was able to witness the destruction of Ethiopia’s stockpile, in the presence of HE the DPM Demeke Mekonnen. Such acts send a clear message: that there is no future for the IWT.
All of this is vital work and should be commended. But we know there is much more to do.
This is an issue which urgently needs our continuing attention and commitment. Laudable efforts are being made around the world to tackle it, but we can and must do more to end this scourge.
That’s why we are here today. Madam Minister, may I congratulate Ethiopia on hosting this “right meeting at the right time”, as was said earlier.