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EU steps up enforcement and partners with business sector to crack down on wildlife crime


   Recent years have seen a dramatic surge in wildlife trafficking. An estimated 8 to 20 billion euro pass annually through the hands of organized criminal groups, ranking alongside the trafficking of drugs, people. Fuelled by corruption, inadequate governance, poverty and poor enforcement, as well as rising demand in some world regions, wildlife trafficking not only threatens the survival of some emblematic species, it  also  claims human  victims,  and  deprives  poorer  communities  of  much-needed  income.  In parts of Africa, it serves as a source of funding for militia groups, threatening regional stability.

   On  26  February  2016  the  European  Commission  adopted  an  EU  Action  Plan  to  tackle wildlife trafficking within the EU and to strengthen the EU's role in the global fight against these illegal activities. The Action Plan comprises 32 measures to be carried out between now and 2020 by the EU and its 28 Member States. It focuses on three priorities: Prevent trafficking and reduce supply and demand of illegal wildlife products; Enhance implementation of existing rules and combat organized crime more effectively  by increasing cooperation between competent enforcement agencies such as Europol; Strengthen cooperation between source, destination and transit countries,  including strategic EU financial support to tackle trafficking in source countries, help  build capacity for enforcement and provide long term sources of income to rural  communities living in wildlife-rich areas. It is also an important contribution to  achieving the Sustainable Development Goals' dedicated target (Goal 15) to "take urgent  action  to  end  poaching and trafficking  of protected  species  of  flora  and  fauna,  and  address  both  demand  and  supply  of  illegal wildlife products". One  year  after  adopting  the  EU  Action  Plan  against  Wildlife  Trafficking,  the Commission takes  stock  of  progress  and  ensures  commitment  from  key business  sectors  on  the  Plan's  three  dimensions  -  prevention,  stronger enforcement and global partnership.

   According to Report released on February 8, 2017 at High-level conference in Brussels, the implementation of 32 actions to tackle wildlife trafficking in Europe and globally is on track. Member States have prioritized enforcement with a big number of seizures of ivory, eels or rhino horn in the last months. National enforcement agencies and Europol have strengthened their co-operation, and Member States work closer together to raise awareness and build capacity against wildlife crime. EU Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Karmenu Vella said, EU Action Plan is making a real impact on the ground. Europe and its international partners are on the right track to eradicate wildlife trafficking, which threatens our biodiversity, costs human lives and robs innocent people of their livelihoods. But we still have a long way to go. It's encouraging to see the business sector on board. Only with the commitment and cooperation of everybody involved can we fight this crime that is becoming more organized and more ruthless.

   The  Commission  has  mobilized  the  EU  business  sector,  in  particular  pet  trade  sector, aviation and courier  sectors, to prevent that  Europe is  used as a market, transit point or source for illegal wildlife products. Work is advancing on many of the objectives of the Action Plan.  With the Member States, the  Commission  is  working  on  guidelines  to  ensure  that  neither  the  EU  domestic  ivory market nor the export of ivory from the EU contributes to international ivory trafficking. On the international front, the EU played a key role at the recent Conference of the Parties of the international convention regulating trade in endangered species (CITES). The EU participated  for  the  first  time  as  a  Party,  alongside  all  28  Member  States,  speaking  and voting as a block with a strong united voice.  Parties agreed to trade restrictions and bans on a large number of species in need of greater protection, such as rosewood, pangolins, parrots and fish species.  In 2017, work with our partners to implement CITES decisions will be a priority.

   The  EU  has  strengthened  diplomatic  efforts  in  the  Far  East,  the  most  important  market region,  and  worked  closely  together  with  partners  to  tackle  the  roots  of  the  problem. Efforts  were  aimed  at  targeting  organized  criminal  groups  and  looking  at  ways  to  reduce demand for illegal products, from rhino horn to pangolin scales.  Being  already  the  number  one  donor  against  wildlife  trafficking  in  the  world,  the  EU intends to increase its financial support to reinforce the capacity of developing countries to deal with that problem and to strengthen the activities of  international organizations such as  CITES  or  Interpol  against  wildlife  crime.  

   Finally,  the  European  Union  has  also  contributed  actively  to  include  the  issue  of  wildlife trafficking on the agenda of the G20  anti-corruption work and of the Financial Action Task Force, the main international body in charge of money laundering.

Phương Linh

(EC.Net source)

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