Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at the high-level meeting on poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking: “Poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking – a multidimensional crime and a growing challenge to the international community”
President Ali Bongo Ondimba,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today we are discussing a serious problem which is not on the front pages of our newspapers every day. But Poaching and trafficking in animal products such as ivory or rhino horn are growing problems.
The Director General of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has just given us a very graphic picture.
Elephant herds are killed off from helicopters by poachers using automatic weapons.
Five years ago, about a dozen rhinos were killed in South Africa. Last year it was almost 700. The earnings go to international organised crime cartels. The money is used to buy arms, stir up political unrest and finance terrorist activities.
The structures and methods we observe are similar to those of drug trafficking.
For us it’s no longer merely a matter of protecting endangered species; it’s about securing the economic foundation of many countries; it’s about countering the spread of organised crime, preventing the destabilisation of entire regions and preventing uncontrolled militarisation. This acute poaching crisis has become a serious problem for foreign and security policy.
The conferences on illicit wildlife trafficking organised jointly by Gabon and Germany in recent months have clearly highlighted these worrying developments.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referred to this topic in his report to the Security Council on 20 May. In many cases the weapons used for poaching stem from armed conflicts.
The current poaching crisis is marked by extreme brutality:
wildlife populations are being almost entirely wiped out. And more than 1000 park rangers have been killed in the course of their work protecting nature over the past ten years.
When it comes to the poaching crisis, it is not a matter of naming and shaming. It is a matter of finding a joint solution to a shared problem. This is precisely the approach of the Clinton Global Initiative, which has called today here in New York for the African elephant to be protected.
A widespread criminal network, active not only in the countries of origin and transit but also in the countries of sale, is flourishing thanks to the trade in ivory and rhino horn.
Poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking is a problem facing the international community. We absolutely must not leave Africa on its own with the problem.
We need to become active in the countries of origin, transit and sale. A few weeks ago Germany launched a three-year project which takes this comprehensive approach.
The aim is to make the game reserves safer. In the countries of transit and sale, there must be stricter monitoring and more prosecutions. We still see smuggling in ivory and rhino horn. Therefore we need to make particular efforts to reduce demand. The mistaken belief that rhino horn can cure disease is still all too common. We need education, strict laws and resolute investigations and prosecution.
With the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) we have an effective instrument for controlling trade in wildlife products. I am therefore grateful that CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon is chairing this event. In March this year, the meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES in Bangkok took some important decisions towards combating rampant poaching.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Government of Botswana will be organising the African Elephant Summit in Gaborone at the beginning of December. The aim is to combat the illegal trade in ivory. Germany is a co-initiator and supporter of this conference. I call upon all of you to take part in this event.
Let us send a signal today that the international community is determined to put an end to poaching with its links to organised crime. The United Nations takes the problem very seriously, as Mr Eliasson’s attendance here today proves. President Bongo is urging the UN to appoint a Special Representative, and I support this call.
We should also consider whether and how the UN General Assembly can support effective joint action at global level, for example with a resolution. Germany is prepared to engage in this regard alongside other interested states.
It is not just an ethical task to fight poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking, but also a joint foreign and security-policy task.