CITES Secretary General's intervention at the London Conference on the Illegal Trade in Wildlife - London, United Kingdom

Updated on 23 November 2020

London Conference on the Illegal Trade in Wildlife
12 to 13 February 2014

Intervention by John E Scanlon, Secretary-General, CITES 

We would like to thank the UK Government, and the British Royal Family, for their leadership and for the open and inclusive process that preceded today’s Conference.
In his inspirational speech last night, the UK Secretary of State, the Hon. William Hague, noted that “this problem is caused by man”.  In the few moments I have available to speak, I would like to focus on the human element.
There are perhaps three human traits that are driving this illegal trade: greed; ignorance and indifference.  
Greed - the greed of the transnational organized criminals who peruse profit with no regard for people or wildlife.  These individuals must feel the full force of the law - they must be found, prosecuted, convicted, jailed and severely fined.  This requires governments to treat wildlife crime as a serious crime.
CITES Secretary General John E. Scanlon < /br> The London Conference on the Illegal Trade in Wildlife 2014
CITES Secretary General John E. Scanlon
London Conference on the Illegal Trade in Wildlife
Ignorance - I do not refer to ignorance in a derogatory sense, rather I use it to describe the consumer who is unaware of the true cost of their purchase of illegally traded wildlife.  Culturally appropriate awareness raising can show people that it is not just what they paid for the item.  The true cost includes the costs to local people and wildlife where the product was sourced from.  Civil society has a key role to play here.
Indifference - it can refer to the indifference of enforcement officers towards wildlife crime, indifference towards the livelihoods of local people or indifference of the general public.  It is possibly the hardest human trait to tackle and it is where leadership matters.  What political leaders say matters.  The opinions of leaders of international and national organizations, of actors and of sports men and women, all matter.  What they say influences public opinion and it is why this Conference is so important.
Previous presenters have referred to the powerful decisions taken at CITES COP 16, held in Bangkok last year, to tackle wildlife crime - and a powerful set of decisions were most certainly taken.  
One outcome that will not however be found in the decisions or resolutions from COP 16 is the shift from pointing fingers and seeking to apportion blame to putting our collective energy into how we we can work together to solve the problem.
We are now seeing the benefits of this approach with real and effective collaboration across source, transit and destination States in combatting the illegal wildlife trade.  The results of such collaborative efforts are evident from the excellent results achieved through Operation Cobra II, as was mentioned by the Chinese Vice Minister earlier today.  This was a collaborative initiative between 28 States across Asia, Africa and North America.
Collaboration is also essential at national level, and we have today heard the USA update the Conference on the implementation of President Obama’s Executive Order to better organize US Government efforts in the fight against wildlife trafficking.
And at the international level we are seeing great collaboration between the five key international entities in combatting the illegal wildlife trade, through the International Consortium on Combatting Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), an initiative of the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, UN Office of Drugs and Crime, the World Bank and the World Customs Organization - and ICCWC is referenced in several placed in the London Declaration.
Distinguished delegates, we know what needs to be done, which has been captured through CITES decisions and the outcomes of various other fora, including this Conference.  The level of political commitment that is evident here in London and the added momentum being generated from this meeting, coupled with the spirit of tackling the illegal wildlife trade through a collaborative effort, gives us hope we can reverse the current disturbing trends in poaching and smuggling.
We warmly welcome the London Declaration - and we are convinced that if we all persist with our collective efforts we will prevail.
Thank you.
Further information on the Conference: