Countries of West Asia have agreed on a process aimed at strengthening regional cooperation to combat wildlife crime. The agreement was reached at a workshop hosted by Kuwait, from 29 to 31 October 2013, with the participation of officials from eight countries of West Asia: Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The workshop was organized at the request of the CITES Member States (Parties) of West Asia, in order to consult with regional government officials involved in CITES implementation and law enforcement, including police and Customs, as well as the national CITES Management Authorities and relevant experts. The aim was to consider the need for, and feasibility of, establishing a regional network to coordinate the enforcement of laws that regulate trade in wildlife and to share intelligence. It was organized jointly by the Environment Public Authority of Kuwait, the CITES Secretariat and the West Asia Regional Office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP-ROWA), with the financial support of the European Commission.
Participants also included representatives of the CITES Secretariat, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Customs Organization (WCO), the ICPO-INTERPOL office in Kuwait, and the secretariats of two existing regional networks to combat wildlife crime – one for the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the other for the Horn of Africa. All shared their experience and showed how they could support a regional effort for West Asia.
The CITES Parties at the workshop agreed on the need for a regional network in West Asia to enhance regional cooperation in the field of law enforcement related to wildlife crime and to facilitate regional exchange of information, data and intelligence. They elected a task force, comprising four countries, to prepare a proposal on the mechanism to establish a regional network to combat wildlife crime in West Asia, for consideration by each government, in order to obtain the necessary high level of commitment.
In warmly welcoming the outcomes of the workshop, the Secretary-General of CITES, Mr John E. Scanlon, said, “the CITES Secretariat will continue to offer its full support to initiatives led by CITES Parties to develop regional networks to enhance wildlife law enforcement, to ensure that wildlife trade is legal and sustainable.”
The State of Kuwait being a representative of the Asian region in the Standing Committee of CITES, and coordinator of the Convention in the framework of the League of Arab States, has offered to host the new network under the auspices of the Environment Public Authority.