UN report reveals growing momentum for global agreement against wildlife trafficking

24 May 2023


A report prepared by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) indicating growing momentum among governments for the development of a global agreement against wildlife trafficking, will be debated at a UN meeting in Vienna this week.

Photo of an elephant foot with a chain stuck in the ground wrapped around it.

Image (c) Aaron Gekoski/Caters News

The report contains responses from 60 UN member States to a questionnaire circulated by the UNODC in February, asking for their views on gaps in the current international legal framework to prevent and combat illicit trafficking in wildlife, and whether they would support the development a new global agreement in the form of an additional protocol to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC).

Preliminary analysis of the report reveals that 75% of respondent UN member countries were either in favour of a protocol or open to discussing it, with some requesting further information or suggesting its scope be broadened to include other environmental crimes.

Born Free is a founding member of the Global Initiative to End Wildlife Crime, which is chaired by former CITES Secretary General John Scanlon and was formed to address the serious shortcomings in international legal mechanisms to address the increasing problem of wildlife trafficking. The development of an additional protocol on wildlife crime under the UNTOC is the Global Initiative’s preferred instrument.

Born Free is hosting a side-event on behalf of the Global Initiative at the meeting of the Committee on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice this week in Vienna, alongside representatives of the governments of Angola and Peru, entitled ‘Strengthening the International Legal Framework against Illicit Wildlife Trafficking’. The event will take place on 25th May at midday UK time, and will be broadcast online.

Born Free’s Head of Policy Dr Mark Jones, who is in Vienna for the meeting, said: “Illegal trade in wild animals and wildlife products is a massive issue that causes immeasurable conservation and animal welfare harms. The involvement of organised criminal networks also results in socioeconomic disruption affecting many communities across the world. Countries need a framework to facilitate cooperation between their enforcement, prosecutorial and judicial agencies in order to tackle this scourge, yet there is currently no international agreement against wildlife trafficking.

“It is encouraging to see a majority of UN member countries that have responded to the questionnaire expressing support for the development of an agreement, preferably in the form of a protocol under the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime. The wheels turn slowly at the UN, but we hope this momentum will culminate in the development and implementation of such an agreement as soon as possible.”

The Global Initiative to End Wildlife Crime’s press release can be found here.