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WCO signs United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce Buckingham Palace Declaration

15 marzo 2016

Brussels, 15 March 2016

Press Release

The World Customs Organization (WCO), represented by Deputy Secretary General Sergio Mujica, accompanied by Deputy Director for Enforcement Leigh Winchell, signed the ‘United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce Buckingham Palace Declaration’ on 15 March 2016 in London, United Kingdom.

The Declaration, which was developed by the United For Wildlife Transport Taskforce to crack down on illegal wildlife trafficking routes, is the result of 12 month’s work carried out by leaders from the global transportation industry, conservation organizations and several international organizations under the guiding hand of Lord Hague of Richmond at the request of HRH The Duke of Cambridge, President of United for Wildlife.

In line with the ‘WCO Declaration on the Illegal Wildlife Trade’ adopted by the WCO Council in June 2014 which reaffirmed the commitment of the international Customs community to continue its fight against this form of illicit trade, the WCO actively contributed to the work of the taskforce which was established on 8 December 2014.

The WCO’s contribution, which included attending and participating in all of the taskforce’s meetings, enabled the members to better understand how ports in China, Dubai, Kenya and Tanzania operate in combating illegal wildlife trade, providing an opportunity for the WCO to share best practices and its expertise in this field.

Signed at Buckingham Palace by circa 40 corporations, agencies and organizations, the Declaration stems from the increased awareness of the steps needed to urgently combat the rapidly escalating poaching crisis on the ground in places like Africa, the human impact that this crisis is having in communities across the continent, and the need to eliminate demand for illegal wildlife products in developed and emerging economies.

The Declaration also focuses on a crucial third element, namely the vulnerabilities in transportation and the capability of Customs administrations – both of which are being exploited by criminal traffickers to move their products from the killing fields to the marketplace – with a view to examining the strongest and most vulnerable points in global transportation in order to raise standards across the board and thwart traffickers.

In recognizing the devastating impact of illegal wildlife trade, including the pertinent role that Customs administrations can play in combating this vile trade, the Declaration contains 11 commitments under four distinct headings, each representing concrete steps for transport companies including:

  • securing information sharing systems for the transport industry to receive credible information about high-risk routes and methods of transportation;
  • developing a secure system for passing information about suspected illegal wildlife trade from the transport sector to relevant Customs and law enforcement authorities;
  • notifying relevant law enforcement authorities of cargoes suspected of containing illegal wildlife and their products and, where able, refuse to accept or ship such cargoes.

Of particular note, the eleventh commitment, under the heading ‘New Mechanisms Tackling Illegal Wildlife Trade,’ unequivocally calls for mechanisms developed by the WCO and national Customs authorities to aid the detection and prevention of trade in illegal wildlife and their products to be supported.

“The thrust and aims of the Declaration, the acknowledgement of Customs’ critical role in protecting cross-border trade, and the call to support mechanisms developed by the WCO and national Customs administrations bolsters the ongoing efforts of the international Customs community to save the planet’s wildlife, said the Secretary General of the WCO, Kunio Mikuriya.

Mikuriya stressed that, “Endangered species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) were particularly at risk from criminals undeterred by the damage that their activities inflict on countries across the globe, and the fact that these species face the very real possibility of extinction.”

“The WCO and its 180 Member Customs administrations, supported by a wide network of public and private partners, will continue to vigorously pursue these illegal wildlife trade criminals using global enforcement operations, including the expertise and tools at the WCO’s disposal,” added Sergio Mujica, the Deputy Secretary General of the WCO.