WCO advocates for more resources for Customs to combat illicit wildlife trade at the European Parliament’s public hearing

13 October 2016

On Wednesday, 12 October, the WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya was invited to address the issue of trade policy and the sustainability of wildlife at the public hearing of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade in Brussels. It is the first time that the issue of illegal wildlife trade is brought up during the Committee hearing.

Mr Mikuriya opened the session on policy framework governing trade and sustainability of wildlife by addressing the areas the WCO is active in: awareness raising and global advocacy, capacity building and operational activities. Having highlighted the WCO Declaration on Illegal Wildlife Trade that was unanimously adopted by the WCO Council in 2014, he also underlined the role of the WCO as one of the founding members of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) alongside the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the World Bank. In his speech he addressed the necessity of cooperation among the law enforcement agencies, particularly Customs and Police, and with the private sector and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The Buckingham Palace Declaration and the establishment of the United for Wildlife Transport Task Force were also highlighted as the positive steps towards successful stakeholder engagement.

The Secretary General drew attention of the audience to the WCO - INAMA Project, aimed at strengthening Customs enforcement capacity related to CITES in selected countries of the Sub-Saharan Africa and pointed out that this type of projects have been very successful on the ground and thus more support for this type of endeavor is necessary.

In conclusion, the Secretary General commended the latest developments in the EU as regards the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking as well as the efforts made to include the specific chapters on prevention of illicit wildlife trafficking into the bilateral trade agreements between the EU and other countries as one of the mechanisms to bring more awareness and action in this sphere.

The representatives of the European Commission’s Directorate General Trade and Directorate General Environment made an update on the current regulatory framework of the EU, including the status quo relating to the EU Action Plan and the bilateral trade agreements. They also mentioned the successful Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The questions from the Members of the European Parliament were mainly related to the means necessary for Customs and other law enforcement agencies can do their job better in preventing illicit trafficking of wildlife.

The second panel discussion was dedicated to the implementation challenges and included the speakers from the Vietnamese NGO, ENV, DHL Express UK and Ireland, Traffic International and INTERPOL. The speaker from Vietnam gave an overview of the situation in her country and the work her NGO is doing in this sphere along with the latest legislative changes in Vietnam allowing for better protection of wildlife. The CEO of DHL Express UK and Ireland, who also is a part of the United for Wildlife Task Force, gave a presentation on the express industry’s work to support Customs and other law enforcement agencies and underlined the critical role of information exchange between all the stakeholders to curb this illicit trade. The representative of Traffic International stressed the need to raise awareness of logistics industry and the private sector and enhance their collaboration with Customs and other law enforcement agencies. The Environmental Security Coordinator from INTERPOL outlined the work of his organization in this crime area and specifically focused on the need to strengthen Customs-Police cooperation.

The Chair closed the public hearing by highlighting the necessity to provide more capacity building support with resources for Customs authorities to combat effectively against this crime and pointing out that more support and attention should be given to the countries of origin.


Photo (from right to left):

Mr. Cees Van Duijn, Environmental Security Coordinator, INTERPOL; Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General; Ms Emma McClarkin, Member of the European Parliament; Mr. Phil Couchman, CEO, DHL Express UK and Ireland; Ms Michelle Owen, Project Leader – ROUTES, Traffic International; Ms Nguyen Phuong Dung, Vice-Director, ENV.

Photos: © European Union, 2016 - Source: European Parliament