Opinion | 05.07.2023

UN meeting marks growing momentum for global agreement against wildlife trafficking

The majority of responding Member States support a global agreement to prevent and combat wildlife trafficking, according to a report recently released and analysed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The findings were presented by UNODC on 24 May 2023, during the 32nd session of the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ), the principal policymaking body of the UN in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice. In 2022, the Commission had requested UNODC to collect Member States views on a potential additional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) to “address any gaps that may exist in the current international legal framework to prevent and combat illicit trafficking in wildlife” (resolution 31/1).
Between February and April 2023, UNODC collected the responses of 60 States and the European Union,  compiling them into a 250 page report. UNODC concluded that “more than half of the responding States expressed support for the potential of an additional protocol on illicit trafficking in wildlife to the Organized Crime Convention”, while more than half of responding States also identified gaps in the current international legal framework to prevent and combat wildlife trafficking.
The call for an additional Protocol to the UNTOC against wildlife trafficking first came from the governments of Gabon and Costa Rica, followed by Angola and Malawi. In its "Revision of the EU Action Plan against wildlife trafficking", the European Union also expressed its support for a similar instrument. Most recently, in February 2023, the American Bar Association (ABA) adopted a resolution urging all UNTOC Parties to “adopt a wildlife crime protocol that would: (1) define the term “wildlife crime”; (2) identify the measures that Parties would be called upon to adopt in their domestic laws to prevent and combat wildlife crime; and (3) identify measures that would enhance cooperative global enforcement efforts to prevent and combat wildlife crime”.
The Global Initiative to End Wildlife Crime (EWC), which was in Vienna for the entirety of the CCPCJ session, welcomed the UNODC report and highlighted that, according to a preliminary assessment conducted by EWC at the request of Angola and Gabon, 75% of responding States were either in favour of an additional Protocol or open to discussing it, with some requesting further information or suggesting its scope be broadened to include other environmental crimes.
On 25 May 2023, EWC also hosted a side event together with the governments of Angola and Peru, which provided an additional opportunity for States to discuss how to strengthen the international legal framework to prevent and combat wildlife trafficking. The event, moderated by EWC Chair, John Scanlon AO, featured high-level speakers from Angola, Gabon, Kenya, Peru, the Philippines and the United States. A video recording of the event is available here.

By Alice Pasqualato,
Policy Officer at the Global Initiative to End Wildlife Crime

Alice Pasqualato works as a Policy Officer at the Global Initiative to End Wildlife Crime, which she joined in early 2021. She holds a degree in law from the University of Padua, where she graduated cum laude with a thesis on the EU Environmental Crime Directive. She is the co-author of a number of publications on the topic of wildlife trade in collaboration with Legal Atlas, such as “To and Through the Gulf: IWT Routes and Legal Environment”.

Yolanda Eisenstein (ed.)
President of the Animal Law Commission Working Group
United States