UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
EXPERTS TO BEGIN NEGOTIATIONS FOR AFRICAN TASK FORCE TO FIGHT INTERNATIONAL WILDLIFE CRIME
NAIROBI, 4 March 1994 (UNEP) -- Experts from nine Eastern and Southern African nations will be meeting here next week, from 7 to 11 March, at the headquarters of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), to begin negotiations on an agreement to set up the first international African Task Force to combat illegal wildlife trafficking.
The initiative dates back to December 1992 when senior wildlife law enforcement officers from eight African countries met in Lusaka at a Conference hosted by the Zambian Ministry of Tourism. Discussions highlighted the urgent need for international cooperation to combat the illegal cross-border trade in wildlife. The officers were unanimous in proposing that an African Task Force be set up to coordinate cross- border investigations in close liaison with national law enforcement agencies. At that meeting, they drafted an agreement aimed at providing the legal framework for the proposed Task Force and named it the Lusaka Agreement on Co-operative Enforcement Operations Directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora.
The Task Force will be designed to penetrate and crack international smuggling syndicates operating out of Eastern and Southern Africa. With their operations currently restricted to within national borders, wildlife law enforcement officers are virtually powerless against these wealthy, highly sophisticated syndicates.
Africa has seen the unprecedented destruction of its wild fauna and flora as a result of poaching, fuelled to a large degree by the profits that are gained by wildlife traffickers. The last 35 years have seen the loss of 97 per cent of rhinoceros species and, in many countries, over 90 per cent of elephant populations, through uncontrolled trafficking in rhino horn and ivory. Many other species are suffering the same fate. Birds, primates, reptiles and cycads are all being smuggled out of Africa to satisfy consumer demand abroad. At risk too are Africa's rich and diverse tropical forests, threatened by uncontrolled commercial exploitation.
Commenting on the draft Lusaka Agreement, Mr. Izgrev Topkov, the Secretary- General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), said "Conservation of wildlife depends on a variety of factors, including limiting its consumptive use by man. CITES establishes only the framework whereby the participating countries to the Convention have agreed to regulate international trade in certain species of wild animals and plants. The practical aspects of creating an infrastructure to control this trade are left up to the countries concerned. It is no secret that traditional enforcement methods have largely failed for the protection of some African species.
"The Secretariat and the CITES Standing Committee have supported the principles of the draft Lusaka Agreement from its beginning. I am sure that I reflect the feelings of my colleagues when I say that the creation of a law enforcement Task Force is an approach that is both innovative and far reaching in the effort to save African wildlife from the greed of the trafficker and consumer. However, the draft Agreement is, and must remain, an African initiative. It is now up to the African States concerned to decide if they will work together in bringing this endeavour to its successful conclusion, or if they will allow the idea of the Task Force to fade away as quickly as the animals that are disappearing from the African landscape."
The Government of Zambia has been at the forefront of promoting the Lusaka Agreement, supported by the Governments of Kenya, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. At UNEP's Conference Between the Rhinoceros Range States, Consumer States and Donors on Financing the Conservation of the Rhinoceros last July, the four Governments requested UNEP to undertake a coordinating role in negotiations for the Agreement. This request was endorsed unanimously by other countries present. UNEP responded by setting up a Coordinating Secretariat to facilitate the negotiating process and by committing US$200,000 to get the project off the ground. An urgent appeal is being made to donors for the remaining US$340,000 needed to complete negotiations before the deadline of 29 July this year, when it is hoped the Agreement will be signed.
One of the officers who initiated the proposed Lusaka Agreement was Mr. Abdulrahman Omar Bashir, then Deputy Director, Security, in the Kenya Wildlife Service as well as a Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police. He said "Kenya views the Lusaka Agreement very seriously and will be prepared to contribute to the formation of the Task Force. We have now managed to control the poaching of rhinoceros and elephant in Kenya and our own investigations unit has enjoyed some recent successes. But we recognise an urgent need still exists to crack down on international smuggling syndicates. We are now ready to share the benefits of our expertise with our sister Range States, as we believe they are ready to share their knowledge with us. We see the Lusaka Agreement as the most practical means to do this."
The Expert Group meeting is scheduled to be attended by delegates from Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia. Also participating will be observers from the CITES Secretariat, Interpol, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and donor countries which have been approached for funds to support the negotiations.
For further information, please contact:
Dr. Rosalind Reeve, UNEP Lusaka Agreement Coordinating Secretariat, tel. (UNEP) (254 2) 623482; (home) 746866; fax. 230198/623595.
Mr. Jim Sniffen, UNEP Information Officer, tel. (254 2) 623084; fax. 226831/623692. E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
UNEP News Release 1994/5
Please note: Journalists are invited to attend the opening session of the Lusaka Agreement First Expert Group meeting to be held at 10 a.m. on Monday, 7 March, in Conference Room 3 at UNEP's Headquarters in Nairobi. The Hon. Katana Ngala, MP., Kenyan Minister for Tourism and Wildlife, will give the opening address.
Notes to Editors on Lusaka Agreement
1. The original conference where the Lusaka Agreement was initiated was the first African Wildlife Law Enforcement Co-operation Conference held under the auspices of the Zambian Ministry of Tourism in Lusaka, from 9 to 11 December 1992.
2. Present at the Lusaka Conference were senior wildlife law enforcement officers from the National Parks Departments, Customs, Police and/or Army of Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Also present were representatives of the CITES Secretariat, Interpol and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
3. Following the Lusaka Conference, at the invitation of Lt. Gen. C.S. Tembo, Zambia's Minister of Tourism, the Governments of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda joined Zambia in giving support in principle to negotiating the Lusaka Agreement.
4. The CITES Standing Committee has twice endorsed the need for the Lusaka Agreement to combat the illegal trade in African fauna and flora.
5. The draft text of the Lusaka Agreement, produced by African wildlife law enforcement officers, was refined with the help of the UNEP Environmental Law and Institutions Programme Activity Centre (ELI/PAC) at a Working Group meeting in Nairobi, 26-27 June 1993. The meeting was held under the auspices of the Zambian Ministry of Tourism in cooperation with Kenya's Ministry for Tourism and Wildlife. The Initial Negotiating Text of the Agreement produced by this Working Group provides the basis for negotiations at next week's Expert Group meeting.
6. UNEP's role in the negotiations to set up the proposed Task Force is that of a facilitator. It was undertaken at the request of African Governments in a resolution which was approved unanimously by countries attending the UNEP Conference Between the Rhinoceros Range States, Consumer States and Donors on Financing the Conservation of the Rhinoceros, Nairobi, 28 June - 1 July 1993.
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