ASEAN Security Ministers Prioritize Wildlife and Timber Trafficking

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Delegates-from-ASEAN-countries

ASEAN Legislators and Civil Society Congratulate Ministers for Upgrading Wildlife and Timber Trafficking to Serious Organized Crime 

A largely unnoticed, but historic declaration recently passed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Security Ministers received praise today from the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly and an alliance of conservation organizations based in Southeast Asia.

ASEAN security ministers on Thursday (Oct 1) signed a declaration reinforcing the region’s commitment to combat cross-border crime and, significantly, have included trafficking of wildlife and timber, putting them on par with other major transnational crimes such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism and arms smuggling.

The proposal to include wildlife and timber trafficking on the ASEAN Senior Officials on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) agenda was initially led by the Royal Thai Police with support from the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking Program, which is implemented by Freeland, the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), Centre for International Law and the Asia Pacific Centre for Environmental Law of the National University of Singapore.

“ASEAN Parliamentarians are aware of the many challenges our enforcers face in suppressing this emerging security threat to the region and we are pleased that the ASEAN mechanism is being utilized in the fight against wildlife crime – from policy recommendations to executive actions,” said Mr. P.O. Ram, Secretary-General of the Jakarta-based of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly.

The declaration is seen as a victory by conservationists because it means more resources are now likely to be mobilized to strengthen ASEAN’s response to the growing threat of wildlife trafficking and people smuggling.

“The Ministers are to be congratulated for mobilizing the ASEAN security community to fight wildlife and timber trafficking”, said Steven Galster, Director of Freeland, a counter-trafficking organization that has been advocating for ASEAN’s security and police organizations to tackle this issue since 2009. “Environmental authorities need significant assistance from the security community to confront and outsmart the powerful and organized gangs of poachers, traffickers and loggers that are quickly destroying this region’s biodiversity, and this declaration is a great step forward in the right direction.”

With technical support from Freeland, in 2009 the Royal Thai Police and the ASEAN-WEN (ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network) approached ASEAN’s Senior Officers Meeting on Transnational Crime with a concept paper for the region’s security community to consider, suggesting that police and other law enforcement agencies step up collaboration with environmental enforcement units to mitigate the rapid destruction of the region’s forests and wildlife. Last year, UNODC joined and advanced the advocacy effort, confirming the seriousness of the issue as a major crime on a global level.

“Now, it is urgent for ASEAN member states to operationalize this new mandate, and to team up with, utilize and strengthen existing regional enforcement bodies such as the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network and ASEANAPOL,” Galster added.

The October 1 declaration, titled the “Kuala Lumpur Declaration in Combating Transnational Crime” was adopted at the conclusion of the 10th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime. Thailand has been put in charge of facilitating a regional plan.

The new security Minister’s resolution follows a resolution last month when ASEAN’s Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), the region’s legislative body, made wildlife crime a permanent agenda item of its caucus (AIPA’s Caucus follows up on high level political commitments to help convert them to action).

The declaration complements recent top-level statements and actions in support of combating wildlife crime in the region. In 2012, parliamentarians of ASEAN issued a resolution urging the SOMTC to upgrade wildlife crime as a priority agenda, and the strengthening of legislative responses to combat wildlife crime. In 2014, the ASEAN Chiefs of Police General Assembly recognized wildlife crime as a priority agenda. Support provided by UNODC helped realize last week’s resolution.

Note to Editors:

Photo Credit: Royal Thai Police (Media/ Police Radio)

The ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC) and the Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) are the custodian the ASEAN Plan of Action To Combat Transnational Crime. The general objective of the Action Plan is to encourage ASEAN Member Countries to expand their efforts in combating transnational crime at the national and bilateral levels to the regional level. As espoused in the ASEAN Declaration on Transnational Crime, the overall focus of ASEAN collaboration will be to strengthen regional commitment and capacity to combat transnational crimes which include terrorism, drug trafficking, arms smuggling, money laundering, trafficking in persons and piracy. This is in recognition of the fact that tackling transnational crime requires a concerted regional effort in view of its global dimension and pervasive nature. Besides, such efforts will assist in complementing and contributing to the national and bilateral efforts undertaken by Member Countries in combating such crime.

The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) is a regional legislative networking body comprising legislatures from all 10 ASEAN member states which seeks for enhancing common legal framework through the ‘AIPA Caucus’, a core group of parliamentarians, mandated to advocate harmonization of laws in prime issues such as drug and human trafficking, health, women, security and economic and political matters.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the lead U.S. Government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient societies to realize their potential. Following 50 years of improving lives through development and humanitarian assistance, partners with countries throughout the world to promote peace, prosperity and security. Please visit www.usaid.gov/asia-regional, follow on Twitter @USAIDAsia or www.facebook.com/USAIDAsia for more information.

Freeland is a frontline counter-trafficking organization working for a world that is free of wildlife trafficking and human slavery. Our team of law enforcement, development and communications specialists work alongside partners in Asia, Africa and the Americas to build capacity, raise awareness, strengthen networks and promote good governance to protect critical ecosystems and vulnerable people. Freeland is also the lead implementing partner of “ARREST” (Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking), the largest US Government sponsored counter-wildlife trafficking program. For more info, visit www.freeland.org also; follow Freeland on twitter @FREELANDpeople or www.facebook.com/freelandfoundation.

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