South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) as one of the collaborators supported to organize the 'Conference on Science, Technology and Innovation for Addressing Wildlife and Forest Crimes and Attaining SDGs' on 28-29 August 2018 in Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Thailand. The conference was organized by AIT through WEMS Secretariat at AIT Solutions and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), Thailand in collaboration with ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity; European Union; Lusaka Agreement Task Force; National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan; Remote Sensing Technology Center of Japan; United Nations Development Program; and United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.
The objective of the conference was to highlight the pressing problems in tackling wildlife and forest crimes and outline innovative technologies and cooperative policy frameworks in implementation to address them. The conference was focused on three key issues which the governments are facing in their efforts to address poaching, illegal taking and trafficking of protected species; outline the available (technological, infrastructural, financial and governance) support for national governments; and institute an architecture for enhanced international cooperation for developing solution-oriented strategies.
Right Honourable Madam Bidya Devi Bhandari, President of Nepal addressed the conference through video message and stressed out for wider cooperation among the law enforcement agencies in national, regional and international level to curb wildlife and forests crime. Hon. President emphasized the role of SAWEN in the fight against wildlife crime which operates beyond one country and need of transborder cooperation. Likewise, His Excellency Mr. Malik Amin Aslam, advisor to Rt. Hon. Prime Minister of Pakistan, also opined for further cooperation on transborder wildlife crime issues and for creating regional forum to share knowledge, practice and lesson learns.
On behalf of Prof. Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai, President of AIT, Prof. Sivanappan Kumar, Vice president of AIT welcomed the guests participating in the conference. Dr. Wijarn Simachaya, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Thailand delivered the inaugural remarks and highlighted that all the concerned authorities will have to exchange, learn, develop, and share knowledge, technologies and innovations which help in combatting wildlife crime between one another, between government and private sectors, sharing them at a regional, national, and international scales.
Mr. Man Bahadur Khadka, Director General of Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation and Chief Enforcement Coordinator of SAWEN, on behalf of honorable Mr. Shakti Bahadur Basnet, Minister of the Ministry of Forests and Environment of the Government of Nepal, emphasized on broader transcontinental cooperation through collaborative actions for effective law enforcement.
Delegates from 30 African and Asian countries, representatives of academic institutions, and I/NGOs, researchers, technocrats took part in the conference. More than 25 presentations were shared and one panel discussion was convened in the conference. Participants shared the existing uses of scientific and technological advancement to control poaching and illegal wildlife trade along with forensic tools for facilitating the investigation. It has been pointed out that the data management and sharing are still challenging tasks in most of the countries. The need of capacity building by prioritizing the subject matters and target groups such as frontline staff, police, customs, media, private sectors and more was recognized in the conference. Reflecting the wider biodiversity conservation through wildlife and forest crime control as one of the means and its association with multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), collaborative efforts to strengthen capacities of enforcement agencies on applications of science, technology and innovations in different levels were recognized. Making a presentation on behalf of SAWEN, Mr. Pradeep Bhattarai, Senior Environment Officer, called for joint actions including capacity building activities and transcontinent level operations; knowledge management, information and intelligence exchange; and importantly financial sustainability.
Closing statement of the program states 'as Asia and Africa remain at the forefront of challenges posed by wildlife and forest crimes, the conference proposed to understand and explore the need for an ‘enhanced south-south cooperation architecture’ to advance collaboration towards information sharing and skills enhancement between the countries. Representatives of participating countries agreed to set up an Experts Working Group from countries of the larger South to define the overall structure of the architecture and mandated within the next six (6) months.'
The conference was concluded with brief closing ceremony. In the ceremony, Mr. Man Bahadur Khadka, on behalf of the Government of Nepal and SAWEN emphasized on the need of extended collaboration among participating countries and regional institutions. Similarly, Dr. Pinsak Suraswadi, Deputy DG of DNP, expressed hope that the key wildlife enforcement networks would take turns to hold regular meetings for knowledge transference on wildlife and timber trafficking in the global south. Mr. Edward Phiri expressed readiness to collaborate transcontinentally in the fight against wildlife and forest crimes and committed to take the outcome of the conference forward to engage greater Africa.