The Sixth Executive Committee (EC) Meeting of South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) was organized by SAWEN in collaboration with the Government of Sri Lanka on 4-5 March 2020 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The Sixth EC Meeting is continuation of previous EC Meeting conducting regularly since October 2016. The First and Second EC meeting was held on October 2016 in Dhaka, Bangladesh; Third EC meeting held on September 2017 in Kathmandu, Nepal; Fourth EC meeting held on May 2018 in Kolkata, India and Fifth EC Meeting held on March 2019 in Malé, Maldives.
The major objective of this regular meeting was to discuss on national and regional prospects of illegal wildlife trade and combating measures applied by the member countries and also importantly upbringing of SAWEN. SAWEN Strategic Action Plan 2020-2025 along with actions in near future was one of the major discussion agendas of the Sixth EC meeting.
Amid an inauguration program, the EC Meeting was started. The inauguration program was organized in presence of the chief guest Mr. Sarath Wijayasinghe, Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Wildlife Resources, SAWEN Focal Persons and representatives from the member countries, high level officials from the Government of Sri Lanka, officials from the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), Sri Lanka and the Secretariat team. The program was chaired by Mr. Gopal Prakash Bhattarai, Chief Enforcement Coordinator (CEC) of SAWEN and Director General of Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), Nepal. The brief inauguration program was facilitated by Mr. Pradeep Bhattarai, Senior Environment Officer, SAWEN.
The chief guest Mr. Wijayasinghe inaugurated the program by lighting the lamp amidst the gathering. High level officials and the SAWEN focal Persons also lighted up the lamp during the ceremony that followed up by the national anthem of Sri Lanka. Mr. Ranjan Marasinghe, SAWEN Focal Person of Sri Lanka and deputy director of DWC welcomed all the participants coming for the meeting and high level officials from the Government of Sri Lanka invited for the inauguration program.
Inaugurating the program, Mr. Wijayasinghe emphasized the richness in natural resources of South Asia region and also pointed towards the rising threat from habitat loss, invasive species, illegal wildlife trade etc. in the biodiversity. He further stressed the importance of regional cooperation and coordination mechanism reflecting the nature of illegal wildlife trade in global scale. He recalled that South Asia is source and transit of illegal transborder wildlife trade and satisfying the demand coming from outside this region. Mr. Chandana Sooriyabandara, Director General of DWC, Sri Lanka raised the issue of human wildlife conflict led wildlife crime in Sri Lanka and requested to discuss in closed session.
Closing the inauguration program, Mr. Gopal Prakash Bhattarai, chairperson of the inaugural program, CEC of SAWEN and DG of DNPWC, Nepal, reflected the grave concern over the situation of South Asian biodiversity resulted from the wildlife and forest crime. By providing the examples of adverse impact on mega wild fauna and flora as well as lessor known species, he called for joint actions in order to achieve the synergized result on combating wildlife crime. It has been requested all for enhanced cooperation, collaboration and coordination. He kindly invited the member countries to support in strengthening of SAWEN including by securing financial sustainability.
After completion of the inaugural program, technical session was held in the chairpersonship of Mr. Gopal Prakash Bhattarai, CEC of SAWEN. The Focal Persons from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka; representative of Focal Person of Maldives; observers from the Government of Sri Lanka and Secretariat team were present in the session.
The member countries shared the achievements on policy and implementation level in regard to combating wildlife crime in their respective countries. Devising of wildlife crime related action plans, amendment in wildlife Act/policies are some of the examples in policy interventions. Species, nature and trend focused operations; awareness and sensitization among local level and also to government officials; enhancing the inter-agency coordination are key activities carried out by the member countries.
As a way forward to SAWEN Secretariat, member countries equivocally advised that it would be imperative to enhance the cooperation and coordination among the member countries; extend cooperation with relevant and similar institutions and also private stakeholders; develop standard information sharing format or use globally accepted format in information sharing; expand the source of financial support.