SAWEN side event on 'Combating Wildlife Crime in South Asia' concluded

SAWEN organized a side event on 'Combating Wildlife Crime in South Asia' in order to share regional wildlife crime issues and means of interventions in the member countries, SAWEN role to curb wildlife crime in the region and discuss further to enhance regional cooperation on 22 August 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland during CITES CoP 18. Specifically, the side event aimed to discuss on regional illegal wildlife trade issues and its linkages with other regions; and to enhance cooperation with Wildlife Enforcement Networks (WENs) to strengthen tras-border collaboration.

More than 30 participants from the SAWEN member countries and representatives of various organizations were participated in the event. The event was facilitated on panel discussion format. The panelists were Ms. Pia Jonsson from CITES Secretariat, Mr. James Compton from TRAFFIC, and Mr. Elisson Wright from Global Wildlife Program (GWP), the World Bank. The event was facilitated by Mr. Pradeep Bhattarai from the SAWEN Secretariat. Ms. Pia Jonsson from the CITES Secretariat welcomed all the participants and encouraged for fruitful discussion reflecting the ongoing discussion in two different committees of CITES CoP 18.

Mr. Bhattarai shared a presentation entitled 'Combating Wildlife Crime in South Asia' and 'Conference on Science, Technology and Innovation for Addressing Wildlife and Forest Crimes and Attaining SDGs' combining both the sessions. The presentation covered regional wildlife crime scenario including major illegally traded species, recent seizures and interventions as well as major challenges faced by the SAWEN member countries. In addition, key points highlighted during the conference in August 2018 in Thailand were recalled among the participants. For instance, technological innovation; DNA and molecular technology with its limitations, unmanned air vehicle; and importantly 'enhanced south-south cooperation architecture' as 'south-south cooperation initiative' for better cooperation among regional WENs and similar institutions. Panelists talked about contents of the shared presentation and reflected their views in relation to regional wildlife crime issues and its solution.

Mr. James Compton from TRAFFIC briefly recalled about the activities and efforts made before the launching of SAWEN in 2011 and linked with present status of SAWEN. Mr. Compton recognized the initiation of enhanced cooperation and encouraged to move forward for materializing the concept of broader cooperation as South Asia mostly as source and transit area such as in African region. He also requested all the three remaining countries to endorse the SAWEN Statute for further institutionalization of SAWEN. SAWEN needs to explore the sources of financial resources including with contribution from the member countries and support organizations. Growing economy should also be considered as main driving component of wildlife crime.

Mr. Elisson Wright from Global Wildlife Program shared the support of the World Bank in strengthening institutionalization of SAWEN since 2011-2018 through regional IDA and IDF supports. Mr. Wright requested to take reference of other WENS including former ASEAN WEN for extension of collaboration and brining more partners as well as involving with more organizations. He has shared some of the funding sources for SAWEN such as Global Environment Facility (GEF), International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), European Union (EU), Germany, United Kingdom and more.

Participants joined the discussion and expressed their views and also put forward some queries in regard to experience of SAWEN formulation, financial sources, SAWEN Statute endorsement and more. Excellency Mr. Ezatullah Sediqi, Deputy Director General of NEPA-Afghanistan, opined that the South Asia region is rich in experience of biodiversity conservation which can be replicated in other parts of the world. Reflecting inadequate technological advancement in the region he has requested to provide technological support to this region to combat wildlife crime. Connection with other regional bodies would have assertive impact in regional cooperation and requested to use established forums such as South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). He also reiterated to explore more funding opportunities by SAWEN. Representatives of ASEAN, Elephant Security Group, West Africa echoed the voice of extended cooperation and sharing of best practices.

The side event of SAWEN was successfully completed with fruitful discussion primarily focused on expansion of enhanced cooperation in the region and beyond, exploration of funding opportunities as well as sharing of practices. The program was concluded with brief recap of the discussion by program facilitator Mr. Bhattarai from the SAWEN Secretariat. He has extended sincere thanks to all the participants, panelists and support providers including National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) for financial support to organize the side event.