Establishment of SAWEN


South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) is a regional inter-governmental wildlife law enforcement support body of South Asian countries namely - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. SAWEN was officially launched in January, 2011 in Paro Bhutan. It promotes regional cooperation to combat wildlife crime in South Asia. It focuses on policy harmonization; institutional capacity strengthening through knowledge and intelligence sharing; and collaboration with regional and international partners to enhance wildlife law enforcement in the member countries. SAWEN operates its activities from the Secretariat based in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The Evolution of SAWEN

The concept of establishment of SAWEN has emerged and eventually realized through various initiatives in the past.

Wildlife crime and enforcement need at the regional level to address the growing transnational wildlife trade was recognized in the South Asia Wildlife Trade Diagnostic and Law Enforcement Workshop held on April 26-30, 2004. After this, the First Regional Workshop on the South Asia Wildlife Trade Initiative (SAWTI) held from January 31 to February 1, 2008 in Kathmandu further highlighted the regional wildlife crime issues and envisioned a regional coordination body for South Asia in combating wildlife crime.

A major milestone towards the establishment of SAWEN was marked during the 11th Meeting of the Governing Council of the South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP) held in May 2008 in Jaipur, India. This ministerial meeting announced the support for the formation of SAWEN through the 'Jaipur Declaration'. The declaration urged for the establishment of South Asia Expert Group on Illegal Wildlife Trade consisting of relevant technical representatives from the eight South Asian countries. The group was envisioned to provide a platform for the experts from the region to work together in developing a South Asia Regional Strategic Plan on Illegal Wildlife Trade and a detailed work programme for implementing the plan.

During the Kathmandu Global Tiger Workshop held in October 2009, the representatives from the South Asia's tiger range countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal) recognized the need for intensifying regional cooperation in combating wildlife crime through creating a regional body and agreed to move forward in materializing it. South Asia’s initiative to create SAWEN was also discussed at a workshop session during the 1st Asian Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation, held in Hua Hin, Thailand in January 2010. This push for regional networking was appreciated by all tiger range countries and the international community engaged in tiger conservation.

Building on these important precedents, the initiative to establish SAWEN gained a momentum in May 2010 during the First Meeting of the South Asia Experts Group on Illegal Wildlife Trade held in Kathmandu, Nepal. The meeting agreed to a 'Road Map' for operationalising and rolling-out SAWEN. The 'Road Map' sketched out structure of SAWEN and elements of regional work programme with the government of Nepal volunteering to coordinate the Road Map leading to the establishment of SAWEN Secretariat in Kathmandu, Nepal.

SAWEN was formally launched during the Second Meeting of the South Asia Experts Group on Illegal Wildlife Trade held on January 29-30, 2011 in Paro, Bhutan. The meeting agreed to an action-oriented work plan, establishment of SAWEN Secretariat to be hosted by the Government of Nepal, governance and operational structure of SAWEN, and the need for strategic collaboration on communications and fund-raising. The SAWEN Secretariat was formally established on April 20, 2011 in Kathmandu, Nepal. The meeting agreed that the Director General of Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), Nepal would serve as the Chief Enforcement Coordinator (CEC) of SAWEN until further provision is made.

The first meeting of SAWEN held in Sri Lanka in June 2012 and the second meeting held in Nepal in August 2014 further institutionalized SAWEN through developing and agreeing on the SAWEN Statute and developing detailed action plans.

SAWEN was thus established as an intergovernmental law enforcement support body of the South Asian countries represented by Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Kingdom of Bhutan, Republic of India, Republic of Maldives, Nepal, Republic of Pakistan and Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

SAWEN is now a legitimate intergovernmental organization with endorsement of the SAWEN Statute by five member countries namely Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh.