U.S. Opening Statement at the Third Global Meeting of Wildlife Enforcement Networks

Marcia Bernicat addressing Opening Session, Third Global Meeting of Wildlife Enforcement Networks - Photo by IISD/ENB - Kiara Worth.

Statement by Ambassador Marcia Bernicat, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs

Opening Session, Third Global Meeting of Wildlife Enforcement Networks
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Geneva

Thank you, Madame Secretary General.

Good Morning.  My name is Marcia Bernicat from the U.S. Department of State, our foreign ministry, and I am so very pleased to be here today.

I would like to thank Ivonne Higuero, CITES, and ICCWC for your partnership in bringing together this Third Global Meeting of Wildlife Enforcement Networks.

And thank you all for being here.

I am here today as a representative of the United States because the United States remains determined to end the scourge that is transnational wildlife trafficking.

Within the first month of the Administration, President Trump issued an Executive Order that specifically recognized wildlife trafficking as a dangerous form of transnational organized crime, together with drug and gun trafficking, and trafficking in persons.  With that Order, the President directed the U.S. Government to use all the tools at its disposal to disrupt and dismantle these detestable organizations and the lawless networks they operate.

I am here today as a representative of the Department of State because early in this fight,  successive Secretaries of State have recognized and called out the direct threat wildlife trafficking poses to national security.

We have responded to that threat in part with funding.  We have dedicated more than $500 million specifically to combating wildlife trafficking, just since 2014.  We estimate we will provide close to $130 million this year alone.

I am here today because wildlife trafficking undermines economic prosperity and communities’ livelihoods; it encourages corruption; it spreads disease; and it pushes species to the brink of extinction.

Wildlife trafficking threatens our values, our governance structures, and the rule of law.

And you – as defenders of the rule of law – are exactly the right group of committed people we need to be joined up with for this battle.

The criminals that profit from this despicable trade must and can be stopped.  But we need to work together.

We all know that the only time criminals care about borders is when they hide behind them.

Cross-border and international cooperation, communication, and coordination are essential to finding those criminals and bringing them to justice.  They are the tools every sovereign nation has at its disposal.

That is the reason the United States has been so committed to the regional WENs and to global enforcement efforts, and why we sponsored this third global meeting of WENs.  We want to continue to foster a global network of dedicated officials, of committed countries and organizations, and of the regional WENs working together toward our shared goals.

We have come a long way in improving our capacity around the world to detect and interdict trafficked wildlife.  There are so many excellent examples of cases where transboundary cooperation resulted in seizures and arrests, and, in a number of cases, in successful prosecutions.

Our individual and collective successes illustrate how far we have come, but also highlight how dire the situation remains.

Over the next two days, we look forward to hearing your stories, experiences, challenges, and lessons learned.

Your discussions on the “Guidelines for Establishing and Strengthening WENs” will help to refine those guidelines and will benefit existing and new WENs alike.

We also hope that by having representatives from every region here, we can get a clearer picture of where the gaps are and identify new or emerging areas for engagement.

One area we hope you will consider is that of convergence – convergence with other conservation crimes, such as timber trafficking, illegal fishing, and illegal mining – as well as the convergence with drug and weapons trafficking and trafficking in persons.  The United States has reinvigorated this combined approach for the past two years under a priority initiative on Combating Conservation Crimes.  We look forward to sharing our experiences leveraging our efforts across these crimes with all of you.

In closing, let me say that it is our hope that over the next two days you are able to make connections and contribute to building a shared global network of cooperation, communication, and commitment.  Only by working together can we put a halt to this terrible crime – to all of these transboundary crimes – and to the risk they pose to our security, our communities, and our wildlife.

I very much look forward to learning from you and hearing your ideas over these next two days.  Thank you.