The ministers responsible for wildlife conservation of the IGAD member states; namely Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda, have agreed to enforce the Regional Biodiversity Policy and the IGAD Biodiversity Protocol for cooperation on the wildlife anti-trafficking.
IGAD Executive Secretariat Engineer, Mahboub Maalim underlined the need for regional cooperation to protect wildlife poaching during the Addis Ababa regional meeting held last week and attended by the responsible ministers of respective member countries. The meeting was conducted with the aim to implement and support multinational law enforcement efforts including the Horn of Africa Wildlife Enforcement Network (HAWEN).
Taking in to account the African Strategy on Combating Illegal Exploitation and Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora in Africa adopted by the African Union in 2015, the member countries have recognized that the IGAD region is both a source and transit route for illegal wildlife and wildlife products that are subject to illegal trade and trafficking.
Recognizing the fact that wildlife trafficking and other forms of wildlife crime constitute a serious threat to the resources, communities and IGAD region peace and security, thus the region should work collaboratively to combat the menace.
Engineer Maalim further urged to enhance sustainable management of wildlife anti-trafficking in the Horn of African region that the resolutions of IGAD ministers responsible for biodiversity management on the regional biodiversity protocol and related strategies adopted on July 14, 2017, in particular resolution six to establish and strengthen regional networks,
The cooperation among the IGAD member states is necessary to end wildlife crime in the IGAD region and effectively execute the wildlife enforcement efforts of other regions and international organization.
Jessica Ba, Charge d' Affairs of the US Mission to the African Union said that starting from the year 2012, the US Embassy has been working with the IGAD, the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Center, Ethiopian Wildlife Authority and the whole African region to lay the ground for the Horn of Africa Wildlife Enforcement Network (HAWEN) initiative that is now realized.
The initiative is the indicator of IGAD's and member countries' commitment to fight against wildlife trafficking, Ba underscores. "Wildlife protection is not only the issue of environment, but it is also health, economic and above all peace and security issue on a global scale. Wildlife trafficking has devastating impact on both animals and people. It threatens security, undermines the rule of law, fuels corruption, hinders economic development and affects the natural resources at large."
Illegal trade of wildlife smuggling constitutes the theft of national and community resources that can generate an estimated 20 billion USD dollars a year for transnational organized criminal networks she said adding that this money is fueling the international crimes.
According to her, this extended global problem calls states for cooperation and coordinated efforts at global, regional, national and local levels to end the global crime.
The US America encourages the AU and member countries to collaborate and curb wildlife smuggling.
Concerning the HAWEN, she said the Network would exert utmost effort to end up the problem of wildlife illegal trade; indeed, that it can be the best practice for other regions.
Therefore, Ba confirmed that the US government will work in collaboration with the AU member states and the HAWEN particularly to the law enforcement to evolve in the most importantly under the leadership of Africa. The HAWEN is an important step to this end, she underlined.
Ethiopian Culture and Tourism State Minister Meaza Gebremedhin for her part said that Africa is globally recognized as one of the world's biodiversity hotspots.
The region has the potential to benefit from the considerable wildlife resources through tourism and legal wildlife export. However, nowadays, these natural resources are at greater risk than ever before. The conservation of wildlife habitat is at risk due to over exploitation, poaching and illegal trafficking.
"The Horn though has ample natural resources, considerably it is losing its spectacular species such as elephants, big cat, pangolin as the result of illicit wildlife trafficking. If this could continue to happen, the region would totally lose its wildlife species."
The absence of organized intergovernmental efforts to wildlife trafficking has created a great rift and threatens the security of nations. Therefore, the establishment of the HAWEN will be helpful to address the problem and serve as a formal platform for member countries and thereby to enhance economic integration and cooperation through encouraging tourism, Meaza said.
The HAWEN has been drawn from the mandate of IGAD in Article 17 of the agreement to establish specialized technical institutions and networks for purposes of developing, implementing and monitoring regional policies, strategies, programs, projects and initiatives cognizant to the wildlife situation in the region to enforce laws to end wildlife trafficking.