GEF CEO Naoko Ishii pledged support to end illegal trade in wildlife during the the second session of the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA-2) that took place in Nairobi, May 23-27.
The campaign launched at UNEA-2 and in the run-up to World Environment Day (WED), which this year is themed "Go Wild For Life”, urged politicians, celebrities and business leaders to help bring global attention to the fight against illegal wildlife trade.
“Illegal trade in wildlife is robbing the livelihoods of local communities and eroding the global commons”, stated CEO Ishii in her pledge. And the global commons - our oceans, forests, land and climate – are essential for sustainable development.... A theme that resonated in various fora during the Nairobi meeting this week.
Organized as part of a three-day Sustainable Innovation Expo which ran in parallel to the UNEA-2 proceedings, one event titled "Investing in the Global Commons” and led by Ms. Ishii and moderated by Scott Vaughan of IISD, dug deeper into the risks and opportunities, with a particular focus on the private sector.
A multisectoral panel comprised of Jesse Moore, CEO of M-KOPA Solar, Rosina Bierbaum, Chairperson of Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel, GEF, James Donovan, CEO, ADEC Innovations, and Oyun Sanjaasuren, President of the UNEA and Member of Parliament, provided a unique set of perspectives on the topic from various angles.
One of the event’s main messages - safeguarding the global commons is the wisest investment we can make – echoed exactly what the Wild for Life campaign is trying to make the world understand. The booming illegal trade in wildlife products is eroding Earth’s precious biodiversity, robbing us of our natural heritage and driving whole species to the brink of extinction. The killing and smuggling is also undermining economies and ecoystems, fuelling organized crime, and feeding corruption and insecurity across the globe.
Combating the illegal trade in wildlife is a high priority for the GEF. In June 2015, the GEF Council launched the flagship “Global Partnership on Wildlife Conservation and Crime Prevention for Sustainable Development” program. The program aims at stopping poaching, trafficking and demand for wildlife and wildlife products illegally traded between Africa and Asia. It is a comprehensive effort to protect threatened species and their habitats, with a suite of investments to address the problems and look for short and long term solutions in the source, transit and demand countries.
Pending approval at next month's GEF Council meeting, the program is set to expand to include projects in 19 countries with a total investment of US$ 130 million from the GEF leveraging US$ 700 million in co-financing. The GEF agencies assisting countries in developing and implementing these projects are the Asian Development Bank, the UN Development Program, the UN Environment Program, and the World Bank. Some of these agencies are closely involved in the organization of the Wild for Life campaign.
Between 2010 and 2012, 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory in Africa. Three rhinos are killed every day, and the Western Black Rhino has already gone extinct. Pangolins - scaly anteaters - are the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world. Great apes are already locally extinct in several African nations.
The Wild for Life campaign asks participants to find their kindred species and use their own spheres of influence to end illegal trade.
Tiger as a kindred animal of choice for Ms. Ishii’s pledge is not coincidental. Tigers continue to be threatened to the point of extinction by poaching and trafficking, most often facilitated by organized crime syndicates that undermine the peace and security of rural communities and urban centers alike. GEF’s project strategies in the tiger range countries seek to simultaneously address the variety of conditions that allow criminal activity to thrive.
Since 2010 GEF’s tiger conservation efforts comprise 22 projects in 12 tiger range countries. GEF grants for these projects total US$120 million and this investment has also leveraged cofinancing of $450 million from national and international partners. Through these projects, GEF is strengthening management of over 17 million hectares of tiger habitat. These projects have contributed to increased tiger population in some countries.
“Tigers do not recognize borders”, wrote IUCN in their recent news feature. “The transboundary nature of many tiger landscapes requires practitioners to collaborate to achieve positive results.” IUCN’s objective and evidence-based approach are critical in bringing together multiple stakeholders in working towards this ambitious goal.
At the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii this September, together with the host and other partners GEF will be organizing a training program for conservation experts on designing successful tiger conservation projects. At the Congress, GEF will also officially launch the “Burning Bright: UNDP and GEF in the Tiger Landscape” publication.
The publication highlights the unique contribution of 10 projects funded by the GEF and implemented by UNDP demonstrating how conservation activities in tiger habitat can contribute to the achievent of the Sustainable Development Goals through economic and social development, and accomplish more than the preservation of one iconic wildlife species.
The opportunity of the commons (Feature Story | UNEP)