Over the last two decades, wildlife crime has developed into a multi-billion-dollar industry and is now considered to be the fifth largest international criminal activity after narcotics, counterfeiting, illicit trafficking of humans and oil. In September 2012, the African Development Bank attended the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress in Korea that called for a high-level meeting on African elephants. The Bank considers wildlife trafficking and elephant poaching as not just an environmental issue. International criminal networks run the trade, some using the profits to buy weapons, to finance civil conflicts and to pay for terrorism undermining Africa potential development and threatening peace and the rule of law.
The Bank was invited to participate in an emergency summit addressing the problems of the illegal ivory trade on December 2-4 by the Government of Botswana and the IUCN in Gaborone, Botswana. The Summit focused on the dynamics of the entire ivory value chain.
President Seretse Khama Ian Khama of Botswana opened the summit, in the presence of Ministers and delegates from 30 participating countries, including elephant range states such as Gabon, Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Niger, Zambia and Ivory Coast; transit states such as Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia; and ivory destination states including China and Thailand.
Several other bilateral and multilateral organizations (German Society for International Cooperation, USAID, UNDP, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, European Union and the World Bank) attended the summit. The African Development Bank was represented by the Resident Representatives of Zambia and Zimbabwe and by two experts from the Agriculture and Agro-Industry Department.
The objectives of the summit were to raise awareness at the highest political level about the dimensions of the poaching crisis and the current dynamic of the ivory illegal trade. During the summit, 14 action measures, to halt and reverse the trend in illegal killing of elephants and the illegal ivory trade in ivory were discussed for implementation by the end of 2014. The measures are considered to be urgent (Urgent Measures) and require commitment from the high-level political representatives at the African Elephant Summit. The Urgent Measures are related to legislation and regulation; national-level enforcement (capacity); international enforcement and collaboration; and outreach and public awareness. The Urgent Measures document was signed by Zimbabwe, Somalia, Zambia, Germany, the United States, United Kingdom, Botswana and IUCN.
In participating in this summit, the African Development Bank wishes to once again reiterate its commitment to support African countries in their effort to fight international wildlife trafficking in general and to stop the massacre of African elephants in particular.
During the summit, some of the Bank actions against elephant poaching and other wildlife trafficking operations were presented, including the recently approved UA 4-million* program to protect elephant in Central Africa, and the Marrakech Declaration launched by the Bank President during the last annual meetings, where he called upon African countries to collaboratively commit to fight international illegal wildlife trafficking. The Bank’s Ten Year Strategy was presented to demonstrate possible linkages and support through the core priority areas. During discussion on resource mobilization, the Bank suggested that innovative financing was an option to pursue in the face of scarce resources and increasing needs to fight elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade. Some success stories in re-establishing the declining elephant population have also been presented such as the growth of the elephant population in Botswana, which stands at 270,000 – the largest herd of any country in Africa. It was deemed a success story of elephant conservation in Africa that other states need to emulate.
* As of December 2013, 1 Unit of Account (UA) = 1.53521 United States Dollars (USD)