TRAFFIC supports Asia-Africa Customs Workshop on improved collaboration
Suzhou, China, April 2019—Last month, 60 customs officials from 12 countries—Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Namibia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Thailand, and Viet Nam—participated in a meeting in Suzhou, aimed at improving international collaboration against wildlife trafficking.
The “Combating Smuggling of Endangered Species Asia-Africa” workshop provided a platform for countries to talk about their successes and challenges in combating the smuggling of endangered species, and to enhance their collaboration on international law enforcement efforts.
At the opening ceremony, Wang He, Deputy Director General of the Anti-Smuggling Bureau, General Administration of China Customs (GACC) spoke about efforts made by his organisation in cracking down on wildlife smuggling and emphasised the necessity and urgency of close co-operation between countries in joint law enforcement efforts in the increasingly complex international trade.
Other countries’ customs representatives echoed the need for strengthening international law enforcement co-operation and during the meeting shared their best practices, challenges of trans-boundary enforcement, and enforcement approaches used.
Wan Ziming, Deputy Director of the Shanghai Branch of the Management Authority of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES MA), spoke about the success of “Operation Cobra II”, a joint operation carried out by law enforcement officers from 28 countries, which he attributed to smooth, timely information sharing and collaboration.
Tao Zhiqiang, Programme officer, Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime spoke about the UNODC toolkit for frontline officials, helping them to ensure an effective enforcement process and a reliable chain of evidence under internationally harmonised and mutually recognised standards.
Chen Hin Keong, TRAFFIC’s Senior Advisor on Forest Governance and Trade, spoke about the smuggling of endangered tree species, which, he said “causes hundreds of billions of dollars in lost revenue and destruction of ecosystems in source countries.”
Chen spoke about Guidelines for Verifying Timber Legality for Customs—a new toolkit for frontline customs officials, and urged that timber should never be neglected: “Customs officers must ensure that timber is traded legally so that revenues can be collected within and for the benefit of source countries.”
Participants also learned about the creation of two designated CITES MA and China Customs training bases—Shanghai Wood Museum and Shanghai Natural History Museum—where customs officials can learn all about the timber species listed in the CITES appendices.
The workshop also featured a special feature on wildlife cybercrime. Xin Weihua and William Crosmary of TRAFFIC, spoke about online wildlife crime in China, Japan, Vietnam, Cameroon, and Tanzania, and how the private sector, international organisations and governments have strengthened co-operation to address online wildlife crime through initiatives such as the "Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online."
Representatives from the Chinese Forest Police spoke about typical cases in combating wildlife cybercrime, while representatives from Tencent and China Postal Express & Logistics Company outlined how the internet and logistics industries could also help counter online wildlife crime, and where customs officers could seek assistance.
A preliminary but practical action plan for combating the smuggling of endangered species has been drawn up to facilitate the accurate and timely transmission of information and mutual recognition of evidence, with standardised collection and processing procedures.
The Workshop was jointly funded by the UK (Defra, through the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund); US (USAID, Wildlife Trafficking, Response, Assessment, and Priority Setting (Wildlife TRAPS) Project); and German governments (GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), through TRAFFIC’s project DETER) and WWF Mongolia.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) is the UK government department responsible for safeguarding our natural environment, supporting our world-leading food and farming industry, and sustaining a thriving rural economy. Our broad remit means we play a major role in people's day-to-day life, from the food we eat, and the air we breathe, to the water we drink.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is responsible for the majority of overseas development assistance from the United States Government and works to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing security and prosperity for America and the world
Germany’s Partnership against Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade (Ivory and Rhino-Horn) in Africa and Asia, implemented by GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), through TRAFFIC’s project DETER.