Republished from the Forum on the Arms Trade’s “Looking Ahead 2017” blog series.
The world is facing what the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has described as an “Environmental Crime Crisis,” with an unprecedented slaughter of large mammals, particularly in the African continent. More than 100,000 elephants have been killed by poachers in the last five years and, over the same period, the number of rhinoceroses poached has increased every year.
The illicit wildlife trade is now increasingly sophisticated, dangerous and globalized, integrated with armed groups and organized crime. It has been fueled by a proliferation of military-grade guns in unstable regions with high concentrations of rhinos and elephants. Since 2014, the UN Security Council has identified poaching as a regional security threat in Africa (S/RES/2134 and S/RES/2136). This month UNEP released a new report showing how environmental crime “threatens peace and security.” In 2017, the Arms Trade Treaty and other international measures could offer tools to address these problems in an integrated way.
The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) offers opportunities to address the violent nexus of wildlife poaching and illicit arms trafficking. This report offers specific advice to policymakers and advocates seeking to use the framework of the ATT to assess and mitigate the risk that arms transfers will be diverted to poaching networks or exacerbate the negative impacts of militarizing wildlife protection. Advocating international and regional cooperation, the report also encourages the universalization and rigorous implementation of the ATT, as well as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and other relevant instruments, particularly in States at risk of poaching and other wildlife crime.