In July 2017, the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Illicit Trade in Wildlife and Forest Products and its partners convened an Africa-Asia Pacific Symposium on Strengthening Legal Frameworks to Combat Wildlife Crime in Bangkok, Thailand. It is upon the success of this meeting that UN Environment sought to hold another symposium in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, to advance efforts across Central and West Africa to develop legal frameworks to combat wildlife crime and improve their implementation to ensure sustainable management of wildlife (fauna and flora).
The meeting gathered over 50 participants, including 38 country representatives from Francophone and Lusophone countries who came from national wildlife management authorities and criminal justice. The participants underscored a complexity of issues and the need for a wide range of actors to implement legal frameworks.
UN Environment reviewed regional and international commitments and mechanisms to address illegal trade in wildlife, guided stakeholders in their review of sub-regional, regional and international commitments addressing illegal trade in wildlife, and recommended changes to reform domestic legal frameworks accordingly.
According to a recent study of national legislative frameworks administered by UN Environment on combatting wildlife crime, Central and West Africa apply lax penalties for wildlife crime with an average minimum prison term of 2 months and an average maximum prison term of 5 years. This, to a number of stakeholders, is an indication that the capacity of these countries to address the legal challenges of the fight against wildlife crime needs to be enhanced.
Many countries across East Africa and Asia apply tougher penalties, both monetarily and in terms of prison time. Raising penalties for wildlife crimes to avoid major differences between neighbouring countries and to promote a more coordinated approach to tackling these crimes therefore appears to be a key area for legal reform for various countries.