05 Jun 2016 Story Environmental rights and governance

Achim Steiner, United Nations Under Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director message for World Environment Day

In 2016, our focus for World Environment Day is combatting the illegal trade in wildlife. Angola, this year’s host, is committed to acting on this issue, through efforts such as defining a new elephant management plan, strengthening the enforcement of wildlife laws and regulating domestic markets in line with CITES obligations. We support the actions being considered by Angola to join this good fight.

Thousands of species around the world are under threat and deserve our attention, but today we give special focus to eight: Orangutan, Sea Turtle, Pangolin, Rosewood, Helmeted Hornbill, Tiger, Elephant, and Rhino. Our challenge is formidable.

From 2010to 2012, 100,000 elephants were illegally killed for their ivory and Rhinos are being pushed to the brink of extinction. Pangolins are now the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world. Additional pressures, such as habitat loss and climate change, are further driving species to extinction.

The global fight against illegal trade in wildlife is now witnessing a new wave of commitment and calls for action. It has risen to the top of the UN agenda and is enshrined in the global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

It is also the focus of the new UN campaign, led by UNEP, UNDP, UNODC and CITES to raise awareness of, and reduce demand for, illegal wildlife and forest products. This “Wild for Life” campaign stresses that greed, fashion, ignorance, indifference, investment, corruption,  pseudo-medicinal use and cultural belief should not result in threats to any species.

It’s a cycle of poverty and corruption that drives wildlife crime that we have to break. It is this cycle, where the poorest and most vulnerable are pushed into working against natural resources to survive rather than working with them to build a better future that we need to address. We have to think about this through the lens of sustainable development, with its implications for transparency and global impact. We need to pool all   resources to take the challenge on, we must be united in this cause. We must think globally and locally. And we must have zero tolerance for poaching and illegal trade in wildlife and forest products.

We ask you to use your own sphere of influence to help end the illegal trade in wildlife, by engaging in the campaign and making a pledge. Please act now. Our collective actions will determine the future of these beautiful animals, and thousands of others. Together, we must be #WildforLife.