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On 11 December 2017, the UK Government issued its first cross-government anti-corruption strategy to guide its actions through to 2022. On page 16 it says: “Criminal networks rely on corruption to facilitate illegal migration, modern slavery, drug trafficking and the illegal trade in wildlife.” On page 62 it provided further detail:

“The illegal wildlife trade (IWT), worth up to £17 billion a year, is the fourth most lucrative transnational crime after human trafficking, drugs and arms. It undermines state institutions and the rule of law. It relies on and exacerbates corruption, cultivating discontent and undermining security. Between 2009 and 2014 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species recorded seizures of 91 large shipments, totalling 159 tonnes of ivory, which represented the killing of at least 15,900 elephants. Such large-scale seizures suggest involvement of transnational organized criminal groups being facilitated by corruption. This can involve obtaining false permits, paying bribes at borders, or laundering the proceeds of crime through international financial centres.”

The report goes on to set out the kinds of international action that will be required to combat this trade:

“Countering this illegal trade requires concerted multilateral and bilateral action – to raise awareness, eradicate markets, strengthen legal frameworks, fortify the law enforcement response and promote alternative livelihoods. Progress is being made. UN Resolutions recognise the links between IWT and corruption, and for the first time in 2015 the UN General Assembly called upon Member States “to prohibit, prevent and counter any form of corruption that facilitates illicit trafficking in wildlife and wildlife products.”

On the UK’s contribution it added:

“In 2017 the UK worked successfully with Germany’s G20 Presidency to agree a set of High Level Principles on Combating Corruption Related to the Illegal Trade in Wildlife and Wildlife Products.

The UK has led international efforts to tackle IWT, hosting the first international meeting in 2014 at which more than 40 governments agreed urgent co-ordinated action against the trade. The UK played a leading role in supporting follow-up at events in Botswana (2015) and Vietnam (2016) where the UK announced programmes to tackle IWT. These included: sharing expertise with Vietnamese customs enforcement; supporting co-operation between Chinese and African border forces; and providing support to the International Consortium for Combating Wildlife Crime (comprising CITES, Interpol, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, World Customs Union, World Bank) to strengthen criminal justice systems and co-ordinate support at national, regional and international levels.”

It goes on to refer to a forthcoming ‘London IWT Conference’ that is scheduled for 10-11 October 2018, which “will focus on tangible outcomes for implementation and delivery”.

Point 4.3 of the accompanying plan of action says that the UK Government will: “Work through the UN, Commonwealth, G20, and others to highlight the links between corruption and the Illegal Wildlife Trade as a global concern.” 

The Coalition Government established the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund (IWTCF) in 2013, which is managed by Defra. An August 2017 update on the currently-funded projects under the IWTCF can be found here. Information about UK Aid-funded projects can be found on DFID’s ‘Development Tracker’ website.

In November 2016, the then Defra Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom addressed the 3rd Illegal Wildlife Trade conference in Hanoi. In her speech she said that the UK Government would be doubling its financial contribution towards efforts to tackle the trade to £26 million. In July 2017, the Foreign Secretary repeated this commitment.

On 21 February 2018, after Transparency International had ranked the UK as the 8th least corrupt country in the world, Cabinet Office minister Ben Wallace reiterated the UK Government’s commitment to its “strong anti-corruption drive”.

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