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News & Highlights
01 May 2024

From Seizure to Prosecution: ICCWC hosts first global Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference

From Seizure to Prosecution: ICCWC hosts first global Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference 

1 May 2024

From 22 to 24 April 2024, global law enforcement agencies across customs, police, prosecution from more than 20 countries from South America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia Pacific, met as part of the first ICCWC Global Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade.

The  conference was organized by the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) and hosted by one of the five ICCWC partners, the World Customs Organization (WCO), in Brussels. The theme was “Building Strong Cases through Operation Thunder: From Seizure to Prosecution” and sessions covered the various aspects related to the fight against illegal wildlife trade across the entire criminal justice system. 

With a focus on one of ICCWC’s flagship activities known as Operation Thunder, discussions were organized into several thematic sessions. These included Customs, Investigations, Prosecution and Civil Society Organizations Dialogue, and the importance of collaboration to strengthen efforts to dismantle criminal networks involved in wildlife crime. 

Opening the conference, Secretary General of the World Customs Organization Ian Saunders said, “The establishment of ICCWC demonstrates our unwavering commitment to tackle this urgent threat through a coordinated response at scale. Years of dedicated collaboration from these global organizations have culminated in ICCWC, where we harness collective knowledge and leverage resources to combat wildlife crime.”


Collaboration across the wildlife enforcement chain

The conference opened with a high-level panel consisting of experienced wildlife enforcement officers from around the world. Each participant demonstrated a broad understanding of challenges and opportunities in combating illegal wildlife trade and shared their experiences to the audience. Discussions were moderated by the CITES Secretariat and included lessons learned, good practices, and possible solutions to increase collaboration and efficiency across the entire wildlife enforcement chain.

“Today is a key event for frontline officers from national agencies, those who stand on the frontlines of wildlife law enforcement, to come together. These efforts are vital to act against the criminals that are destroying nature, so that wildlife trade is legal, sustainable and traceable to ensure the survival of wild animals and plants for future generations.”

- Ivonne Higuero, Secretary-General of CITES. 


Customs – leveraging technology and innovation to combat illegal wildlife trade

Customs authorities stand at the frontlines of wildlife crime, serving as the first line of defence against the illicit trade in endangered species. 

This session was led by the World Customs Organization, with various countries sharing examples and experiences in leveraging technology and innovation to detect, intercept and seize illicit shipments. Deepening inter-agency and international collaboration to improve communication and concerted action was a main objective in this session. 



Investigations - investigating and dismantling wildlife trafficking networks

Investigations play a pivotal role in combating wildlife crime by uncovering smuggling routes and dismantling wildlife trafficking networks.

This session was led by INTERPOL and highlighted the involvement of police and specialized units in detecting, investigating and dismantling trans-national poaching and trafficking networks. Law enforcement participants shared their experiences about collaborating and exchanging information as well as experiences and challenges in enforcement operations at national, regional and international levels. 

"Police, customs, prosecutors, civil society, and international organizations constitute our global response. Preventing and disrupting the trade in illegal wildlife and timber can only be achieved by combining our respective mandates, efforts, and action streams.”

- Jürgen Stock, Secretary General of INTERPOL.


Prosecutors – legal process and frameworks to prosecute criminals

Strong judicial responses to illegal wildlife trade are vital to deter wildlife crime and hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes.

This session was led by UNODC and provided a deeper understanding of the legal process and frameworks in place to prosecute criminals involved in wildlife crime. The session looked at the importance of international cooperation and how existing frameworks can be leveraged to facilitate higher success rates in prosecutions and convictions. 

“The illegal wildlife trade is a serious form of organized crime. From 2015 to 2021, UNODC recorded over 150,000 seizures in 158 countries involving the trafficking of 4,000 wildlife species. This conference is an opportunity to combine our efforts, develop new strategies, and reaffirm collective action to tackle the illegal wildlife trade on a global scale.”

- Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director of UNODC.


Civil Society Organizations Dialogue

The final session looked at the role of Civil Society Organizations and other sectors in combating the illegal wildlife trade. A focus of the session was on how support to enforcement authorities can be enhanced in the areas of capacity-building, innovation, community awareness, advocacy, data and information sharing.  

International collaboration with public-private partnerships, governments, local communities and civil society organizations are key to ICCWC’s efforts towards a world free of wildlife crime.



What’s next?

The outcomes of the conference will be taken into consideration as ICCWC embarks on the implementation of the ICCWC Vision 2030, the road map for the Consortium in the years ahead to move towards a world free of wildlife crime. It is designed to support and strengthen enforcement authorities involved in the protection of wildlife. 

Thank you to all participants, speakers and partners for three days of knowledge sharing, networking and collaboration towards a shared goal of combating wildlife crime around the world. 

The conference was generously financed by the European Union and supported by France, Germany, Monaco, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Find out more about ICCWC donors here.










More information:

The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) is a unique partnership of five intergovernmental organizations to help law enforcement bring criminals engaged in wildlife crime to justice. Through technical assistance, tools, training, and operational support, ICCWC works along the entire criminal justice chain, building the capacity of frontline law enforcement in countries and regions around the world affected by wildlife crime. The ICCWC partners are the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Bank Group (WBG) and the World Customs Organization (WCO).

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