On behalf of the two co-chairs, Germany and Gabon, I would like to warmly welcome you to this afternoon’s High-Level Discussion. I will be your moderator.
I suspect everyone here today has seen graphic images of elephant and rhino slaughtered for their ivory and horn - a tragic crime scene that is now being replicated every day across their range.
What these images do not reveal is the profound impact this poaching and illicit trafficking is having upon peoples livelihoods, national economies, and national and regional security.
Nor do they reveal the faces of the organized criminal gangs and rebel militia who are driving this illicit activity - reaping high profits at the expense of local people and laundering their ill gotten gains on all manner of criminal activities.
In March of this year CITES Parties met in Bangkok and shone a spotlight on the disturbing spike in illegal wildlife trade we are now experiencing - especially with elephant and rhino - and the real and immediate threat this poses to wildlife and to people.
In Bangkok we witnessed unprecedented levels of cooperation and a powerful suite of decisions were adopted by consensus on combatting wildlife crime, addressing both the demand and supply side.
In the context of today's discussion, two things stand out from Bangkok:
we know what we need to do - the issue is whether we are going to do it. This will require political support from the highest level, enhanced technical enforcement capacity, and access to additional financing.
combatting wildlife crime goes beyond the remit of any one agency, country or region - it requires a collective effort.
It is against this backdrop that our co-chairs - Germany and Gabon - have convened this high-level discussion in the margins of the UN General Assembly to discuss the multidimensional nature of this illicit activity, the challenges it poses for the international community, and how the UN system can best respond.
The co-chairs are seeking an open discussion where different views and perspectives can be shared both on the nature of the challenge and the way ahead.
We have a truly wonderful panel to start the discussion:
H.E. Mr. Ali Bongo Ondimba, President of the Gabonese Republic;
H.E. Dr. Guido Westerwelle, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany;
H.E. Mr. Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations; and
Mr. James P. Leape, Director General of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
After we hear from the Panel we will open the discussion to participants.