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Environmental Good Governance and Enforcement

Claudia A. McMurray, Assistant Secretary of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Cape Town, South Africa
April 8, 2008

Assistant Secretary McMurray delivered a keynote at the Eighth International Conference on Environmental Compliance and Enforcement on April 8, 2008, Cape Town, South Africa [State Dept. Photo]It is good to be here, among so many professionals who are committed to protecting the environment and natural resources through strong law enforcement. I represent the United States Department of State, a government department that you may not see at these meetings as often as you do our Justice Department or our Environmental Protection Agency. And yet, we, like you, are on the front lines, promoting law enforcement for environmental protection all over the world.

Promoting a strong legal system is an important part of U.S. foreign policy – to further not only our environmental goals, but also sustainable economic growth. By encouraging cooperation between countries to manage shared resources and address transboundary environmental concerns, we are working to help reduce sources of international tension and instability.

We are also combating the activities of international organized crime that undermine stability, the rule of law, democracy, and legitimate economies while spreading corruption and environmental harm. The U.S. sees this mission as a central part of our diplomatic and foreign assistance efforts to promote well-governed states that also meet the needs of their people.

Secretary of State Rice refers to this mission as transformational diplomacy, in which we "seek to use America's diplomatic power to help foreign citizens to better their own lives, and to build their own nations, and to transform their own futures…in which we lay new diplomatic foundations to secure a future of freedom for all people.”

I’d like to talk today about a few examples of our work in this area - specifically about what we’re doing to combat the illegal trade in wildlife and timber throughout the world and how it supports the rule of law. I hope when I am through, many of you will be inspired to suggest new ways we can work together to address these issues.


In 2005, the United States established the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking, a public-private partnership that has already in two short years improved wildlife law enforcement at the country and regional level and raised awareness of the issue at the highest political levels. We created this partnership because the illegal trade threatens many endangered species with extinction. But, as vitally important as that work is, we also created the partnership to combat the underlying organized crime.

As many of you here know, wildlife trafficking, like other environmental crime, is increasingly linked to organized crime, including the smuggling of drugs, weapons, and people. Organized crime has discovered that the illegal wildlife trade is very profitable. In some cases, it rivals the economic gains made from trafficking in drugs and weapons. As Newsweek magazine put it in a recent issue, endangered animals are the new “blood diamonds.” The annual estimates of the dollar value of this trade are indeed staggering. Some put it at about $10 billion a year globally. And that is a conservative estimate. Other estimates put it closer to $20 billion. The dollar figures are at this level because certain products command extremely high prices on the black market.

There is evidence that smugglers of contraband tend to use the same routes and methods, regardless of the items smuggled. Profits from wildlife trafficking are huge, with less risk than other crimes. Tragically, the effect wildlife trafficking has on the broader social fabric is often lost. It lowers the economic value of legally traded goods, contributes to poverty, and encourages lawlessness. So, to respond to this crucial issue, the United States formed a partnership called the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking, or CAWT.

We started in 2005 with five partners from civil society. Our approach at that time was, and remains, that no one government or private group could combat this sophisticated criminal activity alone and hope to succeed. Today, we have 19 partners, including Australia, Canada, Chile, India and the United Kingdom and 13 international non-governmental organizations dedicated to stamping out this illegal trade.

Through the Coalition, we seek to end the trade by curbing both the supply and demand for illegal wildlife and wildlife products. We are creating new international networks for effective law enforcement. We are also educating consumers. As one way to improve law enforcement, the Coalition worked with the 10 Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) to establish a regional wildlife enforcement network – ASEAN WEN. ASEAN-WEN, in its brief existence, has already produced a string of impressive successes through bi-lateral and multi-lateral cooperation and intelligence sharing. In one of the enforcement network’s first cooperative efforts, in October of 2006, the governments of Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia worked in concert to successfully return to Indonesia 48 live orangutans that had been illegally smuggled into Thailand from their native habitat.

A panel on regional enforcement cooperation was moderated by Ladislav Miko, Director, Directorate B: Protection the Natural Environment, Environment DG, European Commission, along with panelists, Julius Kipngetich, Director, Kenya Wildlife Service; Samuel Wasser, University of Washington; and Rosalind Reeve, Chatham House, speak at the Eighth ICECE meeting in Cape Town, South Africa.  Claudia A. McMurray, Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Science gave the keynote address at this meeting.[State Dept. Photo]More recently, in two separate seizures last month, customs inspectors and enforcement officers seized more than 23 tons of pangolins, an endangered species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species -- or CITES -- at the port of Hai Phong in Vietnam. These inspectors were trained by Coalition partner Traffic International with funding from the U.S. Department of State. These are only two of many, many examples of the work of ASEAN WEN.

The countries of South Asia are working with the U.S. and CAWT partner Traffic International to replicate the ASEAN-WEN success, first in South Asia and, we hope thereafter, in the Middle East and here in Africa. Making a dent in organized crime through strengthened enforcement is only part of the solution, however. We must also work to stamp out demand for these products.

The two biggest markets for illegal wildlife and wildlife products are China - #1, and, unfortunately, the United States, which is #2. American consumers are buying these products when they travel, on the Internet, and sometimes even in shops at home. In most cases, they think that what they are buying is perfectly legal. We consider it the job of the United States government to let them know that this is not the case.

In 2006 Secretary Rice named American actress Bo Derek as her Special Envoy for Wildlife Trafficking issues. In that position, Ms. Derek has traveled extensively in the U.S. to make Americans aware of wildlife trafficking and the threat it poses. She has also traveled overseas to draw attention to the plight of endangered animals.

We also enlisted the help of the actor Harrison Ford, who has for many years had a strong commitment to wildlife conservation. Last fall, Mr. Ford generously donated his time to film three public service announcements urging consumers – both in America and other countries – to stop buying illegal wildlife and wildlife products. We plan to distribute these ads in the United States and internationally and hope that cruise ships and airlines will also show them to their passengers.

It is important to note here that the Coalition, in all its efforts to curb supply and demand, complements existing international agreements, such as CITES. Coalition partners have worked closely with the CITES Secretariat to ensure that the Coalition contributes to CITES’ efforts without duplicating existing work. The Coalition supports the implementation and enforcement of the controls on CITES species, as the pangolin case demonstrates. The Coalition also seeks to stop the illegal trade in species not listed on CITES but are protected under national law, with the involvement of the concerned government.

Through CAWT, we also bring the illegal wildlife trafficking issue to the attention of those at highest levels of governments. For example, last year we worked closely with German officials to include wildlife trafficking issues as part of the work of the G-8. It has also been on the agenda in U.S. summits with the EU, India, and Brazil. Last year, we succeeded in having wildlife trafficking included in a resolution of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.


I’d like to talk now about a few of our initiatives to protect the world’s forests, which are home to 70% of all land-living plants and animals and provide food, fuel, shelter, clean water, medicine and livelihood for people worldwide. It is critical to protect them. I am pleased to be able to talk about this issue here in South Africa, because it is on the African continent where we are doing some of our most exciting work.

In 2003, Secretary of State Powell launched the President’s Initiative Against Illegal Logging to strengthen political commitment and catalyze action to combat illegal logging and associated trade. Illegal logging and the export of illegally harvested timber has devastating environmental, social and economic effects. Not only do illegal activities destroy forest ecosystems, but they also rob governments and local communities of 10 to 15 billion dollars in revenues on legitimate trade each year worldwide. Nowhere has this devastation been more evident than in Liberia during 15 years of civil war, which was financed by conflict diamonds, conflict oil and conflict timber.

In 2004, the U.S. took truly ground breaking steps to end then-President Charles Taylor’s profit-making from illegally harvested timber. We went to the United Nations and convinced members of the Security Council to impose sanctions on the timber industry in Liberia. U.N. sanctions have never before been used for this purpose. Within three months of this action, the Taylor regime fell, due in part to the imposition of these sanctions. When President Johnson-Sirleaf took office, the U.S. worked to build transparency, sustainability and good governance to the three branches of forestry in Liberia: the commercial sector, conservation, and community forestry.

Our work helped Liberia to meet the conditions that allowed the UN to lift its timber sanctions. Now the U.S. is working through an informal multi-donor partnership to continue to strengthen forest management and governance in Liberia. If we are successful, the country’s forests could generate substantial income and employ thousands of workers.

Also important to the United States is the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, which the United States and South Africa launched in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Since 2002, the United States has contributed $85 million to better manage 80 million hectares – an area about the size of Texas. With those funds, we have trained literally thousands of people in the region in conservation.

As part of the Congo Basin program, the U.S. is also supporting efforts to fight illegal logging by providing local forest users and owners with tools to monitor and protect their forests and by increasing community involvement in forest governance. These timber-rich forests are increasingly under threat from timber and forest products companies in importing countries – with the biggest demand coming from Chinese companies.

Not only is China the world’s largest importer of tropical timber, a significant portion of its timber imports is manufactured into plywood, veneer and furniture and re-exported to Europe and the United States. The United States and China are the world’s biggest producers, consumers and traders in wood products, so it makes perfect sense for the U.S. to work with China to combat illegal logging. In fact last December, the United States and China concluded a landmark agreement to work together to do just that. The agreement lays a foundation for increased cooperation on law enforcement, sharing information on illegal logging, and promoting the trade in legal forest products.

The United States and Indonesia are also working together to fight the devastating problem of illegal logging and corruption in Indonesia. Indonesia has the 3rd largest rainforest on the planet. But with more than 3,000 islands, it’s impossible for the government to enforce its own laws which ban logging. So, Indonesia’s forests are being cut down and habitat for orangutans, tigers, and other rare wildlife is being destroyed. The illegal logs are smuggled to nearby Malaysia and then exported to China and Europe as legal Malaysian timber. China makes plywood, veneer and furniture out of the timber and sells it to Americans. To help Indonesia stop this crime, we signed an agreement in November 2006 and have since provided funding to improve law enforcement cooperation, train Indonesian customs and judges, and help the government to implement a new standard to verify the legality of timber harvested and exported.

The United States uses many other tools to combat illegal logging and preserve forests. Among these tools is the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, a unique piece of legislation that allows the United States to “forgive” some of the debt that tropical countries owe us in return for their protecting their forests -- including improving forest law enforcement and governance.

For example, in Panama the TFCA program has supported creation of a database to systematize and record general inspections and infractions occurring in the Chargras National Park watershed, which provides 50% of the water for operation of the Panama Canal. In 2007, TFCA funding made it possible for park guards to conduct over 200 patrols of the watershed, including several over-flight patrols.

The United States has concluded 13 debt-for-nature agreements with countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, including an agreement with Botswana in 2006 (our first in Africa). The programs established by these agreements are generating $163 million over 10-25 years to protect 50 million acres of biologically rich tropical rainforests.


Through all of the efforts I have just described and many others, the United States has helped to foster a growing interest in global collaboration to improve enforcement of environmental and natural resource laws. While this new energy is encouraging, we still need additional high-level political commitment and adequate resources in all countries to ensure effective enforcement.

We need to foster greater awareness of the relationship between environmental law, compliance and sustainable development, and international organized crime. But our experience tells us that the most important tool in combating the environmental crime is bilateral and regional communication and cooperation. Bringing together environmental law enforcement experts from different agencies and countries can produce more than any one organization can produce alone. Cooperation enhances investigations and prosecutions in all jurisdictions, and leads to the discovery of evidence and broader criminal schemes that otherwise would likely go undetected.

We in the U.S. know that INECE makes a significant contribution to these synergies. You have already worked with us as partners on a number of the issues I have touched on here today. I look forward to our continued partnership to promote environmental quality, biodiversity and promote sustainable development through effective law enforcement.

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