Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking
In 2005, the United States Department of State created the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT) to serve as a “voluntary public-private [international] coalition of like-minded governments and organizations that share the goal of ending the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products.” The CAWT’s three goals are to (1) reduce consumer demand, (2) limit supply by increasing enforcement efforts, and (3) mobilize high-level political support. According to a 2005 State Department press release, the original members of the CAWT included Conservation International, Save the Tiger Fund, Smithsonian Institution, Traffic International, WildAid, Wildlife Conservation Society, and American Forest and Paper Association.
Under the umbrella of the CAWT, the U.S. State Department contributed $1 million and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) provided over $3 million in funding to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN). This funding has been spent on capacity-building efforts in countries with large consumer demand for wildlife products.
The CAWT also created their own public awareness videos in 2008 that featured actor and wildlife conservationist Harrison Ford. The videos encourage consumers not to purchase goods made with illegally traded wildlife or wildlife products. The PSAs can be viewed here.
Successes and Challenges
The successes and challenges of the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking campaign have not been widely studied or reported on. The Harrison Ford videos, released in 2008, were shown at U.S. embassies worldwide and given to local TV stations. The videos reached over 500 million consumers.
After the release of these videos, all reporting on the Coalition was discontinued. The last press release on the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking’s Department of State website was released on July 1, 2008. This release marked the Beijing launch of the PSA videos. Identifying the successes and challenges of the Coalition is difficult without further evidence.
There was no reference to the work of the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking in the President’s Task Force report. The CAWT has had success in partnering with NGOs and governments in consumer demand countries before, which is explicitly a goal in the Task Force recommendations. Further exploration of the current efforts and partnerships of the CAWT could be undertaken.
Based on the successes and challenges of the CAWT and the strategies identified by the President’s Task Force, the U.S. government could pursue the following next steps.
- Convene and/or host meetings of organizational, governmental, and academic experts in the field of wildlife trafficking reduction and public awareness campaigns to foster discussion regarding effective campaigns.
- Study the effectiveness of previous public awareness campaign videos released by the CAWT.
- Explore further expansion of CAWT.
In conclusion, there is a multitude of ways for the United States to be a leader in demand reduction efforts across the globe. Public awareness campaigns are an area of potential growth and increased effectiveness with the assistance of the U.S. government.
Public awareness campaigns face challenges in achieving their goal of consumer demand reduction. According to Mary Tschirhart and Janet Weiss in a 1994 article on public awareness campaigns, measuring the effectiveness of a public awareness campaign has historically been difficult. The President’s Task Force report cites a need for evidence-based, cost-effective, targeted strategies to reduce wildlife trafficking. Further research into the effectiveness of the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking’s campaigns can help us to better understand what makes a successful public awareness campaign and how they can be used to reduce demand for illegal wildlife products.