Creating a “Trafficking in Wildlife” report

Currently, the U.S. Department of State publishes the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, “which places each country onto one of three tiers based on the extent of their governments’ efforts to comply with the ‘minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.’”

The U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP) is responsible for publishing annual TIP reports. Furthermore, this office created following the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. J/TIP works to engage foreign governments human trafficking, while funding global projects that addresses human trafficking.

Today, wildlife trafficking is addressed in many bureaus within the Department of State, including the Bureau of International Narcotics (INL) and Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

According to the 2012 WWF report entitled, Fighting Illicit Wildlife Trafficking, the trafficking of wildlife, timber and fish “comprises the fourth largest global illegal trade after narcotics, counterfeiting of products and currency, and human trafficking, and is estimated to be worth at least US$19 billion per year.”

The Obama Administration recognizes wildlife trafficking as a serious form of transnational crime, as exemplified in the publication of the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. Yet, in order to strengthen U.S. efforts in addressing wildlife trafficking, perhaps there should be legislation similar to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. With a passage of a so-called “Trafficking Wildlife Protection Act,” US-led annual reports on wildlife trafficking could be published. Such reports could place countries into tiers, regarding the prevalence of wildlife trafficking. Additionally, the publication of these reports could further advance interagency efforts, such as coordination amongst the Department of State and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Additionally, these agencies could fund greater projects that address wildlife trafficking worldwide.

Yet, it’s important to note both the advantages and the disadvantages of the current, annual TIP reports. The Human Trafficking Center published a blog, called Trafficking in Persons Report: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. According to the blog post, the advantages include the “level of comparative analysis across borders and time that is unmatched by other reports.” However, the disadvantages include an unclear method of analysis and the possible presence of U.S. bias or political interests in producing these reports.

If a so-called Trafficking in Wildlife Annual Report comes into existence, then the advantages and disadvantages of an annual report on wildlife trafficking must be considered. The annual reports must have a clear methodology—NGOs, such as WWF, have already existing Wildlife Crime Scorecard, although the range and demand countries are assessed following every CITES Standing Committee meeting. Additionally, a possible western bias in assessing countries involved in wildlife trafficking must also be considered.

Other advantages include the lack of capacity of range and demand countries, inhibiting their ability to curtail wildlife trafficking. While a potential Trafficking in Wildlife Report is symbolic, the U.S. should also fund greater projects, including capacity building-related projects, to address wildlife trafficking.

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