LWT FILM LAUNCH: SPEECH BY BRITISH HIGH COMMISSIONER
LAUNCH OF ‘SAY NO TO THE ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE’ VIDEO STATE HOUSE 14 APRIL 2016 Remarks by Michael Nevin British High Commissioner to Malawi
I have been asked to speak today given the extensive support that the UK has given to this agenda of protecting wildlife and my involvement in the idea and arrangements for the video that we will be seeing shortly. But we are not the only government assisting Malawi on this agenda, and I was but a minor player compared to others who crafted and delivered the campaign that this video supports. The real drivers are the Department for National Parks and wildlife, the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, with support from Malawi’s musical icon Lawi and the Director of Bishop MacKenzie School. So I recognise other countries and organisations who are involved in this initiative and I am glad to see so many of them here at State House.
The diplomatic missions and honorary consuls are here today to play our part in supporting Malawi to protect her wildlife. And in turn, Malawi is playing her part in an international effort to reverse the decline of so many animal species and to fight against the illegal wildlife trade.
To coin a relatively new phrase, this is a “glocal” issue – global in nature, with local impacts and characteristics. This isn’t just about a bunch of foreign do-gooders in Malawi interested in animals instead of humans. This is a global effort to protect animals which need protection, but in doing so also protecting the interest of humans. A decline in animal species destroys our environment which we depend on to live, and we risk anarchy and misery from the impact of crime and criminal groups if we let them get away with it.
Given the connections to corruption and other organised crime, tackling the illegal wildlife trade is a way to achieve multiple impacts.
Nor, Your Excellency, is this about foreign Ambassadors telling Malawi what to do – it’s about Ambassadors directing messages to their own citizens visiting or working in Malawi to support Malawi’s effort to protect its natural assets and to fight international wildlife crime. We are urging our own people not to intentionally or unintentionally support the trade in illegal wildlife products.
Certainly Malawi is making a very positive impact internationally with its efforts to stop wildlife crime. Malawi is up there with the larger countries in Africa, Asia and beyond, becoming known for its action to address this problem, despite the many challenges the country faces. Your Excellency the President’s own leadership and interest is being recognised both in governmental and non-governmental circles around the globe. In short, Malawi is making a positive name for itself on this agenda, and I would suggest, is attracting ever more assistance as a result.
There is extra international interest in Malawi’s efforts because wildlife crime today has become one of the major transnational organized criminal activities, alongside the trafficking of drugs, humans and weapons. It is the greatest threat to the survival of endangered species.
Africa is on the frontline, battling the poachers and traffickers supplying the demand of foreign markets, with the majority of profits ending up in the pockets of organised criminal syndicates. The illegal trade in natural resources is depriving countries like Malawi of billions of dollars in lost revenues and lost development opportunities. And we need to do more outside Africa to address the demand for these products.
Cases of trafficking, selling and buying of wildlife products have involved not only Malawians but a range of nationalities. We, as diplomatic missions, have a responsibility to ensure that our nationals understand that trafficking on any level is a serious crime. The participation of any of our citizens – from the trafficking of products like ivory to the buying of small wildlife trinkets – does serious damage to Malawi and our own countries’ reputation. That is why we have chosen to join Malawi’s Stop Wildlife Crime campaign, a joint initiative between the Government of Malawi and the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust.
It is also significant that His Excellency the President is leading this campaign, showing both Malawi and the rest of the world that this government is serious about cracking down on wildlife crime.
Of course there is more to be done. Unfortunately, there are too many National Parks Rangers involved in the illegal killing and selling of Malawi’s wildlife – perhaps a special task force could tackle this; there is too much collusion with poachers in the setting of snares – over 10,000 snares were found in Liwonde National Park during a six month period alone last year; there are too many corrupt officials to facilitate the trade, with rumours too of political collusion among some politicians and those in authority. I know that His Excellency The President is particularly concerned about this, including their involvement in the cutting down of Malawi’s trees and forest reserves.
But Malawi is responding. We welcome the extra security protection given to forest areas; and also the formation of an inter-agency taskforce on wildlife and forest crime. We applaud the bold step of agreeing for African Parks to manage many of Malawi’s national parks, under supervision of DPNW. The recent burning of ivory – which has no legal economic value – was lauded around the world, with the prospect of more ivory destruction to come. And we welcome the swift progress that has been made to update Malawi’s relevant wildlife acts, particularly the outdated penalties for wildlife crimes which favour the illegal reward over the risk. I understand that the draft revised Bill is now ready for Ministerial and Cabinet consideration – there is a quick win there if it can be sent to Parliament over the next couple of sittings.
You are going to see two short films today. The first is a film made in Kenya. It is one view on the impact of the ivory trade, showing how the purchase of ivory products is linked to organised crime and is fuelling the elephant crisis.
The second is a film made here starring His Excellency the President and 15 Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Honorary Consuls, appealing to all citizens, residents and visitors to Malawi to say no to the illegal wildlife trade. This second film will be shown in the airports, sent out on social media and made available to all diplomatic missions for distribution.
Your Excellency, sometimes it is not much fun being in government. There is much unfair criticism – mixed of course with some fair criticism – and little appreciation of the efforts being made in sometimes difficult circumstances. But this is a good demonstration of Malawi taking action; a good demonstration of Malawi being part of the leading pack on an international issue. This is a good demonstration of a collective effort. And this is our small contribution to support Your Excellency’s leadership.