Policy analysis: G20 agree to fight illegal wildlife trade corruption problems

Amid the reports of riots, protests and disputes over climate change, you might be surprised to hear the recent G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, did actually produce some useful outcomes.

Alongside the main declaration from the meeting, the G20 leaders agreed to high-level principles on combatting corruption related to illegal wildlife trade.

The G20 has been working on corruption matters for some time. IFAW, along with partners WWF, TRAFFIC and the African Wildlife Foundation, had been advocating the need to look at wildlife trafficking as part of this work. As the main declaration notes, illegal wildlife trade is facilitated by high levels of corruption, and addressing this is a critical part of combatting this insidious trade and breaking up the criminal networks that engage in it.

The G20 has significant experience in anticorruption approaches and great influence on the world stage. Consequently, it is well-placed to advance work to address corruption and wildlife crime. The high-level principles provide a reference to countries wishing to strengthen their national efforts. The principles address issues such as strengthening legal frameworks and enforcement networks, identifying corruption risks, implementing best practices for investigating and prosecuting corruption, including protecting witnesses and targeting the proceeds of crime by recovering money and assets.

The extremely high value of some of the illegally traded wildlife makes their trade highly profitable and thus fuels and incentivizes corruption at all levels. Bribery and corruption can enable poaching in protected areas and smuggling at borders. The effectiveness of investigations and prosecution of offenders can also be compromised by corruption.

Even where anticorruption laws in relation to wildlife trafficking exist, they are not always applied effectively. Often when investigations lead to prosecutions they may look only at the wildlife trafficking offences, while neglecting the underlying corruption offences.

IFAW has been working to ensure issues of corruption are addressed in our support to build regional wildlife enforcement networks and in IFAW’s Detecting Illegal Species through Prevention Training (DISRUPT) programme. The training has been rolled out to almost 3,000 participants in more than 85 trainings across 38 countries.

IFAW’s innovative tenBoma initiative also is tackling corruption as an inherent part of its work. TenBoma’s efforts to build a network of rangers, enforcement officers and local communities united against poaching includes targeted training for government personnel. This training addresses issues of ethics, human rights and strengthening morale and accountability mechanisms to reduce the likelihood of corruption.

Our thanks go to the German government for putting this work on the agenda of the G20. Despite some criticisms, it’s important to remember that these meetings can still make significant contributions to global issues like wildlife trafficking and that it’s worth our efforts to engage with these institutions.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Jimmiel Mandima at IFAW
Deputy Vice President of Conservation
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime