France-Africa Summit tackles Elephant and Rhinoceros poaching
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The France-Africa Summit on Peace and Security in Africa was held in Paris from 6 to 7 December 2013. It attracted close to 53 delegations from African countries and France, as well as representatives of the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the African Development Bank. They debated the prickly issues of peace and security in Africa, economic partnership and development and climate change.
The eve of the high-level meeting between France and Africa was marked by a roundtable on "the fight against poaching and trafficking in endangered species. The side event set the mood for the Heads of State Summit with the adoption of a declaration called the "Paris Declaration", in which signatory countries pledged to "act promptly and decisively" against poaching and smuggling of wildlife.
It should be noted here that the round table was held in a context where trafficking in ivory and rhinoceros horns has reached cruising speed on the African continent. In fact, nearly 20,000 heads are lost every year, and according to some studies, the elephant poaching rate (7.4%) across the continent now exceeds the species’ natural rate of renewal (5-6%), despite the ivory trade ban which was adopted in 1989. At this rate, elephants are irreversibly on the path to extinction.
This activity currently threatens to destabilize several States and thus poaching should no longer be viewed merely as a threat to biodiversity but addressed on the same level as terrorism, in light of surveys conducted on the ground and brought to the attention of the international community, which have clearly established a connection between ivory trafficking and financing of armed groups in war-torn countries.
In the face of this scourge, African countries present at the meeting recognized that the fight against poaching will only be effective if it is integrated into sustainable development policies supported by international institutions and major donors, with the implementation of the Marrakech Declaration (adopted on May 30, 2013) as well as political and operational decisions taken at the Gaborone International Summit (3-4 December 2013).
Expressing its commitment to the struggle, France has developed a national action plan to: "Fight elephant poaching and trafficking in ivory and other protected species." Amongst other things, the plan envisages:
- increasing fines (for example, up from 150,000 to 750,000 Euros in case of organized group trafficking)
- further empowering judicial police officers (JOP) with more advanced investigation techniques.
- Special instructions for prosecutors on the fight against protected species trafficking to professionalize prosecution of illegal trafficking cases by means of specialized interregional courts (JIRS)
- etc .
And more recently, France donated 10 Million Euro to Gabon to support the fight against poaching, which reflects Paris’ commitment to fight wildlife crime and constitutes an invitation to other countries and international institutions to follow suit, to save Africa’s last elephants.
The Paris declaration and similar articles may be viewed here (in French only):
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