I woke today to see a host of posts on Facebook to mark "World Wildlife Day - March 3rd". It took me a bit by surprise because I am usually aware when these days are coming up as I quite closely follow the special days that the United Nations recognizes and creates through the General Assembly. But I was completely unaware this year of the arrival of the day of "World Wildlife Day" - had it not been for Facebook it would have passed without my knowledge.
This "day" is supposed to raise awareness, once a year albeit, but there are bigger more serious implications that should be considered on March 3rd.
More important than this particular "day" for the United Nations is the Decade on Biodiversity (2010-20). Which we are currently in. This is of particular interest to people who consider conservation important, in terms of outcomes.
A "decade" is very important in United Nations terms as it is linked to actual goals to be achieved. In regards to the Decade on Biodiversity, those goals are:
1. Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society
2. Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use
3. Improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity
4. Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services
5. Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building
But to add my own little twist to achievement of these goals - the UN is just a facilitator and a rapporteur, it works with its member states to come to unified agreements and to pass conventions, (i.e. Convention on Biological Diversity) treaties, protocols, charters, etc. It does its best to monitor compliance with these agreements. But it is not always required or funded to monitor compliance by its member states.
Ultimately change is in the hands of the UN Member States, those member states are represented by their national governments. Those national government policy makers are put into place by their citizen's votes, and are supposed to represent the majority view of their nationals.
We are those nationals - all of us. So it is we that are important, it is we that influence is wielded upon behalf of, it is we that the Convention on Bio-diversity is ultimately for, it is our planet. But we need to be made more aware. And I don't believe the United Nations is, infact, doing enough in this area.
The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, had this statement for this important day:
"The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 3 March – the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – as World Wildlife Day.
On this second observance of the Day, the UN system, its Member States and a wide range of partners from around the world are highlighting the simple yet firm message that “It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime”.
Illegal trade in wildlife has become a sophisticated transnational form of crime, comparable to other pernicious examples, such as trafficking of drugs, humans, counterfeit items and oil. It is driven by rising demand, and is often facilitated by corruption and weak governance. There is strong evidence of the increased involvement of organized crime networks and non-Stated armed groups.
Illegal wildlife trade undermines the rule of law and threatens national security; it degrades ecosystems and is a major obstacle to the efforts of rural communities and indigenous peoples striving to sustainably manage their natural resources.
Combatting this crime is not only essential for conservation efforts and sustainable development, it will contribute to achieving peace and security in troubled regions where conflicts are fuelled by these illegal activities.
Getting serious about wildlife crime means enrolling the support of all sections of society involved in the production and consumption of wildlife products, which are widely used as medicines, food, building materials, furniture, cosmetics, clothing and accessories.
Law enforcement efforts must be supported by the wider community. Businesses and the general public in all countries can play a major role by, for example, refusing to buy or auction illegal ivory and rhinoceros horn, and insisting that products from the world’s oceans and tropical forests have been legally obtained and sustainably sourced.
On this World Wildlife Day, I urge all consumers, suppliers and governments to treat crimes against wildlife as a threat to our sustainable future.
It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime."
Well said Mr. Secretary General, but we must ask - is your global organization really doing all it can? Is the UN's role of facilitation enough? Or can more be done?
Indeed, on this important day, we take note that you ".... urge all consumers, suppliers and governments to treat crimes against wildlife as a threat to our sustainable future."
But is a statement of urging enough?
Is it not time to recognize the importance of wildlife protection through the establishment of an agency dedicated to this issue and thereby raising importance and funding for worldwide wildlife conservation issues. Currently, you oversee a weakened approach to wildlife conservation by spiltting responsibilities for different aspects of wildlife conservation between many differing and competing UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes, not to mention conventions. Wildlife conservation, including habitat, is a major cross cutting issue that needs a global voice. It needs the global platform the UN can provide.
On this day, I would like to urge you to raise the importance of wildlife and habitat conservation by considering an idea - The United Nations office for Wildife and Habitat Conservation.
P.S. Oh, and be thankful for Facebook, it seems to have been the key factor in keeping many of us aware of "World Wildlife Day".