Lusaka Agreement on Co-operative Enforcement Operations
Directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora “Fostering cooperation to support conservation of wild fauna and flora”
Spatial data infrastructure for Addressing Data Gaps in Combating Illegal Wildlife Trade and Meeting Sustainable Development Goals in Africa
“A Call to Action”
Panama: Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) in collaboration with the Grace Farms Foundation, RESTEC- Japan and ESRI Global successfully concluded discussions on the development of a Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) for addressing data gaps in combating illegal wildlife trade and meeting sustainable development goals in Africa. The discussions were held on 22nd November 2022 at the Lusaka Agreement Task Force’s organized side event convened on the sidelines of the 19th Conference of Parties to CITES (CITES CoP19), which is currently ongoing (14-25 November 2022) at Panama City. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement that regulates trade in wild animal and plant species.
Deliberations during the side event reiterated the need for an evidence-based integrated approach in addressing the challenge of data gaps in combatting illegal trade in wildlife and meeting sustainable development goals in Africa. In this respect, a key recommendation was made to fast-track the development of a Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) and an Information Centre that will help to pool and analyze data towards addressing the conservation challenges. The event acknowledged the need for technology to support sustainable developmental goals (SDG), especially in addressing SDG Target 15.7 – “Take urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and address both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products”. The need for such infrastructure is emphasized under SDG 9 (Target 9c) that aims to significantly increase access to information and communications technology and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries.
Speaking at the event, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Zambia, Mr. Evans Muhanga, underscored the importance of the SDI initiative which is anchored on the decisions of the Lusaka Agreement Governing Council. He appreciated the progress made by African countries in the development of data infrastructure. Mr. Muhanga stated that the initiative by Lusaka Agreement Task Force and partners to develop an SDI requires the support of governments and development partners to enhance it into a robust system that will bridge the gaps in information sharing in the region. “Indeed, one of the key challenges to effective law enforcement in Africa relates to insufficient relevant data on the amount of illegal trade actually taking place and inadequacy in information sharing” he said. He further highlighted that these twin setbacks impede national reporting processes leading to churning out of incomplete records and hence ineffective decision making and non-compliance with requirements of international conventions such as CITES.
Director of Lusaka Agreement Task Force, Mr. Edward Phiri, expounded on the Wildlife Enforcement Monitoring System (WEMS), a transboundary information sharing system on wildlife crime, which is an on-going initiative being implemented by the Lusaka Agreement Task Force. He added that, with the support of ESRI Global, WEMS is currently being developed and enhanced to become a strong and secure spatial data infrastructure that will support Lusaka Agreement member states in bolstering information sharing on wildlife and forest crime, human wildlife conflicts, zoonotic diseases as well as DNA data from trafficked wildlife specimens.
Experts from the Lusaka Agreement member states and partners reiterated the need to continue to work together and pool the requisite financial, human and information resources for concerted operations in order to effectively fulfill the objectives of our conservation agenda. The event raised awareness about the importance of prioritizing wildlife and forest conservation matters in development interventions in Africa.
This event was a culmination of TICAD8 and TICAD7 side events as well as the Pan-African Conference on Strengthening Information Sharing Infrastructure and Governance Frameworks to Address Human-Nature Conflicts conference held in Arusha, Tanzania in August 2022, August 2019 and June 2019 respectively. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania in partnership with Lusaka Agreement Task Force, United Nations Developmental Programme supported these fora and played an integral role in exploring prospects for the Regional Command and Control Center which will house a regional geo-spatial platform to address the data-gaps in resolving illegal wildlife trade and other biodiversity threats as well as contribute to the implementation of sustainable developmental goals.
The side event was graced by Directors/CEOs of Wildlife Authorities in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia, LATF and partners namely Grace Farms Foundation-USA, ESRI Global, the University of Washington Seattle-USA and RESTEC-Japan and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)-USA. It also drew experts and participants from various countries in the world.