posted on Wed 25 Nov 2015 2:09 PM
Arria Formula Meeting on Illicit Arms Transfers and Poaching in Africa

On Monday morning (30 November), Angola and Lithuania will co-host an Arria-formula meeting on the impact of the illicit transfer of small arms and light weapons and poaching in Africa. The meeting will be open to all UN member states and civil society. All member states will be invited to speak, subject to time limitations. Briefings will be made by Khristopher Carlson, Senior Researcher at Small Arms Survey in Geneva, and Jorge Rios, Coordinator of the Global Wildlife and Forest Crime Programme at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Emmanuel de Merode, chief warden of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), may also brief via video-teleconference, although his participation had yet to be confirmed at press time.

The concept note circulated by Angola and Lithuania in preparation for the meeting recalls that the Council has adopted several thematic and country-specific resolutions addressing the illegal exploitation of natural resources, including wildlife poaching. Examples that are given include resolutions 2117 and 2220 on small arms, which specifically recognise the link between illegal exploitation and trade in natural resources and the proliferation and trafficking of arms as a major factor in fuelling and exacerbating conflict. There is also a reference to the Secretary-General’s conclusion in his 2013 report on Central Africa (S/2013/297) that poaching and its potential linkages to other criminal activities constitute a grave threat to sustainable peace and security.

In addition, the concept note highlights work done by the UNODC, the UN Crime Commission and Interpol, confirming that poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking are among the most lucrative criminal activities and are increasingly conducted on a large scale by transnational organised criminal groups, often in cooperation with armed extremist groups. It also mentions General Assembly resolution 69/314 on tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife, adopted last July, which asked the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly in 2016 on the global status of this problem, including with regard to poaching and illegal trade.

Although not specifically referenced in the concept note, the Council has in recent years started to address linkages between the illicit transfer of arms and illegal exploitation of natural resources through the imposition of sanctions. Both the DRC and Central African Republic (CAR) sanctions regimes include listing criteria targeting individuals supporting armed groups through illicit trade in natural resources, with the latter specifically mentioning wildlife and wildlife products. In both cases, the experts assisting the respective sanctions committee in charge of monitoring implementation of the sanctions have documented the activities of poachers.

In its final report published in January 2015 (S/2015/19), the Group of Experts assisting the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee documented wildlife poaching in Garamba National Park, located in north-east DRC bordering South Sudan. The Group reported that poachers from South Sudan – a mix of professional hunters and deserters from the army and police – operated in the park, typically smuggling the ivory back to South Sudan, and that the Congolese army had also been involved, including through the distribution of firearms and ammunition to poachers. The Panel of Experts supporting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee highlighted in its June 2014 interim report to the Council (S/2014/452) the connections between poaching and financing of the Séléka rebellion, with the Séléka involved both in hunting and in supplying arms and ammunition to poachers.

The concept note states that member states—including those directly affected by poaching—will have the opportunity to discuss why poaching fuelled by the illicit arms trade should be considered a threat to international and regional peace and stability. It also invites participants to discuss ways to improve implementation of mechanisms aimed at combating illicit poaching, such as capacity building for local authorities to combat arms trafficking and poaching and security sector reform. As noted in the concept note, other areas that could help combat illicit poaching include: strengthening relevant domestic legislative and regulatory frameworks, implementing the Arms Trade Treaty, criminalising illicit poaching through the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol on Firearms, improving stockpile security and ammunition management, strengthening the capacity of park rangers and others involved in tracking poachers, and encouraging regional cooperation.

It appears that the organisers, Angola and Lithuania, hope the meeting will help further increase awareness of the linkages that exist between the illicit trafficking in small arms and poaching and their role in fuelling conflict and serve as a step towards greater Council engagement on this issue.