New IUCN provisions accelerate momentum for wildlife whistleblower protections worldwide

by Carly Fabian, Research Associate

Published on December 18, 2020

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New IUCN provisions accelerate momentum for wildlife whistleblower protections worldwide

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) members have approved four motions with whistleblower provisions ahead of the IUCN Marseilles World Conservation Congress, now scheduled for September 3-11, calling for greater support, protection, and rewards for wildlife whistleblowers around the world. These resolutions are now in effect and could create important global momentum for integrating whistleblowers into the fight against the illegal timber, illegal fisheries, and wildlife trade.

IUCN is a membership union composed of states, government agencies, civil society organizations, and indigenous peoples’ organizations. Since the union’s creation in 1948, IUCN has become an influential incubator for conservation best practices, tools, and standards. Through the Congress, which takes place every four years, members vote to approve motions which, once adopted, become resolutions and recommendations as part of IUCN’s general policy.

The new whistleblower provisions were included in motions which aim to address the growing threat of global deforestation and wildlife trafficking, which threaten protected species, local communities, and the climate. Without effective mechanisms for detection, these transnational crimes have been able to proliferate worldwide. Currently, wildlife trafficking is estimated to be worth between USD7-23 billion, and the illegal timber trade is estimated to be worth between USD51 and 152 billion a year.

The new whistleblower provisions were included in the following four resolutions:

With the invaluable assistance of its Senior Wildlife Policy Advisor, Scott Hajost, NWC collaborated with AZA in the submission on Resolution 54 on the private sector and wildlife trafficking. NWC also worked to secure inclusion of the whistleblower provisions in these resolutions.  That’s because we know that whistleblowers are often the first line of defense against wildlife crime, and the single most effective source of information about illegal activity.

Wildlife whistleblowers have the potential to provide much-needed support for environmental law enforcement efforts, but given the serious threat of retaliation around the world, whistleblowers need stronger protections and rewards. The inclusion of whistleblower provisions in these motions follows years of advocacy to lay the foundation for stronger protections and rewards for wildlife crime whistleblowers, including NWC’s Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program.

According to Scott Hajost, with these resolutions in effect, “the global community now has the foundation upon which to build impactful whistleblower laws as tools for combatting wildlife crime.”

With 1,400 diverse voting members, IUCN motions carry a powerful global mandate, and IUCN Congresses have been influential in shaping global conservation treaties. The IUCN General Assembly in Lucerne in 1966, for example, laid the groundwork for the World Heritage Convention, and the General Assembly in Warsaw in 1960 built the foundations for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The motions approved by the 2020 Congress will likewise help to shape policy debates for the upcoming UN Convention on Biological Diversity Conference of the Parties (CoP15) in China.

While time will tell how impactful these resolutions will be in translating to meaningful whistleblower policy, IUCN has often been among the first to highlight emerging threats and innovative conservation solutions. The inclusion of these whistleblower provisions sends a strong signal that protections and rewards for whistleblowers are gaining momentum on the global conservation stage.

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