Making the Case for Wildlife

ASEAN, UN, United States, Academics and NGOs developing legal tools to curb wildlife crime


Law enforcement officials, parliamentarians, judges, prosecutors and legal experts from all 10 ASEAN countries and the United States convened in Singapore from 8 to 10 December 2014, to work on a program designed to reduce the poaching and trafficking of wild animals and plants in Southeast Asia. The "ASEAN Legal Task Force for Wildlife" will develop a legal handbook, toolkit and training course for government officers in ASEAN to increase awareness of the array of laws and tools available for the prosecution of poachers and traffickers. These include international cooperation, specifically mutual legal assistance, anti-money laundering statutes and extradition.

Global wildlife trafficking is estimated to be worth billions of US dollars per year, with increasing evidence of organised crime involvement. Southeast Asia is being hit particularly hard, partly due to its proximity to consumer markets. In response, ASEAN officials, with support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), US Agency for International Development (USAID), US Fish and Wildlife Service (US FWS), Freeland and the Asia Pacific Centre for Environmental Law (APCEL), teamed up last year to plot strategic legal responses to counter this emerging threat.

Minister of State for National Development, Desmond Lee

Minister of State for National Development, Desmond Lee said: "Increasingly, wildlife crime is recognised as one of the largest transnational organised crimes, alongside drugs, arms and human trafficking. Singapore, as a member of the ASEAN-WEN, remains committed to work with our ASEAN counterparts and key partner organisations to curb illicit wildlife trade. I am heartened to know that a new legal capacity building project to support Southeast Asia’s efforts under ASEAN-WEN is being developed to combat transnational and organised wildlife crime. We will continue to monitor the wildlife trade through Singapore vigilantly and work with ASEAN Member States collectively to protect our unique natural heritage and combat illicit wildlife activities.”

“ASEAN countries are rich in biodiversity and home to many endangered species of wild fauna and flora,” said Do Quang Tung, Chairman of ASEAN’s Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) and Chief of the CITES Management Authority of Vietnam. “Unfortunately, the region is also a hotspot in the global illegal wildlife trade. Sharing information and technical expertise within ASEAN with a view to increasing the capacity of ASEAN as a whole is important”. He added that “this toolkit is vital in ensuring that criminals cannot maneuver in this region. There should be no safe haven for them anywhere in ASEAN”.

ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) Secretary-General and workshop lead facilitator P.O. Ram said: “ASEAN Parliamentarians are aware of the many challenges our enforcers face in suppressing this emerging security threat to the region. We are here to take note of recommendations, and learn more how AIPA can augment the efforts of the executive and the judiciary in securing ASEAN’s natural capital.”

Deputy Chief of Mission, Blair Hall of the US Embassy to Singapore, said: “The United States remains committed to a strong ASEAN community and a powerful coalition of civil society partners that together can tackle the wildlife crisis head on. We seek a region-wide law enforcement response to protect endangered species and their habitats." He added: "This coalition of dedicated institutions and individuals is crucial to review and refine the legislation, policy and legal cooperation needed to prevent and prosecute transnational wildlife crime."

Associate Professorial Fellow Ho Peng Kee giving the opening remarks.

Assoc Prof Lye Lin-Heng, Director, Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law (APCEL)

Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr Blair Hall of the US Embassy to Singapore

Mr Do Quang Tung, Chairman of ASEAN’s Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) and Chief of the CITES Management Authority of Vietnam

Mr Giovanni Broussard, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC)

The Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law (APCEL) was established on February 15, 1996, by the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore (NUS) on the initiative of the Faculty of Law and the IUCN’s Commission on Environmental Law (CEL), in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). APCEL is situated in the Faculty of Law and supported by the National University of Singapore (NUS). The Faculty of Law has established itself as one of the best law schools in the region, with one of the leading law libraries in the common law jurisdiction. APCEL was established in response to the need for capacity building in environmental legal education and the need for promotion of awareness in environmental issues.

ASEAN-WEN is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network. It involves environmental, law enforcement and Customs agencies in all 10 ASEAN countries and facilitates cross-border collaboration in the fight against illegal wildlife trade in the region. For more information, visit

USAID is the United States Agency for International Development. It has been the principal U.S. agency extending assistance worldwide since 1961. In Asia, USAID supports programs addressing problems that cross national boundaries, such as human and wildlife trafficking, HIV/AIDS, natural resources conservation, trade, and political and economic conflict. For more information, visit

Freeland is an international organisation dedicated to ending the illegal wildlife trade, conserving natural habitats and protecting human rights. Freeland works throughout Asia, raising public awareness and building local capacity to protect critical ecosystems, wildlife and human rights. Freeland is the lead implementing partner of the U.S. Support Program for the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), a program that provides investigative assistance, training and other capacity building support to Southeast Asian authorities tasked with stopping poaching and illegal wildlife trade – a major threat to biodiversity. Freeland is lead implementing partner of the USAID-funded Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking (ARREST) Program. For more information, visit

The East Asia Summit (EAS) is a regional leaders' forum for strategic dialogue and cooperation on key challenges facing the East Asian region. The EAS is a significant regional grouping with an important role to play in advancing closer regional integration and cooperation at a time of particular dynamism in East Asia. Membership of the EAS comprises the ten ASEAN countries (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam), Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, the United States and Russia. The 18 EAS member countries represent collectively 55 percent of the world’s population and account for around 56 per cent of global GDP [IMF purchasing power parity GDP figures 2012]. The centerpiece of the EAS year is an annual leaders' Summit, usually held back-to-back with annual ASEAN leaders' meetings. In addition, ministerial and senior officials' meetings are held during the year to take forward leaders' initiatives.