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Today, there is global recognition that poaching wildlife has a devastating impact on ecosystems and contributes to increasing corruption and financing other illegal activities. Driven by demand around the world, and using complex and sophisticated transport systems, the illegal wildlife trade touches nearly every country in the world. While its impacts are felt most acutely at local level, the stakes are global and the solutions require international co-operation.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) call on countries to take urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of species. Yet many countries are struggling to make progress on this front. According to the latest SDG progress report, in 2018 over 7,000 species continue to be trafficked illegally in the world in over 120 countries. Collective efforts to combat this form of illicit trade need to be accelerated now.

This report examines institutional gaps that affect the capacity of governments to address the illegal wildlife trade in Southeast Asia. Wildlife crime is “low-risk, high-reward”, making it particularly attractive to criminal networks that exploit weaknesses in governance systems to help acquire, transport and sell illegal wildlife. The wide range of institutions and government officials who are targeted and at risk of being corrupted underscores the need for urgent, comprehensive and coordinated action across the public administrations of the countries concerned.

Building on an analysis of the illegal wildlife trade in East Africa by OECD in 2018, this report provides a regional focus on Southeast Asia, drawing on research conducted in Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It aims to increase the understanding of institutional vulnerabilities that are continually exploited in the conduct of the illegal wildlife trade in Southeast Asia.

The report identifies good practices that could be replicated to tackle wildlife crime effectively through law enforcement and reinforced legislative and regulatory frameworks. Its recommendations propose concrete actions for donor agencies, law enforcement bodies, international organisations and NGOs to take to improve actions in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade. These recommendations concern key issues such as the need for national strategies to combat illicit trade, how to improve inter-agency coordination and the need to strengthen co-operation and information sharing across countries in the region and beyond.

The study was conducted in the Public Governance Directorate by the Secretariat of the OECD Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade (TF-CIT). The study benefitted from over 90 field interviews in Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam, as well as findings generated from research and global seizure data from World Customs Organisation and TRAFFIC databases, complemented by extensive desk-based research.

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© OECD 2019

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