ASEAN-WEN stands for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Wildlife Enforcement Network. It is the world’s largest wildlife law enforcement network that involves police, customs and environment agencies of all 10 ASEAN countries – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand. ASEAN-WEN is:
- A regional INTERGOVERNMENTAL law-enforcement network designed to combat the illegal wildlife trade
- A proactive response to Southeast Asia’s alarming levels of wildlife trafficking and loss
- A mechanism by which countries can share information and learn from each other's best practices
Through annual meetings, workshops and trainings, ASEAN-WEN facilitates increased capacity and better coordination and collaboration of law enforcement agencies between Southeast Asian countries, regionally and globally. Links with the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) offices, Interpol, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Justice and other wildlife law enforcement groups has broadened the Network's reach. Along with an increase in ASEAN-WEN's visibility, the region has also experienced a recent increase in wildlife law enforcement actions in Southeast Asia.
“Let us bring the environmental leaders of Asia together to go beyond national and sub-regional efforts. Let us build upon the success of the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) and reach out to all of Asia in this effort to develop a region wide effort to protect our endangered species for our future generations to enjoy and benefit from. While this network is young, it is growing fast and represents the necessary approach to arresting wildlife depletion. No one of us can do this job alone. Looking ahead, we need to start exploring how to take ASEAN-WEN to a new level. We hope you will help us make it stronger and sustainable.’’
Scale of Southeast Asia’s Illegal Wildlife Trade
Southeast Asia is home to some of the world’s greatest biological diversity, which humans rely on for food, livelihoods, medicines and aesthetic pleasure. Healthy ecosystems also underpin vital environmental services such as fresh water supply and arable land for the world’s largest and most populous continent.
However, this unique and essential natural heritage is under serious threat. Scientists believe, for example, that more than 40% of the animal and plant species in Southeast Asia could be wiped out this century, with at least half those losses representing global extinctions. Criminal over-exploitation – such as illegal logging, destructive and over-fishing, poaching and trafficking of wild plants and animals – continues in the region.
All AMS are parties to the CITES and have collaborated to control the trade in wild fauna and flora. The ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network is now the largest wildlife law enforcement network in the world. The ASEAN Regional Action Plan on Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora (2005 – 2010) provides a framework for enhanced collaboration among the AMS.
In an effort to address the illegal wildlife trade, ASEAN members took the following steps:
11 October 2004: The ASEAN Statement on CITES - by the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for the Implementation of CITES, expressed the commitment of ASEAN Member Countries to cooperate on improved implementation of the Convention, including law enforcement. All ASEAN Member Countries are signatories to the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). The Joint Press Statement and the ASEAN Statement on CITES are available in the ASEAN Website. here and here
3 May 2005: The ASEAN Regional Action Plan on Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora (2005-2010) developed and adopted by the Special Meeting of the ASEAN Experts Group on CITES (AEG-CITES) in Jakarta.
Specifically, it addresses common issues of law enforcement networking, inter-agency co-operation, strengthening national legislation, and increasing the availability of scientific information to guide wildlife trade management by CITES authorities. The Regional Action Plan also prioritizes engagement with civil society to raise awareness of legality and sustainability issues with industry groups, traders and local communities involved in wildlife trade. AMS have also enacted legislations to support their obligations to the CITES – the most recent being Malaysia’s International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2007.
While commercial demand drives the illegal trade in timber and wild animals and plants, extremely low levels of law enforcement, coupled with local poverty and international commercial demand, have facilitated its growth into an impending crisis for Southeast Asia. Porous borders, well-established trade routes, increasingly efficient transport infrastructure, endemic corruption, lax laws and half-hearted prosecution of environmental crime all serve to make wildlife smuggling easy and low risk.
18-20 August 2005: The Action Plan was endorsed by the 8th Meeting of the ASEAN Senior Officials on Forestry (ASOF), Phnom Penh. Click here for more detail.
29 September 2005: The ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) expressed their full support for the ASEAN Regional Action Plan on Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora (2005-2010) through the Joint Press Statement at the 27th Meeting of AMAF, Tagaytay City, Philippines.
1 December 2005: The ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) is an outgrowth of Objective 2 of the ASEAN Regional Action Plan on Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora (2005-2010). The aim of Objective Two is to:
“Promote networking among relevant law enforcement authorities in ASEAN countries to curb illegal trade in wild fauna and flora by:
- establishing inter-agency committees at national levels to ensure coordination and collaboration between law enforcement officials on trade in wild fauna and flora;
- establishing an ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network for exchange of law enforcement information regarding trade in wild fauna and flora, and to coordinate regional participation in the INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group;
- promoting collaborative capacity-building efforts for improved law enforcement”
In implementing the Objective Two, the Special Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for the Implementation of CITES launched the ASEAN Wildlife Law Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), previously referred to in the Regional Action Plan as the ASEAN CITES Enforcement Task Force.
The ASEAN-WEN aims to address illegal exploitation and trade in CITES-listed species within the ASEAN region. It is an integrated network among law enforcement agencies and involves the CITES authorities, customs, police, prosecutors, specialized governmental wildlife-law enforcement organizations and other relevant national law enforcement agencies. This ten member network aimed at facilitating cross border collaboration to fight the region’s illegal wildlife trade has become- the largest inter-Governmental enforcement network in the world dealing with wildlife crime.
The launch of ASEAN-WEN was posted in the ASEAN Bulletin December 2005., The Joint Press Statement, and the ASEAN Statement on the launch of the ASEAN-WEN were also posted on the ASEAN website.
25 May 2006: The Royal Government of Thailand as the designated lead country for the implementation of Objective Two of the Regional Action Plan, hosted the First Meeting of the ASEAN-WEN in Bangkok to finalize the Terms of Reference (TOR) and to discuss a proposal to establish a Programme Coordination Unit (PCU) to support the work of the ASEAN-WEN and the required key actions to implement/ operationalize the ASEAN-WEN. ASEAN Member Countries agreed to allocate necessary financial and human resources, and to collaborate in cross-border cooperation and coordination to ensure the effective enforcement of legislation governing conservation, trade and sustainable use of wild fauna and flora.
May 2007: Royal Thai Cabinet Resolution 0506/8247 was passed, which paved way to the establishment of ASEAN-WEN's permanent secretariat - the Program Coordination Unit – in Bangkok, Thailand. The Royal Thai Government, through the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation is providing financial support towards the operations of the PCU.
ASEAN-WEN is under declaration no. 24 of the ASEAN Declaration on Environmental Sustainability, signed by the Heads of States and Governments of ASEAN in 2007 which states the "strengthening of efforts to implement the ASEAN Regional Action Plan on Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora, 2005-2010 through mechanisms such as the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network." aseansec.org
In May 2007 ASEAN-WEN drafted its Strategic Plan of Action 2007-2012, as a guiding mechanism to implement national and regional initiatives to support ASEAN-WEN.
ASEAN-WEN is recognized under the ASEAN Charter’s ASEAN Socio Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint 2009-2015. ASCC is 1 of the 3 councils created by the new ASEAN Charter. The ASEAN Socio Cultural Community Blueprint (ASCC 2009-1015) identified ASEAN-WEN under its D8 commitments to Promote Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and Biodiversity which states, "Strengthen efforts to control transboundary trade in wild fauna and flora through the ASEAN Action Plan on Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora 2005-2010 and the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) to implement commitments to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)"
May 2011: the ASEAN Member States, extended the ASEAN Regional Action Plan on Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora (2005-2010) at a Special Meeting of the ASEAN Experts Group on CITES in Manila. The new ASEAN Regional Action Plan on Trade in CITES Wild Fauna and Flora (2011-2015) aims to sustain earlier efforts and successes of ASEAN-WEN.
October 2011: the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry recognized in their Statement on “ASEAN and International Year of Forests 2011” the achievements and continuing efforts in addressing threats and challenges faced by the forestry sector in the region through enhancing efforts in addressing international trade of endangered species and wildlife enforcement.
Together with the ASEAN Member States, ASEAN-WEN is currently supported by its Program Coordination Unit (PCU), its Partner Organisations: the USAID ARREST (Asia's Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking) Program, implemented by FREELAND foundation; TRAFFIC Southeast Asia; and TRACE Forensics Network.
The ARREST program is a five-year program funded by US Agency for International Development (USAID ) and implemented by FREELAND Foundation aimed at fighting the trafficking of illegal wildlife in Asia in three ways: reducing consumer demand; strengthening law enforcement; and strengthening regional cooperation and anti-trafficking network. ARREST unites the efforts of the member states of ASEAN, China and South Asia, NGOs, and private sector organizations. Together, these dedicated people and organizations are helping Asia respond to the challenge of protecting its unique wildlife. From 2005-2010, via a cooperative agreement with USAID, ASEAN-WEN Support Program (FREELAND Foundation and TRAFFIC) provided technical and policy support to the development of ASEAN-WEN and its national task forces.