Last weekend’s G20 Leaders’ Summit marked a significant milestone in World Animal Protection’s campaign to End the Wildlife Trade.
Our influence saw G20 agriculture ministers take a big step forward in agreeing to develop a list of wildlife species at risk of spreading animal-borne diseases such as COVID-19 and issue guidelines towards mitigating this risk.
Although the leaders of the 20 largest economies failed to agree to any wording singling out wildlife as the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic – and most emerging infectious diseases identified in people over the last 70 years – there are reasons to be encouraged by the leaders’ declaration and the future direction of the G20.
The coronavirus pandemic’s outbreak shone a harsh spotlight on how people treat wild animals and cruelly exploit them for commercial gain. This exploitation comes at a considerable cost not just to wild animals but to the health of people, the planet, and the global economy.
Since we launched our End Wildlife Trade campaign in April, over a million of you (150,000 from our US action) signed our petition encouraging G20 leaders to support a ban on the inter-country commercial trade of wildlife and asked global institutions and bodies to put in place mechanisms to develop, facilitate and implement this ban.
We decided to focus on the G20 because, during the 2008 financial crisis, the G20 showed its potential as a global leadership body, agreeing on global solutions to stabilize the world’s economies. Therefore, it was highly likely that it could play a similar role in agreeing on a collective response and global answers to the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent future pandemics. Further, G20 governments as a collection can move more quickly than most UN institutions and multilateral organizations since there are fewer individual countries and fewer formal processes, and because they carry enormous economic and political weight.
This has been World Animal Protection’s most extensive campaign to date, in terms of the level of ambition, the number and coordination of simultaneous country campaigns, and the massive showing of support from all of you.
Over the last eight months, we have joined the C20—a group of civil society organizations from the 20 largest economies—and added an explicit goal of curbing the wildlife trade to the coalition’s platform. More than 300 external organizations signed on to our letter to the World Health Organization on preventing pandemics. Over 120 external organizations signed on to our letter asking the G20 Biodiversity Summit for a total ban on wildlife trade. Our influence saw G20 agriculture ministers take a big step forward in agreeing to develop a list of wildlife species at risk of spreading animal-borne diseases such as COVID-19 and issue guidelines towards mitigating this risk.
During this time, China adopted legislation banning wildlife consumption – a country where much of the wildlife trade is based. The US State Department called for the closing of wildlife wet markets permanently and Congress introduced various bills that would curb the wildlife trade to reduce risks to human health and protect biodiversity.
As for the G20 leaders themselves, the communiqué disseminated last weekend, while failing to mention “wildlife,” offered some opportunities to help curb the wildlife trade. It highlighted a desire to be proactive in pandemic “prevention,” as well as preparedness, which was by no means a given. It also encouraged more sustainable practices in tourism, which “safeguard the planet.”
All of that is to say that we are encouraged and intend to build on the momentum we’ve seen in 2020 to end the wildlife trade. The G20 will be our primary target in 2021. We expect an Italian presidency to be more open to limits on the trade than the Saudi presidency. As with this year, we expect the various G20 ministerial meetings throughout the next 12 months to be good opportunities to continue dialogue with country leaders. The Global Health Summit in May also provides an opportunity to discuss the impact of the wildlife trade on pandemics and public health, in addition to World Animal Protection’s general consultative status at the United Nations and regular engagement with governments, intergovernmental organizations, corporations, and civil society groups.
We hope you’ll continue on this journey with us and build on the momentum from the last year. Let’s not forget how rough this year has been for many people as well as wild animals, and channel that energy into a brighter future for all of earth’s inhabitants. By donating to World Animal Protection, you can help us continue the fight to end suffering for all animals.