William R. Brownfield
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
World Bank,
Washington, DC
April 23, 2014

Thank you very much, Mr. Magrath and Mr. McCarthy. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to open with my own personal note of thanks, not just to the two gentlemen seated up here with me, but to the entire World Bank. I say this with sincerity. The World Bank has done excellent work in managing, leading, and in many ways, pioneering the effort worldwide to address the crisis of illegal wildlife trafficking. I have this on the best authority on the entire planet – the United States Ambassador to Thailand, a woman to whom I have the unmitigated pleasure of being married for the past 30 years -- and her assessment this morning is that no organization has been more active and more effective in this effort in South East Asia than the World Bank.

Ladies and gentlemen, you may be asking yourselves the question, “What is Mr. Brownfield, a man who is known in the State Department as Mr. Drugs and Thugs, doing here to discuss the issue of international wildlife conservation, protection, and preservation?” My message for all of you is that I am here because there is a very important connection between what I do and what those in the conservation community do. We are talking about two communities that for the past 100, 1000, or 5000 years have not actually worked together a great deal. The conservation community is comprised of men and women who have done extraordinarily effective and noble work in protecting and preserving not dozens, not scores, but hundreds of species of life on our planet that would otherwise be as extinct today as the dinosaurs. To them, we all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude. On the other hand, there is the law enforcement community -- a community that while not traditionally dedicated to the conservation and preservation of species, is very dedicated and quite talented at the process by which we combat and eventually defeat criminal trafficking organizations. Our challenge, ladies and gentlemen – and what I submit to you is the unspoken theme of this symposium - is how to make these two communities work effectively together. That is our challenge for the 21st century.

I know why I am doing this. I am doing this because two and a half years ago a woman looked at me with very firm eyes and said to me, “Brownfield, you are going to do counter-wildlife trafficking, whether you like it or not.” Her name was Hillary Rodham Clinton and I did what you would expect any Assistant Secretary of State to do under those circumstances -- I said ‘yes Ma’am, I will get right on it.’ And if any of you are wondering whether her departure and the arrival of her successor generated any change in this regard, may I offer you a personal anecdote? The only conversation that I have had with John Kerry that was, shall I say, “pointed,” over the last 14 months has been about how fast I was moving in order to make progress on the issue of wildlife trafficking. So that is why I am here.

Why are you here? I offer the following suggestions. One, you are here because if you did not come or did not focus on this issue, hundreds of species of our planet would be dead, eliminated forever, before this century is out. And second, law enforcers are now dealing with a criminal enterprise that is generating perhaps as much as $10 billion in criminal proceeds every year. Ten billion, ladies and gentlemen, that begins to be real money. You might actually want to begin to pay attention to an enterprise that is moving in an illegal and illicit manner, corrupting institutions and governments to the tune of $10 billion a year.

Ladies and gentlemen, I, like Mr. McCarthy, do not claim to be an expert on wildlife conservation or even on wildlife trafficking. I do think I know something about trafficking in general, and I know that there are certain elements common to each and every one of the trafficking industries. Whether it is cocaine and heroin, firearms, people, cut flowers, or wildlife, I know that first, in every case; there is a demand for the product, which produces a market. In every case, there will be a producer at the source region. Perhaps that producer is growing the product. Perhaps that producer is manufacturing the product. Perhaps that producer is butchering the product in order to traffic it. I know that every trafficking organization develops a logistics network – normally an extremely sophisticated logistics network, because it must move a product from one country across numerous national borders to get to the final market, and it must do so in an illicit manner. Every trafficked product eventually has a retail marketing system at the country of destination. And finally every trafficking network has a financial system that permits those involved in the enterprise eventually to convert their product into some form of cash or other marketable commodity that they can use in the open and licit market. This, law enforcers, is the challenge that we confront as we move down the road toward combatting illegal wildlife trafficking; while every product is different, there are not that many differences between how we will attack this problem and how we attack the problem of drugs or trafficking in persons or trafficking in firearms.

From the law enforcement perspective, we are not at a bad starting point. We do have international conventions, foremost among them CITES, but others as well, that give us the international authority or basis to cooperate and attack this problem. We have certain existing international organizations which have taken on this responsibility, such as Interpol and its regional subgroups, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Customs Organization, even ICCWC, as Leonard laid out. These international organizations or groupings give us natural allies and umbrellas beneath which we can operate. We have regional organizations that have taken on the mission: the OECD, APEC for the Pacific nations, ASEAN specifically for Southeast Asia, and the UN Crime Commission. We are not starting at point zero. Man has walked this path before us and we can take advantage of some of the institutions, the infrastructure, and the architecture that has already been built for us.

For those of us who are from the United States of America, and specifically the United States Government, we have a new weapon as of February of this year, when the President’s new National Strategy for Combatting Wildlife Trafficking came online. This Strategy is easily available online to anyone who may choose to access it.

The President’s National Strategy offers three areas of focus: first, strengthening enforcement of laws and regulations. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what I do for a living. I support law enforcement around the world.

Second, reducing demand for illegally trafficked wildlife. That, to a very considerable extent, is what the conservation community does for a living. However, I do predict that demand will drop rather substantially if, for instance, we tell most individuals that they could be sent to prison for 20 years for buying a rhino horn. I predict that the demand for rhino horn just might diminish a little bit as a result of law enforcement efforts.

The third area laid out in this strategy is building greater international and domestic cooperation. And, that is what both the conservation and the law enforcement communities do.

Now, despite the fact that I am widely referred to in the State Department as “drugs and thugs,” I am actually the Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, or INL. We have $15 million that we are putting to wildlife trafficking in 2014. And, without going into detail, I am going to divide it into two basic categories. One, we are processing roughly $5 million through some of these international organizations that I just laid out for you. They have already developed programs that are transnational in scope and address the wildlife trafficking issue in an entire region. They need support, they need funds, they need resources. We are trying to provide some of that for them.

The remaining $10 million or so is going into programs with individual countries and governments. This is heavily focused at this time on Africa, and we will have cooperative and close programs with the Governments of Kenya and the Republic of South Africa. Some of the $10 million will be available for other regional programs and cooperation in southern Africa.

We have organized our work on this issue around four basic categories. The first is what we call “legislative framework.” The principle behind this is amazingly simple: it is very difficult to prosecute someone for wildlife trafficking if there is no law on the books that makes it a criminal offense. Judges get annoyed when prosecutors bring cases before them and the prosecutors cannot explain what law has been violated by the defendant. And, believe it or not, in many countries and regions around the world, there are not existing statutes on the books criminalizing this sort of activity or, in some cases; it is criminalized to such a minimal extent that it becomes the equivalent of a traffic offense or a failure to pay parking tickets. Creating the legislative framework must be the first plank in a successful strategy of combatting wildlife trafficking.

Our second organizational concept is support for law enforcement. In the United States of America, this is largely a ranger’s function, though not exclusively. The more we get into prosecutions, the more state and local law enforcement will become engaged, but trying to stop poachers and traffickers at the point of infraction is an expanded ranger function. By expanded, I mean that what these poor guys have to deal with are groups of people armed to the level of an infantry platoon – that degree of firepower. The prospect of coming in and enforcing the law with a nightstick and possibly a 9mm pistol puts local law enforcement in an extraordinarily difficult position. They need training, they need equipment, and in some instances, they need weaponry. That must be part of our challenge.

Our third organizational category includes prosecutors and courts. As you can well imagine, if we have identified them, arrested them, and brought them to court, but a prosecutor has no experience whatsoever on how to prosecute this particular type of crime, then we are not likely to have success. There is nothing that will kill a strategy and a policy more quickly than two or three losing cases that send the message out to everyone in the trafficking industry that “they can’t touch us even if they get us to court.”

Our fourth organizational category is cross-border cooperation. We do it through something we call wildlife enforcement networks – WENS. The principle behind this initiative is extremely simple. It is that governments that are neighbors or at least in the same region as each other stand to benefit from sharing intelligence and information and notifying each other about trafficking groups that seem to be moving across frontiers and borders. At times, regional partners might even plan and cooperate on joint operations and efforts. I can assure you that sophisticated wildlife trafficking organizations know exactly where the borders are located and know precisely how to take advantage of the border if country or government X is enforcing and government Y is not enforcing.

That is the plan. Has there been an impact? I would suggest that there has been. Let me offer three examples from the INL anti-wildlife trafficking initiative. First, recently, 28 governments and their law enforcement communities cooperated for one month in an exercise called COBRA II. This involved law enforcement communities and organizations from Asia, Africa, and North America. What did they accomplish in one month? More than 400 arrests and 350 seizures of illegally trafficked wildlife - and they learned in that month how to do it. They learned lessons from other law enforcement organizations as to what worked and what did not work. They also learned how to communicate with one another and learned new tactics, techniques, and technologies.

Second, in April 2013, the United Nations Crime Commission met and - with the eventual sponsorship of 20 different governments - passed a resolution that stated that wildlife trafficking is a “serious crime” in the United Nations system. Now, ladies and gentlemen, in UN speak, that is about as tough as you can get. They have given the tool and the weapon to any government that is prepared to take on the challenge, by saying the United Nations system and the world’s global community says that this act is a serious crime.

Third and finally, in November of last year, the government for which I work issued its first ever reward offer of the Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program. Under the authority created by the President of the United States and supporting our Transnational Organized Crime Strategy, this reward program was designed to fill the gap between counterterrorism on one side and counternarcotics on the other side by creating the authority to offer rewards for the most serious participants in transnational organized crime. Who was the very first named suspected criminal under this authority? Ladies and gentleman, it was the organization known as the Xaysavang Network, under the leadership, we believe, of Mr. Keosavang, a citizen of Laos. We believe this organization is perhaps one of the world’s largest wildlife trafficking organizations. They traffic product from Asia and Africa in search of markets around the world.

We have offered $1 million to anyone who assists in taking down this trafficking network. It is symbolic, I acknowledge, but it is important symbolism to say that at the first opportunity we had to identify a transnational criminal organization and to put real money behind its dismantlement, we selected a wildlife trafficking organization. May I say to anyone in the Xaysavang network who may be listening today or in the future that this reward offer still stands. There is no rock beneath which you can hide; no tree behind which you may conceal yourself that will make that $1 million go away.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I mention one other program? I believe there are some academics in this room and I would like to draw you in to this conversation as well. There is a program that the State Department has been managing for several years. It’s kind of a cool program that we call the Diplomacy Lab. It works on the following concept. Neither the Department of State nor any other foreign ministry in the world has so many resources, so many people, so much money that it can do all of the research and analysis that it requires with its own employees. We want to draw in the academic world to this effort. We want to allow them the opportunity, whether they are undergraduate or graduate students or tenured professors, to do research and work that will have a direct, real-world impact on what we are doing. We identify areas and invite research and analysis in those areas. We had excellent success with this in areas related to my line of work, including corrections, prison management, community policing, and tribal courts. There have been a half-dozen of these sorts of research efforts which we absorb in the INL bureau, integrate into our programs and then attempt to apply in genuine programs in many countries around the world. May I suggest to you, academics, to look to the year 2014 for the opportunity to engage in several of these projects and programs that are related to illicit wildlife trafficking?

The problem of wildlife trafficking is not going to be solved today or even this year. It has taken us centuries and perhaps even millennia to get into this problem. It is going to take us some years as a human race to solve it. Yet we will solve the problem, step by step. We will do it together as two communities: a community that is dedicated to conservation and preservation and a community that is dedicated to the enforcement of our nations’ and our planet’s laws. We will do it because we can. We will do it because we must.

Leonard mentioned in his remarks the sound of a lioness mourning the loss of its cub. I come from the west Texas panhandle. I can assure you that I have never heard that sound. I hope I never do. But there is one sound of a mother mourning that, I suggest to you, I would not mind hearing at all. That would be the sound of a homo sapien mourning the departure of her poacher son as he begins several years of incarceration following his conviction and sentencing for wildlife trafficking. That is a vision that I would not mind associating myself with, because the more of that sort of mourning we hear, the less mourning we will hear from lionesses who have lost their cubs. Someday, if we do our jobs right and well, perhaps we’ll hear neither of those two sorts of mourning. Neither the lioness nor the elephant nor the rhino mother, mourning the loss of its young, nor the homo sapien mother mourning the departure of her poacher son. When that day comes, we will have succeeded.

I thank you very much; I look forward to further discussion.