Strengthening legislation and communication to reduce demand for illegal wildlife products was the main theme of a dialogue held by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Assembly’s Office in Hanoi today.
Member of the National Assembly, Vice Chairman of the Office of the National Assembly Pham Dinh Toan speaks at the dialogue in Hanoi on Tuesday.
The event is the second in a series of three dialogues organised by the USAID Wildlife Asia project aimed at ending the illegal consumption of wildlife products in Vietnam.
The event is a chance for Vietnamese government leaders and conservation experts to discuss how Vietnam can improve its wildlife-related policies and legal system for wildlife management and protection, as well as promote demand reduction activities to enhance wildlife conservation.
“Since the first high-level discussion in July 2019, robust progress has been made to combat wildlife crime in Vietnam. For example, on January 28, 2020, Vietnam banned the import of wild animals in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. We hope that today’s event will bring even more progress, including guidance for comprehensive, focused social and behaviour change communication strategies that will lead to a reduction in demand for illegal wildlife products in Vietnam,” said Member of the National Assembly, Vice Chairman of the Office of the National Assembly Pham Dinh Toan.
“We are pleased that the Government of Vietnam is in favour of introducing effective initiatives to deter wildlife crime and reduce consumer demand. This event is vital to translate political will into action,” said USAID/Vietnam Mission Director Michael Greene.
“International pressure and the COVID-19 pandemic are driving the country to adopt stronger policies and effective consumer demand reduction measures. The wildlife trade is not only pushing wildlife species to extinction, but also spreads zoonotic diseases that threaten human lives and even economic development. Protecting wildlife and their habitats can help prevent future pandemics, and promote global security and sustainable development,” said Greene.
At the second dialogue, participants focused discussions to promote widespread understanding of the negative consequences of illegal wildlife consumption, showcasing best practices from other countries. Looking beyond awareness raising campaigns, the event championed social and behaviour change communication initiatives that use evidence-based behavioural science to change the consumption habits of target audiences and help reduce demand for illegal wildlife in Vietnam.
International conservation experts also shared lessons learnt from other countries and called on the National Assembly to adopt best practices of other governments to counter wildlife trafficking.
In recent years, Vietnam has been active in passing legislation to counter wildlife trafficking and the country has one of the most comprehensive legal frameworks in the region. Since the beginning of 2018, Vietnam's amended penal code has strengthened penalties for wildlife trafficking by introducing fines of up to VNĐ15 billion (around US$630,000) and prison sentences of up to 15 years.
However, the country continues to be both a destination and transit hub for wildlife products. Recommendations from the dialogues will be compiled into guidance for policymakers in planning and implementing new wildlife-focused legislation and demand reduction campaigns. — VNS
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