Britain’s Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, came to the World Bank to urge action on what he called one of the most insidious forms of corruption: the illegal wildlife trade.
Wildlife crime has escalated over the last decade to the point where criminal gangs are “turning vast profits from the illegal killing and capture of wildlife” – as much as $20 billion a year in illegal profits, said the duke at a meeting of the International Corruption Hunters Alliance. The market is exceeded in value only by the illegal markets for drugs, arms, and trafficked human beings, he said.
“Wildlife crime goes to the heart of our security. It recognizes neither national borders nor national interests. It distorts economic development, undermines the rule of law, and exacerbates sources of conflict,” said the duke, speaking in his capacity as the president of the conservation group, United for Wildlife.
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said corruption is not only a threat to sustainable development, but to the goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.
“Corruption may very well be one of the most blatant expressions of inequality in our society,” said Kim, adding that illicit financial flows exceed both aid and foreign direct investment.
Prince William announced a new task force, chaired by British First Secretary of State William Hague, that will work with the transport industry on shutting down illegal wildlife trade routes and encouraging global action on wildlife crime. He asked for the backing of the more than 300 anti-corruption officials from 130 countries in the audience.
“You are all experts and senior policymakers in the field, and today I make a plea for your support. I am determined not to let the world’s children grow up on a planet where the most iconic and endangered species have been wiped out, impoverishing us all,” he said.
Kim thanked Prince William for his determination “in rooting out and breaking apart the entrenched corruption in the illegal wildlife trade.”
“You are part of a very special club – a club of people who are ethically and morally motivated to fight corruption in order to protect the most vulnerable, whether it’s the poorest people in the world or endangered wildlife,” Kim added.
“I challenge the corruption hunters to do their part. Freeze, forfeit, and recover stolen assets so that the flow of corrupted funds is disrupted,” he said.