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United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Deputy Executive Director, Ibrahim Thiaw, called on Monday for better protection of Africa’s abundant wildlife and natural capital as a way to realize African Union’s (AU) ambitious Agenda 2063.

Speaking at the retreat of the AU Executive Council in Mekelle, Ethiopia, Mr. Thiaw told African Ministers of Foreign Affairs that the value of illegal trade in wildlife and timber on the continent nearly equals the global Official Development Aid (ODA) to Africa.

“Africa’s unrivalled wealth of natural resources proportionately attracts the tentacles of many criminal networks that reach deep into the continent. These resources are the very future of the African Nations. Stealing them deprives countries of the ability to choose and determine their own future and economic development, for their own people, as part of a global world,” said Mr. Thiaw in his speech.

Considering the huge economic benefit that African countries owe to eco-tourism, ecosystem services and sustainable harvesting of natural resources, he called for urgent actions to achieve sustainable ecosystem management in the region. He urged the African Ministers to assume an active role in addressing this issue, especially by integrating wildlife conservation into African diplomacy.

The Chairperson of African Union Commission Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma welcomed his idea and advised to consider an inclusive and participatory approach to wildlife conservation that includes and actively engages local communities.

The Executive council retreat preceded the 26th Ordinary Session of AU Assembly that will be held on 30-31 January 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Guided by the theme “Implementation of Agenda 2063” African Foreign Ministers exchanged ideas on issues critical to achieving the vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa. The retreat concluded with the adoption of the Mekelle Ministerial Retreat Draft Outcomes, which will be considered and eventually adopted at the AU Executive Council meeting on 27-28 January 2016.


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