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ASEAN Strengthens Collective Efforts to Prevent the Spread of Zoonotic Diseases From Wildlife Trade
7 MINUTE READ
February 2, 2024

ASEAN STRENGTHENS COLLECTIVE EFFORTS TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF ZOONOTIC DISEASES FROM WILDLIFE TRADE
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) fortifies cooperation behind ASEAN’s new regional strategy to prevent transmission of zoonotic diseases from wildlife to humans and reduce demand for illegal wildlife products.

 

A team of rangers on the frontlines of wildlife protection in the Philippines. Photo: USAID PROTECT Philippines

With over 500 million cases of COVID-19 to date and estimated economic losses of trillions of dollars, the COVID-19 pandemic proved a harsh global wake-up call to reassess public health measures. Current research indicates that the likely origin of the pathogen causing COVID-19 originated in wild bats. Linkages between the spread of deadly zoonotic diseases transmitted from animals to humans, such as COVID-19, and the wildlife trade are under increasing scrutiny and calls for more public protections and effective regulation and controls are growing louder. As a region with substantial wildlife trade and a hotspot for emerging infectious diseases, ASEAN Member States (AMS) had already introduced a wide variety of measures at the national-level to address the issue. To its credit, ASEAN’s Senior Officials on Forestry (ASOF)—recognizing the need for a common, comprehensive framework to better coordinate wildlife management at the regional level—made it a priority to develop strategies for forestry and wildlife management that take into account the need to prevent the transmission of zoonotic diseases from wildlife to humans. 

Through technical support from USAID, ASOF was able to produce the first-ever ASEAN Strategy for Preventing Transmission of Zoonotic Diseases from Wildlife Trade as a key deliverable in 2022. The final Strategy was developed through a series of multisectoral consultations with relevant ASEAN Sectoral Bodies, including from the agriculture, forestry, environment, human health, law enforcement, and public health emergency sectors, as well as from ASEAN development partners. Following the July and August consultations, the Strategy was finalized and adopted by the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry in October 2022 and noted by ASEAN Leaders during the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in November 2022. 

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“[ASEAN] is now one step closer towards reaching our goal of preventing, protecting against, controlling and providing an animal health and zoonosis response to the international spread of diseases in the ASEAN region,” said Madam Natividad Y. Bernardino, the Chair of the ASEAN Working Group on CITES and Wildlife Enforcement. 

Perhaps most notably, the Strategy serves as a directive tool for AMS and international partners to work together under a One Health approach. Specifically, the Strategy outlines activities to be advanced under nine areas—1) institutional arrangements and activities; 2) multisectoral, One Health coordination, collaboration, and communication; 3) One Health planning and capacity development; 4) surveillance, investigation, risk assessment and research information sharing; 5) public and stakeholder communication, education, and advocacy and behavior change; 6) biodiversity protection, restoration and management; 7) biosecurity and inspections systems enhancements; 8) legal arrangements and wildlife trade law enforcement; and 9) partnership and resource mobilization. This Strategy will be implemented under the leadership of ASOF and the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Animal Health and Zoonosis through 2025 as a living document that will be reviewed and updated annually. 

As a comprehensive strategic partner, the United States is committed to continuing collaboration with ASEAN in bolstering global health security and preventing outbreaks with pandemic potential. USAID continues to work with government, private sector, and civil society partners to strengthen collaborative approaches to pandemic preparedness and response, counter-wildlife trafficking, and natural resource management at the regional and national levels across ASEAN Member States.

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Aligned with the U.S. strategic approach to the Indo-Pacific, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) maintains its commitment to partnering with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This collaboration aims to promote prosperity, security, economic inclusion, women’s empowerment, and good governance.