Jakarta via virtual platform, June 22nd 2022
Supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Senior Officials on Forestry virtually convened the First Multi-Sectoral Consultation Meeting on the Regional Strategy for Preventing Transmission of Zoonotic Diseases from Wildlife Trade. The ASEAN Secretariat facilitated the meeting, in which more than 50 participants representing ASEAN forestry, wildlife enforcement, health sectors, ASEAN Secretariat, USAID, and international organizations (i.e. ADB, FAO, WOAH, UNEP, WWF) joined to consult on the first draft of the Regional Strategy.
COVID-19 triggered a worldwide health pandemic, dramatically reducing regional economic growth across ASEAN member states in 2020. ASEAN is only now beginning to see signs of recovery as economies reopen and travel resumes, albeit at a measured pace.
While investigations into the source of COVID-19 are still underway, the World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that the SARS-CoV-2 virus has zoonotic origins, meaning animal-to-human transmission of the virus. Linkages between the spread of deadly zoonotic diseases, such as COVID-19, and the transport and trade of wildlife highlight the need for more effective regulation and control.
In response, the U.S. government, through USAID, is partnering with ASEAN to develop regional wildlife trade policies and engage global partners to share knowledge and experience in wildlife trade law enforcement. In line with the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and Plan of Action for ASEAN Cooperation on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and Wildlife Law Enforcement 2021-2025, ASEAN Senior Officials on Forestry (ASOF) agreed to USAID’s proposal to design the first ASEAN Strategy for Preventing Transmission of Zoonotic Diseases from Wildlife Trade as one of the key ASEAN deliverables in 2022. Through the ASEAN-USAID Partnership for Regional Optimization in the Political-Security and Socio-Cultural Communities (PROSPECT) and the USAID Wildlife Asia projects, USAID is providing technical assistance to ASOF in the strategy development process.
Professor Pham Van Dien, Ph.D., from Vietnam, opened the meeting as the ASOF Chair and Assistant Director Amelita DJ Ortiz, from the Philippines, followed with welcome remarks on behalf of the ASEAN Working Group Chair for the CITES Enforcement Network. Both speakers welcomed the multi-stakeholder approach to develop a regional strategy on preventing transmission of zoonotic diseases from wildlife trade and shared great enthusiasm towards the strategy’s One Health approach, which incorporates multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally, to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment. Participants then reviewed the draft Regional Strategy, addressing details on the institutional framework, policies and research underpinning implementation, and necessary capacity needs, and encouraged cooperation with relevant partners to mobilize resources. Looking ahead, stakeholders will reconvene to finalize the revised Regional Strategy in August.
USAID has a long history of collaboration with ASEAN member states on pandemic preparedness and response, counter-wildlife trafficking, and natural resource management. Recognizing that working together in the spirit of One Health in preventing transmission of zoonotic diseases from wildlife trade in the ASEAN region is paramount to guard against future public health emergencies, the United States looks forward to revitalizing its partnership with ASEAN and other international partners on health security issues.
Enthusiastic and valuable inputs from the participants of the USAID-supported First Multi-Sectoral Consultation Meeting on the Regional Strategy for Preventing Transmission of Zoonotic Diseases from Wildlife Trade on June 22nd. Photo credit: ASEAN-USAID PROSPECT