Remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission Nicole Chulick
Opening of USAGM Training for Local Journalists for EPA Ghana Labadie Beach Hotel
Wednesday, August 17, 2022 | 10:45 A.M.
Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Honorable Benito Owusu Bio, distinguished partners,
Good morning! It is wonderful to see you all in person.
I would like to start by first thanking the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) for organizing this important three-day training to build the capacity of journalists to report on nature crimes. The U.S. Government is pleased to be able to support this training to raise awareness of these issues and help improve media coverage of these important issues.
What are nature crimes? Nature crimes include wildlife trafficking; illegal logging and associated trade; crimes associated with illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing; and the illicit extraction and trade in gold and other minerals, precious metals, and gemstones.
The United States and Ghana share a longstanding, strong, and cooperative relationship. We work together on a broad spectrum of issues, including public health, education, entrepreneurship, security, press freedom, and, perhaps most importantly for this audience, addressing environmental challenges.
We know that nature crimes harm the environment. But they also harm communities by stealing resources that could benefit the local population – resources that could generate sustainable profits through eco-tourism, artisan fishing, and responsible mining.
Nature crimes pose a similar threat to security, economic prosperity, the rule of law, and longstanding conservation efforts. They have links to transnational organized crime, as well as to other illegal activities such as money laundering, corruption, and trafficking in drugs, weapons, and persons.
Globally, nature crimes generate hundreds of billions of dollars for transnational criminal organizations every year. Let me repeat that – billions of dollars for illegal activities each year.
Illegal encroachment associated with nature crimes can increase the risk of zoonotic disease spillover – the transmission of diseases from wild animals to humans – and the spreading of these diseases by disrupting habitats and ecosystems, poaching wildlife, and exposing humans to new pathogens. It is worth noting that Ebola and Marburg virus disease are found in bats and other animals sold as bush meat.
The U.S. Government works with foreign government partners and a wide range of stakeholders to address nature crimes –whether individually or as a group, and to leverage existing resources for greater effectiveness and efficiency.
In addition, we are strengthening law enforcement efforts in our own country and working with foreign partners to investigate – and successfully prosecute – those who illegally trade in wildlife, timber, fish, and minerals.
There are major gaps in the response to nature crimes. Lack of data, and the lack of public knowledge and awareness are some of the reasons for this.
The media needs to be a part of this as well. Ghana has a strong history of press freedom. Journalists – like you – can help educate and empower local communities to understand and prevent nature crimes.
You can also ask the tough questions and hold regulating agencies accountable when they don’t fully protect natural resources. You, as journalists, can also help us all by pointing out gaps in policies that we can work together to address.
So, I want to thank you all for joining us today, and for the great work that you do every day. This work is critical for increasing transparency and necessary to shed light on alarming instances of nature crimes.
Over the course of the training, you will hear from experts on nature crimes in Ghana, as well as applicable laws and best practices for how to stay safe while covering these issues.
We are excited that you are participating in this training, and we cannot wait to see the profound and important stories that you will produce.
Thank you very much and best of luck with the training!