Barriers to compliance with CITES : a qualitative study of wildlife crime in Colombia
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Transnational environmental crime is increasingly threatening livelihoods, biodiversity, security and peace globally. The illegal trade in wildlife constitutes a considerable part of these threats, and is estimated to be the second largest illegal trade in the world. The principle and most established multilateral institution to regulate trade in wildlife is the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), which was enacted over four decades ago. It is generally regarded as one of the most successful treaties concerning conservation to date. Yet, the illegal trade in species listed on the CITESappendices continue to grow. Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries on earth, and home to a number of protected species that face threats from illegal wildlife trade. How CITES is implemented and enforced in Colombia is arguably paramount in protecting vital ecosystems. This thesis seeks to understand the structural barriers to compliance with the convention in the Colombian context, and how the illegal wildlife trade thrives alongside its legal counterpart. It investigates drivers of illegal wildlife trade, such as poverty alleviation, indigenous and rural peoples rights, exclusion from political processes and discrimination. This research aims to highlight barriers to CITES through an institutional analysis approach with the reference frame of green criminology. Through qualitative field work in Colombia and critical investigation of CITES, I identify key stakeholders and victims of wildlife crime. Further, the research finds that Colombia lacks an array of core institutional strengths in order comply with CITES. Conversely, I argue that CITES relies on structures that are easy to circumvent for criminal actors. This puts the convention at risk of being institutionally inadequate to deter illegal wildlife crime.