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06 November 2013 - Media release

INTERPOL-UNEP conference aims to develop global roadmap against environmental crime

NAIROBI, Kenya – Designing a joint international strategy to tackle environmental crime is the focus of the first Executive Level Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Committee (ECEC) Meeting co-hosted by UNEP and INTERPOL.

Senior law enforcement officials as well as representatives from non-governmental organizations, academia and the private sector will set out strategies to best deal with environmental crime in all its forms, and ensure that governments and law enforcement recognize and raise awareness of  the dangers posed by this type of crime.

In this respect, cooperation between inter-governmental organizations (IGOs) and environmental enforcement actions will be two of the main topics covered at the conference, along with trends and impacts of crimes against the environment.

An example of the proposed cooperation between IGOs is the environmental security assessments initiative on current and emerging threats which INTERPOL and UNEP are looking to conduct jointly. Under this initiative, which the global community will be called upon to support, experts and analysts would be deployed into the field to undertake comprehensive security assessments.

“Illegal international trade in environmental commodities is a threat to human health and the environment; it contributes to the loss of whole species; it results in revenue loss for governments and undermines the success of international environmental agreements by circumventing agreed rules and procedures. This illicit trade also provides vast sums of money to criminal syndicates that, in the long run, destabilise international and national security,” said Kenya’s Attorney General, Githu Muigai, in his opening remarks.

United Nations Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, said: “The theft of natural resources by the few at the expense of the many is rapidly emerging as a new challenge  to poverty eradication, sustainable development and a transition towards an inclusive Green Economy when one looks at the scale and breadth of these criminal activities”.

“INTERPOL along with United Nations bodies such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime is at the forefront of the response to this challenge, and UNEP is committed to supporting their work and the evolution of the rule of law into the realm of environment and sustainability,” Mr Steiner added.

INTERPOL Executive Director of Police Services Jean-Michel Louboutin underlined how INTERPOL seeks to support law enforcement agencies in combating environmental crime through its operational tools and services, facilitating cross border police operations and training, intelligence gathering and analysis, as well as through targeted partnerships with stakeholders.

“Environmental crime worldwide in all its forms represents a serious threat to the world’s global security, ecosystems and economy. It represents one of the fastest-growing crime areas, fanned by expanding crime networks, profits, and weak criminal penalties,” said Mr Louboutin.

INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services recalled how Operation Wendi, led by INTERPOL and targeting criminal organizations behind the illegal trafficking of ivory in West and Central Africa between January and May 2013 resulted in some 66 arrests and the seizure of nearly 4,000 ivory products and 50 elephant tusks – in addition to military grade weapons and cash.

“The fight against environmental crime must involve collective efforts by law enforcement, governments, international organizations and the private sector. INTERPOL will continue to undertake operations in our member countries involving all stakeholders, so as to build capacity, support investigations and reinforce our collective ability to stem such crimes which have a global impact,” added Mr Louboutin.

The Head of INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime unit, David Higgins, said: “Maintaining and enhancing environmental security requires a multi-disciplinary response, bringing together science, sustainable development, conservation management, legislators and enforcement. The UNEP and INTERPOL relationship is a reflection of the global focus on environmental security and the commitments being generated for all sectors to work together.”

Today’s conference builds on the International Chiefs of Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Summit, jointly organized by INTERPOL and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in March 2012, which identified the need for greater engagement between INTERPOL, law enforcement and executive level decision makers responsible for environmental compliance and enforcement.