Protecting wildlife and forests from organized crime focus of global consortium meeting
BANGKOK, Thailand – Building on best practice methods and implementing a strategic way forward to more effectively protect the environment from transnational organized crime was the focus of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) executive meeting.
Senior officials from the five ICCWC members – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), INTERPOL, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Bank and the World Customs Organization (WCO) – convened in Bangkok on the opening day of the triennial CITES conference (3 – 14 March).
The five organizations joined forces as ICCWC in 2010 in response to the increasingly organized and transnational nature of wildlife and forest crime, and in recognition of the need for enhanced international coordination and cooperation to underpin collective responses to this crime.
CITES Secretary General, John E. Scanlon, stressed: “The serious nature of wildlife crime demands a response that is commensurate with the scale of the risk it poses to species, livelihoods and security. ICCWC is the first initiative where the five organizations have joined forces to achieve a common goal. The combined experience, capacity and networks of the partners makes ICCWC uniquely placed to develop programmes to combat wildlife crime to help ensure the perpetrators face a more formidable and coordinated response”.
INTERPOL’s Director of Specialized Crime and Analysis, Bernd Rossbach, said: “Transnational organized criminal networks are increasingly moving into wildlife crime which offers them the possibility of significant profits at comparatively low risk. National law enforcement agencies are the first line of defence against the illegal trade in wildlife, however they increasingly face sophisticated and highly-organized criminal gangs.
“INTERPOL, and its network of 190 member countries and as part of ICCWC, will continue to provide the necessary support to national agencies to conduct transnational enforcement operations and target those behind all forms of wildlife crime,” added Mr Rossbach.
The meeting enabled partners to review the regional and international wildlife crime protection activities conducted by ICCWC to date, including a workshop on controlled deliveries in Shanghai, China, and the development of a toolkit to help governments review the effectiveness of their responses to wildlife and forest crime.
Highlighting the capacity building focus of the consortium, Director of Operations at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Aldo Lale-Demoz, explained: “The ICCWC Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit is a technical resource that assists government officials in wildlife and forestry administration, customs and other relevant agencies to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of their preventive and criminal justice responses related to the protection of wildlife and forest products. Based on the results of the analysis, tailored evidence-based capacity building and technical assistance programmes will be designed and implemented through ICCWC partner agencies.”
Reflecting on the strengths of the consortium, William B. Magrath, Lead Natural Resource Economist, World Bank said: "Through our engagement in ICCWC and related partnerships we are seeing a growing need for additional resources for crime prevention and socially and developmentally sound law enforcement. The World Bank is already the largest source of development finance for environmental and natural resource law enforcement and we are looking to ICCWC as a way of expanding and improving our support of good environmental law enforcement as a global public good."
The Deputy Director of Compliance and Facilitation at the World Customs Organization, Allen Bruford, stressed: “Much further work lies ahead to combat organized wildlife and forest crime and for this reason the WCO will continue to raise awareness of its serious impact on the natural environment, while continuing to build the capacity of customs officers across the globe to more effectively tackle the criminal syndicates behind cross-border wildlife crime in partnership with our key partners.”
Consortium partners at the meeting also discussed the future priorities for ICCWC, including the need to continue to build the profile of wildlife crime along with its recognition as transnational organized crime. The important contributions and expertise of each partner organization in helping achieve these were also acknowledged.