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Project Leaf (Law Enforcement Assistance for Forests) is a climate initiative consortium against illegal logging and related crimes.

It is led by INTERPOL and the United Nations Environment Programme’s centre in Norway (UNEP GRID Arendal), with support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and the United States Department of State (DoS).

The issues

Living forests are vital to mitigating climate change because they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Deforestation accounts for an estimated 17 per cent of global carbon emissions, greater than from all the world’s air, road, rail and shipping traffic combined.

National and international frameworks exist to protect forests, reduce illegal logging, support sustainable practices and reduce emissions – for example, the international climate finance mechanism known as REDD or REDD+, which is supported by UN and World Bank initiatives.

Despite this increased concern for sustainable forestry, around only eight per cent of the world’s forests are certified as sustainably managed.

It is estimated that illegal logging accounts for 50-90 per cent of all forestry activities in key producer tropical forests, such as those of the Amazon Basin, Central Africa and Southeast Asia, and 15-30 per cent of all wood traded globally. Illegal logging continues to occur in many formally protected forests, especially in tropical countries.

The trade in illegally harvested timber is highly lucrative and estimated to be worth between USD 30 and USD 100 billion annually.

Illegal logging operations rely on corruption and could not occur without some form of consent from government officials responsible for protecting forests. Officials accept bribes that allow criminals to obtain logging permits, avoid detection and export illegal timber. This results in the loss of crucial resources for developing countries, while damaging their economies, public trust, and institutional structures.

The response

An international, coordinated response is essential in order to combat the organized transnational nature of the criminal groups involved in illegal logging. Otherwise, halting illegal logging in one country will merely result in an increase in another as the demand for illegally logged wood products remains unchanged.

Effective compliance and enforcement requires cooperation among the many different law enforcement agencies involved, including police, forest authorities, anti-corruption units, financial intelligence units (FIUs) and customs.

By involving the FIUs and investigating financial crimes – such as money laundering – in the forestry sector, the law enforcement community can identify and confiscate the proceeds of those crimes. Following the money trail leads to the masterminds or financiers of the illegal logging operations and, most importantly, to their assets.

Project Leaf aims to:

  • Raise awareness of the impact of illegal logging;
  • Develop law enforcement capacity;
  • Enhance information and intelligence sharing;
  • Establish National Environmental Security Task Forces (NESTs) to promote institutionalized cooperation between national agencies and international partners.

These aims will be delivered through analysis, training, operational support and the dissemination of expert recommendations and best practice.

See related reports and manuals on our Resources page.

Project Leaf - news
25 julio 2014

Operación contra el comercio de madera ilegal en el Perú con el apoyo de INTERPOL y la OMA

LYON (Francia) – INTERPOL y la Organización Mundial de Aduanas (OMA) han prestado su apoyo a una operación contra los grupos delictivos implicados en el comercio de madera ilegal en el Perú, que ha llevado al decomiso de madera bruta y trabajada valorada en 20,6 millones de dólares estadounidenses (USD).Entre marzo y mayo de 2014 se llevó a cabo la operac...
26 junio 2014

Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda unite efforts to combat illegal timber trade in East Africa

Nairobi, 26 June 2014 – High-level government representatives from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania today, at the first United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), announced their intention to work together, along with INTERPOL and UN agencies, to curb the illegal timber trade that is stripping East Africa of one of its most valuable natural resources.The East...
24 junio 2014

Illegal trade in wildlife and timber products finances criminal and militia groups, threatening security and sustainable development

NAIROBI, Kenya (24 June) -Global environmental crime, worth up to USD213 billion each year, is helping finance criminal, militia and terrorist groups and threatening the security and sustainable development of many nations, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and INTERPOL.The Environmental Crime Crisis, a rapid r...
21 marzo 2014

Clear-cut crime scenes: Why the International Day of Forests matters

The International Day of Forests is an important opportunity to remind ourselves of the vital role of forests to the world’s environment, people’s health and the economic well-being of many forest-rich – but cash-poor – countries. It is also an important time to acknowledge the level of forest destruction and the need for the rule of law at this ‘final fr...
26 julio 2013

INTERPOL member countries continue fight against illegal logging in Latin America

LYON, France – Nearly USD 40 million worth of timber has been seized in follow up investigations as part of INTERPOL’s Operation Lead targeting illegal logging, forest crimes and the criminal networks behind them.Building upon the initial outcomes of the operation, Costa Rica and Venezuela in particular have increased their efforts in the fight against il...
03 mayo 2013

INTERPOL imparte un curso centrado en la protección de los bosques

YAKARTA (Indonesia) – En un curso impartido por INTERPOL se definió la mejora de la recopilación, evaluación e intercambio de información general y policial como factor esencial para una lucha eficaz de las fuerzas del orden contra la tala ilegal, el tráfico ilícito de madera y otros delitos forestales cometidos en toda la región de Asia y el Pacífico.El...
21 marzo 2013

Combating illegal logging key to saving our forests and preventing climate change

Protecting the world’s last remaining natural forests is crucial to global efforts to tackle climate change. There is widespread and growing scientific consensus that it will only be possible to avoid the tipping point when climate change becomes irreversible if we achieve both a reduction in overall industrial emissions of greenhouse gases, and establish...
19 febrero 2013

Los países latinoamericanos participan en la primera operación de INTERPOL contra la tala ilícita

LYON (Francia) – La primera operación internacional de INTERPOL contra la tala ilícita y los delitos forestales a gran escala se ha saldado con cerca de 200 detenciones y la aprehensión de madera valorada en varios millones de dólares, además del decomiso de unos 150 vehículos en gran parte de América Latina.La operación LEAD, que tuvo lugar entre el 17 d...
27 septiembre 2012

Las redes de delincuencia organizada dedicadas a la tala ilícita obtienen hasta 100.000 millones de dólares al año, según revelan INTERPOL y el PNUMA en un informe conjunto

ROMA (Italia) – Se calcula que el tráfico de madera en manos de distintos grupos de delincuencia organizada mueve entre 30.000 y 100.000 millones de dólares estadounidenses al año, según un informe elaborado conjuntamente por el Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente (PNUMA) e INTERPOL.El informe de intervención rápida, titulado “Green Car...
13 septiembre 2012

Funcionarios de medio ambiente vuelven a sus raíces en el marco de una iniciativa conjunta de INTERPOL y la Policía Federal de Brasil

MANAOS (Brasil) – La supervivencia en la jungla y el uso de herramientas de geoprocesamiento han sido dos de los componentes de una iniciativa de formación Law Enforcement Against Deforestation (LEAD   Fuerzas del orden contra la deforestación), llevada a cabo por INTERPOL en colaboración con la Policía Federal de Brasil, destinada a los funcion...
05 junio 2012

INTERPOL pone en marcha el proyecto LEAF con miras a combatir la tala ilícita en todo el mundo

LYON (Francia) – Para celebrar el Día Mundial del Medio Ambiente (5 de junio), INTERPOL anuncia la puesta en marcha del proyecto LEAF (Law Enforcement Assistance for Forests, ayuda de las fuerzas del orden en relación con los bosques), una iniciativa destinada a combatir todos los aspectos de los delitos forestales, entre ellos la tala y el tráfico ilícit...