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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 juillet 2014

Le commerce de bois illégal cible d’une opération menée avec le soutien d’INTERPOL et de l’OMD au Pérou

LYON (France) – Une opération ciblant les groupes criminels se livrant au commerce de bois illégal au Pérou, mise sur pied avec le soutien d’INTERPOL et de l’Organisation mondiale des douanes (OMD), a abouti à la saisie de bois et de produits du bois d’une valeur de 20,6 millions d’USD.L’opération Amazonas, qui s’est déroulée de mars à mai 2014, a été men...
26 juin 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 juin 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 mars 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 juillet 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 mai 2013

Formation INTERPOL sur le thème de la protection des forêts

JAKARTA (Indonésie) – L’amélioration de la collecte, de l’évaluation et de l’échange d’informations et de renseignements est la clé d’une plus grande efficacité de la lutte menée par les services chargés de l’application de la loi contre l’exploitation forestière illégale, le commerce illicite de bois et les autres formes de criminalité forestière dans la...
21 mars 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 février 2013

Des pays d’Amérique latine participent à la première opération d’INTERPOL contre l’exploitation forestière illégale

LYON (France) – La première opération internationale d’INTERPOL ciblant la criminalité forestière et l’exploitation forestière illégale à grande échelle a abouti à près de 200 arrestations ainsi qu’à la saisie de bois d’une valeur estimée à plusieurs millions de dollars et de quelque 150 véhicules, dans toute l’Amérique latine.L’opération Lead (17 septemb...
27 septembre 2012

Un rapport INTERPOL - PNUE révèle que l’exploitation illégale du bois pourrait rapporter jusqu’à 100 milliards de dollars par an à la criminalité organisée

ROME (Italie) – Un nouveau rapport élaboré par le PNUE (Programme des Nations Unies pour l’environnement ) et INTERPOL évalue entre 30 et 100 milliards de dollars par an les profits tirés par les organisations criminelles du commerce de bois illégal.Ce rapport d’« évaluation rapide des réponses à apporter » intitulé « Carbone vert, marché n...
13 septembre 2012

Les fonctionnaires des services de protection de l’environnement renouent avec leurs racines grâce à une initiative conjointe d’INTERPOL et de la Police fédérale brésilienne

MANAUS (Brésil) – Les techniques de survie dans la jungle et l’utilisation d’outils de traitement de données géographiques ne sont que deux des points abordés dans le cadre de l’initiative de formation Law Enforcement Against Deforestation (LEAD – Les services chargés de l’application de la loi contre la déforestation) dispensée par INTERPOL en collaborat...
05 juin 2012

INTERPOL lance le projet LEAF pour lutter contre l’exploitation forestière illégale dans le monde

LYON (France) – À l’occasion de la Journée mondiale de l’environnement le 5 juin, INTERPOL a annoncé le lancement du projet LEAF (Law Enforcement Assistance for Forests, ou Aide des services chargés de l’application de la loi pour les forêts), une initiative consacrée à la lutte contre tous les aspects de la criminalité forestière, notamment l’exploitatio...