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14 February 2012

Effective environmental law enforcement focus of INTERPOL working group meetings

BANGKOK, Thailand – More than 240 law enforcement specialists and experts from around the globe are gathering in Thailand for the INTERPOL Environmental Crime Committee’s working groups on pollution and wildlife crime.

Hosted by the Royal Thai Police, the five-day meetings (13 – 17 February) will focus on exchanging information on effective environmental law enforcement and identifying practical steps to curb the threats posed by criminals to global environmental safety and security.

Addressing the delegates at the opening ceremony, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Ubamrung said: “Environmental Crime has become a critical issue and threat to the security and welfare of the global community, requiring more concerted and committed efforts from different government and non-government sectors and stronger political will by governments.

“In 2005, Thailand took the lead in pursuing the establishment of the regional ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network in the Southeast Asian region as an important step to improve law enforcement in the region through better networking nationally and regionally. This year, we welcome and commend representatives from around the world from international and regional organizations, law enforcement government agencies and civil society who have assembled here to further discuss and take stronger steps forward in coming up with concrete results and responses in tackling and eliminating specific environmental crime issues on pollution and wildlife,” added the Deputy Prime Minister.

INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services, Jean-Michel Louboutin emphasized the importance of global enforcement cooperation in working effectively together in the fight against environmental crime.

“The Environmental Crime Committee and its working groups prove through their collaboration in practical crime projects that the INTERPOL’s systems and services play a central role in the effective and innovative international response to this crime type that in its nature and impact crosses our borders every day,” said Mr Louboutin.

During the week-long meeting – which is being held in parallel to the Heads of Police and Customs Seminar on Tiger Crime, organized by the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) – enforcement professionals will bring together their specific fields of expertise to a number of projects addressing a wide variety of crimes, including oil pollution, rhinoceros poaching, emission trade fraud and illegal fishing. In a plenary session, both working groups discussed the challenges of securing adequate resources for environmental law enforcement in times of financial constraints.

“The primary role of our enforcement community will always be to target the criminals, but this meeting emphasizes that we may never stop finding new ways to do so more effectively. We will seek innovative approaches to include the expertise and experience of non-governmental stakeholders in our daily work,” said Detective Inspector Brian Stuart, Head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit in the United Kingdom and Chair of the Wildlife Crime Working Group.

“We have an obligation to raise awareness of the risks of pollution and natural resource theft to the environment and human health which we identify through our enforcement activities and that pose a serious threat to our environmental security. At the same time we must also ensure that we promote our capability and successes in combatting these threats. Public stakeholders, including the media, can play an important role in helping law enforcement to get that message across and strengthen the political will to invest in our capacity to fight these crimes against our future,” added DI Stuart.

Chief Commissioner Frans Geysels, Head of the Environmental Service in the Belgian Federal Police and Chair of the Pollution Crime Working Group, said: “As the potential impact on our quality of life becomes more apparent, the sense of urgency to act now will grow. But our enforcement resources will always be relatively scarce. It has been recognized that only through a multi-disciplinary approach that we can be truly effective in the enforcement of the laws that protect the basic needs for our survival. Working together among all agencies and tapping into the expertise of non-enforcement bodies enhance our chances to efficiently focus our efforts on the most unscrupulous criminals,” said the Chief Commissioner.

“Our aim is to target the transnational networks of people and companies who deliberately violate the law with the sole intent to gain financial advantage while undermining the integrity of our states. The willingness and ability to share and enhance information, intelligence and experience are key in an effective global law enforcement response, and I am convinced that being here together with more than 240 expert participants from around the world provides the optimal condition to make important steps forward,” concluded Mr Geysels.

On Thursday the working groups will reconvene in a plenary session to present their proposals and plans for the coming year.