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18 October 2016

Enhancing environmental security through cooperation

QUITO, Ecuador – Enhancing national and regional capacity in combating environmental crime was the focus of two INTERPOL meetings hosted by Ecuador.

A two-day (10 and 11 October) National Environmental Security Seminar (NESS), focusing on forestry crimes brought together 28 representatives from Ecuadorean authorities including the national police, the Office of the Attorney General, the Foreign Affairs, Defence, Agriculture, Environment and Mining ministries, customs and the UN Environment Programme.

A NESS is the first step in the process of establishing a National Environmental Security Task Force (NEST), an initiative of INTERPOL’s Environmental Security programme to bring together all national agencies with responsibility for enforcing environmental laws.

Followed by a three-day (12 – 14 October) Regional Investigative and Analytical Case Meeting (RIACM) in which analysts and investigators from Brazil, Colombia, Peru and the United States also participated, the two events were held under the umbrella of INTERPOL’s Project Leaf.

Officials exchanged information on cross-border timber trafficking cases as well as identifying opportunities for future joint operational activities. All participating countries also signed a declaration of cooperation in relation to increased use of INTERPOL’s capabilities.

Funded by the Norwegian Agency for Cooperation and Development (Norad), Project Leaf is a global programme supporting law enforcement’s efforts in combating illegal logging, the illicit trade in timber and forestry-related crimes including corruption, fraud and money laundering.

Head of INTERPOL’s National Central Bureau in Quito, Lieutenant Colonel Marco Sarabia said: “Crimes against the environment are international, organized and complex offences that are increasingly profitable. To successfully fight them, we need a coordinated, global response based on collaboration. We hope that the National Environmental Security Seminar is the first step to a strong and permanent working group that efficiently fights environmental crimes.

“International law enforcement cooperation is also necessary to dismantle the criminal networks involved in the illicit trade of timber. Ecuador is committed to bring to an end the activities of these networks,” added Lieutenant Colonel Sarabia.

“Forestry crimes are growing at an alarming pace across the region. The complexity of this type of offence requires a multi-agency response reinforced by collaboration between countries,” said Davyth Stewart, Natural Resources Coordinator in INTERPOL’s Environmental Security Programme.

“Corruption and fraud in the forestry sector are of particular importance given the close links with deforestation rates and the resulting impact on weakening the rule of law and sustainable economic development,” added Mr Stewart.

Representing a quarter of the world’s forested area, the Amazon is home to hundreds of thousands of indigenous people who are heavily dependent on the forest providing food, shelter and medicines.

In Brazil and Peru, which are among the top 10 countries with the largest percentage of forest cover, it is estimated that up to 80 per cent of logging is illegal.