Calls for wildlife and forest crime to be treated as serious crime

Photo: UNODC13 April 2015 - Poaching and illicit trafficking of wild fauna and flora have a significant impact on species and entire ecosystems, local communities and their livelihoods, national economies, and national and regional security. 

On 13 April 2015, UNODC and the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) co-hosted an International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) high-level side event on "Wildlife and Forest Crime: A Serious Crime" in the margins of the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Doha, Qatar.

The event was opened by the President of the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, and co-chaired by UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov, and CITES Secretary-General, Mr. John E. Scanlon. Representativesof five Member States together with thefive agencies comprising ICCWC, namely the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, UNODC, the World Bank and the World Customs Organization (WCO), all actively participated in the event, alongside a number of other organizations.

The event provided a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the scale and nature of wildlife and forest crime, which has escalated to unprecedented levels in recent years as a result of the increased involvement of transnational organized crime groups and on some occasions rebel militia. Wildlife poaching and trafficking now poses a serious threat to the survival of some of the world's most charismatic species, as well as many other lesser known species.

Mr. Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director, highlighted the destructive nature of wildlife crime: "Wildlife and forest crime is profoundly destructive, with far-reaching consequences - undermining development and stability, threatening biodiversity and endangered species, and contributing to climate change. And yet, too often the punishment does not fit the crime. Inadequate legislative frameworks remain far too commonplace." 

Mr. John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General, stressed: " Well organized and well-resourced transnational organized crime groups are driving industrial scale illegal trade in wildlife. Combatting these groups requires wildlife crime to be recognized as a serious crime across source, transit and destination States and for States to deploy the same enforcement tools, techniques and penalties to fight illegal trade in wildlife as those used to combat other domestic and transnational organized crimes."

"This week's Congress in Doha on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice is where such matters must be discussed. For the first time, wildlife crime is on the Congress agenda and we warmly welcome the adoption of the Doha Declaration", added Scanlon. The Doha Declaration adopted at the Congress provides a further strong basis for States to put an end to the current high levels of illicit trafficking of wild fauna and flora.

In its paragraph 9(e), the Declaration reads:  To adopt effective measures to prevent and counter the serious problem of crimes that have an impact on the environment, such as trafficking in wildlife, including flora and fauna as protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, timber and timber products and hazardous waste, as well as poaching, by strengthening legislation, international cooperation, capacity-building, criminal justice responses and law enforcement efforts aimed at, inter alia, dealing with transnational organized crime, corruption and money-laundering linked to such crimes;

The 13th United Nations Congress brings together policymakers and practitioners in the area of crime prevention and criminal justice, and has a significant role in shaping international and domestic policy on these issues. The Congress provided a unique platform for ICCWC to raise awareness among countries of the importance to recognize illegal trade in wildlife and forest products as a serious transnational organized crime, in particular under relevant United Nations instruments such as the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC).

The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime ( ICCWC) is the collaborative effort of five intergovernmental organizations working to bring coordinated support to the national wildlife law enforcement agencies and to the subregional and regional networks that, on a daily basis, act in defence of natural resources. The ICCWC partners are the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Secretariat, INTERPOL, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Bank and the World Customs Organization (WCO).

The mission of ICCWC is to usher in a new era where perpetrators of serious wildlife and forest crime will face a formidable and coordinated response, rather than the present situation where the risk of detection and punishment is all too low.

In this context, ICCWC works for, and with, the wildlife law enforcement community, since it is frontline officers who eventually bring criminals engaged in wildlife crime to justice.

ICCWC seeks to support the development of law enforcement that builds on socially and environmentally sustainable natural resource policies, taking into consideration the need to provide livelihood support to poor and marginalized rural communities.

Further information at:

13th UN Crime Congress, Doha 2015

UNODC Executive Director's full remarks at the event

Doha Declaration

UNODC's work on crime prevention and criminal justice

Information about ICCWC

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