Introduction

The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), contain detailed provisions to support international cooperation in criminal matters, such as extradition and mutual legal assistance, and provide for specific and innovative forms of cooperation that can be applied in the field of wildlife and forest crime. Examples include joint investigations and cooperation for the use of special investigative techniques, such as controlled delivery, electronic and other forms of surveillance and undercover operations. These Conventions further require States parties to adopt appropriate measures aimed at promoting law enforcement cooperation.

Background

The General Assembly affirmed the relevance of the UNTOC to fight illicit trafficking in natural resources in its resolution 55/25 of 15 November 2000, in which it stated that the Convention "constitutes an effective tool and the necessary legal framework for international cooperation in combating such criminal activities as illicit trafficking of protected species of wild flora and fauna, in furtherance of the principles of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora". In this connection, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has an important role to play in terms of strengthening the capacity of Governments to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate crimes against protected species of wild flora and fauna, complementing other international legal frameworks that are relevant for the protection of the environment, as for instance the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

In resolution 2001/12, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) urged Member States to adopt "the legislative or other measures necessary for establishing illicit trafficking in protected species of wild fauna and flora as a criminal offence in their domestic legislation." In a subsequent resolution 2003/27, the ECOSOC urged Member States to cooperate with UNODC (as well as with the secretariats of CITES and the CBD) with a view to preventing, combating and eradicating trafficking in protected species of wild fauna and flora. This ECOSOC resolution also encouraged Member States to adopt, where necessary, preventive measures together with a review of their criminal legislation in order to ensure that the serious nature of these offences relating to trafficking in protected species is punishable by appropriate penalties.

In 2007, the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) adopted resolution 16/1 on "International cooperation in preventing and combating illicit international trafficking in forest products, including timber, wildlife, and other forest biological resources". In this resolution, the Commission recognized the potential role of UNODC in preventing and combating these and other related offences. In 2008, the ECOSOC, in its resolution 2008/25, reiterated the need for international cooperation and called for "holistic and comprehensive national multi-sectoral approaches to preventing and combating illicit international trafficking in forest products, including timber wildlife, and other forest biological resources."

Within this framework, and at the request of Member States, in 2010, UNODC launched a pioneer programme in Indonesia promoting good governance, law enforcement and anti-corruption measures in areas affected by rampant illegal logging. In undertaking this work, UNODC strongly promotes the use of its well-established and tested tools to address corruption, weak national state capacities and drivers of wildlife and forest crime, so as to ensure transparent and effective implementation of programmes within the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation framework (REDD+). The UNODC efforts contribute substantively to the goal identified by the 16 th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to find effective ways to reduce human pressure on forests that results in greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2010, UNODC strengthened its support for, and collaboration with, a number of different initiatives and agencies directing their efforts against wildlife and forest crime. At the International Tiger Forum held in Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation, in November 2010, UNODC Executive Director Mr. Yury Fedotov addressed the representatives of the 13 Tiger Range Countries (countries home to the few tigers remaining in the wild) regarding the importance of an effective response to the challenges posed by wildlife and forest crime and stressed UNODC's commitment to combat illicit trade in endangered wildlife.

In 2011, the Economic and Social Council adopted Resolution 2011/36 on crime prevention and criminal justice responses to trafficking in endangered species of wild fauna and flora. In this resolution, the Council invited Member States to consider making illicit trafficking in endangered species of wild fauna and flora a serious crime and requested UNODC to provide technical assistance to States, upon request, particularly as regards the prevention, investigation and prosecution of trafficking in endangered species of wild fauna and flora, within its mandate and in cooperation with Member States, relevant international organizations and the private sector. As a follow-up, UNODC is in the process of finalizing two computer-based training modules to assist law enforcement agencies in the investigation of wildlife crimes.

Resolution 20/5, also adopted in 2011 by the CCPCJ, addresses the problem of transnational organized crime committed at sea. This resolution offers Member States and UNODC a unique opportunity to tackle wildlife trafficking at sea.

In July 2011, national governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations met to discuss critical issues related to the illicit trade of commodities such as wildlife, timber, fish and waste at the 11 th Asian Regional Partners Forum on Combating Environmental Crime (ARPEC). For more information on this Regional Forum please refer to the website of the UNODC East Asian and Pacific Office: http://www.unodc.org/eastasiaandpacific/en/2011/07/arpec/story.html

In 2012, the Economic and Social Council adopted, on the recommendation of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, Resolution 2012/19 on strengthening international cooperation in combating transnational organized crime in all its forms and manifestation. In this resolution, the Council recognized the involvement of transnational criminal organizations in all aspects of crimes that have a significant impact on the environment and urged Member States to consider addressing different forms and manifestations of such crime.

Related Information:

Tackle organized crime to save the tiger, says UNODC Executive Director

Eastern Africa: UNODC to address rising wildlife and forest crime

Ongoing Project: Countering Illegal Logging and the linkage between Forest Crime and Corruption in Indonesia

Interview with Mr Samir Sinha, Head of TRAFFIC India, on the wildlife crime scenario in South Asia