2 July 2020 - Organized crime and wildlife crime threaten Eastern and Southern Africa’s security, development and environment. Organized crime is a truly global phenomenon that affects the everyday lives of people across the planet, but its nature and impact vary across different regions of the world.
Even though not all wildlife crime is organized crime, evidence shows that some organized criminal groups engage in wildlife crime, with devastating effects on biodiversity, public health as well as the sustainable management of natural resources. In Eastern and Southern Africa particularly, wildlife crime is driving countless species closer to extinction, while at the same time undermining the rule of law, threatening societies and depriving local communities of their resources.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, organized criminal groups did not halt their activities. To the contrary, with states’ resources focused on responding to the health emergency and criminal justice responses impeded by restriction of movement, it is all the more important to understand the ways organized crime operates and the role we all can play to fight against it. Under the Education for Justice (E4J) initiative, UNODC develops teaching material and unites academics to equip students with knowledge about these crimes and what can be and should be done to prevent and address them.
This webinar, particularly targeted at academics teaching on organized crime and wildlife crime in Eastern and Southern Africa, aimed to explore these topics and showcase the types of material UNODC has available to support them in preparing their students to discuss and debate these issues.
The event began with a welcome from Ms. Flavia Romiti, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer at UNODC, who introduced the topic and the agenda of the webinar, after which Ms. Jenna Dawson-Faber, Programme Manager at UNODC, introduced participants to the tertiary component of E4J and the University Module Series on Organized Crime and Wildlife Crime. Next, Ms. Claire Adionyi, Director A.I. of Strathmore Institute of Advanced Studies in International Criminal Justice, provided a regional perspective on these issues and shared challenges and lessons learned - both from and for - academics during the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, Mr. Kevin Pretorius, attorney specializing in environmental and criminal law in South Africa, presented a case-study clearly highlighting the links between organized crime and wildlife crime in the region. After their presentations, panelists engaged in a lively Q&A session, covering topics ranging from best practices in teaching on organized crime and wildlife crime to the evolution of the work of prosecutors and criminal justice practitioners during the pandemic.
Ms. Jenna Dawson-Faber, Programme Officer, UNODC
Connecting with people passionate about their work, and curious about the world around them, is one of the greatest benefits of working with the E4J initiative, which inspires collaboration, teamwork and the sharing of knowledge and experience with each other in a way few programmes do so well. This webinar was a prime example of the convening power of E4J, bringing together academics, practitioners and the international community that is there to support them, to harness each other’s areas of expertise and share it with those who will empower and shape the views of the policy leaders of tomorrow. Expanding the knowledge base and network of educators who are teaching on the growing nexus between organized crime and wildlife crime will only help strengthen the foundation from which the leaders of tomorrow will emerge.
Ms. Claire Adionyi, Director A.I. of Strathmore Institute of Advanced Studies in International Criminal Justice
Due to the dynamic nature of organized crime and wildlife crimes, there is a need for continued vigilance in our efforts to counter these threats. As academics in this space we have to adapt to this ‘new normal’ by increasing our conceptual understanding of this phenomena. The E4J initiative is an important tool to assist in these efforts and it is therefore imperative that we ensure that all stakeholders in this field, that is, academics, students, practitioners and policy makers have access to them. The webinar provided us with such a platform and I am thrilled that more academics and students now have access to them!
Mr. Kevin Pretorius, Attorney specializing in environmental and criminal law in South Africa
The webinar was a great experience and an opportunity to serve as an educational platform where students of the law, whether as academic, practitioner, student or public official (with a role in combatting organized wildlife crime), could interact. I wish to congratulate UNODC with its E4J initiative in making this valuable platform of interaction available for a worldwide audience. This enables us all to learn about combatting organized wildlife crime and how this can be done if we all understand the legal concepts as set out in international legal instruments, such as the UNTOC and how they can be applied in a country’s national legislation.
Ms. Flavia Romiti, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer, Education for Justice initiative, UNODC
It was a great pleasure to organize this webinar with such brilliant colleagues inside and outside of UNODC. The E4J initiative offers an incredible opportunity to provide direct and concrete support to the many educators who make a difference in the lives of millions of students every day and who have been struggling to adapt to online and distant learning during this pandemic. Aside from a precious chance to learn from thematic experts, webinars such as this one offer a venue to discuss many of the problems educators are collectively facing - no matter which country they are conducting business from – and share concrete ways to move past them. I’m also convinced that they represent an opportunity to remind one another that we are all in this together and only by acting in solidarity can we overcome today’s most critical challenges.
Mr. Felix Wegerle, Consultant, Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime and Education for Justice initiative, UNODC
Having practitioners and academics on the panel allowed for a holistic discourse on how best to address organized crime and wildlife crime in the region. Combining both worlds, I now have a better understanding of the underlining role of education in the fight against these crimes. Discussing the rhino horn trafficking case outlined well the legislative challenges and obstacles in successfully prosecuting transnational organized criminal groups and the main points to proof.