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New eLearning Course to Forensically Examine Charcoal

Nairobi, Kenya February 2023 – To support the implementation of the United Nations (UN) ban on charcoal exports from Somalia, UNODC produced an introductory and self-paced eLearning course for criminal justice practitioners on techniques to forensically examine charcoal, thanks to support from the Kingdom of Denmark and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The course aims to support the implementation of UN sanctions on the export of charcoal from Somalia and responds to requests from Member States that have noted with concern the challenges of tendering evidence in court to prove charcoal originated from Somalia in violation of sanctions.

To enrol in the eLearning course, please click here.

The online course is the result of a collaboration between UNODC’s Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP), the Global eLearning Programme, and the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI), and builds on the Charcoal Forensic Guide for Sampling, Examination, and Reporting. The course is comprised of three modules, teaching users how to gather evidence for forensic analysis, examine charcoal using characteristics visible by eye or low magnification, and report the results. In completing the course, users will acquire the knowledge and tools to scientifically determine the origin and classification of charcoal and tender such findings as evidence in court to ensure sanctions are more effective.

In designing the course, UNODC relied on expertise from NFI to ensure scientific accuracy. Dr. Stefan Uitdehaag, Forensic Scientist at NFI said, “The course provides instructions to sample and analyze charcoal, while duly maintaining the chain of custody, leading to a greater likelihood that the evidence will be admissible in court. The partnership with UNODC gave us the opportunity to help translate our forensic experience into an accessible tool, which we are confident that investigators will find useful.”

While the eLearning course was developed to support the implementation of the Somalia Sanctions Regime, the tool can be applied and used more broadly. From a law enforcement perspective, “The course can also help investigators with cases involving timber species, such as cases of suspected illegal logging and burnt wood, which threatens environmental stability and funds transnational organized crime and corruption,” said UNODC GMCP’s Senior Law Enforcement Advisor, Mr. Preben Hilliger.

Looking ahead, UNODC remains interested in partnering with Member States to facilitate further training to equip national authorities in conducting forensic analysis.

For more information, please contact:

David O’Connell (

Global Maritime Crime Programme

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime