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Global alliance furthers commitment to fighting wildlife and environmental crime

Vienna (Austria), 28 February 2011 - An emerging global alliance is meeting in Vienna to support requesting States in fighting powerful criminal syndicates that are plundering the world's flora and fauna. Consisting of five international agencies, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Secretariat, INTERPOL, UNODC, the World Customs Organization and the World Bank, the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICWCC) is working to adopt a comprehensive and collaborative approach to help prevent illegal overexploitation of natural resources including endangered species.

In this International Year of Forests, Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), stressed: "Illicit trade in wildlife is a form of transnational organized crime, just like trafficking in illegal drugs, weapons and human beings that bring negative consequences to security and development. And like most organized crime, it relies on the complicity of corrupt officials throughout the entire supply chain: forests and waters, border controls and local authorities in the markets where illegal wildlife is sold. Wildlife crime involves money-laundering, fraud, counterfeiting and violence, and in some cases it may have links to terrorist activities or insurgencies".

Mr. Fedotov further highlighted the need for international cooperation to counter criminal forces. "Wildlife crime is emblematic of the larger threat that transnational organized crime poses to the environment and sustainable development. To tackle it effectively requires the coordinated use of the proper tools of law enforcement throughout the whole chain of the criminal justice system," he said, adding: "We must also help source countries provide decent livelihood opportunities to support marginalized groups that are forced by poverty and exploitation to be involved in wildlife poaching, illegal logging and other forms of wildlife crime."

William B. Magrath, Lead Natural Resource Economist with the World Bank, affirmed that Bank had a compelling interest in seeing the improvement of global and national efforts to address natural resource and wildlife crimes. He stressed that ICCWC provided the Bank with an opportunity to improve the cumulative impact of its earlier initiatives in areas such as Forest Law Enforcement and Governance, fighting corruption, the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative and anti-money laundering.

In November 2010, the Consortium was launched at the International Tiger Forum in St. Petersburg, which focused discussion on boosting tiger conservation efforts. Underling his commitment to supporting worldwide efforts to fight illicit trafficking, last week, Mr. Fedotov visited the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife in Abu Dhabi. "The Government of the United Arab Emirates fully supports our collaborative effort to step up the fight against wildlife crime and expressed strong interest in supporting the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime. This is a vote of confidence for our work", he stressed.

The collaboration amongst ICCWC members directly responds to the principles laid out by the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) in its resolution 16/1, 2007, encouraging Member States to take appropriate measures to strengthen law enforcement and related efforts to combat individuals and groups, including organized criminal groups, with a view to preventing, combating and eradicating illicit international trafficking in forest products, including timber, wildlife and other forest biological resources, harvested in contravention of national laws.

Among other activities, ICCWC is currently developing a "Wildlife and Forest Crime Assessment Toolkit" to assist states in carrying out situational analysis of the problem.