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Sharing intelligence key to fighting environment crimes

Media coordination issues spark lively debate


Bangkok (Thailand), 20 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 11th Asian Regional Partners Forum on Combating Environmental Crime (ARPEC), held 13-14 July 2011 in Bangkok. Organized by the Regional Centre of UNODC in East Asia and the Pacific, this ARPEC meeting focused on the critical role of intelligence-sharing and media management in fighting organized environmental crime in Asian countries.

Asia is at the hub of activities by criminal groups that profit from illicit trade in its natural resources or illegal dumping of hazardous waste. Throughout the region, forests in several Asian countries are plundered while protected species like tigers remain at high risk of extinction.

"Crimes against the environment have repercussions on climate change, biodiversity, security, development and growth," remarked Mr. Gary Lewis, Regional Representative of UNODC. "What makes them difficult to counteract is that perpetrators are often well-organized, sophisticated syndicates."

Key to counteracting organized environmental criminal efforts and building an effective, pro-active response is the urgent need to foster a culture of intelligence sharing among law enforcement agencies around the world. Presentations on intelligence sharing by Interpol, ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network and the Regional Intelligence Liaison Office - Asia and Pacific (RILO A/P) sparked a lively debate among ARPEC attendees who recommended that every enforcement agency should make the sharing of criminal intelligence a top-priority worldwide.

Recent high-profile wildlife seizures in the region were the backstory to a frank discussion on the importance of professional, coordinated relationships between law enforcement agencies and the media.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, FREELAND Foundation, the Wildlife Crime and Control Bureau (India) and the Environmental Investigation Agency shared their experiences and views on using coverage of criminal incidents to raise public awareness on the consequences of crimes against animals and the environment. Balancing this against the critical need to preserve ongoing enforcement investigations led ARPEC attendees to agree that the timing and content of media messages were crucial to long-term wildlife crime enforcement success.

The chairman of the Senior Experts Group of the newly established International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), updated participants on future activities by ICCWC. This session also clarified the objectives of ICCWC, which represents an unprecedented partnership among five key international organizations, namely the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), INTERPOL, UNODC, the World Bank and the World Customs Organization (WCO). The public launch of the ICCWC programme is scheduled for the last quarter of 2011.

"ICCWC has incredible potential and some encouraging signs are already visible," said Mr. John Sellar, Chief of Enforcement Support at the Secretariat of CITES. "The goal right now is to raise public understanding of wildlife crime as a transnational organized crime that requires effective and professional responses."

Under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme, ten ARPEC meetings have taken place in the past 5 years. The next ARPEC meeting will be held in Bangkok in the fourth quarter of 2011.