ASEAN countries recognize wildlife and timber trafficking as serious transnational crime requiring regional action

Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), 2 October 2015 - In a decision that will help protect biodiversity in the region, ASEAN Member States at the 10th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC) this week reached consensus to officially add the "trafficking of wildlife and timber" to the list of regional priority transnational crime threats. Wildlife and forest crime will now be considered as important as other crimes needing collective regional action including drug and precursor trafficking, human trafficking and smuggling, terrorism, and arms smuggling.

Considering the evolving methods and profits generated by the criminal networks involved in trafficking of wildlife and timber, ASEAN Member States are now calling for a stronger response by law enforcement and criminal justice institutions. The proposal to include wildlife and timber trafficking on the ASEAN Senior Officials on Transnational Crime agenda was initially led by the Royal Thai Police with the support of UNODC through a joint conference in April 2015 and subsequently placed on the AMMTC agenda for ministerial consideration.

"We congratulate ASEAN ministers for acknowledging the seriousness of environmental crimes like timber and wildlife trafficking. There is a significant impact on biodiversity and billions of dollars generated a year for organized crime here in the region." commented Mr. Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. "It is a step in the right direction for ASEAN and a signal to other regions to consider taking action on related UN resolutions. It will also help expand law enforcement and justice cooperation among ASEAN Member States in-line with the UN Convention on Transnational Organize Crime."

The protection of biodiversity and the trade of natural resources have been traditionally regulated by institutions associated with the Economic and Socio-Cultural Community in the ASEAN region. With the decision by the AMMTC, institutions from the Political-Security Community - including police and prosecution authorities - will start to complement ongoing efforts and can help by taking action against transnational and organized trafficking operations. "It is difficult to anticipate how Member States will take the new policy forward given the diverse capacity of States in the region" said Giovanni Broussard, Regional Coordinator of the UNODC Global Programme on Combating Wildlife and Forest Crimes. "Yet we hope that the decision will be taken on-board by national authorities and will result in the deployment of larger resources to specialized law enforcement departments. Over time this could bring higher professional standards in the investigation of cases related to the trafficking of ivory, rhino horn, tiger parts, pangolins and rosewood".