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Identifying solutions to fight corruption and combat wildlife and timber trafficking in Asia-Pacific

Hanoi (Viet Nam), 30 July 2015 - A two-day regional workshop promoting integrity and best practices to combat wildlife and timber trafficking was held in Hanoi on July 27-28, organized by the UNODC Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime.

The workshop bought together more than 30 participants from a range of sectors within 13 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, to identify the points of risk for corruption in wildlife and timber trade supply chains, and the best practices to mitigate them.

Participants included representatives from law enforcement agencies such as environmental police and police investigators; anti-corruption agencies; private sector associations for industries such as timber, traditional medicine and business; and international representatives from UN agencies, embassies, non-governmental organizations, and other international associations.

The trade in illegally sourced timber and the recent surge in wildlife trafficking generate enormous profits, estimated at US$23 billion annually in East Asia and the Pacific alone, and have become significant cause for security concerns. However, law enforcement and anti-corruption efforts have traditionally placed lower priority on wildlife and forest crime compared to other illicit trades, leaving high-level criminal entrepreneurs and their networks unharmed and profitable. In addition, penalties are often weak, multi-agency cooperation is rare, and successful investigations and prosecutions are few.

"Corruption is a significant enabling factor for wildlife and timber trafficking," said Mr. Andrew Shepard, Acting Chief of the Environment, Science, Technology and Health Unit at the US Embassy in Hanoi, in his opening address. "By supporting collaboration and cooperation between countries and authorities, we can promote best practices to tackle corruption and combat wildlife and forest crime."

The conference promoted dialogue and exchange amongst participants, with case studies presented from law enforcement and anti-corruption units, as well as the private sector, international organizations and NGOs. Working group discussions analyzed the timber and wildlife trade supply chains and the key points for illegality and corruption, and identified solutions to reduce and remove corruption from the supply chain. These corruption risks and mitigation solutions will be developed into an Integrity Checklist to distribute to forestry management authorities across the ASEAN region.

"We have all learned a lot from this workshop, especially those who may not have had much previous exposure to wildlife and timber trafficking issues, or regarded them to be as serious as they are", said Mr. Nay Win, Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission in Myanmar.

"This was one of the first workshops of its kind in the region to bring this range of actors together to directly address corruption issues in timber and wildlife trade", said Mr. Giovanni Broussard, Regional Coordinator of the UNODC Global Programme. "We will collect further input to develop the Integrity Checklist during workshops in the Philippines and Viet Nam in the coming months, and we hope that it will become a valuable tool for governments to change the criminal trend of wildlife and forest issues."

The UNODC Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime (GP) is a four-year programme linking regional efforts to a global framework, enhancing capacity building and wildlife law enforcement networks at regional and sub-regional levels. The GP is working for and with the law enforcement community to ensure that wildlife crime, illegal logging, and related crimes are treated as serious transnational organized crimes.