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UNODC report supports Viet Nam's efforts to combat wildlife and forest crime

Hanoi (Viet Nam), 3 October 2015 - Wildlife and forest crime (WLFC) in Viet Nam is a continuing threat, providing funding for organised crime and threatening the country's wildlife populations and forests. The problem extends beyond Viet Nam, as WLFC is a growing threat globally. Criminal networks are increasingly benefitting from illegal fishing, logging and poaching, and illicit trafficking in endangered species. WLFC often funds other types of crime as well, and is often closely linked to corruption and money laundering. Organised crime groups exploit natural resources, which have devastating, negative impacts on biodiversity, security, the livelihood of communities, and economies. Viet Nam has recognised that WLFC is a serious and growing threat, and as a result has committed to having the highest levels of Government respond with coordinated and concerted efforts.

To assist Viet Nam's government in improving its responses to WLCF, UNODC presented the findings of a draft report on wildlife and forest crime in at a workshop in Ha Noi on September 25th. The report is the result of an analysis conducted using the Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit, which was developed in consultation with the partners of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), including CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, World Bank, and World Customs Organization. It was a Government-led process, carried out with the participation of relevant stakeholder agencies across the country.

As part of the Toolkit process in Viet Nam, representatives from UNODC, Viet Nam CITES Management Authority, and Wildlife Conservation Society Vietnam (WCS) undertook a fact finding mission from 26 January to 10 February, 2015. The mission explored many parts of Viet Nam, ranging from border crossings, national parks, sea and airports, and markets, to the two major cities, and many provinces. Consultations were held with representatives and officials from central, provincial and local Government, donor countries, and civil society groups, including judges, prosecutors, customs officials, police, border guard officers, forest and park rangers, and NGO representatives.

The findings and recommendations of the analysis described in the report reflect both the strengths and the challenges of Viet Nam's capacity to tackle wildlife and forest crime (WLFC). It highlights the need for timely and reliable information and actionable intelligence sharing in Viet Nam to be coupled with the necessary technical skills and advanced capabilities to identify, target and arrest criminals. It also identifies room for improvement across all sections of the legal framework, and some serious regulatory deficiencies that are having a paralyzing effect on successful prosecutions, particularly in relation to wildlife.

"Viet Nam must begin looking beyond seizures and administrative sanctions as a measure of success in combating WLFC," said Mr. Jorge Rios, Chief of UNODC Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime. "Although each seizure is a success to be commended, seizures made in the absence of identifying and arresting those who benefit the most from wildlife and forest crime, such as the organisers and financers, represent a missed opportunity to make a real impact on the illegal trade and the organised criminal networks behind it."

The report also provides 48 recommendations to strengthen Viet Nam's response to wildlife and forest crime; these include the revision of the Penal Code to include liability of legal persons, the introduction of stronger deterrent penalties, increasing judicial awareness and knowledge related to the issue, informing procuracy and law enforcement agencies about the specialized nature of wildlife and forest crimes, strengthening the coordination and cooperation between enforcement agencies, and developing Viet Nam's forensic analysis capacity.

At the workshop, comments and input were collected from relevant Government agencies, as well as other stakeholders such as donors, embassies and non-governmental organisations. The report will be further revised and finalised, to become an important baseline study which will be used to design a detailed programme for national capacity building and technical assistance delivery in Viet Nam.

This was one of the activities carried out under the UNODC Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime.