UNODC hosts regional meeting on improving legislation to combat wildlife crime
Hanoi (Viet Nam), 13 December 2019 - Prosecutors and legal experts from across Southeast Asia finished two days of meetings on drafting legislation to combat wildlife crime. Over the course of the meetings, delegates from nine ASEAN Member States heard presentations from legal experts and worked together to suggest improvements to fictional legislation prepared for the meeting.
Transnational wildlife crime is a serious and growing threat in Southeast Asia. Over the past several years, the region has experienced increased activity as a source, transit point, and destination for illicit wildlife products. Some of the largest-ever seizures of ivory, rhino horn, and pangolin scale were made in the region in the past year. In April 2019, officials in Singapore seized in five days a total of 25.9 tons of pangolin scales. The scales were shipped from Nigeria through Singapore, with the intended destination of Viet Nam. A few months later, in June, Thai officials seized 4,500 baby turtles being trafficked from Myanmar. These are only two examples of the many instances of wildlife parts being trafficked from, through, or to destinations in Southeast Asia.
In order to effectively combat transnational wildlife crime, Southeast Asian States must develop strong legislation that empowers law enforcement officers and prosecutors to investigate and prosecute criminals. Unfortunately, many wildlife laws are outdated and ill-equipped to address the growing challenge of transnational organized crime. In many cases, provisions have not been established to allow for broad investigations into criminal syndicates or to facilitate international cooperation.
Strong legislation is the foundation of States' efforts to combat wildlife crime. An effective wildlife law should establish clear mandates for law enforcement agencies, a comprehensive series of offences, penalties that are proportional to the gravity of each offence and include provisions that allow regulators to keep pace with the nature of criminal activity. To assist States with the process of amending and strengthening wildlife legislation, UNODC launched its Guide on Drafting Legislation to Combat Wildlife Crime in late 2018. The guide provides detailed explanations and examples of legislative provisions states can incorporate into existing laws to strengthen their regime to combat wildlife crime.
The meeting closely followed the chapters and recommendations of the guide, and delegates learned about the importance of amending weak legislation through practical exercises. The topics were well received by participants, and each session sparked stimulating discussions about the challenges and needs of Southeast Asian nations. Many ASEAN Countries have plans to amend and strengthen wildlife legislation in the near future but they mentioned the need for technical assistance. UNODC will continue to support ASEAN Member States throughout the process of amending legislation to combat wildlife crime in the region and around the world.
UNODC hosted the meeting jointly with the Hanoi Procuratorate University and with the support of the European Union and the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau of the United States Department of State.