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Regional partners urge focus on corruption, organized crime and illegal fishing to combat environmental crimes

Bangkok (Thailand), 29 January 2016 - Strategies to combat environmental crimes should carry an increased focus on corruption, organized crime and illegal fishing, according to participants of the meeting of the Asian Regional Partners Forum on Combating Environmental Crime (ARPEC) held in Bangkok.

Environmental crimes present a serious threat to the Southeast Asian region. These crimes result in the destruction of massive amounts of forest and the loss of endangered species. They also provide a source of profit for transnational organised crime syndicates, which often control the trafficking of illicit wildlife and timber products. The actions of criminal syndicates are aided by significant corruption risks that are present in wildlife and timber supply chains. Corruption allows environmental crime to flourish by enabling nepotistic concession grants amongst cronies, falsification of permits, resource extraction from protected areas, and illicit goods to cross borders with little or no scrutiny.

The event was opened by UNEP's Kaveh Zahedi, Regional Director and Representative for Asia and the Pacific, and Giovanni Broussard, UNODC Regional Programme Coordinator for the Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime.

"Environmental crime undermines the economies of developing countries and threatens the livelihood of the most vulnerable communities," said Mr. Zahedi. "Such crime robs poor and vulnerable countries of revenues for schools, roads, health care and job creation, deprives developing economies of billions of dollars in lost revenues and undermines the rule of law and good governance."

The first day of the meeting focused on the link between corruption and wildlife crime - including discussions on how to effectively monitor government agencies at risk of environmental crimes, and the connection between transparency and reducing wildlife crime. Participants emphasized that solutions to the problem were achievable and that the tools for effectively reducing corruption related to wildlife crime were already well known. The implementation of these measures, however, remained challenging.

Giovanni Broussard United Nations UN UNODC 

The meeting's second day focused on fishery crimes and the need for stronger fishery governance in Southeast Asia. Fishery crimes had ties to human trafficking, money laundering and other organized crimes. To emphasize the human element of fishery crimes, the Labour Rights Promotion Network (LPN) facilitated presentations by a number of victims of human trafficking, whose detailed personal stories emphasized that the abuse of workers and involvement of larger organized crime networks continues to be a problem in the fishing industry.

Discussions focused on how to prevent fishery crimes given the vast area of the world's oceans and the lack of law enforcement capacity in some countries. Satellite monitoring, sustainably sourced food labeling, improved financial investigations, insuring criminal liability for those engaged in environmental crime and a number of other potential solutions were discussed, with participants concluding that while it will be difficult to stop fisheries crimes from occurring, there are practical steps that can be taken now to make these crimes less profitable for its perpetrators.

Participants noted the quality of discussion during the concluding session and highlighted the need for another meeting of ARPEC. It was determined that the next meeting of ARPEC will be organized and hosted by UNEP. Any organizations, researchers, journalists or individuals who share the same goals are welcome to participate in future ARPEC events.

ARPEC is an informal platform where national and international organizations share ideas, promote best practices and discuss current challenges to help ensure the protection of the rich biodiversity of Asia and the Pacific from illegal activities. Over 50 practitioners attended the meeting, providing discussions with a great deal of expert knowledge and a diverse set of experiences to draw from.

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