Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director

Opening of the CCPCJ Expert Discussions on Crimes that Affect the Environment

  14 February 2022

Madame Minister,

Ambassadors,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to join you in this important discussion as we are in a race against time to address the climate emergency, prevent biodiversity loss, and stop pollution and waste.

France hosted the One Ocean Summit just last week in Brest, where our Secretary-General highlighted the need for more effective partnerships to address the crisis.

I just returned from Colombia, where I have seen first-hand the deforestation and other damage caused by criminals, and by illegal mining.

Global action is clearly needed – and action to tackle the many crimes that affect the environment can make the difference to better protect people and planet.

In view of this urgent priority, I am honoured to join Minister Pompili and CITES Secretary-General Higuero today. I would also like to warmly thank Ambassador Hikihara for convening this timely CCPCJ expert discussion.

Wildlife and forest crime; crimes in the fisheries sector; illegal mining; and trafficking in precious metals, as well as in plastics and other waste: crimes that affect the environment are happening everywhere, generating vast profits for the criminal and corrupt.

These crimes are causing untold harm to the natural world around us, resulting in the loss of species; contaminating air, land, and water systems; and threatening food and supply chains.

Trafficking and other criminal activities are ramping up risks of environmental disasters; undermining governance and the rule of law; and potentially contributing to the outbreak of future pandemics.

Corruption and crimes that affect the environment have far-reaching and interlinked impacts, and they are impeding our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Damage to our flora and fauna is felt most by the poorest among us, who often rely on natural resources to make a living.

No species is safe. UNODC’s World WISE database, which contains seizures from 149 countries and territories, shows that nearly 6,000 species were seized between 1999 and 2019, including mammals, reptiles, corals, birds, and fish.

Between 2006 to 2018, poachers have been killing elephants at a rate of up to 17,000 animals per year. This well-loved species provides local communities with a sustainable source of income through ecotourism. Elephants also represent a keystone species, and the survival of whole ecosystems is under threat when they are killed.

At the same time, illegal trafficking of timber and timber products is contributing to the loss of forests that store carbon and help to control floods.

Illegal exploitation of fish and protected marine species is harming our oceans, which are key to regulating the climate.

Moreover, crimes affecting the environment are linked to other forms of organized crime, to money laundering, and violence.

Interpol and Europol have found that the illegal exploitation of natural resources is being used to finance terrorist activities.

The urgent need for Member States to take measures to prevent and combat these crimes is highlighted in the Kyoto Declaration adopted at the 14th Crime Congress in 2021.

The UN Common Approach to Biodiversity further recognizes that strengthened justice system measures can address trafficking and economic crimes, and help reverse biodiversity loss.

This Commission has mandated UNODC to provide normative and technical support as well as capacity building to Member States to address crimes affecting the environment.

This call has been reinforced by resolutions adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption.

In line with these resolutions, UNODC is working with Member States to improve data capacities and knowledge; strengthen legal frameworks; build judicial and law enforcement capacities; and promote international cooperation.

UNODC provides “crime scene to court” assistance on the entire spectrum of crimes that affect the environment, through a dedicated Global Programme supporting more than 40 states, as well as through work by the UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme, Global Programme against corruption, and our Container Control Programme with World Customs Organization.

Moreover, we are proud to partner with CITES, as well as Interpol, the World Bank and WCO, in the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime. 

Across these efforts, UNODC also seeks to raise awareness and support development of alternative livelihoods for local communities, most of all youth, to reduce demand and illicit supply related to wildlife, forest, fisheries, and mineral products.

Furthermore, we have published guides on managing corruption risks in the wildlife and fisheries sectors, and a new guide on addressing corruption that drives forest loss is coming out soon. We are also working on the third World Wildlife Crime Report, which will be released next year, and which will focus on best practice interventions and examine gender roles along illegal trade chains.

Our efforts build on the objectives of the UNODC corporate strategy and strategic visions for Africa and Latin America, which aim to increase support for investigating and prosecuting crimes that affect the environment, and to protect resources and livelihoods.

We have a long way to go. At UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow last year, Member States made ambitious commitments to curb deforestation, illegal logging, and the illegal timber trade.

Crime and corruption are enablers of many activities that are driving forest loss, and yet crime prevention and criminal justice have largely been absent from the discussion. These priorities need to be placed firmly on the international agenda.

This CCPCJ expert event can help remedy this gap, by bringing Member States together to address the triple threat of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution through determined action to prevent and counter transnational organized crime and corruption.

I urge you to take the opportunity of the thematic sessions over the next three days to share good practices and strengthen cooperation.

UNODC is fully engaged in supporting you to tackle crimes that affect the environment, and we are elevating this urgent priority as the world moves towards UNFCCC COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh next November.

Excellencies,

Our planet is at a tipping point.

To save lives and livelihoods, defend nature and natural resources, and protect health and habitats, we must work together better to stop the criminal exploitation.

Thank you, and I wish you meaningful and impactful discussions.