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Rapid Reference Guides: collaboratively created tools to combat wildlife and forest crimes

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UNODC has been working collaboratively with national authorities across Central Africa to develop a series of tailor-made Rapid Reference Guides (RRGs) for investigators and prosecutors of wildlife and forest crime.

Transnational illicit trafficking of protected species, forest products and other natural resources is one of the most worrying threats to security, peace and sustainable development in Central Africa.

Wildlife and forest crime facilitates corruption by undermining the capacity of law enforcement to defend national interests and is one of the most profitable sources of funding for criminal organisations and rebel groups who take advantage of legislative gaps and lack of law enforcement capacity to prevent, detect, investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate these crimes.

In response to these regional and national challenges, UNODC has assisted Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) Member States with the development of the RRGs in a collaborative way through a series of workshops with the active involvement of key law enforcement and prosecution actors and the support of relevant partners. This participatory approach was essential to share best practices and strengthen collaboration and operational information exchange between investigators and prosecutors to ensure that those conducting the investigations gather the information required by the prosecution to build a strong case.

According to the Regional Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for West and Central Africa, Dr Amado Philip de Andrés: “In all its forms, Transnational Organized Crime has a major impact on stability, security, and development. In this context,  efforts aimed at combating illicit wildlife trafficking at all levels should be boosted."

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The outcome of this reflection and sharing process has provided investigators and prosecutors in Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cameroon, Chad, and the Central African Republic with a practical and tailor-made tool as well as the means to obtain information on legislation, key points to prove in court and even specific investigation methods, to trace criminal networks and bring members of a criminal organisation to justice.
In November and December 2022, UNODC organized RRG handover ceremonies in each country to officially launch the RRGs with the participation of high-level representatives of each of these countries. In 2023, UNODC will train investigators and prosecutors in these countries in the use of the RRGs to improve case analysis and preparation, information and evidence gathering, investigation, charging, pleading, and sentencing, among other aspects. This approach has been very successful in Eastern Africa, where prosecution rates were seen to increase following the dissemination of the RRGs at a national level.
This activity is part of the implementation of the UNODC regional project “Strengthening the judicial capacities of ECCAS Member States to combat wildlife crime and illicit trafficking in natural resources,” financed by the European Union (EU) through its “Support Programme for Reforms and Institutional Capacity Building in the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS),” known as PARCIC.
Click here to learn more about UNODC’s Global Programme on Crimes that Affect the Environment.