UN report reveals convergence of environmental crime with corruption, raft of other illegal activities

Illegal trade in wildlife and timber products finances criminal and militia groups, threatening security and sustainable development. Photo: World Bank/Curt Carnemark

9 December 2016 – A new report by INTERPOL and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) links environmental crimes with other serious illegal activity, including corruption, counterfeiting, drug trafficking, cybercrime, and financial crimes as well as with terrorist organizations and non-State armed groups.

“Environmental crime is transnational in scope and insidious in nature. It robs governments of much-needed revenues, people of their livelihoods, and communities of peace and security,” announced Jürgen Stock, Secretary General of INTERPOL, the world’s largest international police organization.

“The international community needs to support a comprehensive approach by following rhetoric with action, policy with implementation, and law with enforcement,” he added.

The joint report, Environment, Peace and Security: A Convergence of Threats, was released earlier this week at the Law, Justice and Development Week 2016 hosted by the World Bank.

Researchers surveyed almost 70 countries and found that more than 80 per cent of nations view environmental crimes as a “national priority.” The majority believe that new and sophisticated criminal activities increasingly present a threat to peace and security.

According to the report, global environmental crimes amount to some $91billion to $258 billion annually and are frequently bound to other criminal activities.

For example, terrorist groups and other criminal networks fund their activities through the exploitation of resources in conflict zones. The report estimates that at least 40 per cent of internal conflicts are linked to the exploitation of natural resources.

Elsewhere, criminal groups take advantage of poverty-stricken communities, creating incentives for people to resort to illegal poaching, logging, fishing, or mining.

“The time has come to meet the threat of environmental crime with a coordinated response from member States, international organizations and the United Nations. Such a response must address the need for improved information sharing, enhanced protection of civilians, better law enforcement, and a deeper understanding of the drivers of conflicts,” said UN Environment chief Erik Solheim.

The report recommends a multidisciplinary approach to tackle environmental crime, greater exchange across sectors, increased focus on the implementation of environmental policies, and stronger financial support.


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