UN Crime Congress raises stakes in fight against wildlife crime
Doha, Qatar, 16th April 2015 — With the world facing a poaching crisis and an unprecedented surge in illegal wildlife trade, the UN Crime Congress this week has taken a significant step to boost global efforts to tackle transnational organized environmental crime.
Countries will be adopting the Doha Declaration, where they would agreed to enhance their efforts to counter ‘new and emerging forms of crime’, particularly the ‘serious problem of crimes that have an impact on the environment, such as trafficking in wildlife, including flora and fauna, timber and timber products and hazardous waste, as well as poaching’.
The declaration calls on countries to take the fight to environmental criminals by ‘strengthening legislation, international cooperation, capacity-building, criminal justice responses and law enforcement efforts aimed at, inter alia, dealing with transnational organized crime, corruption and money-laundering linked to such crimes.’
“TRAFFIC welcomes this critical component of the Doha Declaration, which represents a major advance in the international dialogue around transnational organized environmental crimes,” said TRAFFIC’s Director of Policy, who attended the Congress.
“The specific links drawn to corruption and money laundering are also a significant step forward and will help to raise the stakes for major traffickers and environmental criminals, by focusing attention and action on targeting the money flow.”
Under the theme of ‘Preventing crime to build sustainable development’, the 13th Crime Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice has focused extensively on environmental crimes – illustrating how seriously these crimes are now being taken because of the clear threat they pose to security, rule of law and sustainable development.
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon highlighted the fact that “wildlife is under severe threat” in his opening remarks, while the President of the UN General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, stressed the need to deal with “emerging forms of transnational crime, including wildlife and forest crime.”
Although marine living resource crimes, including fisheries crimes, could be understood to be included within the Doha declaration’s reference to ‘crimes of a transnational organized nature that impact the environment’, Zain noted that “it is disappointing that the declaration does not specifically mention fisheries crimes since organized crime is deeply involved in this multi-billion dollar business as well.” “This unfortunate omission underlines the need for dialogue among a broad range of players about the nature of transnational organized environmental crime and how best to tackle it,” he added.
This was also a key conclusion drawn from a side event at the Congress co-hosted by WWF and the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime. During the event, a new report from WWF and the Global Initiative was presented, which looks at the major gaps in the global legal architecture that are hampering the international response to transnational organized environmental crime.
‘Tightening the Net: Towards a Global Legal Framework on Transnational Organized Environmental Crime’ analyses the international legal frameworks that are available to combat this type of organized crime and explores potential approaches to improve the current situation.
The study includes a recommendation for expert dialogue, involving a cross-sectoral range of actors to examine the shared modalities of transnational organized environmental crimes, including those in the wildlife, forest and fisheries sectors, and of exploring potential means of strengthening the global legal response to these crimes.
TRAFFIC participated at the side event, presenting a global overview of the links between wildlife crime and transnational organised crime.
TRAFFIC also participated at another ancillary meeting on "Combatting wildlife trafficking on the Internet". The event was organised by the US Department of State and was opened by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Luis E Arreaga. TRAFFIC made a presentation on online sales of illegal wildlife products in China, which highlighted results from TRAFFIC's recent research into the Chinese-language online retail community and our work with e-commerce companies in China.
Significant change will take time but the focus on environmental crimes during the Congress and the strong clause in the Doha Declaration have paved the way for future progress.
“It seems inconceivable that 20 years ago there was no overarching global framework to address human trafficking. Today, human trafficking is universally recognised as a serious crime. We are a long way away from this stage in our conversation on transnational organized environmental crime, but we are moving forwards,” said Ida Tillisch, Director General of the Emirates Wildlife Society-WWF UAE, during a high-level event on wildlife and forest crime.
She concluded with a call for participants at the 60th anniversary Crime Congress to ensure that the declaration is the start of a process that transforms global thinking – and the world’s legal architecture.
“I urge you to dare challenge yourself to take this conversation towards a future when it will seem inconceivable that organised environmental crimes were not universally recognised as serious crimes.”