Global consortium to fight wildlife crime meets to discuss future strategies

05 March 2013

The Executive Heads and representatives of a consortium established to combat wildlife crime met in Bangkok, Thailand alongside the triennial Conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Senior officials from the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Bank and the World Customs Organization (WCO) convened to discuss the future strategy of the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC).

The five organizations joined forces as ICCWC in 2010, in response to the increasingly organized and transnational nature of wildlife and forest crime, and in recognition of the need for enhanced international coordination and cooperation to underpin responses to this crime.

Secretary-General of the CITES Secretariat, John E. Scanlon, stressed: "The serious nature of wildlife crime demands a response that is commensurate with the scale of the risk it poses to species, livelihoods and security. ICCWC is the first initiative where the five organizations have joined forces to achieve a common goal."

Scanlon added: "The combined experience, capacity and networks of the partners makes ICCWC uniquely-placed to develop programmes to combat wildlife crime, to help ensure the perpetrators of wildlife and forest crime face a more formidable and coordinated response."

The partners reviewed the activities that have been conducted by ICCWC to date, including the coordination of international and regional events on critical issues related to wildlife crime, such as a Workshop on Controlled Deliveries in Shanghai, China, and the development of an analytic toolkit to help governments review the effectiveness of their responses to wildlife and forest crime.

Highlighting the capacity building focus of the consortium, Director of Operations at UNODC, Aldo Lale-Demoz, explained: "The Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit is a technical resource that assists government officials in wildlife and forestry administration, Customs and other relevant agencies to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of preventive and criminal justice responses related to the protection of wildlife and forest products."

"Based on the results of the analysis, tailored evidence-based capacity building and technical assistance programmes will be designed and implemented through ICCWC partner agencies," added Lale-Demoz.

Reflecting on the strengths of the consortium, William B. Magrath, Lead Natural Resource Economist from the World Bank said: "Through our engagement in ICCWC and related partnerships, we are seeing a growing need for additional resources for crime prevention and socially and developmentally-sound law enforcement."

Continuing, Magrath added: "The World Bank is already the largest source of development finances for environmental and natural resource law enforcement and we are looking to ICCWC as a way of expanding and improving our support of good environmental law enforcement as a global public good."

Consortium partners also used the opportunity to discuss the future priorities for ICCWC, including the need to continue to build the profile of wildlife crime along with the recognition that it is transnational organized crime.

INTERPOL’s Director of Specialized Crime and Analysis, Bernd Rossbach, said: "Transnational organized criminal networks are increasingly moving into wildlife crime, which offers them the possibility of significant profits at comparatively low risk. "National law enforcement agencies are the first line of defence against the illegal trade in wildlife; however they are increasingly facing sophisticated and highly organised criminal gangs."

Rossbach added: "INTERPOL, and its network of 190 member countries and as part of ICCWC, will continue to provide the necessary support to national agencies to conduct transnational enforcement operations and target those behind all forms of wildlife crime."

The Deputy Director of Compliance and Facilitation at the WCO, Allen Bruford, stressed: "Much further work lay ahead to combat organized wildlife and forest crime and for this reason the WCO will continue to raise awareness of its serious impact on the natural environment, while continuing to build the capacity of Customs officers across the globe to more effectively tackle the criminal syndicates behind cross-border wildlife crime, in partnership with our key partners."

CITES implementation and enforcement issues are a focus of CITES Conference which is taking place in Bangkok until 14 March, reflecting both the escalating levels of poaching and illegal trade – particularly in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn – and strong evidence of the increased involvement of organized crime groups in wildlife crime. 

In response, ICCWC is hosting a number of high-level events in Bangkok alongside the Conference: a Ministerial roundtable on transnational organized wildlife and forest crime; the first global meeting of wildlife enforcement networks; and a specialized technical training session for enforcement officials on combating wildlife crime, which is being hosted by the Asian Development Bank in collaboration with ICCWC.