Environment Programme

Environmental crime is a serious global problem that has wide implications on national and international security, social and economic development, global health, and biodiversity and habitat. Pollution of air, water and land, extinction of wildlife and depletion of natural resources evoke consequences of unprecedented scale.

In order to fight against these crimes, the international community has concluded a number of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) with international trade-related provisions, such as the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (ODS); the Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal; the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutions (POPs); the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

Customs plays a very important role in the implementation of these MEAs and the fight against environmental crime. Since 2001, the WCO has been an active Partner to the Green Customs Initiative (GCI), a series of collaborative activities by partner organizations, coordinated by the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) and aimed at raising the awareness of Customs officers to trade-related MEAs. In 2008, the WCO Council adopted a Recommendation concerning Actions Against Cross-Border Environmental Offences, outlining steps to be taken by Customs administrations to enhance their capabilities in this area. In November 2010 five international organizations, the WCO, the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, the UNODC and the World Bank founded the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), in order to provide more support to the national wildlife law enforcement agencies, as well as to the regional and sub-regional networks combating against illegal trade in natural resources. In July 2012, the ICCWC launched the Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit, which was developed to provide a comprehensive overview on issues related to wildlife and forest crimes, and aimed at government officials in wildlife and forestry authorities, as well as customs and other relevant agencies.

In response to its Members’ needs, in March 2012 the WCO launched the Environment Programme to contribute to the combating of environmental crime, in particular, illegal wildlife trade, illegal trade in hazardous and other waste, ozone depleting substances (ODSs) and illegal trade in timber. The Illicit Trade Report provides further information on every component of the Programme on the annual basis.

Along with different tools and instruments offered by the WCO to its Members, ENVIRONET, a real-time communication tool for information exchange among all competent national authorities, international organizations and regional networks, and CLiKC!, the WCO e-learning facility containing courses on environmental crime, should be particularly mentioned.

In 2014 the WCO started implementing the activities of the Inama (‘inama’ means wild animals in the language of the Zambian Bemba tribe) Project, a multi-donor funded endeavour to strengthen Customs enforcement capacity related to CITES in selected countries of the Sub-Saharan Africa.

Within the framework of the Environment Programme, the WCO constantly works on broadening the scope of partnerships with other organizations working in the area of fighting against environmental crime. Throughout the past years the WCO signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with the CITES Secretariat, Secretariat of the Basel Convention, United Nations Environment ProgrammeLusaka Agreement Task Force and TRAFFIC, an NGO active in the area of trade in plants and wild animals in the context of sustainable development and biodiversity conservation.

Having worked for many years to turn the attention of the policy makers to environmental crimes, the WCO gained the additional momentum in June 2014. The WCO Council consisting of 179 Members adopted the WCO Declaration on the Illegal Wildlife Trade demonstrating the commitment of the global Customs community to address these crimes in a timely, coherent and coordinated manner.

In March 2016, the WCO signed the ‘United for Wildlife Transport Taskforce Buckingham Palace Declaration’ in London, United Kingdom. The Declaration, which was developed by the United For Wildlife Transport Taskforce to crack down on illegal wildlife trafficking routes, is the result of 12 month’s work carried out by leaders from the global transportation industry, conservation organizations and several international organizations under the guiding hand of Lord Hague of Richmond at the request of HRH The Duke of Cambridge, President of United for Wildlife. It contains 11 commitments under four distinct headings, each representing concrete steps for transport companies.