ENVIRONET will connect Customs and its enforcement partners worldwide in the fight against environmental crime

05 June 2009

Brussels, 5 June 2009

ENVIRONET will connect Customs and its enforcement partners worldwide in the fight against environmental crime

Today, the World Customs Organization (WCO) is launching ENVIRONET, a global communication tool for use in the fight against environmental crime at the border, on the occasion of World Environment Day which is celebrated on 5 June each year.

ENVIRONET is an internet-based global communication tool dedicated to environmental protection. It provides a secure platform for Customs officials, law enforcement authorities, and international organizations as well as their regional networks to cooperate with one another and share real-time information in the course of their daily operations. All commodities that potentially damage the environment and which are covered by trade-related multilateral environment agreements (MEAs) are available for discussion via ENVIRONET. These topics include endangered fauna and flora, ozone depleting substances (ODS), hazardous waste and materials, pesticides, chemical weapons, and living modified organisms (LMOs).

Fighting environment crime is now a top priority for Customs authorities around the world as the international community becomes increasingly concerned about the way in which the planet is being degraded through insensitive and often criminal behaviour”, said Kunio Mikuriya, the WCO Secretary General. He added, “ Regular exchange of information is essential for any successful border enforcement and maximum benefit can be obtained by exchanging real-time information in a simple and easy way”. The Secretary General concluded that, “ ENVIRONET is therefore another positive step towards a globally networked Customs which forms an integral part of the WCO Customs in the 21st Century strategic policy”.

Customs officers at the frontline have very little time to detain any suspicious consignment for verification. Assistance from experts around the globe greatly facilitates rapid decision-making on the ground and access to information also arms Customs officials with the necessary knowledge and expertise to carry out their environment protection activities effectively.

Mr Rajendra Shende, Chief of the UN Environment Programme’s OzonAction Branch which hosts the Green Customs Initiative said, “Trans-boundary illegal trade in environmentally damaging items is an acutely serious problem and is destined to become even more serious during the current economic meltdown. He added, “A coordinated and synchronised international response is needed to address it, so the timely exchange of information between Customs authorities around the globe which will be facilitated by ENVIRONET is therefore an encouraging new initiative”. Mr. Shende continued, “We look forward to the Partners of the Green Customs Initiative, particularly the experts within the Secretariats of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements with trade-related provisions, becoming frequent contributors to the success of this initiative”.

Positive support for this new WCO tool has already been received from a number of international organizations that have an interest in the environment, including the Secretariats of the Basel Convention, the Rotterdam Convention, and the Stockholm Convention, as well as the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, the UNODC and the Secretariat for the Convention on Biodiversity. The WCO is extremely pleased about their keen interest and expects more organizations to become a part of the ENVIRONET “community” in the future.

In echoing its environment protection theme for 2009, the WCO has undertaken a number of environment related activities to stop this trade and raise awareness about the need to protect our natural heritage. The Organization kicked-off 2009 by dedicating the year to environment protection during its annual International Customs Day celebrations which take place on 26 January of each year. More than 500 Customs officers from across the globe were awarded Certificates of Merit in recognition of their efforts in the environmental enforcement field.

In addition, more than 4600 pieces of endangered species controlled by the CITES Convention were intercepted during a one-day CITES Operation on 15 January 2009 involving 90 Customs administrations worldwide. Another global operation targeting illegal shipments of hazardous waste between Europe, Asia/Pacific and Africa was undertaken by Customs administrations in 64 countries from March to May 2009 which led to a large number of seizures too. Details on this operation will be released by the WCO soon.

The WCO in cooperation with its Green Customs partners has also invested heavily in regional capacity building and training activities to enhance the ability of Customs officials and other law enforcement officers to detect and prevent the illegal trade in environmentally sensitive goods whilst providing them with the necessary knowledge and expertise to fight environmental crime from a position of strength.

Criminals involved in this toxic trade that does incalculable harm may expect Customs and its partners to strongly continue their efforts around the world to combat environmental offences.

Further information on the Green Customs Initiative is available by visiting the following website: http://www.greencustoms.org/.