05 Oct 2017 Story Environmental rights and governance

Environmental crime

Recognising the Threat of Environmental Crime

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which – for the first time – recognized environmental crime as part of other transnational organized crimes. The adoption signified a major step forward for UN Environment and its partners’ efforts in raising awareness of the growing threat that environmental crime poses to peace and security, sustainable development and environmental rule of law.

It was also recognition of the work UN Environment has undertaken to assess the scale and impacts of environmental crime and in documenting the rise of these crimes. The resolution provides the much needed impetus to move the cooperation agreement INTERPOL and UN Environment forwarded. See the resolution text here.

The European Union recognises UN Environment’s Work on Addressing Environmental Crime

The European Union Parliament recently adopted a resolution on the European Union Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking. The resolution specifically welcomes UN Environment’s experts’ process to examine and document the current status of knowledge of crimes that have a serious impact on the environment. This process notes that the legal boundaries between different types of environmental crimes are sometimes unclear, which can reduce opportunities for effective prosecution and punishment.

The resolution further acknowledges UN Environment’s ‘Global Judges Programme’ and the ‘Green Customs Initiative’ as models to follow in enhancing Member states judicial, prosecutorial and custom management capacity. Adoption of the resolution follows extensive engagement and consultation between UN Environment and the EU Parliament. A copy of the Resolution can be accessed here.

Combatting Transnational Organised Crime

In a show of solidarity, UN Environment and INTERPOL held a high-level event on environmental crime titled ‘Convergence of Threats: The Rise of Environmental Crime and Implications for Peace, Security and Sustainable Development’ at the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in New York on 23 September, 2016.

In December 2016, UN Environment and INTERPOL published a joint Strategic Report on Environment, Peace and Security titled ‘A Convergence of Threats’. The Strategic Report is available here.

Report Highlights:

  • Abuse of the environment is the fourth largest criminal activity in the world. Worth up to USD 258 billion, it is increasing by five to seven per cent every year and converging with other forms of international crime. It is therefore a growing threat to peace, security and stability.
  • Environmental crime is a national priority for 80 per cent of countries surveyed in the report.
  • More than 60 per cent of countries also reported new crimes or new modi operandi, indicating growing sophistication and adaptation by transnational organized crime groups.
  • The link to other criminal activities is of particular interest: 84 per cent of  countries surveyed  reported a convergence between environmental crime and other serious crimes, including: Corruption (42 per cent) Counterfeiting (39 per cent) Drug trafficking (36 per cent) Cybercrime (23 per cent) Financial crime (17 per cent).




More Information:

  • Project Wisdom: INTERPOL’s Project Wisdom aims to tackle the poaching of elephants and rhinos, as well as the subsequent trafficking of ivory and rhino horns. The project specifically focuses on the criminal activity taking place in Africa. It also supports transcontinental investigations, as ivory and rhino horns are trafficked mainly to Asian countries. Project Wisdom has received funds from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), but the bulk of its financing now comes from the Wildcat Foundation.
  • Pangolins: As the most trafficked mammals, pangolins have become a highly endangered species. In some regions, they are now extinct while in others, their number is critical with a drop by up to 94 per cent of their population.



Pangolin, Source: IFAW

For more information please contact alvin.gachie[at]unep.org