According to a recently published joint report by UN Environment and INTERPOL, environmental crime is a national priority for 80 per cent of countries.
“The reality is so glaring that you have to be stubborn to ignore it. I have seen rivers dry. The drought is becoming more severe and frequent. This is an issue of human survival,”- Rt. Hon. Jacob Oulanyah Lokori.
In Africa, most policies have not adequately embraced environmental crime as part of the administration of criminal justice. Inadequate knowledge and poor skills in the administration of environmental criminal justice has made the enforcement of and compliance with environmental laws in Africa a challenge. This in turn has rendered sustainable management of the environment quite difficult, affecting the attainment of the SDGs (particularly 16) and Agenda 2063 of the African Union.
UN Environment in partnership with the Office of the Director of Pubic Prosecutions in Uganda, recently held an induction training in Entebbe titled Greening the Police and Criminal Prosecutorial Education in Africa. The objective of the training was to support countries to mainstream course elements on environmental crimes in the training curricula of police and prosecutors in order to enhance their capacity to investigate and prosecute cases. Other training objectives included creating a pool of national trainers, improving intra and international coordination among agencies, and strengthening the environmental law program of Africa Prosecutors Association.
The sustainable training programme on environmental crime education was launched at the meeting, and it is expected to greatly enhance the capacity of African police and prosecutors to handle environmental crimes rapidly and competently.
The consequences of environmental degradation extend beyond national borders, and call for the improvement in cooperation between the police and prosecutorial authorities in the quality of investigation and prosecution.
Police have a vital role in the administration of criminal justice on environmental matters through detecting crimes, inspecting, investigating violations, supporting compliance enforcement, protecting businesses, and tourist and community policing.
Some countries in Africa, such as Mauritius have already established “environmental police” - also known as tourism police. However, these specialized police units are not enough to deal with the administration of criminal justice on environmental matters.