Blighting vulnerable nations, wildlife and forest crime has become a serious transnational threat to the security, stability and economy of entire countries and regions. The United Nations General Assembly and Security Council, the Economic and Social Council and the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice have voiced grave concern over the indiscriminate plunder of natural resources and national heritage.
Staggering profits are at stake: wildlife crime now ranks among trafficking in drugs, arms and humans and may earn criminals up to US $20 billion a year, while the trade in illegal timber costs the world economy between US $30 and US $100 billion a year. Corruption greases the wheels of this business, as a succession of bribes is paid at all stages of the process, from exploiting the source of a product to the market place. While the incentives for criminals are all too clear, the means to fight them remain woefully inadequate.
Amid the mounting carnage, several international organizations began discussions in November 2009 to tackle this scourge from a development, law enforcement and environmental perspective. In November 2010, the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) was formally launched at the International Forum for Tiger Conservation in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The Consortium consists of five organizations: the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Bank and the World Customs Organization (WCO). This novel and multifaceted approach brings together experts working in the areas of law enforcement and criminal justice capacity-building, as well in the social and economic spheres.
Until the creation of ICCWC, the destruction of the world's flora and fauna was largely treated as a conservation issue. Despite considerable efforts expended by intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to curb wildlife and forest crime, the problem continued unabated. A factor contributing to this--the one which may hitherto have been underestimated--is the involvement of organized crime groups operating through sophisticated networks. Law enforcement agencies may find themselves confronted with formidable challenges while fighting against well-resourced and well-armed foes.
These five organizations...