INTERPOL-UNEP to Tackle Pressing Envionmental Crime

16 November 2015 | United Nations Environment Programme News Release

Singapore – Senior government, law enforcement and environmental leaders have gathered at the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore to develop an international roadmap for tackling environmental crime.

The 2nd INTERPOL-United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Conference, brings together more than 170 high-level experts from some 65 countries and 15 international organizations – including Ministers of Environmental Affairs and Justice – to review progress made in securing the world’s environmental quality, biodiversity and natural resources since the first conference in 2013, and to create an action plan for the coming years.

High on the agenda for the two-day (16 and 17 November) conference are issues of global concern, such as climate change, the UN Sustainable Development goals, and the role of law enforcement in ensuring compliance with environmental regulations. Delegates will discuss a range of environmental crimes, including wildlife, forestry, pollution and fisheries crimes, as well as best practices in investigations and intelligence exchange.

“The illegal trade in wildlife, including timber and other forest products, as well as chemicals and waste is a multi-billion dollar industry which undermines the economies of developing countries and threatens the livelihood of the most vulnerable communities, as well as our ability to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development agenda,” said Kaveh Zahedi, UNEP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.

“Sustainable development cannot be realized without ending illegal trade, poaching and ultimately securing peace and security for all. This is what the UNEP-INTERPOL partnership is set up to deliver,” he added.

With climate change at the forefront of global discussions heading into the upcoming 2015 United Nations Climate Change Forum known as COP21 in Paris, delegates will discuss the importance of putting in place effective mechanisms to enforce climate-related legislation, underscoring the critical role of law enforcement in mitigating the effects of climate change.

The links between environmental crimes and sustainable development will be reviewed to determine how law enforcement can best support global efforts to promote environmentally conscious development and reduce impacts to vulnerable communities.

Delegates at the first conference in Nairobi, in 2013 adopted a set of recommended actions to improve environmental security, including developing national environmental task forces, and increasing the exchange of intelligence to better identify and link environmental crimes and support criminal analysis.

David Higgins, Head of INTERPOL’s Environmental Security Programme, commended countries for making tangible progress towards these goals, pointing to a significant increase in intelligence on environmental crimes and criminals shared via INTERPOL channels which has led to more targeted operations and investigations launched against the criminal networks involved.

“Environmental laws and regulations don’t carry much weight unless they are backed by strong enforcement mechanisms,” said Mr Higgins.

“This is why INTERPOL not only seeks to develop global plans and policies to enhance environmental security, but we also work with stakeholders at all levels to ensure they are implemented in the most effective manner and with the necessary enforcement structure,” he added.

To this end, INTERPOL has engaged with member countries and partners in a number of successful collaborative actions. Through the issuing of Purple Notices, facilitating information exchange and assisting with evidence collection and analysis, INTERPOL supported the investigations and operations of some 15 countries into the illegal fishing activities of the ‘Thunder’, other vessels suspected to be part of the same illegal fishing fleet, and the operating network behind it. After the vessel sank off the coast of West Africa earlier this year, a court in Sao Tomé and Principe found the captain, chief engineer and second engineer of the Thunder guilty of various illegal fishing charges, and the global investigations continue.

INTERPOL’s Operation Infra Terra, which targeted fugitives wanted for environmental crimes, brought together investigators from more than 130 countries to exchange intelligence on ongoing cases, resulting in the arrest of several fugitives including Feisal Ali, the Kenyan head of an international ivory smuggling ring, located in Tanzania in December 2014.

Additionally, INTERPOL is working with Indonesian authorities to support investigations into suspected arson cases connected to the forest fires which have covered the region in a thick haze in recent months.

At the end of the conference, the delegates will adopt an action plan outlining concrete steps for the global community to take to further enhance environmental enforcement efforts.

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