Remarks at the High-Level Special Event on Wildlife and Forest Crime: A Serious Crime

Yury Fedotov

2010-2019 Director-General/Executive Director UNODC

Yury Fedotov

Doha, 13 April 2015

President Kutesa,

Secretary-General Scanlon,

Distinguished participants,

We are here today to talk about crime, and punishment.

The gravity of wildlife and forest crime is beyond doubt. An estimated 1,215 rhinos were poached in South Africa in 2014. Over the last decade, some 1,000 rangers have been killed while trying to protect wildlife. Up to 30 per cent of the global timber trade is estimated to involve illegal logging.

Organized crime groups make billions of dollars from the illicit trafficking of wildlife and forest products.

Like all transnational organized crime, wildlife and forest crime fuels violence, corrupts supply chains and undermines the rule of law.

The proceeds can be further used to fund other illicit activities and finance terrorism.

Wildlife and forest crime is profoundly destructive, with far-reaching consequences – undermining development and stability, threatening biodiversity and endangered species, and contributing to climate change.

And yet too often the punishment does not fit the crime. 

Inadequate legislative frameworks remain far too commonplace.

Simply bringing wildlife crime cases to court is a challenge, and this hard work is too easily undone when case files are poorly prepared and investigations weak.

Even when criminal traffickers are successfully prosecuted, the sentences imposed are often inadequate – small fines, a few months’ imprisonment or conditional sentencing.

On 3 March, millions of people around the world joined us in marking World Wildlife Day under the theme “it’s time to get serious about wildlife crime”.

We have made important progress in educating consumers in order to curb demand, and raising awareness of the devastating impact of wildlife crime.

But for this awareness to translate into action, all countries must treat wildlife and forest crime as a serious criminal offence.

This means bringing national legislation in line with relevant UN instruments, first and foremost the UNTOC.

By guaranteeing a four-year sentence or more severe penalty, we can ensure that penalties are commensurate and can serve as a deterrent. 

Making wildlife crime a serious crime in accordance with UNTOC will also facilitate international cooperation.

To confront wildlife crime, we need to apply the techniques that we know are effective in fighting organized crime networks generally: intelligence sharing and undercover operations, addressing corruption risks, going after the money and tracking illegal goods to their destinations.

Finally, we must make the development of alternative livelihoods a priority, to support the communities, in some countries, hurt most by this crime.

In brief, a balanced approach, addressing supply and demand, in a spirit of shared responsibility, is needed.

UNODC is working with governments, our partners in the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), UNEP, UNDP, NGOs and others to support such responses. 

Through UNODC’s Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime, we have:

  • Supported the implementation of the Urgent African Elephant Measures;
  • Provided mentorship and technical expertise to States aimed at improving intelligence capacity and investigations of wildlife crime;
  • Reviewed legislative frameworks and national penal codes;
  • And delivered practical training for law enforcement, customs and prosecution on anti-money laundering and financial investigations related to wildlife crime.

Our activities must be evidence-based. The ICCWC Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit provides government officials, customs, police and other relevant enforcement agencies with a framework to analyse, prevent, detect and combat wildlife and forest offences.

In 2014, the ICCWC Toolkit was implemented in six countries.

Furthermore, in 2014 UNODC developed and published, in cooperation with ICCWC and international experts, the Guidelines on Methods and Procedures of Ivory Sampling and Laboratory Analysis.

The aim of the guidelines is to promote science, specifically using DNA, to identify the age and origin of elephant ivory and strengthen evidence of wildlife cases in courts.

The importance of forensics cannot be underestimated, and I encourage States to consider sampling their stockpiles to ensure that preventive actions are strengthened. 

UNODC is also conducting a global study on wildlife crime, with the first findings to be published at the end of 2015.

I hope they will provide valuable insight into a clandestine market, and help to further close the gap between political will and action on the ground to stop wildlife and forest crime.

In closing, I would like to thank the many donors to the UNODC Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime, in particular the European Union, the United States, France, Norway, Australia, Sweden and the Development Grant Facility of the World Bank.

We count on your continued support and that of all Member States to bring an end to this terrible crime.

Thank you.

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