On the 7th and 8th of November, 500 of the leading law enforcement and environmental experts came together at the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL)- United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Conference (ECEC) in Nairobi, Kenya. They discussed recent trends in environmental crime and the impacts of those violations. “This is a global phenomenon. This is a global market place. It’s globally active syndicates, criminals who are engaging in this trade who are causing damage to national economies and communities,” said Achim Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director, and “[there is] a rapidly escalating environmental crime wave.”
According to UNEP, environmental crime is associated with international criminal syndicates. UNEP and Interpol are working together to provide a global system of communication for information sharing to prevent environmental crimes.
“People from around the world are outraged that organized criminal networks are robbing the world of our elephants, rhinos, tigers and other wildlife, purely for the profit of a very few outlaws,” said Azzedine Downes, president of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), who presented at the conference. He called for countries to commit to developing security task forces to battle environmental crime and highlighted the importance of cross-boundary cooperation.
One of the countries taking its own initiatives is Kenya, who formed a new paramilitary anti-poaching team earlier this year, with significant deterrent effects. Lawmakers in Kenya are now considering a bill that would mean life sentences for anyone killing endangered wildlife. According to Githu Muigai, Kenya’s attorney general, poachers have killed 90 elephants and 35 rhinos this year. “Kenya stands at a crossroads as far as environmental criminal activity is concerned,” said Muigai as he urged lawmakers to pass the proposed bill.
Affected countries often don’t have the resources or capacity to investigate environmental crimes, said Steiner. There is a “long distance” between suspecting a wildlife terrorism activity and being able to prosecute it, he said. INTERPOL and UNEP hope that to help foster communication and cooperation between nations because they “recognize that only by working together, with common objectives, will we truly have an impact on the activities of the individuals, networks and companies that illegally exploit our shared environment, biodiversity, and natural resources.”