More than 80% of countries surveyed consider environmental crime a national priority, with the majority saying new and more sophisticated criminal activities increasingly threaten peace and security.
INTERPOL and UN Environment surveyed 70 countries for a new joint report, ‘Environment, Peace and Security – A Convergence of Threats’, released at December’s Law, Justice and Development Week hosted by the World Bank in Washington DC.
The report focuses on the links between global environmental crime, valued at USD 91 – 258 billion annually, and other criminal activities, including organised crime and terrorism.
More than 60% of surveyed countries stated they were witnessing new environmental crimes or modus operandi, indicating growing sophistication and adaptation by transnational organised crime groups.
In addition, 84% reported a convergence with other serious crimes, such as corruption (42%), counterfeiting (39%), drug trafficking (36%), cybercrime (23%) and financial crime (17%).
INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said: “Environmental crime is transnational in scope and insidious in nature. It robs governments of much-needed revenue, people of livelihoods and communities of peace and security. The international community needs to support a comprehensive approach by following rhetoric with action, policy with implementation and law with enforcement”.
The report found some non-state armed groups, terrorist groups and criminal networks fund their activities by exploiting natural resources in conflict areas, posing a serious threat to peace and security. It is estimated at least 40% of internal conflicts have a link to natural resources.
“The time has come to meet the threat of environmental crime with a co-ordinated response from member states, international organisations and the United Nations. Such a response must address the need for improved information sharing, enhanced protection of civilians, better law enforcement and a deeper understanding of the drivers of conflicts,” said Erik Solheim, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Head of UN Environment.
With environmental crime sometimes viewed as an alternative to poverty for low-income populations, their needs are exploited by criminal groups which rely on them for activities, such as illegal poaching, logging, fishing or mining.
The report recommends, among others: a multidisciplinary approach to tackling environmental crime; greater information exchange across sectors; increased focus on the implementation of environmental policy; and stronger financial support including through Official Development Assistance.
The report’s publication follows the resolution adopted at the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in November which calls for enhanced co-operation between the UN and INTERPOL against transnational crime and terrorism.