Governments gathering last week for a meeting of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime recognized environmental crime – ‘green crime’ – as a new form of transnational organized crime in need a greater response. The meeting passed a resolution encouraging governments to further strengthen their domestic laws to prevent and combat these crimes.
The recognition that ‘green’ crime is a new form of transnational organized crime as viewed by the United Nations also highlights how transnational organized crime is having major impacts on wider stability, security and development.
During the meeting in Vienna the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) highlighted the sophisticated techniques used by wildlife traffickers, and the links between environmental crime and other crimes associated with high levels of violence and corruption.
UNODC encouraged countries to take action against trafficking in endangered species, and to consider making trafficking of endangered species a serious crime. Under the convention, serious crimes are defined as those that are assigned prison sentences of at least four years.
South Africa, which is the epicentre of the current rhino poaching crisis, wanted to highlight the inter-ministerial co-operation between its government branches. Pitso Montwedi, South Africa’s Chief Director of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, said: ‘rhino poaching has escalated dramatically in parts of South Africa due to the ruthless assault by criminal groups. We are bringing together policy, defence, customs and conservation officials to tackle this serious organized crime’.
The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime is the main international treaty dedicated to the fight against transnational organized crimes, such as the drug trade and human trafficking, and has been signed by 147 countries.
Governments will take up the issue of wildlife trafficking again in April at a meeting of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which will focus on crimes impacting the environmental. By Jasper Humphreys, The Marjan Centre