Advancing the fight against crimes that affect the environment at the CCPCJ 

The Wildlife Justice Commission’s participation at the 33rd session of the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) in Vienna marked a pivotal step in advocating for enhanced global efforts to combat crimes that affect the environment, particularly wildlife trafficking. As the principal policy-making body of the United Nations in crime prevention and criminal justice, the CCPCJ provided a crucial platform to amplify governmental efforts in prioritising wildlife crime across all levels. We urged States to recognise crimes that affect the environment as serious crime, bridge gaps in legal frameworks, combat corruption and money laundering, and foster international cooperation and technical assistance to effectively tackle these crimes. The promotion of international cooperation and technical assistance to address organised crime was the topic of this year’s thematic discussion at the CCPCJ. 

Tackling illicit financial flows related to crimes that affect the environment 

On Monday 13 May, we supported and participated in a pivotal online event organised by Colombia, centred on tackling illicit financial flows related to crimes that affect the environment. Olivia Swaak-Goldman, our Executive Director, highlighted the critical role of conducting financial investigations in parallel to wildlife crime investigations to dismantle criminal networks, and the relevant role of specialist NGOs such as the Wildlife Justice Commission in supporting the private sector by providing relevant information, including financial intelligence, and the public sector, such as banks, in identifying potential (cross border) illicit financial flows and money laundering through their accounts. Other panellists from Colombia’s financial intelligence unit, INTERPOL, and the Canadian financial intelligence unit (FINTRAC) highlighted best practices in combatting crimes that affect the environment through the monitoring of illicit financial flows. FINTRAC discussed the success of Project Anton, a public-private partnership of which we are an active member, launched to tackle the financial activity fuelling the illegal wildlife trade and the associated laundering of proceeds from this crime. 

Enhancing international cooperation and technical assistance under the UNTOC and UNCAC 

On Thursday 16 May, the Wildlife Justice Commission organised a side event focused on implementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) to effectively combat crimes that affect the environment through enhanced international cooperation and technical assistance. Moderated by Hanny Cueva-Beteta, Head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Global Programme on Crimes that Affect the Environment, the session featured opening remarks by Carlos Sanchez del Aguila, Minister Counsellor of Permanent Mission of Peru, and included as panellists Christian Tournié from the French Gendarmerie Nationale, Katarzyna Henn, Assistant Director Illicit Markets of INTERPOL, and Olivia Swaak-Goldman, our Executive Director. The experts presented case studies showcasing the global nature of these crimes and highlighting the importance of international cooperation and technical assistance in fighting crimes that affect the environment, including the trafficking of marine and terrestrial wildlife, illegal logging, and illegal mining.   

Other supported events 

In addition to the events we hosted and participated in, we supported several other key side events throughout the week. These included an event organised by the Alliance of NGOs on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, of which we are a Board Member, on the facilitation of meaningful and strategic civil society engagement in the 15th UN Crime Congress, as well as an event organised by Angola and Peru, focusing on the benefits of an additional protocol to the UNTOC on wildlife crime, which would provide a stronger legal framework for combating these offenses. 

Our recommendations 

Throughout the week, the Wildlife Justice Commission shared its insights with the CCPCJ through a written statement and two oral interventions during the plenary session, emphasising the need for robust legal frameworks and enhanced international cooperation and capacity-building to effectively combat crimes that affect the environment. We also had the pleasure to meet and collaborate with many of our partners who were present throughout the week.

Our main recommendations include: 

  • Recognising wildlife crime, and more broadly crimes that affect the environment, as serious crime in accordance with article 2(b) of the UNTOC (i.e. a conduct constituting an offence punishable by a maximum deprivation of liberty of at least four years or a more serious penalty), to leverage the tools and resources available to tackle these crimes. 
  • Giving continuous and increased prioritisation to such crimes and putting the tools provided by international legislation, in particular the UNTOC and UNCAC, into practice at the domestic level. 
  •  Harmonising domestic legislation and taking coordinated action to facilitate international cooperation and prevent crime displacement. The adoption of an additional protocol to the UNTOC on the illicit trafficking of wildlife, or more broadly crimes that affect the environment, could support States in this regard. 
  •  Developing the means to prevent, investigate, and prosecute corrupt activities, and establish a robust framework to tackle corruption along the supply chain, in particular by conducting parallel financial and corruption investigations for wildlife crime.  
  • Promoting successful models of collaboration between government agencies, academia, and private sector entities including NGOs in the development of technical assistance including capacity-building programs tailored to addressing the challenges of countering wildlife crime and other crimes that affect the environment. 

The Wildlife Justice Commission’s participation in the CCPCJ this year was a significant step forward in advancing our efforts to build political will to elevate the importance given to wildlife crime and increase the effectiveness of government responses. We welcome a heightened focus on the need to address crimes that affect the environment, evidenced by the growing number of impactful events and discussions on the topic compared to previous years. Notably, the UNODC has launched two significant reports at this CCPCJ: the World Wildlife Crime Report 2024 and the first part of the Global Analysis on Crimes that Affect the Environment. We very much look forward to taking these discussions further at the upcoming Joint Constructive Dialogue on Technical Assistance and International Cooperation in June, where “Criminalisation of crimes that affect the environment” will be an agenda highlight, as well as the UNTOC Conference of State Parties later this year in October. Through continued engagement and collaboration with civil society and government partners, we are committed to making a lasting impact in the fight against wildlife crime.  

Missed our side event?

Watch the recording here: