Advocating for stronger anti-corruption frameworks to protect the environment and wildlife at the 20th IACC

Corruption is a key enabler of environmental crime, including wildlife crime, and the Wildlife Justice Commission is committed to promoting solutions to tackle corruption. As part of this mission, the Wildlife Justice Commission is proud to chair the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) Coalition’s Environmental Crime and Corruption Working Group, comprised of over 100 civil society organisations across the globe. This Working Group advocates for strong and coordinated measures to address the nefarious impact of corruption on the environment.

The Wildlife Justice Commission was present at the 20th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Washington DC and organised a workshop on behalf of the Working Group, titled “Environmental crime, corruption and the climate crisis: strengthening anti-corruption frameworks and enforcement measures to protect the environment, the climate and the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Communities”.

In the session, moderated by Brice Böhmer of Transparency International, expert panelists Juhani Grossmann of the Basel Institute on Governance, Joachim Stassart of Transparency International Brazil, Professor Dr. Edgardo Buscaglia, and our Executive Director Olivia Swaak-Goldman, identified gaps in current anti-corruption frameworks and discussed recommendations for strengthening and effectively enforcing these frameworks to protect the environment, wildlife, climate, and rights of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.

The Wildlife Justice Commission discussed the role of corruption as a key enabler of environmental crime, presenting our recently published threat assessment of the illegal rhino horn trade over the past decade as a case study. This assessment highlights the role of corruption in enabling and facilitating transnational illegal rhino horn trade at all levels of the supply chain.

The panellists concluded that a gap exists between legal frameworks and their enforcement in practice. The legal framework necessary to address this issue already exists, however weak implementation and enforcement continue to fuel environmental crime, mitigate climate efforts, and foster further corruption.

Our recommendations  

The discussion generated concrete recommendations and actions needed by governments to strengthen international efforts to prevent and combat environmental crime and corruption:

  • Prioritise environmental crime and corruption: recognize environmental crime as a serious organised crime and make environmental crime a predicate offense for money laundering.
  • Apply already existing anti-corruption and anti-money laundering legislation more effectively to environmental crime cases. In particular, promote the effective implementation of the UNCAC to prevent and combat corruption and environmental crime. Fully utilize Article 49 on joint investigations by State Parties and Article 50 on special investigative techniques.
  • Encourage law enforcement-led corruption investigations using special investigative techniques to apprehend high-level suspects.

  • Promote greater international cooperation to tackle the cross-border nature of environmental crime and corruption, as well as cooperation between all relevant state institutions (the judiciary, prosecutors, police, financial investigations units, customs, tax authorities, environmental protection agencies and other government bodies).

Other recommendations of the Working Group can be found here.

Moving forward

This workshop paved the way for joint advocacy efforts for the content of a new potential UNCAC resolution at the 10th Conference of State Parties in 2023. Such a resolution should be concerned with preventing and combatting corruption as it relates to crimes that affect the environment and climate, and would help in unlocking the most relevant anti-corruption tools to address environmental crimes and gage the political will to address the corruption that enables it. This potential resolution could also help further promote cooperation with other UN conventions and fora including the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework on Climate Change.

The Wildlife Justice Commission is pleased to see that environmental crime is increasingly on the agenda, as the question of overcoming corruption in the race against environmental devastation and the climate crisis was one of the seven global challenges identified by the IACC in 2022.

Missed the event?

Watch the event recording here: