Corruption is at the heart of environmental crime, enabling the plundering of nature and the laundering of profits. There is a critical need for global action to prevent and combat corruption related to crimes that affect the environment, including wildlife crime.
The Wildlife Justice Commission is dedicated to advocating for solutions to address corruption. In pursuit of this objective, we participated in the 10th session of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) Conference of the States Parties (CoSP) in Atlanta last week. As a legally-binding treaty, the UNCAC is among the best tools to fight the corruption driving environmental crime, however stronger implementation and enforcement is required. The 10th UNCAC CoSP was therefore a major opportunity to influence policymakers and drive tangible change on this issue. The Wildlife Justice Commission attended the CoSP to advocate for stronger anti-corruption measures, focusing on transparency, good governance, cooperation, protection, and effective enforcement.
Action now: Combating Corruption to Protect the Environment
We participated in the CoSP both as the Wildlife Justice Commission and in our role as Chair of the UNCAC Coalition’s Working Group on Environmental Crime and Corruption (WG ECC). The Wildlife Justice Commission co-organised a “mega event” entitled “Action now: Combating Corruption to Protect the Environment” together with a number of States and other organisations. The “mega event” consisted of a high-level segment and a technical segment. The event discussed how corruption affects the environment, and identified best practices and recommendations to address this issue.
The role of corruption in enabling wildlife trafficking
As part of the technical segment, in the first Setting the Scene session, experts from the Wildlife Justice Commission, UNODC, WWF, the Institute for Public Policy Research of Namibia, the permanent mission of France to the UN in Vienna and the French Ministry of Justice, explored how corruption facilitates environmental crime and identified gaps in current anti-corruption initiatives. The Wildlife Justice Commission presented findings from its most recent report on the nexus of corruption and crime in the wildlife trafficking supply chain.
In another session, we also discussed how civil society could enhance coordination between UNCAC and UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) implementation to address corruption and organised crime (including wildlife crime) in a more connected way. In that session, we highlighted our findings about the convergence of wildlife crime with other forms of organised crime.
The Wildlife Justice Commission also delivered oral statements on various agenda items of the UNCAC CoSP plenary session throughout the week. In our role as chair of the UNCAC Coalition’s WG ECC, we highlighted the Working Group’s key recommendations for what the UNCAC might do to address gaps in the effective tackling of corruption enabling environmental crime, emphasizing the need for greater international cooperation. The Working Group, which is comprised of over 180 civil society organisations from across the globe, also submitted a written submission to the CoSP agenda, listing these recommendations. As Wildlife Justice Commission, we highlighted the nexus between corruption and wildlife crime based on findings through our investigations and urged States to increase the use of special investigative techniques, including financial investigations, and international cooperation to ensure an effective collective response. The Wildlife Justice Commission also signed the “Atlanta Civil Society Declaration”, calling on States to implement measures to prevent and combat corruption, including corruption that facilitates environmental crimes, in the aftermath of the CoSP.
The Wildlife Justice Commission welcomes a heightened focus on the need to address the nexus between environmental crime and corruption. This is evident in the designation of a half-day event specifically dedicated to this issue at this CoSP, active participation of a broad range of civil society actors on this topic, as well as statements in plenary sessions on the matter.
We also take pride in successfully initiating collaborative advocacy initiatives, bringing together other members of civil society in our role as Chair of the WG ECC to advocate for increased anti-corruption commitments in relation to environmental crime. This fostered increased discourse on environmental crime and corruption during the CoSP, with the aim to form a basis for shaping heightened global commitments and standards in the fight against corruption.
Much still needs to be done to bolster the implementation of the UNCAC to prevent and combat corruption and the environmental crimes it facilitates. The Wildlife Justice Commission and the WG ECC initiated an open letter calling for States Parties to adopt a resolution on environmental crime and corruption at the CoSP. The letter was signed by 301 NGOs and experts from 99 countries. Despite the resolution not being adopted during the 10th UNCAC CoSP, we remain committed to advocating for its adoption in the future. We will also persist in urging for decisive measures to be taken within national jurisdictions against the corruption that enables environmental crime.
All efforts to combat environmental crime and wildlife trafficking will fail unless corruption is tackled.
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