Kenya to host world forum on environmental crime

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Executive leaders from across the world are due to meet in Nairobi on Wednesday to design a joint international strategy to tackle environmental crime, organizers said.

The three-day meeting organized by the UNEP and the international police organization Interpol will also focus on cooperation between intergovernmental organizations, as well as the environmental enforcement actions of focus for the international community.

"Interpol and UNEP recognize that only by working together, with common objectives, will we truly have an impact on the activities of the individuals, networks and companies that illegally exploit our shared environment, biodiversity and natural resources," the two organizations said in a joint statement issued in Nairobi on Tuesday.

Both Interpol and the UNEP are working together to enhance environmental compliance and enforcement at the national level and across borders.

The UNEP said environmental crime is a serious and growing international problem, whose impacts transcend national borders.

"Environmental crime often occurs hand in hand with other offences such as international terrorism, corruption, money laundering and murder. The same routes used to smuggle wildlife across countries and continents are often used to smuggle weapons, drugs and people," it said.

Wildlife crime is estimated to be worth 15 billion to 20 billion U. S. dollars annually and is recognized as the fourth largest global illegal trade behind illegal drugs, human trafficking and trade in illegal arms.

Indicators also show that the illegal trade in wildlife and timber may help finance terrorism and organized crime across the world.

According to a recent report, the systematic monitoring of large-scale seizures of ivory destined for Asia is indicative of the involvement of criminal networks, which are increasingly active and entrenched in the trafficking of ivory between Africa and Asia.

"An estimated 17,000 African elephants were illegally killed in 2011 at CITES monitored sites, believed to hold around 40 per cent of the total elephant population in Africa," the UNEP said.

All these will be tackle during the first Executive Level Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Committee (ECEC) Meeting in Nairobi which will also discuss current projects and plan future activities that will help tackle the threats facing their respective disciplines.

"More broadly, the meetings will consider a range of current and emerging threats being experienced around the world with regard to the environment, biodiversity and natural resources," the statement said.

Each country's biodiversity and natural resources are an important part of its economic wellbeing and security, but are continuously threatened by overexploitation from criminal and unlawful elements.

The two bodies say they are working together to enhance environmental compliance and enforcement which will have a positive impact on these global concerns.

The UNEP said hazardous waste, especially from more developed nations where it is strictly controlled, can be illegally disposed of in less developed countries, taking advantage of lax or non- existent environmental controls or effective enforcement.

The UNEP also estimates that up to 14,000 tonnes of CFCs, worth approximately 60 million dollars were smuggled into developing countries annually up to 2006.

At the same time, electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) is the fastest growing waste stream in the world. Up to 50 million tons of e-waste is generated annually with only a 10 percent recycling rate.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing accounts for 11 million to 26 million tonnes a year, equivalent to 15 percent of world catches.

"A significant proportion of both wildlife and pollution crime is carried out by organized criminal networks, drawn by the low risk and high profit nature of these types of crime," it said. Endi

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