Expressing concern that spiralling wildlife and forest crime – fuelled by corrosive corruption – can impede vital progress of the new global sustainable development agenda, the top United Nations anti-crime official and the head of the global UN–backed treaty on protecting endangered species today urged nations to step up the fight to disrupt criminal networks that supply the disastrous illegal trade.
The joint statement by the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, and the Secretary-General of Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) John Scanlon, was released during the Sixth Session of the Conference of the States Parties (COSP6) to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), running through the end of the week in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The statement highlights corruption as an enabler of wildlife and forest crime and expresses its concern that, as it spirals and is fuelled by corrosive corruption, this crime can impede progress on the newly-adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“As the world turns to realizing the new development agenda with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, we are concerned that spiralling wildlife and forest crime, fuelled by corrosive corruption, can impede vital progress,” the joint statement said.
The joint statement was issued almost five years since the International Forum for Tiger Conservation was held in St. Petersburg, which also launched the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC). The event built momentum for the growing recognition that the Tiger faces a desperate struggle for survival in all its habitats and as well as the planet's biodiversity everywhere.
In their statement, Mr. Fedotov and Mr. Scanlon said “corruption feeds and sustains wildlife and forest crime, as well as many other crimes including terrorism and extremism.”
“For the criminals to succeed, customs officials must be bribed to look away; logging and hunting licenses forged; and poachers set free due to obstructed prosecutions,” they said. “Thanks to corruption’s deadly touch, the natural wealth of countries is being stolen, efforts to eradicate poverty paralysed and development efforts greatly hindered.”
“We are united in the belief that, by addressing corruption and bribery, we can deal a significant blow to all those involved in this transnational organized crime,” the statement said.
The statement noted that “central to this work is the ratification and implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption” but that “more needs to be done to encourage every country's complete implementation of the Convention.”
“Wildlife and forest crimes are serious crimes and they must be treated as such by nations willing and committed to disrupting the international criminal networks that supply this disastrous illegal trade,” the statement said.
Mr. Fedotov, in a separate statement to a side event on "Addressing the nexus between illegal wildlife and forestry trades and corruption," said: “This is our shared planet. Stopping wildlife and forest crime is our shared responsibility.”