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Calls for wildlife and forest offences to be treated as serious crime

On 13 April 2015, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) co-hosted an International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) titled “Wildlife and Forest Crime: A Serious Crime”.

The high-level side event was organized in the margins of the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Doha, Qatar.

The event was opened by the President of the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Sam Kutesa, and co-chaired by the UNODC Executive Director Mr. Yury Fedotov as well as by CITES Secretary-General Mr. John E. Scanlon. Representatives from five Member States together with the five agencies that make up ICCWC, namely the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, UNODC, the World Bank and the World Customs Organization, all actively participated in the event alongside a number of other organizations.

The event provided a unique opportunity to raise awareness on the scale and nature of wildlife and forest crime, which has escalated to unprecedented levels in recent years as a result of the increased involvement of transnational organized crime groups and, on some occasions, rebel militia. Wildlife poaching and trafficking now poses a serious threat to the survival of some of the world’s most charismatic species, as well as many other lesser known species.

Mr. Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director, highlighted the destructive nature of wildlife crime: “Wildlife and forest crime is profoundly destructive, with far-reaching consequences – undermining development and stability, threatening biodiversity and endangered species, and contributing to climate change. And yet, too often the punishment does not fit the crime. Inadequate legislative frameworks remain far too commonplace.”

Mr. John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General, stressed: “Well organized and well-resourced transnational organized crime groups are driving industrial scale illegal trade in wildlife. Combatting these groups requires wildlife crime to be recognized as a serious crime across source, transit and destination States and for States to deploy the same enforcement tools, techniques and penalties to fight illegal trade in wildlife as those used to combat other domestic and transnational organized crimes.”

“This week’s Congress in Doha on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice is where such matters must be discussed. For the first time, wildlife crime is on the Congress agenda and we warmly welcome the adoption of the Doha Declaration,” added Scanlon. The Doha Declaration adopted at the Congress provides a further strong basis for States to put an end to the current high levels of illicit trafficking of wild fauna and flora.

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