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UNEP and partners step up efforts to combat illegal trade and other related environmental crimes

Nairobi/Geneva, 9 July 1999 - Environmental crime is becoming a serious global problem, even though the immediate consequences of an offence may not be obvious or severe. Environmental crimes do have victims. The cumulative costs in environmental damage and the long-range toll in illness, injury, death and extinction of biodiversity and continued depletion of the ozone layer may be considerable.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is hosting a workshop in Geneva, from 12 to 14 July aimed at identifying stricter measures to combat crimes in illegal trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora, ozone-depleting substances and hazardous wastes which are flourishing in spite of various measures aimed at eliminating them. Support for the workshop, responding to an important component of the United Nations Environment Programme, comes from the G-8 Environmental Ministers' Meeting, held in April 1998 and an initiative and generous financial contribution from the Government of the United Kingdom which has also worked tirelesslyin the planning and organization of the workshop. The Governments of Canada and Germany are also providing financial support to ensure success of the workshop.

At the international level, environmental crime has two main aspects: First, deliberate non- compliance with Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) by the States parties to them. Second, deliberate evasion of environmental laws and regulations by individuals and companies. Where these activities involve movements across national boundaries, they are defined as "international environmental crimes".

"UNEP is pleased that the fight against international environmental crime received a substantial boost after the environment ministers from the G-8 countries announced a range of measures designed to deter and apprehend traders in banned products, materials and substances throughout the world, said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director. "The list includes endangered species, ozone-depleting substances and hazardous wastes. The international community should be vigilant and should take concrete measures, on a regular basis, to address compliance and enforcement of international agreements in earnest", he said.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and Interpol have reported international trade in wildlife products estimated at U.S. $5 billion annually. Illegal poaching for ivory has reduced the elephant population in Africa to fewer than 500,000 from a number of 1.5 million in the last decade.

A proliferation of MEAs has not succeeded in minimizing various environmental crimes. For example, there are indications that despite a ban by the European Union and other developed countries of production of CFCs and halons and controlled importation of ODS, an active black market still exists. Also, some developing countries could be a source of illegal trade in ozone-depleting substances.

More than 50 experts from developed and developing countries and countries with economies in transition will participate. Specialists with expertise in detection, enforcement and prosecution have also been invited to attend.

UNEP participants come from the three convention secretariats: CITES, Basel and Ozone conventions. Independent relevant bodies such as Interpol and World Customs Organization will participate with resource persons and facilitators.

The workshop is expected to make recommendations for improved enforcement of and compliance with the three identified MEAs, particularly at the national level. Recommendations for more effective coordination and cooperation between national enforcement authorities and convention secretariats are also expected.

Continuous dialogue and collaboration between different groups of countries and the convention bodies would ensure synergy in the ways and means of curbing environmental crimes. The watchful eyes of an informed public are also of great importance. Of crucial importance is the regular exchange of information on how illegal trade and environmental crimes are dealt with under different regimes and jurisdictions.

For more information, please contact:
In Geneva,
Ms. Francoise Belmont,
Deputy Director,
UNEP Regional Office for Europe,
15 Chemin des Anemones,
1219 Chatelaine,
Tel. (4 122) 917 811; Fax 917 8024,

in Nairobi,
Patricia L. Jacobs,
Information Officer,
Tel.: (254 2) 623088; Fax (254 2) 623692

Note: The Lusaka Agreement on Cooperative Enforcement Operations Directed at Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora is an African "interpol" adopted to reduce and ultimately eliminate illegal trade in wild fauna and flora. The Agreement anticipates combatting illegal trade in wildlife species by undertaking cooperative enforcement operations through the Task Force established for that purpose in collaboration with the designated National Bureaux established by the participating countries.

The participating countries are Republic of Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. In May 1999, the first officers of the Task Force were appointed. The Task Force began its activities on 1 June 1999.

UNEP News Release 1999/80

Monday 12 Jul 1999
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