Nature crime is defined as engagement in the illegal acquisition, trade and trafficking of wildlife, wildlife parts and products; illicit logging and mining; crimes associated with fishing; and the illegal activities with which they converge. And it is a very big business. Ranking as the world’s fourth most lucrative transnational crime, it yields 110 to 281 billion dollars’ worth of profit every year.
That is why the governments of Gabon, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States, along with the United Nations and several law enforcement agencies, non-governmental organizations, and civil society groups, got together to form the Nature Crime Alliance. Launched in late August, the Alliance is a global, multi-sector network that aims to mobilize governments, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector and ramp up efforts to disrupt the criminal networks engaged in nature crimes.
“We recognize that these crimes cannot be eradicated without multi-sector cooperation, and that there is a pressing need for greater coordination and collaboration among the diverse actors fighting nature crime. A new approach is needed,” said the founding members in a joint statement issued at the launching of the Alliance.
“We have formed the Alliance in recognition of this need, with members including representatives from governments, law enforcement, international organizations, civil society organizations, front line defenders including Indigenous Peoples and local communities, donors, and the private sector,” said the statement.
“Nature crimes threaten our collective security,” said Jennifer Littlejohn, Acting Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the United States Department of State. “They undermine the rule of law, fuel corruption, destroy ecosystems, and drive species to the brink of extinction—all the while providing billions of dollars to transnational criminal syndicates that prey upon the world’s most vulnerable populations.”
Indeed, nature crimes are enormously destructive. They rob communities of their livelihoods and natural resources, spread disease, destroy ecosystems, and push species to the brink of extinction. It is also important to note that such crimes do not exist in a vacuum. They frequently go hand in hand with crimes such as trafficking in persons, antiquities, and drugs and guns, as well as corruption, extortion and bribery, money laundering, and fraud.
“We all must stand together to stop the criminals who are threatening the health of our planet,” said Jennifer Littlejohn, “and that is why the United States is proud to support the Nature Crime Alliance.”