NGO cooperation is essential to INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme

Recently, representatives from INTERPOL and other major NGOs joined together in the spirit of cooperation at the IFAW Washington D.C. office.Representatives from Washington D.C.-based non-governmental organizations gathered at the International Fund for Animal Welfare office recently to participate in a roundtable convened by IFAW and INTERPOL's Environmental Crime Programme.

For the NGOs present at the roundtable, we took the opportunity with INTERPOL to detail our partnership as a model for NGO cooperation, including our respective and joint approaches to combating wildlife crime. We welcomed esteemed participants from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Freeland Foundation, Humane Society International (HSI), Conservation International (CI), African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and the Environmental Law Institute. 

While the discussions centered on the role of NGOs in improving wildlife law enforcement and, the need for close cooperation with the law enforcement community, a special emphasis was placed on how best to work with intergovernmental bodies like INTERPOL’s Environmental Programme to combat global wildlife crime.

The INTERPOL representatives provided an update on PROJECT WISDOM, an INTERPOL-led initiative focused on enhancing the governance and law enforcement capacity for the conservation of elephants and rhinoceros in Africa.

IFAW is a close partner with INTERPOL on implementing Project WISDOM which has thus far resulted in the disruption of wildlife criminal networks Across Africa through multi-country law enforcement operations.

Over the years the IFAW/INTERPOL partnership has resulted in positive impacts for endangered species (elephants, rhinos, tigers), so it was really exciting to see our leadership on display, together with INTERPOL’s, in bringing together like-minded NGOs to deliberate on how best to improve and enhance cooperation in support of wildlife law enforcement.

The negative effects of wildlife crime are not limited to individual nations, there is a fundamental need for international cooperation and coordination. Financial and technical support from NGOs can and are making the difference between regional success and failure, particularly in developing countries and where government funding is lacking. 

NGOs have and continue to engage in enforcement capacity building and training, exposing and combating corruption, habitat monitoring and population surveys, consumer awareness campaigns, and supporting anti-poaching efforts.

According to INTERPOL, and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), wildlife crime stands alongside other major threats to the natural systems that sustain human life. The illegal aggregation, distribution and sale of wildlife products is a significant transnational problem, which must be addressed with the same tools of law enforcement as drug, human and arms trafficking.

INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Program provides a mechanism for cooperation beyond regions. It maintains an international network for the exchange of information and assists in the training of wildlife law enforcement officers in developing countries.

While the roundtable generated more questions than answers, there was general agreement that in order for the international community to effectively combat wildlife crime, the close cooperation among governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations are essential.

--KA

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