IFAW to world leaders: Partner with INTERPOL, NGOs to stop wildlife crime
Hundreds of ministerial level representatives from around the world gather today at the INTERPOL - UNEP International Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Conference (ECEC) to explore common strategies for combatting the growing menace of environmental crime.
At a session dedicated to “Solutions and Impact,” Azzedine Downes, President and CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (www.ifaw.org) called on the national leaders to commit at the highest level to developing National Environmental Security Task Forces (NESTs), as outlined by INTERPOL. Downes also called on leaders to partner with non-governmental organizations like IFAW whose donors are willing to help fund law enforcement operations that can demonstrate a real impact on disrupting wildlife crime.
“All proposals to solve this crisis must be reasonable within the framework of national government priorities. If funding for illegal wildlife trade is seen as a threat to funding for human welfare, we will not succeed. Effective solutions are those that national governments can adopt immediately,” said Downes.
“People from around the world are outraged that organized criminal networks are robbing the world of our elephants, rhinos, tigers and other wildlife, purely for the profit of a very few outlaws. If range state countries are willing to commit to enforcement that works across national boundaries, our supporters in non-range states are willing to step-up and help fund those efforts.”
INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme is just three years old, having grown out of initial investments a decade ago by IFAW and other NGOs whose supporters demanded that stronger efforts be made to stem the swelling tide of wildlife crime.
Today, IFAW supports INTERPOL through its Project WISDOM—a program focused on stopping poaching and illegal trade of elephants and rhinos in Africa. Earlier in 2013, IFAW and INTERPOL partnered on OPERATION WENDI, a five-long operation West and Central African countries including the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Guinea Conakry. Also this year, in Europe, IFAW and INTERPOL collaborated with national enforcers in nine countries on an investigation of illegal wildlife trade online. Project Web resulted in six national and three multi-national criminal investigations being launched.
Downes expressed enthusiasm that as a result of this year’s INTERPOL-UNEP ECEC conference, more countries would establish NESTs and begin partnering with INTERPOL and NGOs. This would give national authorities access to the necessary expertise and international enforcement networks as well as the training, equipment and funding needed to carry out successful operations against syndicates trafficking in wildlife.