Illegal Trade in Wildlife and Timber Helps Finance Organized Crime and Terrorist Groups
July 6, 2014
Human Wrongs Watch & Corporate Accountability International & Rady Ananda / Activist Post
Global environmental crime, possibly worth more than $200 billion annually, is helping finance criminal, militia and terrorist groups and threatening the security and sustainable development of many nations, notably in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new joint United Nations-INTERPOL report. According to the new report, one terrorist group operating in East Africa is estimated to make between $38 and $56 million per year from the illegal trade in charcoal.
Illegal Trade in Wildlife and Timber Worth Over $200 Billion a Year, and Helps Finance Organized Crime and Terrorist Groups
Human Wrongs Watch
(June 24, 2014) -- Global environmental crime, possibly worth more than $200 billion annually, is helping finance criminal, militia and terrorist groups and threatening the security and sustainable development of many nations, notably in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new joint United Nations-INTERPOL report.*
The report was compiled by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and INTERPOL for release at the first UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi this week, where action to tackle environmental crime is high on the agenda for hundreds of environment ministers, law enforcement officers, the judiciary and senior UN officials.
Environmental Crime Crisis
"Beyond immediate environmental impacts, the illegal trade in natural resources is depriving developing economies of billions of dollars in lost revenues just to fill the pockets of criminals," said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. "Sustainable development, livelihoods, good governance and the rule of law are all being threatened, as significant sums of money are flowing to militias and terrorist groups," he added.
The UN Environment Assembly is the highest-level UN body ever convened on the environment. It enjoys universal membership of all 193 UN Member States, as well as other stakeholder groups.
The report Environmental Crime Crisis, points to an increased awareness of, and response to, the growing global threat, but calls for further concerted action and issues recommendations aimed at strengthening action against the organized criminal networks profiting from the trade.
According to the new report, one terrorist group operating in East Africa is estimated to make between $38 and $56 million per year from the illegal trade in charcoal.
Wildlife and forest crime also play a serious role in threat finance to organized crime and non-State armed groups, including terrorist organizations.
Ivory, for example, provides income to militia groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic. Ivory similarly provides funds to gangs operating in Sudan, Chad and Niger.
Between $70 Billion and
$213 Billion. . . Each Year
Combined estimates from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), UNEP and INTERPOL place the monetary value of all environmental crime -- which includes logging, poaching and trafficking of a wide range of animals, illegal fisheries, illegal mining and dumping of toxic waste -- at between $70 and $213 billion each year.
Illegal logging and forest crime has an estimated worth of $30 to $100 billion annually, or 10 to 30 percent of the total global timber trade.
An estimated 50 to 90 percent of the wood in some individual tropical countries is suspected to come from illegal sources or has been logged illegally.
With current trends in urbanization and the projected growth of over one billion additional people in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2050, the demand for charcoal is expected to at least triple in the coming three decades.
This will generate severe impacts such as large-scale deforestation, pollution and subsequent health problems in slum areas.
The increased charcoal demand will considerably increase the purchasing power of non-State armed groups, including terrorist organizations, and accelerate emissions if left unchallenged.
The overall size of the illicit charcoal export from Somalia has been estimated at $360–$384 million per year, the armed group in East Africa earning up to $56 million of this.
For pulp and paper production, networks of shell companies and plantations are used to funnel illegal timber through plantations, or to ship wood and pulp via legal plantations.
These methods effectively bypass many current customs efforts to restrict the import of illegal tropical wood to the United States and the European Union. The report highlights poaching across many species, including tigers, elephants, rhinos, great apes and Saiga antelopes:
The number of elephants killed in Africa annually is in the range of 20,000 to 25,000 elephants per year out of a population of 420,000 to 650,000.
Ninety four per cent of rhino poaching takes place in Zimbabwe and South Africa, which have the largest remaining populations. Rhino horn poached last year is valued at around US$63 to US$192 million.
Even conservative estimates suggest that the illegal trade in great apes is widespread. From 2005 to 2011, a minimum of 643 chimpanzees, 48 bonobos, 98 gorillas and 1,019 orangutans are estimated to have been lost from the wild through illegal activities. The real figure is more likely to be around 22,000 great apes lost over that period.
The report says while more needs to be done, the scale and nature of the illegal trade in wildlife has been recognized and some successes have been scored but the scale and coordination of efforts must be substantially increased and widened.
*Source: UN Release.
Forests Provide Jobs, Energy, Nutritious Foods and Ecosystem Services -- Do Not Kill Them!
Human Wrongs Watch
(June 23, 2014) -- Across the world, forests provide employment, energy, nutritious foods and a wide range of other goods and ecosystem services with tremendous potential to contribute to sustainable development and a greener economy, according to the United Nations agency report The State of the World’s Forests (SOFO). *
"This 2014 edition of SOFO focuses on the socioeconomic benefits derived from forests. It is impressive to see how forests contribute to basic needs and rural livelihoods. They are also a carbon sink, and preserve biodiversity," said José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
However, the report finds that these socioeconomic benefits are rarely fully recognized in national policies -- despite their enormous potential to contribute to their vital role in providing local communities with food, energy and shelter.
"Let me say this clearly: we cannot ensure food security or sustainable development without preserving and using forest resources responsibly," da Silva maintained. Opening the 22nd Session of the FAO Committee on Forestry (COFO), the agency asserted in a press release that a significant proportion of the world’s population relies on forest products to meet basic needs for energy, shelter and some aspects of primary healthcare -- often to a very high degree.
Yet according to SOFO, clear evidence has been lacking, "Evidence is critical to inform policies on forest management and use, and to ensure that the benefits from forests are recognized in the post-2015 development agenda -- not only with respect to the environment but for their contributions to broader social issues as well."
FAO’s new report stresses that providing local communities with access to forests and markets are powerful ways of enhancing their socioeconomic benefits and reducing poverty in rural areas.
"Countries should shift their focus, both in data collection and policymaking, from production to benefits -- in other words, from trees to people," said FAO Assistant Director-General for Forests, Eduardo Rojas-Briales.
"Policies and programmes, both in the forest sector and beyond, must explicitly address the role of forests in providing food, energy and shelter. A new, holistic concept of forests will make them more attractive to donors and investors and ensure that they benefit all people, especially those most in need," he adds.
The essential role of forests in food security is also often overlooked. For example, policy makers have failed to notice wood as a major source of household energy. In many developing countries, it is often the only accessible and affordable fuel for the majority of people, with one in three households using wood as their main cooking fuel.
Wood Provides Over Half of the
Total Energy Supply in 29 Countries
"Wood provides over half of the total energy supply in 29 countries, including 22 in Africa. In Tanzania, wood fuel accounts for about 90 per cent of total national energy consumption," notes the report.
Much needs to be done to improve wood energy production, make it more sustainable and to reduce the burden on women and children, who collect 85 per cent of all firewood used in homes.
The report revealed that at least 1.3 billion people, or 18 per cent of the world’s population, live in houses built of wood. This is particularly important in less-developed countries, where forest products are usually more affordable than other building materials.
The production of building materials, wood energy and non-wood forest products employs at least 41 million people in the "informal" sector worldwide, three times the number of people employed in the formal forest sector.
In addition, forests perform many essential environmental services, such as erosion control, pollination, natural pest and disease control, and climate-change mitigation, as well as provide numerous social and cultural services and nutrients to local communities all year round.
Opening Committee, FAO signed a four-year agreement with AgriCord to collaborate with the Forest and Farm Facility -- a partnership between FAO, the International Institute for Environment and Development and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUNCN), which aims to strengthen forest and farm producer organizations.
FAO will address these and other important issues at the joint World Health Organization WHO-FAO global intergovernmental conference on nutrition ICN2, to be held in Rome on 19-21 November 2014.
* Source: UN Release
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