Global environmental crime is worth up to $213 billion a year and helping to finance criminal and terrorist groups threatening security and sustainable development worldwide, according to a report released on June 24th by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Interpol.
Ivory from poached elephants is the primary source of income for Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) according to the report. Ivory poaching is also carried out by rebel groups including insurgents in Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as Janjaweed, which carried out atrocities in Sudan’s Darfur region and also operates in Niger and Chad.
Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked al Shabaab are estimated to make between $38 and $56 million per year from the illegal trade in charcoal, the report says.
“The illegal trade in wildlife and environmental crime are now widely recognised as significant threats on a global scale, to be tackled with urgency,” said Achim Steiner, head of UNEP.
“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,” he said.
The report was released as part of a week-long global environment conference at UNEP’s Nairobi headquarters aimed at tackling challenges from poaching to marine pollution and boosting the “green economy”.
At the Nairobi meeting, the first ever United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) (which came amid fresh warnings of potential al Shabaab attacks), Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania announced the East Africa Initiative on Illegal Timber Trade. The three countries intend to work together, along with INTERPOL and UN agencies, to curb the illegal timber trade that is stripping East Africa of one of its most valuable natural resources. The illegal timber trade costs the world economy between $30 and $100 billion annually, says Interpol.