A report released by the United Nations (UN) has revealed that environmental crimes such as poaching, exotic animal and plant trade and illegal logging make hundreds of billions of dollars each year. They speculate that the majority of this revenue goes straight into the pockets of terrorists and infamous militia groups around the world.
In a report presented this week at the first United National Environment Assembly (UNEA), INTERPOL and UN investigators declared that the prevalence and profitability of environmental crimes around the globe has made the problem an international crisis.
The report details how the illegal animal, plant and raw material (coal, lumber, etc.) trade is estimated to be worth about $213 billion each year, and is not the problem of INTERPOL and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) alone.
"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," UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said at the UNEA. "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."
According to the report, the unregulated charcoal trade alone - a trade that gets very little public and political attention - costs developing African countries nearly $2 billion a year. The illegal wood and charcoal industry profits up to an estimated $9 billion - nearly four times the $2.6 billion illegal drug trade in the region.
Amazingly, the illegal trade of fauna and flora is estimated to be worth even more - up to $23 billion - and includes the exportation of a massive range of exotic species largely from Africa and Asia.
The ivory trade, which surprisingly makes the least amount of money among environmental crimes, eliminates up to 25,000 elephants and 1,000 rhinos annually.
Worst yet, these activities are not just lining the pockets of petty thieves and desperate parties. Infamous militia groups in Africa are vastly funded by these illegal endeavors, while terrorist groups are hugely benefitting from the illegal charcoal trade.
One terrorist group based out of East Africa was found to be making up to $56 million a year off charcoal alone.
In his concluding statements, INTERPOL's Executive Director of Police Services, Jean-Michel Louboutin, called for the help of the international community, saying that INTERPOL and the UNEP cannot contain the rapidly growing environmental crime sector by themselves.
"While there is growing awareness of the dangers posed by wildlife crime, it will require a dedicated and concerted international effort among law enforcement and partner organizations to effectively combat this threat to global security," he said.
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