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Illegal wildlife trade – new frontiers and dark markets

Organized crime underpins the World’s major conflicts and terrorism. Keynote speech by the Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, Mr. Ola Elvestuen. Sideevent organized by The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime in connection with the opening of the 73rd general assembly of the United Nations 2018.

Congratulations with the important work of the Global Initiative on organized crime and the environment. I am happy to see the progress of the project. Your contribution is very important. The way of putting the data together and focusing on the web as an open but hidden arena is highly needed. So is your focus on community responses.

I take this opportunity to highlight the scale, scope and complexity of environmental crime. This is a growing international concern.

Environmental crime is the world's fourth largest illegal economy. The growth rate of 5-7 percent annually is 2-3 times larger than the growth of our global economy.

Environmental crime has negative economic, environmental and social consequences.  It affects the planet as a whole.

Illegal logging and trade with illegal wooden products remains the largest type of environmental crimes. Norway is working with partners to fight this. Earlier this year Norway committed up to 18 million US Dollars over the next years to stop illegal logging and trade. We know that illegal logging is a major threat to global biodiversity, as it destroys intact forests. Forests that are key habitats for many of the world's vulnerable species.

Fisheries crime involves all continents and threatens food supply and biodiversity. About 31 percent of global fish stocks are fished at unsustainable levels.

As a fisheries nation, Norway plays an active part in international initiatives to combat fisheries crime. These initiatives have created global awareness and cooperation about the problem.

Poaching of elephants, orang-utans, rhinos and pangolins has created a lot of engagement.

We have all seen them – the campaigns showing us dead elephants left on the savannah while their tusks have been removed. Or the heart-breaking picture of a chimpanzee baby taken from its mother, sold to a buyer in want of a cute pet.

These awareness campaigns have been going on for decades. Yet the problems of poaching and others kinds of environmental crimes persists. In fact, it increases. Why?

One of the reasons is that the people behind these crimes are highly organized. They use new technology and web-based markets to sell their products.

Another key reason is that the business of environmental crime is profit driven. Just like any other business. It is also often low-risk compared to other crimes.

The criminals operate in areas with poor law enforcement. Corruption makes it possible to transport the cargo across borders with a low risk of being caught.

Protecting the environment should be reason enough to combat environmental crime. But reports show us that environmental crimes also contributes to finance terror networks, war and armed conflicts.

So fighting environmental crime is also about security, development and sustainable economic growth. In fact, fighting environmental crime is necessary to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.

Greater cooperation between all actors is essential. It includes police, customs, taxation authorities, labour inspection, and coast guards. And also police cooperation and legal assistance across borders.

We must target illegality in the whole value chain: Corruption, document fraud, forced labour, tax- and customs fraud. This includes overseas tax havens and money laundering. Also disrupting the illegal markets and drivers is highly important.

Everybody has a role to play. From civil society and NGOs, private sector and international organizations, to government authorities who control borders and make laws.

So we do a lot, but need to do more. To combat environmental crime, to save the species, to protect the planet and our own safety.

Thank you for your attention!



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