July 18, 2012
To mark World Environment Day, 5 June, INTERPOL announces the launch of Project LEAF (Law Enforcement Assistance for Forests), an initiative dedicated to combating all aspects of forestry crime, including illegal logging and timber trafficking.
Project LEAF, a partnership between INTERPOL and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with financial support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), is an innovative, international response representing the first time that organizations of this stature have joined forces against this organized, sophisticated and transnational crime.
The criminals responsible for illegal logging are destroying biodiversity, threatening the livelihoods of those reliant on forest resources and contributing directly to climate change. With corruption, violence and even murder tied to illegal logging this type of crime can also affect a country’s stability and security.
Nearly 1.6 billion people – more than a quarter of the world’s population – rely on forests for their fuel, food, and medicines. The poorer the people, the greater their dependency with more than 90 per cent of those living below the dollar-a-day poverty line either fully or partly dependent on forest products for their livelihoods. Collusive corruption and fraud in the forestry sector undermines the rule of law and confidence in government institutions significantly hampering efforts to tackle poverty amongst the world’s poorest people.
To be truly effective, actions against illegal logging must be coordinated, collaborative and transnational. Crackdowns in one country must be supported by others in order to prevent illegal loggers, who frequently have access to extensive international funding channels in addition to using illicit land, sea and air networks to switch countries and evade detection.
David Higgins, INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme manager, said: “In 2010, INTERPOL received at its General Assembly in Qatar a unanimous mandate from its member countries to expand its response to environmental crime worldwide. Project LEAF represents INTERPOL’s commitment to this mandate and to ensuring the safety and security of communities.”
“The world is recognizing that illegal logging is neither simply a moral nor a national issue. The international legislation to protect forests and curtail illegal logging demonstrates this,” he continued. “Project LEAF will ensure these global laws are supported by global enforcement and that the criminals responsible are brought to justice – no matter their location, movements, or resources.”
INTERPOL and UNEP are uniquely placed to bring new tools and experiences to the global law enforcement fight against illegal loggers and ensure a truly international net closes around these criminals dedicated to environmental exploitation and destruction.
Project LEAF will conduct groundbreaking, intelligence-led law enforcement operations against those involved in illegal logging and will work to further the skills, capabilities, and capacities of law enforcement agencies to aid countries in sustainably managing their forest resources and contribute to the fight against climate change.
Since its foundation in 1923, INTERPOL has developed a network of 190 member countries, extensive criminal intelligence databases and dedicated international communications tools supported by a vast array of knowledge, experience and expertise from coordinating international investigations and operations.