From 24th to 28th November 2014, the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) participated at the 25th Wildlife Crime Working Group (WCWG) meeting which was one of the three INTERPOL Environmental Crime Working Group meetings held at the INTERPOL General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France. The meetings brought together more than 200 participants from 65 countries and 5 intergovernmental organizations.
The Wildlife Crime Working Group meeting discussed a range of issues including challenges related to wildlife crime and their social, environmental, economic and security implications for the countries. The meeting emphasized the need for countries and international community to work together to address wildlife crime. The WCWG identified teething challenges such as inadequate intelligence and investigative capacity, enforcement operations and information sharing that needed action by INTERPOL. The Group proposed enhancing the role of ICCWC in supporting countries and intergovernmental agencies such as LATF in their efforts to combat wildlife crime.
The importance of perceiving environmental crime as being larger than a conservation issue was among the major highlights of the meeting. In this respect, the meeting reiterated that crimes such as violence, corruption, money laundering, fraud; tax evasion, smuggling and fire arms trafficking are also investigated alongside poaching, illegal logging and trafficking in wildlife and forest products. These serious crimes are often perpetrated in the course of committing wildlife crime by the same or connected criminal networks.
Apart from participating in general discussions, the Director of Lusaka Agreement Task Force was a panelist in the discussion which focused on obstacles to enforcement success, coordination and competition for resources and ways international community can better work together to combat wildlife crime. The contribution to the discussion by LATF centered on inadequate resources and capacity, weak laws, corruption and unnecessary competition for resources among the players in law enforcement. LATF called upon international organizations to play a facilitative role to countries and regional agencies by mobilizing funding to support regional bodies and linking different Wildlife Enforcement Networks (WENs) to promote cooperation.
LATF also seized this opportunity to reach out to participants from some of the countries, partner agencies and international organization to discuss matters of mutual interest. LATF underscored the importance of interagency collaboration and networking as a critical step towards an effective fight against illegal exploitation of wildlife, fisheries and forest resources globally.
Lusaka Agreement Task Force wishes to thank INTERPOL for the invitation and undertakes to continue enhancing cooperation between the two organizations, as well as other partners with a view of developing stronger partnerships towards addressing wildlife, forest and fisheries crimes in Africa and beyond.