In the webinar on the “Role of Supreme Audit Institutions in preventing and mitigating the effects of corruption linked to the trafficking of wildlife” of August 19, 2020, the participants had several consultations that aimed at clarifying the operation of environmental crime, the initiatives and tools of environmental organizations to mitigate the illegal trade of species, the potential actions that could be direct by the control bodies, among other questions. The following are the responses prepared by the Working Group Specialized in the Fight against Transnational Corruption (GTCT), in the hope that this will motivate the discussion and exchange of information on this issue in the OLACEFS community.
- How can a whale be trafficked? I ask because one would think that this type of traffic was aimed at easily concealed wildlife.
The whales are trafficked for their parts, which facilitates the crime. Like many large animals, the interest is in certain parts of their body, for example, the meat of whales or their fat, the fins, the ivory tusks of elephants, the horns of rhinos, among others.
- Is there a guide with updated indicators enabling a good baseline to have accurate data for conducting the audits?
There are several tools with methodological resources and data for conducting audits on the illicit trafficking of species, we detail some below:
The International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime has produced an ICCW Framework of Indicators for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime, and has a template for its evaluation.
Consultation link: https://cites.org/sites/default/files/eng/prog/iccwc/S-ICCWC-Ind-FW-
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in alliance with the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the World Bank and the World Customs Organization (WCO) published a text on the “Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit.”
Consultation link: https://www.unodc.org/documents/Wildlife/Toolkit_s.pdf
The IUCN reveals threatened species through its red list
3. This list becomes an indicator of the state of the world’s biodiversity. It allows promoting conservation and biodiversity actions in terms of public policies.
- What operations could be implemented within the Supreme audit bodies? And what effect would conducting an audit have on preventing this assumption?
As a final part of her speech, María de los Ángeles Barrionuevo, a GIZ consultant, pointed out that SAIs could:
- Involve experts, professionals and academics
- Form multidisciplinary teams
- Work with specialized entities / require financing from cooperators
- Systematize previous information on authorship carried out on these topics and generate environmental data
- Promote greater knowledge in the environmental field
- Sensitize and raise awareness within the SAI and with stakeholders
- Promote a response from citizens, private institutions and NGOs
- Create physical and technological spaces for the exchange of information
For his part, Alejandro Iza, from the Environmental Law Center, indicated in his speech that dialogues should be promoted, which could be led by SAIs:
National audits will provide input on weaknesses in control of species trafficking, identify duplication and fragmentation of functions in state bodies, and provide recommendations to such entities. A coordinated audit could generate a regional image of the problem, in addition to recognizing the degree of application/compliance with international regulations.
- How could efficient governance actions be implemented in relation to Galapagos and species threatened by Chinese flora?
There are actions that could be carried out from Ecuador within its Exclusive Economic Zone of continental Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands in order to make good sustainable use of fishing resources. In this sense, the CONVEMAR serves as a defense mechanism against fishing resources to seek the marine conservation of that area through an Arbitral Tribunal.
The extent of the Galapagos maritime reserve could be extended from the current 40 miles to 200 miles, through a technical and scientific report to support this evidence. In this way, the country’s governance over the maritime territory is strengthened. Additionally, to safeguard these resources, the Ecuadorian State can strengthen its action measures among the institutions in charge of both national and international policy.
- Given that our budgets to cover so many important topics are so limited. How could our areas or departments in charge of this environmental issue promote, within our SAIs, before our highest authorities, sufficient financial resources to better address environmental problems? In other words, how can we formulate an attractive proposal to our Magistrates? / How can we find the support that is needed to carry out these types of audits, which provide important inputs, both for wildlife and capturing state resources?
It is recommended that the relevance of the problem be presented to senior management; stating how the crime of illicit trafficking of wildlife affects the “environmental assets” of the State. It is also suggested to first carry out a mapping of corruption risks in this area, which could be conducted from the planning areas. In addition, it is suggested to start with pilot audits with the support / accompaniment of external stakeholders. Another strategy would be to carry out awareness campaigns within the entity, regarding this problem.
The Working Group Specialized in the Fight against Transnational Corruption can motivate this type of discussion within OLACEFS during its annual meetings, as well as the General Assemblies.
- Do you think there is any relationship between the trafficking of species and the risk of contracting zoonotic diseases? Could this link be an approach to put this topic on the public “agenda?”
There is a very close relationship between the illicit trafficking of species and the risk of contracting zoonotic diseases because the trade in these species takes place in illegal markets where there are no sanitary conditions that control the state of the animals, nor the conditions of the place, where their body fluids can be mixed with domestic and consumer animals, increasing the potential for further contagion; additionally, from the origin to the final destination of the animals, there may be high-risk conditions for the appearance and transmission of diseases.
In this sense, since the illicit trafficking of species generates this risk, it also becomes a public health problem, so it should be on the governments’ agenda to eradicate and control this activity.
- When talking about illegal wildlife trafficking, we are linking to a supply and demand for a species or product derived from it; measures and sanctions are always established for those who supply these species or derived products, but what about those who demand them, is much of the demand linked to cultural and social issues? How do we deal with this?
The criminal nature of the offense in the region should be reviewed and whether the possession of these products is classified as such. For example, in the case of Ecuador, if the possession of this type of product is criminalized, that is, the person who demands these species can be investigated, prosecuted and punished. However, this crime is not incurred by those who hunt, fish or capture for subsistence, as well as the domestic use and consumption of wood made by the communities in their territories, whose purposes are not commercial or for profit, which must be coordinated with the National Environmental Authority. In these cases, the environmental governing body must identify the areas and communities that carry out this type of activity, and practice adequate oversight.
In the event that possession is not criminalized, through citizen initiative or as a result of an audit in this matter, legal reforms could be recommended because it is necessary to sanction all persons within the chain of illicit trafficking of species and work together with the governing body for the environment, the public ministry and the environmental police, to name a few actors.
- What has been the IUCN’s actions with the control entities? Would there be an opportunity to provide advice closer to these entities?
The IUCN has previously worked with the OLACEFS, particularly in protected areas. In the framework of environmental crimes, it was incorporated as a key actor in this webinar due to the repercussions of the illicit traffic of wildlife on biodiversity and species conservation. Based on this speech, the IUCN has expressed its interest in continuing with the work along these lines with the GTCT and COMTEMA. With this last Commission, a Memorandum of Understanding is being structured.
What type of professionals would be required to practice environmental audits?
Professionals with expertise in topics related to the environment, ecology, biology, agronomy, geology, botany, veterinary medicine, chemistry, regulation, mining, among others. Knowledge of governance and public policy management is also important.
- In Peru or Ecuador they have a Law that economically benefits the protection or good sustainable use of Native Forests, as seen in Argentina Law 26,331 of Minimum Budgets for Environmental Protection of Native Forests.
Ecuador does not have a specific law in this sense; however, since 2008, the Socio Bosque Program was established, which has among its objectives encouraging the conservation and protection of native plant cover and forest, bush and hybrid, primary and/or fragile ecosystems. Its objective is to encourage the sustainable production and trade of biodiversity and non-timber forest products.
- Due to the minimum penalties for species trafficking crimes, in the vast majority of cases, the public prosecutor does not pay the necessary attention to prosecute them. How can this be modified?
Training and sensitization of key actors is required for the prosecution of these crimes, both for officials of the Public Ministry (prosecutors) and for officials of the justice sector. Likewise, it is required that the public servants of the environmental governing body at the national and local level have updated knowledge regarding the operation of this crime in order to effectively exercise controls.
Additionally, social control may be the key to follow-up with the legislative and judicial authorities (for the minimum penalties in species trafficking crimes).
- Is there any methodology, related to a better control of wildlife, that serves to strengthen the prosecutors’ offices within the legal and judicial systems?
In his presentation, Mr. Vallejos from UNODC commented on a recent initiative in Peru that would make it possible to strengthen the application of the current legal framework in forest sustainability and that is becoming a response of Criminal Justice to crimes in this field. In his speech, he emphasized that, from the start-up of the Forest Crimes Platform, improvement is sought in the institutional capacities of state agencies, establishing better cooperation mechanisms and raising awareness of the link between forest crimes with money laundering, and other crimes. It should be noted that this model also provides for interaction with civil society, academia and administrative government entities.
- In the Forest Crimes Platform (Peru), they have identified the offenders; what kinds of measures are they taking against them, are they related to the different agencies, having a data network to prevent and restore the same? Lorenzo Vallejos could help us with this question.
The Forest Crimes Platform has been designed to address these crimes. However, it first works on strengthening capacities through the development of technical tools and the promotion of their use. An example of this is the Quick Reference Guide, which is an action tool for those investigating crime; in the case of Peru, prosecutors and police. This is followed by component two, where an Accounting Guide is being developed to review the link to illicit money flows. In component three, the framework of indicators is reviewed and inter-institutional work on the platform (institutional framework) is promoted. The last component is based on communication that is transversal to the previous points. Here a gender issue will also be included. The objective is that the entities involved may have several working tools to combat forest crime and that they may better articulate their actions. Later on, the current legal framework will be reviewed to recognize opportunities for modification, if warranted.
- How can multi-sectoral platforms be kept active? How can resources be channeled and how can the different institutional, local, regional and international, and academic actors, be effectively articulated?
Multisectoral platforms could be coordinated from environmental governing bodies or control entities with the support of donors to ensure their financial sustainability. Specialized agencies such as UNODC and IUCN could collaborate with the identification of the institutional framework (actors/bodies) that should be involved in the execution of the agreements/policies. Different models can be outlined, either top-down or bottom-up, for which a public innovation approach is recommended that allows exploring different methodological schemes. At this point, the academy could be of great help.
- How is the joint work of the various jurisdictions or agencies that have different interests achieved?
The multisectoral platform model could serve as a reference in the articulation and coordination of diverse actors. It is very important to raise awareness of the issue so that the problem can be addressed as a State policy, also accompanied by local strategies and according to the scope of action of each state, private and civil society entity. In this way, actions and operations would function as a gear and not as isolated frameworks.
- How can they involve the Agro-export sector, which is primarily responsible?
There is a value chain where various institutions, individuals or sectors participate to keep this type of crime alive. However, it is necessary to start working with private entities that may be susceptible to being linked to this type of crime, starting by developing joint work schemes and measures for filing complaints in the event of “extortion.”
- What happens if the press does not bring to light the news that is happening about the illicit trafficking of wildlife?
The media can be a key source of information to learn more about environmental crimes, particularly in the case of illegal trade in species. In fact, in the consultancy carried out by the Working Group Specialized in the Fight against Transnational Corruption (GTCT) – which will be made available to OLACEFS at the end of the year – and financed by the German Cooperation – GIZ, the media publications were used to have an insight into the main routes and species mostly trafficked. It should be noted that official information on this topic is scarce, although international agencies have attempted to gather statistics and information on threatened species (e.g., IUCN Red List).
- It seems to me that cooperation between institutions is essential; in this sense, it is also necessary that each superior audit body has an area specialized in environmental issues and in matters of wildlife.
- Empower the environmental unit in the municipal sector that is within the structure of the municipal mayors’ offices.
- The coordinated audits between the countries would be a great step for auditing. Excellent topic and thank you very much for sharing the information.
- I believe that environmental aspects are not duly attended to in several countries, something that is not only sad, but worrying, because as they say: we only have one Earth. After SARS, China was controlling the traffic for a while; however, these measures were evaded. Interestingly, in 2020, we have been presented with two major examples of animal trafficking, COVID-19 and Tiger King. In both, it can be seen that, although regulation exists, there is no compliance with the rules (and in the cases that compliance is observed, it can be seen that there is an economic benefit at a personal level), so I consider what I have mentioned as very valid, that the SAIs should be vigilant of the government on this topic, respecting the competence of other institutions that regulate aspects of wildlife.”
- I believe it is urgent to make the direct actors, such as civil society, aware of the importance of the conservation of species involved in the sustainability of ecosystems and environments impacted by illegal trafficking, as agents collaborating with the SAIs.
- Hopefully, the control entities would strengthen their efforts to give internal relevance to managing the environmental management audit offices at the national level and seek to strengthen the work among countries, which allows greater interaction and increasing knowledge that allows better and more effective results in the region.
- I recommend an updated compilation of the most relevant case reports of recent years, made by the member countries of the OLACEFS, that allow knowing and having a source of information on situations and that is accompanied by recommendations of what could be the best practices for the fight against corruption in environmental matters adjusted to the latest local trends and international/world conventions/treaties/agreements.
- Congratulations to the webinar and the organizing institutions, I am Lucia Ruiz from FLACSO (firstname.lastname@example.org), professor in Leadership and Climate Change in Cities. The 3 very interesting presentations. The generation of capacities, research, coordination and communication are undoubtedly fundamental in the tasks of environmental preservation and on the topic of control of traffic of threatened species. The platforms are powerful tools, which are very active at launch.
- The general problem is the fact that they arrest people and confiscate the different species that cannot be traded, but nothing happens, there are no sanctions, hence the recidivism.
- We must generate, from the citizens, a basis to install and generate Government Public Policies