Helping Viet Nam tackle wildlife and forest crime

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UNONE-610Once an emerging threat, wildlife and forest crime today has transformed into one of the largest transnational organized criminal activities in Viet Nam and East Asia-Pacific, generating an estimated USD19.5 billion annually in the region. It affects a vast range of animals, birds, reptiles, timber and other forest products - many of which are globally threatened species. This spike in the illegal wildlife trade, threatens to overturn decades of conservation gains. Wildlife and forest crime also frequently involves other forms of serious criminality. Within Viet Nam, organized criminal networks move poached or illegally harvested wildlife and timber products through a variety of smuggling techniques also used to traffic drugs, people, weapons and counterfeit goods. Wildlife and forest crime has far-reaching negative consequences that go well beyond environmental impacts, by seriously undermining economies and livelihoods, good governance, the rule of law and affecting national security.

 

Within this context, Viet Nam is recognized as a major transit and consumer country for wildlife and timber trafficking, particularly for Siamese rosewood, pangolins, elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn. In the past five years the problem has reached crisis levels, with Vietnamese authorities during 2010 to August 31 2015 having detected and seized approximately 18,000 kilogrammes of illegal ivory, 55,200kg of pangolin and more than 235kg of rhino horn, which is estimated to represent only 5-10% of the illegal trade in reality.

In 2015, UNODC supported by FAO worked with the CITES Management Authority of Viet Nam (under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Viet Nam Administration of Forestry) and Wildlife Conservation Society to undertake Viet Nam's first-ever national analysis of the situation on the ground and the main challenges in relation to wildlife and forest crime in the country. This work was conducted under the framework of the ICCWC Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit. This landmark initiative built on Prime Minister's Directive No.03/CT-TTg in 2014, which represents commitment from the highest level of government to effectively address the issue and sees UNODC support the Viet Nam Wildlife Enforcement Network to review achievements in combating wildlife trafficking. The national analysis featured fact-finding field missions to a range of border crossings, national parks, seaports, airports and markets, in cities and provinces. Consultations were then held with representatives from central, provincial and local government, donors and civil society groups as well as judges, customs officials, police, border guard officers and forest rangers. In addition, research and desk reviews of relevant legislation, wildlife and forest crime literature, published reports and national studies were conducted.

UNODC presented findings and recommendations from this important work to the Government of Viet Nam in September 2015, reflecting the true strengths and challenges of the country's capacity to tackle wildlife and forest crime. To underline the report's scope and depth, 50 recommendations were made to strengthen Viet Nam's response to wildlife and forest crime. Key ones include revision of legal provisions, enhancement of the judiciary, procuracy and law enforcement agencies' knowledge and awareness of the specialized nature of wildlife and forest crimes, strengthened coordination and cooperation between enforcement agencies and development of Viet Nam's forensic analysis capacity.

In response to the far-reaching UN recommendations, Government agencies' responses will be used to design a detailed programme for national capacity building and technical assistance delivery in Viet Nam. They will also form the basis of Viet Nam's first national programme to control the illegal exploitation, trade and consumption of endangered wildlife species, managed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development with UN support.