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The Rise of Environmental Crime

A Growing Threat to Natural Resources, Peace, Development and Security

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The environment provides the very foundation of sustainable development, our health, food security and our economies. Ecosystems provide clean water supply, clean air and secure food and ultimately both physical and mental wellbeing. Natural resources also provide livelihoods, jobs and revenues to governments that can be used for education, health care, development and sustainable business models. The role of the environment is recognized across the internationally agreed seventeen sustainable development goals adopted in 2015. However, the environment as the very foundation of sustainable development, peace and security is now at risk. Environmental crime is vastly expanding and increasingly endangering not only wildlife populations but entire ecosystems, sustainable livelihoods and revenue streams to governments. This publication examines these crimes and its effects, and makes recommendations for efforts to be put forward so that peace and sustainable development can prevail.

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What is environmental crime?

The term environmental crime covers not only the illegal trade in wildlife, but also forestry and fishery crimes, illegal dumping of waste including chemicals, smuggling of ozone depleting substances and illegal mining. Illegal mining is not limited to illegal extraction of resources, it also has severe environmental impacts, whether from mercury pollution from artisanal gold mining, or destruction of natural flora and fauna, pollution, landscape degradation and radiation hazards, with negative impact on arable land, economic crops and trees. A broad understanding of environmental crime includes threat finance from exploitation of natural resources such as minerals, oil, timber, charcoal, marine resources, financial crimes in natural resources, laundering, tax fraud and illegal trade in hazardous waste and chemicals, as well as the environmental impacts of illegal exploitation and extraction of natural resources. Environmental crime has in recent years received global attention due to its serious and deleterious impact on the environment and ecosystems, as well as on peace, security and development.

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