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Investigating Crimes against the Environment and the Role of Media

We need a healthy environment, it is a matter of life or death

Turin -

The two-day specialized course that took place at the UNICRI HQ on 21-22 January brought together media professionals, international organizations representatives and environmental experts from 18 countries to share investigative tools and deepen knowledge of current threats to the natural environment.

The specialized course aimed to provide media and public information professionals with an in-depth understanding of environmental issues, especially those related to crime prevention, and their links with sustainable development and human rights.

In her opening remarks the Director of UNICRI, Cindy J. Smith said, “Everywhere, it is the citizens who are most affected by the consequences of eco-crimes, who bear the biggest losses and who suffer the most. Environmental crimes cause deaths, increase corruption, hinder the rule of law and channel billions of dollars into the pockets of criminals. Money, which could be otherwise used for development, hospitals, schools and clean water.”

While posing a serious danger for development, global stability and international security, these crimes are not prosecuted by national and international bodies as much as other transnational crimes. Werner Gowitzke, Seconded National Expert (SNE) at Europol said, “Environmental crimes are still perceived as victimless crimes: the damaged party is either the environment or everybody. It is not specific.”

The training emphasized the role played by transnational organized crime in the significant expansion of environmental crimes in recent years. “However, this connection is hardly reported by the media worldwide,” explained Paul Radu, Executive Director, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. “Damaging the environment is not always on the agenda of criminals but it always happens as a by-product of their activities. For instance, drug traffickers are cleaning up large surfaces of forest in the Amazon because they want to grow coca,” added Paul Radu.

He also explained that “The majority of the activities carried out by transnational organized crime such as smuggling of weapons, wildlife trade, illegal mining and drug trafficking produce a negative impact on the environment. However, the effects of these crimes on the local population and the environment are not explained enough in the media because it is hard to have a full picture of them.”

Experts agreed on the need to strengthen media reporting and provide the public with clear and reliable information on the potential global catastrophic impacts of eco- crimes and climate change on the humankind.

According to David Abbass, Public Information Officer at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC), the course “Showed the great many linkages between environmental issues: climate change, crime and justice. They all affect each other. We really have to take a broader view of these linkages and account for all the various threats and opportunities to take productive action.”

He said, “We need our environment, it is a matter of life or death. Crimes or threats that deteriorate our environment put at risk our very existence. Those who want to obtain profit without regard to the health of the environment, in reality take profit from other people’s suffering.”

For more information on the UNICRI Journalism and Public Information Programme on New Threats and upcoming courses, please visit the following link: