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WILDLIFE CRIMEAND CORRUPTIONOptions for moving forward


WILDLIFE CRIME AND CORRUPTION: OPTIONS FOR MOVING FORWARDAs wildlife crime has risen up theinternational agenda, a series of high-profileinternational agreements and declarationshave highlighted the importance of tacklingcorruption in wildlife crime. More broadly,corruption is recognised as a threat toachieving the UN Sustainable DevelopmentGoals, leading to the inclusion of a specifictarget (SDG 16.5) to ‘substantially reducecorruption and bribery in all their forms’.The problem is being approached from botha conservation and a governance angle.For example, in 2016 the Convention onInternational Trade in Endangered Speciesof Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) adopted aresolution on ‘Prohibiting, Preventing andCountering Corruption’. The same year,wildlife crime featured on the agenda of theInternational Anti-Corruption Conference(IACC) for the first time, while in 2017 theG20 released a set of ‘High Level Principleson Combating Corruption Related to IllegalTrade in Wildlife and Wildlife Products’.However, while corruption is widelyacknowledged as one of the key factorsenabling wildlife crime, our knowledgeof where, how and why it happens andhow to tackle it remains limited. Evidenceis patchy and largely anecdotal, makingit difficult to know where best to targetinterventions. We lack a full picture of howbig the problem is across different formsof wildlife crime, countries, institutions,species and commodities, and of the varioustypes of corruption that occur. Models ofeffective anti-corruption interventions arealso lacking, particularly related to wildlife.Collaboration between conservationists andanti-corruption specialists has until recentlybeen limited.WWF, TRAFFIC and partners are seeking tofill these gaps. In 2016, WWF, TRAFFIC andthe Durrell Institute of Conservation andEcology brought together the fields of anticorruption, development, anti-transnationalcrime and conservation to form the 3CNetwork (Countering Conservation-relatedCorruption). WWF has also collaboratedwith U4 and the International Institute forEnvironment and Development (IIED) toset out possible entry points for addressingcorruption in wildlife crime.In 2018, a consortium including WWF,TRAFFIC, the U4 Anti-Corruption ResourceCentre at the Chr. Michelsen Instituteand the Terrorism, Transnational Crimeand Corruption Center at George MasonUniversity was awarded a grant fromUSAID’s Targeting Natural ResourceCorruption Programme. This will greatlyfacilitate deepening understanding ofcorruption and testing approaches aimedat reducing corruption and improvingconservation outcomes. WWF / JAMES MORGANwwf.org.uk traffic.org u4.no3

WILDLIFE CRIME AND CORRUPTION: OPTIONS FOR MOVING FORWARDCORRUPTION AND WILDLIFE CRIME:WHAT WE KNOWCorruption can be understood as ‘the abuseof entrusted power for private gain’. Althoughwe lack a comprehensive understanding ofcorruption associated with wildlife crime, wehave enough evidence to conclude that manyactors are involved along the entire value chain.These include politicians and public officials,members of the judiciary, law enforcement andmilitary personnel, officials from forest andwildlife departments, customs officers, localelites and so on.Bribery of customs and border officials:It’s estimated that US 18,000-30,000 is paidin bribes to border officials every day along theVietnam–China border to enable the passageof illegal ivory. Border officials in Polandhave reportedly been bribed to allow illegalcaviar from the Russian Federation into theEuropean Union.Examples of corruption facilitating wildlifecrime at different levels include:Embezzlement of resources for wildlifeconservation: Corrupt practices likeprocurement fraud and the theft of nationalpark revenues can make it harder for thosetasked with protecting wildlife to do their job.Public officials issuing false permits:Guinea’s former head of the CITESManagement Authority was convicted andsentenced in 2015 to 18 months in prison forissuance of export permits including for greatapes declared as ‘captive bred’ in return forbribes. (In January 2017, he was granted apresidential pardon while awaiting the rulingof his appeal.)Corruption in the criminal justicesystem: Numerous examples exist of attemptsto prevent prosecutions of suspected wildlifecriminals, such as bribes being paid to officialsto destroy or lose court records. Conversely,in Gabon in 2016, a prosecutor was offeredUS 4,000 to secure the release of a foreignnational arrested for wildlife crime – butinstead launched a successful corruption case.Rangers and law enforcement officialsinvolved in poaching: In Kenya, theMinistry for Natural Resources and Tourismfired 21 game wardens for collaborating withpoachers. In Tanzania, police officers nearthe Selous Game Reserve hired and armedivory poachers.Grand corruption at high levels ofgovernment: During the apartheid era,the South African armed forces and MilitaryIntelligence Department were directly involvedin selling ivory, rhino horn, hardwoodsand drugs to fund wars and destabilisationcampaigns in South West Africa (nowNamibia), Angola and Mozambique.4

WWF / JAMES MORGANCorruption can facilitate wildlifecrime at many different levelsand through many differentactors along the value chain.

WILDLIFE CRIME AND CORRUPTION: OPTIONS FOR MOVING FORWARDCORRUPTION DOESN’T OCCUR INA VACUUM. IT THRIVES WHEREGOVERNANCE AND INSTITUTIONSARE WEAK, AND WHERE THEREARE SOCIAL AND ECONOMICINEQUALITIES. IT CAN BECOMENORMALISED, A FORM OFGOVERNANCE ITSELF WHERE ITIS SO ENTRENCHED, SO MUCHPART OF EVERYDAY LIFE THATIT IS MORE OR LESS TAKEN FORGRANTED AND PERPETUATED.Examining the causes and motivations behindcorruption is important for designing effectiveinterventions. For example, among the reasonswildlife rangers may become corrupted arelow morale, low wages (bribes may be used topay for essentials like school fees), inadequatesupervision, limited equipment, incompletetraining, or familiarity with illegal actors due,for example, to having spent significant timein close proximity with such actors in the field.Understanding the social context is alsoimportant to avoid enforcement actions thattarget low-ranking, vulnerable individuals,without addressing underlying systemic issues.Rather than seeing corruption as a problemof individuals, interventions should addressgovernment and society as a whole. Sincecorruption disproportionately affects the poorand marginalised, a human rights perspectiveis important here; a rights-based approachcan provide promising avenues for promotingeffective institutions, appropriate laws,improved governance, and the participationof concerned stakeholders.6

BRENT STIRTON / REPORTAGE FOR GETTY IMAGES / WWFThe victims of corruption aredisproportionately foundamong poor and marginalisedcommunities. So it’s importantto adopt a rights-basedapproach to tackling corruption.

WILDLIFE CRIME AND CORRUPTION: OPTIONS FOR MOVING FORWARDAPPROACHES FOR TACKLING CORRUPTIONLINKED TO WILDLIFE CRIMEFollow the moneyFinancial systems and arrangements in OECDcountries as well as legal tax havens facilitateinvestment of corrupt monies from resourcerich developing countries. Despite the largeprofits generated, wildlife crime has notyet been recognised as a significant moneylaundering threat.Following money flows and conductingfinancial audits could help inform howcorruption is facilitated. Targeting the financialbeneficiaries should also help redress the oftendisproportionate focus on low-level actors,bring into play laws with harsher penaltiesincluding asset recovery, and enable actionagainst higher-level actors, such as politicallypowerful individuals, who are often seenas operating above the law. Mobile phonenetworks (widely used for financial transactionsin Africa and Asia) and private sector financialinstitutions are potential partners foridentifying illicit financial activity.While the types of corruption may be similar, itis vital to understand how they play out locallyfor different wildlife crimes and commodities.This information is needed in order to developtailored corruption risk management processes.These should include risk identification(what specific corruption risks apply in thatparticular context), assessment (of both theprobability and potential impact of those risks)and mitigation measures. Prevention is criticalwhere wildlife is concerned – once an animal iskilled, any action is too late.Anti-corruption approaches, like otherconservation measures, need to be continuallyreviewed. Interventions should be refreshedand checked for effectiveness as corruptpractices change. Wildlife criminals adapt tonew approaches in law enforcement and otherpolitical, social and environmental changes. Forexample, stricter border controls in one areamay lead to a change in illegal trade routes,while increased random inspections may leadto more bribes being paid out.Research and risk managementCollaboration and coalitionsSmuggling caviar differs from smuggling ivory,which differs again from transhipping tunaor laundering illegal timber. Illicit wildlifecommodities operate on different scales,use different modes of transport and followdifferent routes to market. New research isneeded to document and analyse empiricalevidence of the scale and types of corruptionassociated with different types of wildlifecrime, the actors involved, and their incentivesand motivations.Tackling corruption related to wildlifecrime is a shared responsibility, requiringcollaboration between the criminology, anticorruption, conservation and developmentcommunities. Specialists from other areas,such as the social science and behaviourchange communities, can also help designmore nuanced and effective interventions.Importantly, agencies and organisations whowork to address corruption must identify anticorruption champions within countries wherewildlife crime occurs, and forge partnershipswith them.8

WILDLIFE CRIME AND CORRUPTION: OPTIONS FOR MOVING FORWARDUntil recently, there has been little crossoverbetween the fields of wildlife conservationand anti-corruption. This raises the risk thatinterventions to tackle corruption in wildlifecrime will be hampered by missing out on thelatest knowledge, thinking and developmentsin the anti-corruption sphere. Equally, wildlifeconservation practitioners may have knowledgeof issues that those working to addresscorruption are unfamiliar with.Lessons can be learned from anti-corruptionwork and governance reforms in othersectors. U4’s research into corruption inAfrican fisheries found that opportunities forcorruption flourish where important decisionson fisheries management lack transparency;it recommended that committees, ratherthan individuals, should be responsiblefor licensing decisions, and that relevantinformation should be made public. Similarconsiderations could reduce opportunities forcorruption in areas such as issuance of CITESpermits or hunting licences.Social norms and networksCorruption is closely connected with socialnorms – in some contexts, an ‘honest’ officialis seen as one who demands no more thanthe usual going rate for a bribe. Wheregovernments and governance structuresthemselves are corrupt, attempting toinfluence the social norms and networks thatshape people’s behaviour may be an effectiveapproach. This requires a close understandingof the regional, national and local context andthe ‘political economy’ – how the country isreally governed, and the relationships betweenindividuals and society.Interventions based on untested assumptionsthat transpose ideas directly from one contextto another are likely to fail. For example,a study of forest governance found thatwell-intentioned efforts to clamp down onillegal logging have led instead to increasedpayments of bribes to police to allow illegalacts to continue, strengthening institutionalcorruption – with those unable to pay,wwf.org.uk traffic.org u4.noincluding local communities, being chargedwith illegal logging. This underlines theimportance of integrating core human rightsprinciples – transparency, accountability, nondiscrimination and meaningful participation –into anti-corruption strategies.Relevant in this context is TransparencyInternational’s Corruption Perception Index(CPI), which measures corruption perceptionsacross countries. Significantly, there is a strongcorrelation between countries scoring badlyon the CPI and the illegal killing of elephants.As countries generally don’t want to be seen asmore corrupt than their neighbours, the CPIcan help drive measures to reduce corruptionat a national level. Developing a special indexon corruption in relation to environmentalcrime could improve understanding of therelationship between environmental harm,governance and corruption. This could supportadvocacy to strengthen legislation and improvetransparency, and lead to greater collaborationbetween environmentalists, anti-corruptionorganisations and civil society.Reducing demandThe demand for illegal wildlife productscreates incentives for corruption. If profitableillegal markets didn’t exist, there would be noneed for bribes and other corrupt practices toevade the law. This makes demand reduction,supported by enforcement actions, animportant strategy for reducing corruptionassociated with wildlife crime.Captive breeding facilities are known to beparticularly vulnerable to corruption, withfalse documentation being used to ‘launder’illegal wildlife specimens. A CITES mechanismwas recently launched to review trade inanimals reportedly bred in captivity, to identifyanomalies and suspicious actions – such asCITES permits declaring specimens captivebred when the species has never before beenbred in captivity.9

WILDLIFE CRIME AND CORRUPTION: OPTIONS FOR MOVING FORWARDURGENT ACTIONGlobal poverty has been significantly reducedover the last 20 years. Public finances havein many countries been made more secure,many children are receiving better accessto education, and many patients are beingtreated in better equipped hospitals. In certaincircumstances, confronting corruption headon has played a role in these advances.We need to bring the same honest dialogueand tools to the table to address corruptionthat facilitates wildlife crime. We needgovernments, members of parliament and civilsociety across the world to call out corruptionin the wildlife sector when they see it. Weneed to seek out those partners who want tomake a difference, and not shy away fromdifficult conversations. And because wildlifecrime and the corruption that enables it posean immediate threat to the survival of manyspecies, we need to act urgently.10

62,800Wildlife crime and thecorruption that enables itpose an immediate threatto the survival of manyspecies. The pangolin is themost trafficked mammal inthe world – up to 62,800 areestimated to be traded eachyear, and over a million werekilled in the last decade. AFP / GETTY IMAGES

WILDLIFE CRIME AND CORRUPTION: OPTIONS FOR MOVING FORWARD OCTOBER 2018REFERENCES AND FURTHER READINGDowns, F. 2013. Rule of law and environmental justice in theforests: The challenge of ‘strong law enforcement’ in corruptconditions. U4 Issue. No 6. Chr. Michelsen Institute. Bergen.Duffy, R. 2014. Waging a war to save biodiversity: the rise ofmilitarized conservation. International Affairs 2014 TheRoyal Institute of International Affairs 90: 4 (2014) 819–834.Parry-Jones, R., Toni, P., and Khmeleva, E. 2017. The linkbetween corruption and wildlife crime. Deutsche Gesellschaftfür Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Gmb Anti-Corruptionand Integrity Programme. Bonn, Germany.Standing, A. 2015. Corruption and state corporate crime infisheries. U4 Issue No. 15. Chr. Michelsen Institute. Bergen.UNODC. 2017. Addressing Corruption and Wildlife Crime.Background paper for G20 Anti-Corruption Working GroupMeeting, January 2017, Berlin.Williams, A., Parry-Jones, R., and Roe, D. 2016. The resourcebites back: Entry-points for addressing corruption in wildlifecrime. U4 Issue No. 2. Chr. Michelsen Institute. Bergen.WWF/TRAFFIC/U4. 2018. Corruption and wildlife crime:A focus on caviar trade (forthcoming).WWF and TRAFFIC. 2015. Strategies for fighting corruptionin wildlife conservation: a primer. WWF International, Gland,Switzerland and TRAFFIC International, Cambridge, UK.Wyatt, T. et al. 2017. Corruption and Wildlife Trafficking: ThreeCase Studies Involving Asia. Asian Criminology doi: 10.1007/s11417-017-9255-8.WWF.ORG.UK TRAFFIC.ORG U4.NOFRONT COVER MARTIN HARVEY / WWFWWF/TRAFFIC/U4 (2018). Wildlife crime and corruption:options for moving forward. WWF, Woking, UK; TRAFFIC,Cambridge, UK; U4, Bergen, Norway.

Countering Corruption’. The same year, wildlife crime featured on the agenda of the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) for the first time, while in 2017 the G20 released a set of ‘High Level Principles on Combating Corruption Related to Illegal Trade in Wildlife and Wildlife Produc

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