Protecting a Global Public Good with Information and Innovation
“Natural resource law enforcement is a global public good and not enough is being done in this area,” says William Magrath, Lead Natural Resources Economist, The World Bank. “Many of the most damaging environmental crimes involve transnational activities, such as smuggling, where the effectiveness of the authorities in any one country is inherently limited. There are big gaps when it comes to financing, policy and capacity, which is why the environment sector in developing countries is more vulnerable to crime than other sectors and international cooperation is essential."
The Bank actively identifies investment and policy reform needs so that it can help fill the gaps. Because there is little information on wildlife crimes and networks, the Bank is funding the ICCWC’s work to establish a mechanism for criminal intelligence. To address the lack of country data, the ICCWC’s analysis of wildlife law enforcement in Peru, Bangladesh, Nepal and Tanzania is also being financed by the Bank.
The Bank also supports innovative approaches in the fight against wildlife crime, including the development of forensic technology that now allows prosecutors to determine the origins of ivory. In 2013, this type of DNA analysis was used on three large ivory seizures, and provided prosecutors in Togo with scientific evidence to build a strong case against one of West Africa’s largest ivory dealers.
Helping Countries Prevent, Detect and Respond to Environmental Crimes
The Bank focuses its efforts on environment and natural resource crime prevention. Magrath says, "The Bank believes that good resource management that involves and benefits local communities helps crowd out illegal activity." The Bank's support to forest resource inventories, wildlife population studies, management planning and approaches such as community forestry should be seen as contributing to crime prevention and law enforcement.
Aside from crime prevention, the Bank also helps governments grow capacity in environmental crime detection. The Bank has helped governments enhance coastal patrols and control illegal fishing in nine West African countries including Cape Verde, Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Fishermen along the coast have benefited from bigger catches, which have not only boosted incomes but also created jobs in fishing supply stores and trucking operations that transport fish to markets. In Liberia, the Program on Forests, a partnership hosted by the Bank, helped put in place a sophisticated log-tracking system that keeps illegal wood from being exported.
When prevention fails, governments need to be able to respond to crimes. This is why the Bank supports socially responsible police work. In Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan, the Bank has worked with governments to strengthen law enforcement agencies, improve regional cooperation against wildlife trafficking and provide rangers with the training and equipment they need to protect animals such as tigers and rhinoceroses. The Bank has also helped protect forests and protected areas in Southeast Asia by supporting the establishment of a forest police agency in LAO PDR and a forest crime monitoring system in Cambodia.
Safeguarding Natural Resources for Future Generations
The desire to protect natural resources for future generations is at the heart of the Bank’s fight against environment and natural resources crime. The destruction of just one part of an ecosystem could mean that communities have less wood for shelter, raw material for livelihoods, and food to eat.
Beneficiaries of Bank projects confirm that depleted resources are not an option for the world’s poorest. "Without fish, it would be very, very bad," says Addie, who saw how the Bank's work to control illegal fishing helped increase fish stocks in Freetown, Sierra Leone. "For most, fish is the only protein available. Without the fish, we would get thin and weak—we would die."