Shining a light on environmental corrruption | WWF
© Tim Cronin / WWF Australia

Shining a light on environmental corruption

Crimes like poaching, wildlife trafficking, illegal logging and pirate fishing pose serious threats to nature and people, damaging the environment and undermining local communities and economies.
Although many laws designed to prevent environmental crime and protect natural resources already exist, some are inadequate or ineffective, and many suffer from a lack of proper enforcement.

Corruption exacerbates all of these problems, undermining efforts to prevent environmental decline.

No matter how good our laws and policies, corruption can render them useless.

“Unless we tackle environmental crime and corruption, our efforts to ensure the world’s natural systems flourish and benefit communities and economies for the long-term will come to nought.”

Delfin Ganapin, WWF Governance Practice Leader

Costs of Corruption

Corruption and the abuse of natural resources robs citizens, communities and society as a whole of public goods and benefits. This reduces our prosperity and well-being, fueling poverty, criminality and even war.
Globally, INTERPOL and UNEP estimate natural resources worth at least $91 billion and possibly as much as $258 billion annually, are stolen by criminals, depriving countries of revenue and development opportunities.

Illicit trade in the forestry sector alone is valued at $13 billion, and the international illegal wildlife trade – the fourth largest illegal global trade after drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking – is worth up to $23 billion a year.

As demand for natural resources of all kinds continues to increase, tackling corruption is becoming a matter of national and global security.
Illegal logging in the lowland rainforest. Loggers with illegally cut, highly quoted cedro tree (Cedrela odorata). Lowland rainforest along the Rio Las Piedras, near the Alto Purus Reserved Zone, department Madre de Dios, Peru.

© Andre Bartschi / WWF-CANON

Understanding the problem

Understanding the scale of the challenge is extremely difficult because criminals go to extraordinary lengths to hide their activities.
That’s why we’re working in partnership with partners like TRAFFIC in the Targeting Natural Resource Corruption project supported by USAID to findnew ways of tackling corruption and improving wildlife, fisheries and forests governance in the places where it matters most.

Together we’re harnessing existing knowledge, delivering new thought leadership, researching effective approaches, and setting up anti-corruption missions to tackle corruption at scale.

In areas prone to corruption, we need to strengthen governance to prevent problems arising in the first place.

We also need to increase our understanding through better monitoring and risk assessment, and improve intelligence sharing between national and international enforcement and intelligence agencies.

And we need to encourage citizens and businesses to speak up and report corruption when they encounter it.
IUU fishing is estimated to cost between €8 billion and €19 billion annually, representing 11 million to 26 million tonnes of catch.

© Jürgen Freund / WWF

© WWF / Simon Rawles

Using big data

Around the world, we’re using satellite and drone technology to support conservation, as well as putting power into local people’s hands, equipping them with cutting edge communications technology so they can fight against the exploitation of their own natural resources.
Big data analysis combining local findings with satellite data will help us paint a more accurate picture of what’s happening on the ground, and help shape better governance, identify corruption hotspots and drive greater transparency and accountability among all decision-makers.
Cláudio Maretti submitting reports and photos through satellite-based Internet communication devices

© Zig Koch

Political will and investment

Perhaps the biggest challenges we face are the absence of political leadership and meaningful investment.
Without them, our efforts to ensure natural resources flourish and benefit people and economies for the long-term will come to nought.

We can only beat crimes like elephant poaching, pirate fishing and illegal logging if we also beat corruption.

Corruption — the elephant in the room, in the fight against environmental crime

Despite a huge proliferation in environmental legislation globally over the last four decades, we are failing to prevent widespread ecosystem destruction, pollution and climate change.

More than anything else perhaps, the biggest challenge we face is the absence of political will.

Opinion from Delfin Ganapin, WWF Governanc Practice Leader, on WWF Medium. Read more here.