UNODC and USAID join forces to fight transnational conservation crimes in the Amazon region

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) signed an agreement for US$ 9.8 million to provide support for the project Combating Transnational Conservation Crimes in the Amazon.

The project’s objective is to improve regional cooperation and capacity of enforcement and justice system actors to detect, interdict, investigate and prosecute transnational conservation crimes in the Amazon, including wildlife, forestry, minerals crimes and crimes in the fisheries sector.

“This partnership demonstrates the commitment by both USAID and UNODC to address the many complex challenges posed by crime syndicates who have for so long been trafficking and plundering South America’s abundant, yet dwindling, natural resources. I’m grateful for this partnership and the confidence placed in us by USAID, and eager to get started delivering both technical and normative support to safeguard the region’s natural resources and to alter the landscape for the criminal syndicates”, said Jorge Rios, Chief of the UNODC Global Program for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime and Chief of the Sustainable Livelihoods Unit.

“USAID’s partnership with the UNODC and local governments will strengthen the rule of law across the Amazon. This work will benefit all of us because we rely on a forested Amazon to mitigate the effects of climate change across the world. But the most direct beneficiaries of our joint work will be the Indigenous Peoples and other communities living in the Amazon whose rights are violated daily when resources are illegally removed from their land, when illegal mining contaminates rivers and negatively affects their health, and when wildlife trafficking harms biodiversity, their cultural heritage, and feeds corruption”, said Jene Thomas, Director of USAID in Peru.   

This four-year project will cover Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Suriname. This is part of the USAID Amazon Regional Environment Program (AREP) that collaborates with regional governments, Indigenous communities, local and global environmental organizations and civil society groups to ensure a healthy and resilient Amazon Basin that is valued by society, ensures human well-being and safeguards our global climate.

Transnational conservation crimes are among the fastest growing high-value, low-risk illegal enterprises, and are causing irreparable damage to the Amazon. They rob communities of natural resources and pose multiple health and security risks to people and states, while contributing to the growing illicit economy. Through illegal exploitation of natural resources, transnational conservation crimes degrade the region’s biodiversity and threaten the viability of the complex Amazon ecosystem.

In response to this critical threat, USAID seeks to apply a “whole-of-Amazon” systems approach to improve the capacity and collaboration of law enforcement networks and justice system actors across the region. The aim is to increase intelligence-led investigations, interdictions and prosecutions, and decrease transnational conservation crimes at their source. Together, UNODC and USAID will increase prioritization of transnational conservation crimes for action by the beneficiary states, improve information exchange, improve regional cooperation, and improve capacity of enforcement and justice system actors to respond.