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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

REGIONAL FORUM ON COMBATING ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME FORMED

BANGKOK, Thailand, September 15, 2005 --/WORLD-WIRE/--
Experts from a range of international agencies, meeting in Bangkok, have agreed to set up a Regional Forum to be facilitated by UNEP ROAP to help curb the trade of environmentally hazardous chemicals as well as natural resources and endangered species in the region. The Forum allows access to information from leading experts in different fields from policy and law formulation to training, investigation and prosecution.

Environmental damage caused by illegal trade is growing, with local and international crime syndicates worldwide earning an estimated US$ 22-31 billion annually from hazardous waste dumping, smuggling proscribed hazardous materials, and exploiting and trafficking protected natural resources.

"International Crime Threat Assessment" (U.S. 2000) states that illegal trade in endangered species is worth US $6-10 billion a year, ODS (ozone depleting substances) US$ 1-2 billion and illegal logging US$ 1 billion.

At a meeting in Bangkok on 25 August 2005 organised by UNEP ROAP CAP, representatives from the Regional Intelligence Liaison Office for Asia and the Pacific (RILO A/P), the regional office of INTERPOL, the World Conservation Union, TRAFFIC, and World Customs Organization, the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Thailand's Office of the National Implementation for Chemical Weapons Convention agreed to foster regional cooperation in combating environmental crime, encourage intelligence and information exchange, explore synergies in respective training programmes, and coordinate activities in combating illegal trade in the region.

"The illegal traffic of toxic waste negatively impacts on the environment and health of thousands in the developing world. At the same time criminal groups smuggle environmentally harmful products like ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) whose legal trade is subject to stringent international restrictions." Mr. Klaus Topfer, Executive Director of UNEP said. The regionalization of the Green Customs Initiative which offers information and training materials for customs officials to combat illegal trade in commodities of environmental concern was also discussed.

The establishment of this forum is seen as the first step to a stricter monitoring of environmental crime in the region.

BACKGROUND

Since 2002, UNEP ROAP has closely worked with RILO A/P in intelligence and information exchange of illegal trade in ODS. UNEP ROAP has invited RILO to attend its South Asia Ozone/Customs Officers Coordination Workshops on illegal trade of ODS, and also attended the 16th meeting of RILO A/P's Contact Points.

On 25 April 2005, a Letter of Intent between RILO A/P and UNEP ROAP was signed in Beijing. With a view to discuss the implementation of the Letter of Intent and regional implementation of Green Customs Initiative, the Regional Director of UNEP ROAP invited Mr. Liu Xiaohui, Head of RILO to visit UNEP office in Bangkok.

A RILO officer is seconded to UNEP ROAP as a Consultant for a period of six months. RILO A/P has being facilitating the information and intelligence exchange on ODS smuggling, and attended bilateral discussions and training programmes organized by UNEP ROAP.

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Ludgarde Coppens, Policy and Enforcement Officer
UNEP ROAP CAP
Tel: + 662 288 1679
Email: coppensl@un.org
or
Mr. Atul Bagai, Regional Network Coordinator, South Asia
UNEP ROAP CAP
Tel: 662 288 1662
Email: bagai@un.org
or
Mr. Liu Ning, Consultant
UNEP ROAP CAP
Tel: 662 288 1443
Email: ning@un.org

Visit the UNEP DTIE OzonAction website at: http://www.uneptie.org/ozonaction/ and the Green Customs website at: http://www.uneptie.org/ozonaction/customs/home.htm

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