Organized Crime in Wildlife, Gold and Timber, Worth Over One Billion USD, Further Fuels Conflict in Eastern DR Congo - UN Report

 

 

Nairobi, 16 April 2015 -Organized crime and the illegal trade in natural resources continues to increasingly fuel the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) , according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners.

 

 

The Government of DRC, supported by the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) - the largest UN peacekeeping mission with 20,000 uniformed personnel - is confronting not only a political insurgency but an increasing number of illegal operations conducted by militarized criminal groups with transnational links involved in large-scale smuggling and laundering of natural resources.

 

 

Every year gold, minerals, timber, charcoal and wildlife products such as ivory, valued between US$ 0.7-1.3 billion annually, are exploited and smuggled illegally out of the conflict zone and surrounding areas in eastern DRC.

 

 

Experts estimate that 10-30 per cent of this illegal trade (around US$ 72-426 million per annum) goes to transnational organized criminal networks based outside eastern DRC. Around 98 percent of the net profit from illegal natural resource exploitation - particularly gold, charcoal and timber - goes to transnational organized criminal networks operating in and outside DRC.

 

 

In contrast, DRC based armed groups retain only around two percent - equivalent to US$ 13.2 million per annum - of the net profits from illegal smuggling. This income represents the basic subsistence cost for at least 8,000 armed fighters per year, and enables defeated or disarmed groups to continuously resurface and destabilize the region.

 

 

There is evidence that revenues from such operations finance at least 25 armed groups that continue to destabilize the peace and security of eastern DRC.

 

 

The report, jointly produced by UNEP-MONUSCO-OSESG (Office of Special Envoy for Great Lakes Region), relies on inputs from a high number of experts, including the UN Office for Drugs and Crime, INTERPOL, the UN Group of Experts on the DRC, DRC government agencies and NGOs.

 

 

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP, said: "There is no room for doubt: wildlife and forest crime is serious and calls for an equally serious response. In addition to the breach of the international rule of law and the impact on peace and security, environmental crime robs countries of revenues that could have been spent on sustainable development and the eradication of poverty."

 

 

"In order to strengthen the environmental rule of law, we need to implement existing international, regional and national commitments, which requires, among other things, updating and strengthening national legislation, building capacity, strengthening enforcement, building consumer awareness and enhancing international cooperation and intelligence gathering across the supply chain to track and disrupt illegal operations," he added.

 

 

Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MONUSCO, said, "These resources lost to criminal gangs and fuelling the conflict could have been used to build schools, roads, hospitals and a future for the Congolese people."...

 

 

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