Updated: 19-Mar-2003 NATO Speeches

Round Table

20 March 2003

“Generic challenges of Environmental crime”

Tor-Petter Johnsen, CCMS Project Director, Norway

When focusing on the topic of “preventing and mitigating societal disruption”, one of the challenges in the CCMS setting is to look for commonalties between key drivers in a number of important areas. Loosing sight of the cross-sectorial aspects may seriously reduce the ability to develop integrated, flexible and cost-effective counter measures both nationally and as a core of international cooperative initiatives.

Addressing Environmental Crime as a driver of societal disruption requires a clear set of definitions, especially since the terms and understanding vary greatly between countries and professions. The choice is initially between an extensive; anthroposophic approach, highlighting the damage to the environment as such, both long term and short term, and a more legalistic approach defining EC as any breach of environmental laws.

Avoiding the complex discussions associated with balancing human, societal needs in terms of economic development and the intrinsic value of nature, I suggest we choose the latter and look at some of the important classes of EC and their relevance to societal disruption.

  • Illegal depletion of natural resources such as fish, forests, endangered species etc
  • Illegal transport and dumping of hazardous materials such as ODS, heavy metals or radioactive material
  • Illegal use of substances in goods and nutrition

In a long term perspective, one may argue that all our societies will disrupted permanently if the contaminate earth, water and air beyond their “carrying capacity”, but in the short term, the hazards posed by directly poisonous or radioactive substances obviously is a key priority. To prevent the associated environmental crimes, it is necessary to understand the drivers and the organisations behind the criminal activities, and the nature of our present enforcement structures.

Unlike most other types of crime, there is initially a win-win situation to the involved parties and the only immediate losers are the environment or the society that is subsequently threatened with the exposure to the substance in question. There is international agreement that the present enforcement regime in the area of EC has suffered from a resulting low priority. To address this situation, some generic challenges must be met and may serve as a point of departure for future cooperation:

  • National and international organisation of enforcement and prevention
  • Communication and understanding of risk and consequence
  • The increased consequences and speed in a global interconnected society

In the CCMS study of the “Vulnerability of the Interconnected Society”, a key finding was the lack of suitability of our defensive organisations and measures, a topic that will be discussed in depth after lunch. In the context of EC however, this aspect is of particular importance, as authorities may face a unique spectre of actors, motivations and “level of crime”. The latter refers to the difficulty in prioritising resources to law enforcement and compliance with international agreements.

Since there exists a market situation with supply and demand in most cases of EC, one approach is to try reducing demand rather than supply. This is probably more effectively done through awareness raising in the public and in industries with regard to risk and consequence than through the threat of punishment.

There are also a number of examples of environmental crime as a source of financing for other disruptive activities such as resistance- or rebel movements in societies in transition or in turmoil. Such countries are specifically vulnerable

Finally, I would like to mention the possibilities provided by the utilisation of new technologies, using Norway as an example:

A compulsory database for registering the import an d export of hazardous substances, both in the shape of raw materials and also contained in other products. The goal, at the national level is to track and declare in an international cooperation. This may also provide a tool in highlighting any lack of compliance at the national level.

Another example is the development of genetically coded additives as oil-tracers identifying the source and tracing the transport of petroleum goods from extraction to end-user. This addresses both theft and pollution.

In conclusion I would propose that participants and EAPC countries explore further the possibilities for specific development of generic tools and solutions to a wide range of sources of societal disruption.

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