Environmental crimes have been broadly defined as illegal acts that directly harm the environment. According to the main international agencies involved in the analysis, prevention and countering of environmental crimes, the following five types of criminal activities clearly fall under this definition: illegal wildlife trade in endangered species; smuggling of ozone depleting substances (ODS); dumping and illicit trade in hazardous waste; illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; illegal logging and trade in stolen timber.
Environmental crimes are rapidly becoming one of the most significant topics in the study of state policy and international relations. However, because of the relatively nascent understanding of the nature of such crimes and the threats that these pose, international, judicial and societal norms have often proven to be inadequate in halting their perpetration. Gaining awareness about the several factors and the complexity of these crimes is therefore of critical importance to improve laws and policies.
Assigning responsibility for the perpetration of crimes against the environment and adjudicating legal cases is far from straightforward. Indeed, the difficulties in implementing clear and effective punishment mechanisms that can act as deterrent compromise the possibility of effectively prevent and counter environmental crimes. With international organisations, state governments and local societies all involved at various levels, some successes have been achieved thanks to the combination of international and regional legal instruments, enhanced investigation measures and awareness programmes. However, significant challenges still need to be addressed (e.g. the harmonization of the national laws to the relevant international and regional frameworks) and new approaches must be developed and implemented to produce a tangible impact.
Environmental crimes should not, however, be viewed in isolation as their links with other illicit activities have been clearly identified. A particularly threatening development is, for example, the increasing involvement of transnational organized crime in crimes against the environment such as wildlife and waste trafficking. Given the significant short-term economic value that can be achieved through the exploitation of the environment, criminal groups are establishing sophisticated global trafficking networks that fuel other illicit activities such as corruption and money laundering.
It is also to be noted the increased international focus on the nexus between environmental crimes and the violation of human rights. As highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is integral to the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water and sanitation. Similarly, the interlinked nature of sustainable development and the protection of the environment has gained a growing relevance in the United Nations debate related to the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
Given the increasingly central role that environmental crimes are playing in defining the agenda of the global community and the evolution of international law, UNICRI and the Italian Society for International Organization (SIOI)1 are pleased to offer a Winter School that will provide a unique opportunity for graduate students and young professionals to deepen their knowledge on the critical aspects related to this subject.
The course will promote participants foundational understanding of what environmental crimes are and in parallel will improve their knowledge on how law enforcement bodies and judicial systems are responding. The existing international legal framework will be examined with a view to improve participants’ ability to address the issue in a comprehensive way and promote their role as advocates for an effective change in public policies, strategies and practices.
The Winter School, which will take place at the SIOI Headquarters in Rome (Italy), couples theoretical lectures with roundtable discussions, dynamic case studies and practical exercises. The curriculum of the course focuses on:
The faculty is composed by high level scholars and academics from leading universities and research institutes as well as representatives of the United Nations System and other international organizations.
Participants will have the opportunity to interact with internationally recognised experts, meet peers and build lasting professional relationships with young professionals and students from all over the world. This intense experience fosters intercultural dialogue and a deeper understanding of one of the most serious emerging crime at global level.
1. The Italian Society for International Organization (SIOI) is an international non-profit organization that has been operating since 1944 subject to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs supervision. It is the Italian Association for the United Nations (UNA Italy), a founding member of the World Federation of the United Nations Associations; (WFUNA) and an active member of the International Forum on Diplomatic Training (IFDT) in Vienna. SIOI institutional aims are diplomatic and international training, gathering research and information on topics in international organization, international relations, international cooperation, and international protection of human rights.