Global alliance aims to tackle forest crime

Deforested area, Brazil (Image: AP) Illegal logging damages biodiversity and undermines people's livelihoods

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Interpol and the United Nations have joined forces to launch an initiative to tackle global forest crime.

Project Leaf will target criminals involved in illegal logging and timber trafficking.

The scheme will also provide support to enforcement agencies in countries with the biggest problems, Interpol said.

It is estimated that more than a quarter of the world's population relies on forests for their livelihoods, fuel, food and medicines.

David Higgins, Interpol's Environmental Crime Programme manager, said that illegal logging was no longer a issue that was restricted by national boundaries.

"The international legislation to protect forests and curtail illegal logging demonstrates this," he commented.

"Project leaf will ensure these global laws are supported by global enforcement and that the criminals responsible are brought to justice - no matter their location, movements or resources."

Project leaf (Law Enforcement Assistance for Forests) is a partnership between the UN Environment Programme (Unep) and Interpol, with funding provided by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.

Interpol said: "Collusive corruption and fraud in the forestry sector undermines the rule of law and... significantly hampers efforts to tackle poverty among the world's poorest people."

It added that, in order to be an effective force against criminal activity, it would be necessary for any action to be "coordinated, collaborative and transnational".

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