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UNICRI Joins Nature Crime Alliance Amid Growing Focus on Illegal Mining

UNICRI Joins Nature Crime Alliance Amid Growing Focus on Illegal Mining


The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) has joined the Nature Crime Alliance to further its mandate to channel innovative ideas from within and outside the United Nations system.

UNICRI works in specialised niches and selected areas related to crime prevention, criminal justice, security governance, counter-terrorism, and the risks and benefits of technological advances. Headquartered in Italy, the Institute has a strong focus on nature crime, particularly the illegal extraction of minerals – an activity that threatens to grow more frequent amid the global energy transition.

Since 1998, UNICRI has been at the forefront of addressing crimes against nature and the planet by enhancing knowledge, building capacities, and shaping legal reforms, including defining crimes against the environment. The Institute has led numerous international projects to prevent and combat such offenses, with a specific focus on illegal mining and the trafficking of precious metals, as well as mitigating risks associated with the illicit trafficking of e-waste, and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials. UNICRI is also addressing the role of climate insecurity in exacerbating local conflicts and violent extremism, aiming to strengthen the resilience of governments and civil society. 

These offenses severely degrade air, water, and soil quality, adversely affecting human health, endangering species, triggering disasters, and depriving communities of essential resources, thereby posing significant threats to peace, safety, and development.

Leif Villadsen, Acting Director of UNICRI, emphasized the importance of the partnership with the Nature Crime Alliance, commenting: “We are grateful for this crucial partnership. The intricate relationship between environmental crimes and other criminal activities, such as financial crimes and supply chain violations, requires detailed analysis, enhanced training, and a coordinated international response. Our collaboration with the Alliance is crucial to effectively tackle the challenges of nature crime, develop innovative solutions, raise awareness, and amplify the impact of our joint strategies, particularly in combating illegal mining.”

UNICRI becomes the latest international organisation to join the Alliance, which also includes the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, INTERPOL, and the UN Environment Programme. The Institute has a deep involvement with nature crime issues, running an annual ‘winter school’ on environmental crime.

Yulia Stange, Director of the Nature Crime Alliance Secretariat, commented: “UN bodies represent an essential forum for positive change on nature crime, so we are delighted to welcome UNICRI into the Alliance to strengthen our network’s engagement with UN processes and to develop research-based solutions to key issues.

“The Institute’s increasing research focus on illegal mining offers particular synergies with the Alliance’s activities, and we look forward to making progress on this key challenge together.”

The Nature Crime Alliance is a global, multi-sector network that increases political will, mobilises financial commitment, and bolsters operational capacity to fight nature crime. The Secretariat is hosted by the World Resources Institute, with participation from UNODC.