The GIFP action ECO-SOLVE was unveiled as one of the EU’s new external action initiatives for tackling wildlife crime at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime (GI-TOC)’s “Data and Wildlife Crime” side event on the margins of CITES 77th Standing Committee in Geneva, Switzerland, on 9 November 2023.
In 2022, the European Commission tasked G-TOC with analysing government responses to environmental crimes within the last 15 years and provide programming recommendations for using EU resources to tackle this criminal market. “Law enforcement and policy makers struggle with insufficient data to inform detection, investigation and prosecution,” Agata Sobiech, Team Leader at the European Union’s Directorate General for the Environment highlighted. The European Commission looks to address the data gap with actions such as ECO-SOLVE, to disrupt illegal environmental flows, particularly in the digital realm.
Simone Haysom, Thematic Lead on Environmental Crime at GI-TOC, unveiled GI-TOC’s ambitious plan to establish a Global Monitoring System (GMS) focusing on the online illicit wildlife trade by employing data liaisons, OSINT, and machine-learning approaches through ECO-SOLVE. This would ultimately bolster law enforcement responses by supporting capacity-building initiatives and fostering international data cooperation.
Ramon Gonzáles Gallego, from the Spanish Guardia Civil, brought to light the evolving nature of environmental crime. He stressed the significant presence of wildlife trafficking online, emphasising the need for continuous cyber patrolling and collaboration among law enforcement agencies, customs services, NGOs, and tech companies. Mr. Gallego underlined the importance of utilising the intelligence cycle methodology to effectively monitor these digital markets.
Lastly, freelance environmental journalist Sharada Balasubramanian shared valuable insights into the challenges of obtaining accurate data in the fight against wildlife crime. She highlighted the role of innovative technologies like the Hostility Activity Watch Kernel (HAWK) system in India and the need to transition from manual systems to digital solutions. Ms. Balasubramanian stressed the importance of collaboration and data-sharing, extending from local to global levels, while cautioning against inadvertently driving demand by sharing certain type of data, such as prices of illicit wildlife products.
Collectively, the speakers underscored the urgency of addressing online wildlife crime and the critical role that collaboration, technology, and data-driven strategies play in this multifaceted battle. Addressing the complexities, challenges, and pathways toward effectively disrupting illicit wildlife flows thriving within the digital domain remains a key challenge. As initiatives like ECO-SOLVE gain traction, the collective call for coordinated efforts and innovative approaches reverberates louder, signalling a united front against this critical environmental threat.