Insufficient data, weak cooperation, excluded communities, and corruption hamper an effective response to environmental crime. ECO-SOLVE uses innovative approaches to dismantle environmental crime networks.

BRUSSELS 20 March 2024

A new, three-year project funded by the European Union will use artificial intelligence and cutting-edge digital analysis to produce new responses to environmental crime. Implemented by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, ECO-SOLVE will provide law enforcement, policymakers, and local communities with invaluable information to fight online and offline illegal wildlife trade.

The impact of environmental crime goes beyond the immediate effect on animal populations and ecosystems. It is linked to illicit financial flows, high-level corruption, and widespread human rights abuses, which threaten peace and stability. Drawing from the data of the GI-TOC Global Organized Crime Index 2023, organized environmental crime is on the rise globally, with a significant impact on communities around the world. In total 117 countries were found to have significant criminal markets in the trafficking and exploitation of fauna, flora or non-renewable resources, but 36 countries – mainly in Africa, Asia, and the Americas – stand out as having critically high levels of criminality in all three environmental crime.

ECO-SOLVE made its official debut at a high-profile event in Brussels on March 20, 2024. Discussions featured insights from Europol and the European Multidisciplinary Platform Against Criminal Threats on combating cyber wildlife crime in Europe. Environmental advocates Jeremey Phan (Laos) and Sofia Olviedo (Paraguay), along with Kenyan anti-corruption activist John Githongo, underscored the critical role of community engagement and the challenges in battling crimes like rhino poaching, as detailed by Kruger National Park’s Head Ranger Cathy Dreyer.

“Environmental crime is a key global threat and a priority for the EU,” said Maria Rosa Sabbatelli, Head of the Transnational and Regional Threats and Challenges Unit, at the EU’s Service for Foreign Policy Instrument, speaking at the launch of  ECO-SOLVE. 

“ECO-SOLVE recognizes the importance of cultivating strong relationships with law enforcement agencies, policymakers, private sector organizations, civil society, and local communities.” Said Mark Shaw, Director of the GI-TOC, “The purpose of this launch event is to bring our partners into the conversation about the importance of the problems we’re trying to solve and to include them in ECO-SOLVE’s mission to do so.” 

We’re developing global databases on online wildlife trafficking and enabling the response with global collaboration,” said Simone Haysom, Head of ECO-SOLVE, “We’re finding ways to include community voices in local law enforcement strategies and global platforms. We’re exposing the corrupt elites behind timber trafficking. We’re promoting a strategic approach to bring technologies to the frontline”.

The project’s global database – powered by a Global Monitoring System patrolling markets for endangered and protected wildlife online across six key regions of the world – is building out a system for automatic flagging of suspicious content using AI-enabled algorithms, first based on reading advert texts. Ultimately, AI image recognition is hoped to be incorporated into the system. The project is offering challenge-fund-type grants to organizations able to advance the quest for amassing large and relevant training sets to enable this technology.

This initiative, part of the Global Illicit Flows Programme (GIFP) and running until August 2026, aims to refine the global fight against environmental crime by enhancing data sharing, law enforcement collaborations, and community-driven strategies.

About the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime 

The GI-TOC is a non-profit international organization comprising a network of over 600 independent global and regional experts. The GI-TOC seeks to open new lines of analysis to provide creative solutions to the challenges of organized crime, and to serve as an exchange and collaboration platform among governments, civil society, scholars, the private sector and other actors. Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Geneva, the GI-TOC has representation on every continent (more information here).

For more information, please contact: Claudio Landi, Head of Outreach and Digital Projects. We welcome inquiries from the media and are available to provide additional details, answer questions, and arrange interviews at your convenience.

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