On 29 February 2024, a regional expert consultation on exposing elite protection and corruption in environmental crime in South East Asia and Oceania was organized as part of the ECO-SOLVE project, a new global programme designed to disrupt illicit environmental flows.

After opening remarks provided by representatives of the Delegation of the European Union in Thailand and the GI-TOC, speakers shared and discussed case studies, experiences and insights covering the following areas:

  • What opportunities, techniques and approaches have previously been used for uncovering elite protection?
  • What has happened in the wake of major exposés of corruption?
  • What systemic weaknesses exist that allow elite protection of environmental crime to flourish in South East Asia and Oceania?

During the event, participants, including investigative journalists, academics, anti-corruption activists and environmental defenders, also discussed the declining space for media and civil society to operate – and the safety and security risks faced by those that continue to do so; the lack of public information and accessible government data; and the importance of persistent and consistent messaging around issues related to elite protection and corruption.

Participants recognized the need for more coordinated collaboration among stakeholders and across borders, particularly along the supply and demand chains and ultimately to where illicit profits are laundered and invested. The role of the international banking system was widely discussed as well as the need for more capacity to follow the money. Given that corruption and environmental crime are profit-driven activities, participants argued for the urgent need to better understand the way illicit profit is moved and where it is invested. This included a discussion around sanctions and their limitations in South East Asia as well as the role of multilateral organizations, such as the UN and EU, in shaming corruption actors and holding them accountable.

For the next stage of the programme’s implementation, particularly the workstream on corruption and elite exposure, the team took away insights into how to streamline and simplify messages around elite protection and corruption; how to build more truly global campaigns; how to target key messages at different audiences, while conversations were initiated on potential collaborations and investigative exposures with journalists in Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.

A full report of the meeting will be available soon.

ECO-SOLVE leads the charge against environmental crime with its global, collaborative, data-driven approach. Our mission: transform data insights into impactful action; support law enforcement to disrupt illicit flows; empower communities; shape effective global policies. ECO-SOLVE is an EU-funded project within the Global Illicit Flows Programme.

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