The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC), with generous funding from the United States (US) Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP), conducted research on the Mexican forestry sector in 2018 and 2019 to identify links between organized crime, trafficking in persons and deforestation.

The linkages between environmental degradation and human trafficking have pre-viously been explored. However, there is a lack of previous detailed research that examines the nature and mechanisms connecting organized crime, environmental degradation and human trafficking for labour exploitation, or that identifies clear intervention points for specific sectors.

Labour issues in the logging industry have received little attention. In frontier logging zones, there are human-trafficking risk factors, such as displacement, cor-ruption and organized criminal activity. There is also trafficking in illicit goods, such as illegally mined minerals and wildlife products. Workers in illicit industries, such as illegal logging, are inherently at greater risk of human trafficking for labour exploitation as they cannot turn to the authorities for help, and their employers operate out of sight of law enforcement.

To address this gap, the GI-TOC examined the links between organized crime, human trafficking and environmental degradation in the context of active deforestation.

This research found that in the state of Chihuahua, the growing involvement of organized crime in illegal logging and related activities had greatly increased levels of violence, displacement, vulnerability to being trafficked and deforestation. Illegally logged wood from Chihuahua is often laundered and used in the manufac-ture of consumer goods exported to the US. This means that without effective due diligence, companies and consumers who purchase wood-based products from Mexico may be financing organized crime, and contributing to trafficking in persons and deforestation.

People and forests at risk: Organized crime, trafficking in persons and deforestation in Chihuahua, Mexico

Download PDF
Share this article

Authors

Livia Wagner

Livia Wagner works as the Coordinator of the Global Initiative Network and Senior Expert at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. Livia’s work covers mainly the issue of human trafficking and business partnerships as well as organized crime with a special focus on Latin America. She coordinates the Responsible & Ethical Business Coalition against Trafficking (RESPECTInitiative, which serves as a platform for thought leaders, practitioners, and policy makers and to mobilize the business community as a strategic partner to tackle human trafficking.

Her latest major research activity focused on organized crime and illegal gold mining in Latin America and developing responses as alternative livelihoods.

Before joining the Global Initiative she worked as Private Sector Focal Point for the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT). She has also worked as a civil servant for the Austrian Foreign Ministry in the department of development cooperation, concentrating on African countries. She also has private sector work experience in the travel and tourism sector and has in addition worked for the Non-Governmental Organisation ECPAT in the field of combating commercial sexual exploitation of children and child trafficking. Her experience has contributed to her strong focus on cooperation with and conducting trainings for the private sector on preventing and combating child trafficking. Ms Wagner has written several publications and is member of the Austrian Association for Sociology.

Read more

Diana Siller

Diana is a Chief Executive Officer at the Environmental Justice and Human Rights organization (JADE A.C.). Her work focuses in putting into practice integrated approaches for achieving environmental and social justice claims that enable resilient communities and cities.

Her regional experience includes supporting Artisanal Small-scale Gold Mining formalization and certification processes in Colombia, Bolivia and Peru while working for the Alliance for Responsible Mining Organization. She has also been part of diverse UN projects and programs aiming at fostering environmental governance in Mexico. Diana holds an MSc. in Environment and Sustainable Development from University College London and a Master in Environmental Management from the University of Amsterdam. She constantly applies participatory and gender-sensitive methodologies for her research work. For over two years she was a research associate in the Demographics, Urban and Environmental Studies Center of El Colegio de Mexico.

During 2018 she worked closely with women who have sons or daughters disappeared out of violence of organized crime groups, and has remained their supporter since then. In collaboration with other local civil society organizations, Diana is currently carrying out an Intercultural Campaign on Central-American Refugees and Migrants in the North-east region of Mexico, where migrant smuggling, abduction, extortion and assault are on the increase. Late interests include supporting the assessment of environmental impacts linked to organized crime groups as well as analyzing environmental crimes claimed by human rights and environmental activists.

Read more

Rosalva Landa

A biologist, graduated from the Science Faculty of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), with a master’s degree in Ecology and Environmental Sciences and a Doctorate in Biological Sciences. Since 1987 she has focused on the diagnosis and integrated management of natural resources.

Her areas of speciality are socio-environmental analysis, integrated water resources management and sustainable development. She has been an academic coordinator, a researcher and a professor in different research institutions such as the UNAM, Colegio de México, the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, the Ibero-American University and the United Nations University, among others. She has taken part in different inter-disciplinary research projects focused on the translation of scientific knowledge for decision making on conservation, sustainable development and environment and Advisor on drought, adaptation to climate change, risk management and policy issues for environmentals and humanitarians non-profit international confederations.

She has been an advisor to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN-HABITAT, ECLAC, UNEP. IADB, WBG, CAF and the British Council, among others. Since 2000 she has led and taken part in different research projects on public policy, vulnerability and climate change and risk management in Latin America and the Caribbean.

She has been an environmental advisor to the Mexican government, developing the National Climate Change Strategy and supporting the foundation of the UNESCO-IMTA Water Faculty about societies of knowledge. She took part in the United Nations’ multi-agency project on democratic water governance in Mexico, and was focal point on risks and climate change in UN-HABITAT.

She is the author of numerous articles and books. She served as Scientific Director for Conservation International (CI) Mexico. She is a member of the Mexican network of environmental justice and founded a civil society organization focused on the defense of human rights and environmental justice.

She worked for more than 30 years in several regions affected by organized crime, especially about the analysis of illegal extraction, megaprojects impacts, illicit trade and damage to natural resources, forced labor, forced migration, human trafficking and land dispossession.

She learned about the impacts from corruption and organized crime on the natural resources of indigenous communities in Mexico and in some Latin American countries, and documented the misuse of financial resources and abuses by environmental organizations to vulnerable groups, especially in Mexico, Bolivia, Paraguay and Central America.

Read more