In February, Scholars’ Press published Policing for Sustainable Development Goals, two of the co-authors of which are Global Initiative senior advisors Ugljesa Ugi Zvekic and John Sellar.

The main aim of this short collection, co-authored by Ugljesa Ugi Zvekic, John Sellar and Nicholas P Lovrich, is to draw attention to some aspects of the challenges policing faces as part of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in September 2015. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) encompass poverty and hunger reduction; improvements in health, education and gender equality; environmental protection, and affordable and sustainable energy; economic growth and employment; reduction of inequality; and mitigating climate change. Goal 16 (‘Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels’) highlights the prevention and control of various manifestations of crime as a significant developmental goal.

In the chapter ‘Reflections on Policing and SDGs’, Ugi Zvekic notes that a cursory reading of the 2030 Agenda document may lead one to conclude that there is no specific mention of police or law enforcement. Upon a more thorough reading, however, it becomes clear that police and policing are in fact an integral part of the document’s goals and targets framework. In short, the SDG Agenda 2030 clearly requires service- and human-rights-oriented policing, a style of policing that focuses on protecting the vulnerable, and one committed to and practised within rule-of-law requirements and entrusted to a transparent, effective and accountable public institution.

Policing is particularly relevant in the following targets of SDG 16:

  • 16.3: Victims of violence reporting
  • 16:4: Reduction of illicit financial and arms flows … and combat all forms of organized crime
  • 16.5: Reduction of corruption and bribery
  • 16:6: Accountable institutions

John Sellar in ‘Wildlife Crime and Trafficking as a Sustainability Issue’provides an informed historical account of the international efforts to regulate and protect wildlife, and warns about the inadequacy of existing normative and operational arrangements to do so effectively at all regulatory levels (i.e. local, national, regional and global).

Sustainability is at the very core of the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), although at the time of the convention’s promulgation, the SDGs were not in the sights of the international community. Nor, at the time, could CITES have anticipated the severe levels of criminality that would develop in decades to come, or the need to combat large-scale criminal exploitation of animals and plants. What later emerged is that many forms of wildlife crime and trafficking, which are low-risk and high-profit, and often have a wide consumer base, offer significant money-laundering opportunities.

At least three SDGs – 14, 15 and 16 – explicitly recognize the importance of preservation and protection of wildlife against ruthless criminal and profit-driven exploitation. This should perhaps prompt the international community, and particularly those responsible for drafting, promoting and adopting the numerous calls for action – including the SDGs – whether such apparent reflections of political will and commitment are translating into meaningful action on the ground. Meanwhile, many endangered species do not have the time to wait for governments and their agencies to get their act together. Extinction is staring them in the face today. Even if the war against wildlife crime is won, it will be a very hollow victory if species such as tigers are permanently lost along the way.

For policing to contribute to the SDGs, it should, among other things, be informed by evidence-based approaches. Nicholas PLovrich, in his critical assessment, ‘Evidence-based Practice in Policing: Why the Potential for Improvement is Often Unrealized’, notes that advances in police education and the development of evidence-based practices in policing have been widely celebrated. They are a key aspect of a maturing global epistemic community of criminal-justice scholars. However, many promising approaches to police practice, training and education have faded away over time. Likewise, promising ideas derived from evidence-based practices have often proven short-lived in the real world. An insight from over forty years of work implementing community policing in the US prompts a cautionary observation regarding realistic expectations for police adoption of evidence-based programmes and policies. Police culture, the theory of isomorphic organizational change, the deep difference between fast- and slow-thinking processes pose serious limits on how existing deeply entrenched practices in policing at both the national and international levels can be overcome to advance policing practice.

This experience in developing evidence-based policing strategies and practice is of paramount importance for the development of capacity to police the ever-changing forms of crime coupled with the ever-changing modes of criminal governance in the markets and in cyberspace, and to embrace the 2030 SDGs.

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Ugljesa (Ugi) Zvekic

  • Ambassador, Head, Permanent Observer Office of the European Public Law Organization (EPLO) to United Nations (Vienna)
  • Ambassador, Former Permanent Representative of the Republic of Serbia to the UN and other international organization in Geneva
  • Senior Advisor, Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime
  • Executive Director, Regional  Master in Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (MA ROLAC) for South East Europe (ROLACC-Geneva/EPLO-Athens/in support of UNODC-Vienna)
  • Adjunct Professor, School of Government, LUISS, Rome, Italy; Law School, University Rome III, Rome, Italy; Visiting Professor, Law School, University of Belgrade, Serbia
  • Member of the Assessment Advisory Board of the Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani Anti-Corruption Excellence Award (Vienna/Doha/Geneva)
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John M. Sellar OBE

John is a Senior Advisor to the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and a Senior Law Enforcement Advisor to the Siracusa International Institute for Criminal Justice and Human Rights. He was engaged in law enforcement for almost four decades, initially in the Scottish Police Service and then the United Nations.

As a Detective, he investigated murders and other serious crime but also dealt with human rights abuse in Scotland’s maximum security prison. Before transferring to the UN, he was Officer-in-Charge of a police area where royal security and anti-terrorism matters featured significantly. In 1997, John moved to Switzerland, handling anti-smuggling, fraud and organized crime issues for the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), ultimately becoming Chief of Enforcement. During 14 years with CITES he conducted 234 missions to 66 countries, assessing enforcement in the field and designing strategies to tackle wildlife trafficking. He was instrumental in establishing the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime in 2010, a partnership of CITES, INTERPOL, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Bank and the World Customs Organization. He has lectured extensively worldwide and his book, ‘The UN’s Lone Ranger: Combating International Wildlife Crime’, was published in January 2014. He formally retired in 2011 but remains active in both a voluntary and consultancy manner and sits on the International Association of Chiefs of Police Environmental Crimes Committee. In June 2013, in recognition of his UN activities, he was appointed by the Queen as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. He was author of the Global Initiative publication, ‘Policing the Trafficking of Wildlife: is there anything to learn from law enforcement responses to drug and firearm trafficking?’, in February 2014.

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