CBRA Interview with Dr. Vittoria Luda di Cortemiglia, Program Coordinator with the Emerging Crimes Unit at the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, UNICRI, Torino, Italy.
Hi Vittoria, and thanks for joining a CBRA Interview – can you first tell a bit who are you and what you do?
I am the Programme Coordinator of the UNICRI Emerging Crimes Unit. Since joined the U.N. in 2001, I have been in charge of the coordination of a number of applied-research programmes in the field of illicit trafficking and emerging crimes, including environmental crimes, cybercrimes, counterfeiting, and organized crime in general. I am UNICRI Focal Point for Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, SAICM, as well as UNICRI Focal Point within the UN Inter-Agency Coordination Group on Human Trafficking, ICAT.
Can you explain us bit more about UNICRI, including the governance model and the research areas?
UNICRI is a United Nations entity created by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, ECOSOC, in 1967 to assist Intergovernmental, Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations in formulating and implementing improved policies in the field of criminal justice. The Institute is part of the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Program, which report annually through the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, CCPCJ, to the ECOSOC.
UNICRI is involved in research projects and capacity building activities in a broad number of areas, ranging from environmental crimes; human trafficking; trafficking in goods and products – including precious metals, pesticides, counterfeiting as well as chemicals, biological, radiological and nuclear risks; terrorism and foreign fighters; hate crimes and hate speech; cyber-security; urban security; violence against women; and, maritime piracy.
UNICRI, CBRA and other partners have just finished a 2-year FP7-project called CWIT, focusing on identifying and quantifying criminal and non-compliance problems and proposing solutions against illicit trade and logistics in electronic waste materials. What was the biggest thing you learned during the project, and which of our recommendations you find as most important when moving to the future?
The CWIT project has been a great experience from a personal as well as professional point of view, as gave me the possibility to work side by side with a number of wonderful professionals from the WEEE industry, enforcement agencies, international organisations, lawyers, academia and consultants specialised in supply chain security.
The objectives of the project were quite ambitious, as CWIT aimed at identifying the policy, regulatory, procedural and technical gaps as observed in today’s business environment, and at suggesting tangible improvements. The CWIT team produced set of recommendations to support the European Commission, law enforcement authorities and industry practitioners in countering the illegal trade of WEEE in and from Europe.
With regards to the recommendations which I consider particularly important are the ones related to the necessity of establishing robust and uniform legal framework and relevant implementation. As mentioned in the final CWIT report, without a clear and comprehensive legislative base, enforcers and prosecutors are powerless to address illegal WEEE flows. At the very minimum, a clear and global definition of what constitutes WEEE is the basis for improving detection, inspection, and enforcement and sentencing rates related to illegal WEEE trade.
In parallel, harmonisation and enhancement of penalty system is needed to increase the effectiveness of the existing legal framework. In fact, penalties for the illegal trade in e-waste vary greatly in terms of monetary fines and prison durations. Today, the participation in WEEE illegal activities does not appear risky to offenders due to the low probability of being prosecuted and sentenced. Even when successfully prosecuted, penalties foreseen in legislation and penalties applied in court decisions are typically very low. For these reasons, it is important to also enhance prosecuting and sentencing, so that WEEE trade and environmental crimes in general are not considered a low- priority/low sentenced area.
UNICRI kindly invited CBRA to Torino last October to join a 2-day workshop on “Illicit Pesticides, Organized Crime and Supply Chain Integrity”. Can you elaborate on this emerging supply chain crime area, including about the estimated size and the negative socio-economic consequences of the problem?
Illicit pesticides cover a wide variety of products, including obsolete pesticides, unauthorized imports, counterfeit or fake pesticides; re- or up-labelled pesticides and refilled containers. Estimates of the illicit pesticides penetration of the legal market range from 10 to 25% – both in the EU and at international level-, representing several billion annually (USD 6-10 billion at global level and USD 1.1 billion at European level).
Besides the evident risks for human safety and health and environmental risks, illicit pesticides also pose serious threats to the economies and security. The agricultural market is extremely important for a large number of countries and companies and might be jeopardize by the introduction of illicit pesticides which can deeply affect the local and national economies. The economic losses have multiple sources and victims and long-term consequences, in particular possible loss of harvest/crop, soil and water contamination affecting the cultivable lands, decrease in innovation, reputation challenges with a decrease of exports, etc. The penetration of the pesticides market by criminal actors, including organised crime groups attracted by high profits and low risk of detection, prosecution and sentencing is another worrying trend.
Do you foresee opportunities for future research projects in the field of illicit pesticides?
Many national and international actors are becoming more and more aware of the threats posed by illicit pesticides to the legal supply chain. The attention and awareness of the problem is increasing at international level. In particular, the World Customs Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are becoming increasingly active in the field and it would be interesting to establish joint actions so as to raise awareness, capacities and response to secure the legal supply chain of such products. Indeed, through this research, we realised that the issue of illicit pesticide is neither well acknowledged nor well-documented. Our study is one of the first detailing the mechanisms and trends in the trafficking of illicit pesticides, the involvement of criminal actors, networks and organised crime groups and related criminal activities, as well as identifying the risks for the supply chain and pesticide markets.
UNICRI is very interested in continue working with partners, including CBRA, on this issue. The report details a number of initiatives which UNICRI stands ready to launch supporting countries in addressing the challenges of illicit pesticides, in particular research, raising stakeholders’ awareness, training and technical assistance programmes, supporting in capacity building activities and reinforcing national and international cooperation.
Thanks Vittoria for this interview – and we are of course more than willing to join a project-team on this highly important illicit pesticides trade and supply chains -topic