Law Division

Transnational Environmental Crime


Transnational environmental crimes are criminal activities undertaken by persons acting across national borders including illegal logging and timber smuggling, species smuggling, the black market in ozone depleting substances, the illegal movement of toxic and hazardous waste and other prohibited chemicals etc. In addition to the serious environmental consequences, these forms of illegal activity across borders can involve corruption and financial crime, loss of tax revenue, parallel trading with other forms of criminal activity, and distortion of the licit market.


Transnational criminal activities are a central problem for the effective implementation, compliance with and enforcement of environmental law, including MEAs. The implementation of international environmental law requires that international legal mechanisms are established and enforced at national level through appropriate legal regimes. Illegal activities challenge enforcement and undermine implementation of environmental law, including MEAs. Often these illegal activities have transnational elements and need to be combated through internationally coordinated efforts.

Law enforcement cooperation to combat transnational crimes faces obstacles because this relatively new category of crime typically lacks common understandings and approaches between and among States.


Through its work on transnational environmental crime, DELC aims to provide increased leadership on the growing issue of environmental crime. In so doing DELC aims to enhance the implementation of, compliance with and enforcement of environmental law at all levels as mandated by GC Decision GC/SS VII/4 and to further the mandate given to DELC by the GC through its adoption of the Montevideo Programme IV (GC Decision GC25/11) to progressively review and develop environmental law. This field of engagement also complements and builds upon existing partnerships and initiatives such as the Green Customs Initiative or DELC's Capacity Building Programmes for the Judiciary.


Together with partners, DELC works towards:

  • A better understanding of the global problems and existing gaps on transnational or cross-border environmental crime;

  • Common approaches to more efficiently and effectively tackle the problem of transnational environmental crime from a legal standpoint;

  • Strengthening and reinforcing current international and national legal and institutional arrangements and law enforcement mechanisms to combat transnational environmental crime;

  • Strengthening and reinforcing national environmental laws to counter environmental crime,

  • Fostering and enhancing cross-border cooperation in the field of environmental crime,

  • Strengthening and developing partnerships, coordination and cooperation between stakeholders.