14th Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting: Tackling Environmental Crime and corruption through regional attempts

22 December 2023 –

Environmental crime and corruption have become major contemporary anti-corruption issues. Many threats stemming from environmental problems emerge from corruption, causing harm to the environment as well as threatening living entities on Earth.

On the eve of the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), and ahead of the 10th UNCAC Conference of the States Parties (CoSP10), the members and affiliates of the UNCAC Coalition from the Asia-Pacific region discussed initiatives to tackle environmental crime and corruption.

Dr. Laode M Syarif, Executive Director, of Indonesia’s Partnership for Governance Reform (Kemitraan) illustrated the status of corruption in Indonesia, a country which is host to ample natural resources. As Syarif mentioned, the Indonesian oligarchy is involved in the management of natural resources, and the interplay between forest mining and politics is a major factor for corruption. Earlier, the business side of trade used to influence the politics, but currently, business interests are housed by politics: this has made it tough to fight corruption concerning natural resources.

Civic space to combat this situation is shrinking. Syarif himself has been threatened with explosives at his residence, alongside online threats – this is also the case for other civil society representatives. Environmental considerations are always a key priority among Indonesian political parties, which seek to tackle natural resource-based crime and corruption therein. However, it is common in Southeast Asia to attach these issues to a political party platform,  only to see campaigners drop the matter after winning elections. In addition, political campaigns are supported by oligarchs, making it difficult to cut ties between governments and party supporters.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) established a national movement to save Indonesia’s natural resources. Syarif mentioned that several attempts have been made: for instance, any company wanting to incorporate mining on natural resources-related licenses must register their beneficial ownership. This still requires follow up verification for accuracy. There are instances in the region where the Environmental Impact Assessment Report, required before commencing operations, gave a poor review, and the  process itself is sometimes prone to corruption as well. Syarif along with other participants and experts found the attempts to be “not optimistic” and “too little too late.”

The regional meeting also discussed participation in a regional dialogue held in November in Vienna which gathered civil society, academia and youth organizations to explore global efforts to advance the anti-corruption agenda. Leila Nazgül Seiitbek, founder of Freedom for Eurasia, Kyrgyzstan and Mukhtar Ahmad Ali, Executive Director, Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI), Pakistan who participated in the dialogue shared their experiences. The dialogue adopted recommendations of how these groups can make a greater contribution to UNCAC implementation and the UNGASS, and put together recommendations to States Parties for scaling up collaboration to achieve greater impact. The event gave the possibility for different groups to collaborate on how to achieve the best results. The group considered the importance of similar initiatives to advance steps to address transnational and regional issues such as environmental crime and corruption.

The meeting concluded with an invitation to join the different activities and events organized by the UNCAC Coalition, especially related to CoSP10. Individuals specifically interested in the topic of environmental crime and corruption are invited to join the working group on this issue, which is another platform to continue discussions.

If you are a civil society activist from Asia-Pacific and would like to become involved, please contact our Regional Coordinator Fatema Afroz at email hidden; JavaScript is required.