Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the United States Government, I am very pleased to welcome you to the International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest. The mission of ILEA is to support the region’s emerging democracies through international cooperation to combat crime and to promote social, political and economic stability. To achieve these goals, ILEA provides high-quality training and technical assistance, supports institution building and enforcement capability, and fosters relationships between American law enforcement agencies with their counterparts in the region. ILEA also encourages strong partnerships among regional countries to address common problems associated with criminal activity.
We are very pleased to welcome all of you from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Ukraine, and Serbia to participate in the first annual course on forestry crime and illegal logging. You will hear about new methodologies, tools, and techniques used by American and European counterparts to combat these crimes.
I would like to also welcome the instructors from the U.S Forest Service and from the U.S. Department of Justice and thank them for their service and for sharing their expertise. They will be joined by colleagues from the State Department’s Regional Environmental, Science & Technology, and Health Hub Office for Central and Eastern Europe based at the Embassy in Budapest and from the Regional Environmental Center in Szentendre, Hungary, who will also share their knowledge and expertise.
Since 2007, ILEA has been hosting two courses a year on investigating and prosecuting environmental crimes led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We are very excited to welcome the U.S. Forest Service to the ILEA Budapest family.
The U.S Forest Service is the primary U.S. Government agency focused on forestry issues in the United States. They have several international programs that seek to foster sustainable natural resource management, biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and disaster preparedness & response throughout the world. The Forest Service works to improve forest governance and to reduce illegal logging and wildlife trafficking by providing policy advice, training, and technical assistance on issues such as global timber markets, land tenure, law enforcement capacity, corruption, rural poverty, and environmental management.
Combining the vast expertise of the U.S. Forest Service instructors with the knowledge and experience of the trainers from the Regional Environmental Center creates a unique opportunity for this course.
Emphasizing the importance of environmental issues, the protection of natural resources, and the protection of human health from environmental risks is becoming more critical with each passing day. Since I arrived in Hungary, I have appreciated the opportunities to see the natural beauty of this country and its neighbors. However, based on my official meetings, discussions, and trips in the country and the region, environmental protection is not often a top priority for governments. Environmental regulations are often viewed as economic burdens and obstacles for development. As a result, authorities and agencies that normally investigate and prosecute environmental crime receive less state resources and operate with limited human capacities.
Forestry products play a significant role in most economies. Several industries capitalize on resources from forests such as paper, timber, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and other chemicals, and even fuel. But it also provides natural habitats for diverse flora and fauna, and plays a crucial role in watershed protection, the maintenance of the water cycle, prevention of soil erosion, and in the control of global warming by using carbon dioxide in photosynthesis. We are also aware of the fact that illegal logging leads to environmental degradation, disrupted trade and market access, and unsustainable economic development; issues that you face in your countries to varying degrees.
I hope this course will provide you with useful information on the best methods you can use in your work to implement more sustainable forest management practices. I am also sure that this training opportunity will help create networks between officials and officers who work on similar issues in neighboring countries. This will help you resolve problems of a transboundary nature more efficiently.
I wish you a very productive week and great success in your efforts to combat forestry crime and illegal logging.