The involvement of the United Nations in environmental issues has a long history. The 1992 Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro is perhaps the most recent manifestation. However, since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972, which expressed the commitment of the international community to protect and improve the quality of the environment, a number of UN agencies have been active in the field.
It was in this context that the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), in co-operation with the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) and the European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, affiliated with the United Nations (HEUNI), initiated in 1991 a study on "Environmental Crime, Sanctioning Strategies and Sustainable Development". This volume contains the project results.
The monograph examines environmental crime and the legal frameworks for environmental protection in eight developing and industrialized countries, with civil law and common law traditions from diverse geographical regions. The authors also discuss sanctioning strategies and enforcement, elaborate proposals for reform and consider the need for legal and policy changes in order to better protect the environment.
The focus of the project was on the needs and concerns of participating countries to protect the environment with particular reference to environmental crime and sanctioning strategies, and within the perspective of sustainable development. We believe this study is of special importance to developing nations in which environmental protection is often hampered by a lack of resources, the pressures of poverty and unemployment and the need for socio-economic growth.
The work is the result of collaboration at two levels - institutional and professional. The research field guide was designed by UNICRI and AIC with assistance from the Max-Planck-Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law. Eight experts carried out field research in their respective nations on behalf of UNICRI, AIC and HEUNI. Finally, the editing and publication was a joint venture involving UNICRI and AIC.
Further work in this area is now being sponsored by UNICRI. It will examine the potential and limits of criminal justice in the protection of the environment and culminate in a research workshop on this topic at the Ninth UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders in 1995. We hope that the present volume and current work will stimulate debate and contribute to new understanding about environmental protection - a subject of vital importance for our common future.