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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Mozambique

Article 81 of Mozambique’s constitution contains provisions for the “Right of Popular Action.” It states: “all citizens shall have the right to popular action in accordance with the law, either personally or through associations for defending the interests in question”. The right of popular action shall consist of:

  • The right to advocate the prevention, termination or judicial prosecution of offences against the public health, consumer rights, environmental conservation and cultural heritage
  • Article 90 contains provisions for the Right to a Balanced Environment. Specifically, it reads:

  • “All citizens shall have the right to live in a balanced environment and shall have the duty to defend it
  • The State and the local authorities, with collaboration from associations for environmental protection, shall adopt policies to protect the environment and shall promote the rational use of all natural resources”.
  • Featured Legislation

    1997: The Land Law Act Law No. 19/97) was passed. The Act is intended to promote the use and improvement of land, so that this resource, the most important that the nation makes available, may be valued and may contribute to the development of the national economy.

    1997: The Environmental Law Act No. 20/97 Environment Act was signed, establishing protective requirements to be satisfied in order to exploit the environmental sector and impact assessment conditions in order to avoid environmental disasters.

    1999: The Forestry and Wildlife Act (Law No.10/99) was enacted. The Act covers the Protection of forest and wildlife resources; sustainable forest resources; sustainable wildlife conservation regimes; forest and wildlife resources restocking; management of forest and wildlife resources.

    2003: The General Regulation on Maritime Fishery Activities (Decree 43/2003) was brought into force. The regulation includes some guiding elements for the conservation of biodiversity, and in particular Article 8 refers to the importance of direct and indirect management measures, Article 9 limits the fishing effort, and Article 10 limits the volume of catches.

    2004: The ​​Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation was instituted. This decree regulates the environmental licensing in Mozambique. It requires that all large-scale projects as well as all activities carried out in the protected areas are subject to a detailed Environmental and Social Impact Study (ESIA).

    2006: Decree No. 45/2006 was approved. This decree demands full compensation for all forms of pollution caused by ships and platforms.

    2007: The Environmental Strategy was unveiled. The strategy aims to create a common vision for a wise environmental management, leading to sustainable development to contribute to the eradication of poverty afflicting the Mozambican society. These are the main objectives of the Strategy: ensuring food security, sustainable economic prosperity and well-being of the population; promoting conservation and management actions of oceans and seas at all levels, taking into account the relevant international conventions.

    2009: Decree No. 6/2009 was adopted, approving the regulation on pesticides management.

    2013:  Law of Fisheries  was ratified. The legislation aims at establishing the legal regime for all fishing activities and all complementary related activities performed by National or foreign fishing vessels operating in waters under Mozambican jurisdiction in order to implement measures on protection, management and sustainable use of the National biological aquatic resources

    2014: The Conservation Law (Law No. 16/2014) was created, establishing the basic principles and rules on the protection, conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity within conservation areas.

    2021: Decree No. 87/2021 was adopted. This Decree, consisting of 27 articles divided into five Chapters, creates the Oceanographic Institution of Mozambique (InOM). It establishes composition, duties and responsibilities of the above-mentioned InOM, as a collective entity of public law, scientific research, knowledge development, technology and innovation. The sectoral supervision of InOM is exercised by the Minister who oversees the areas of the sea, inland waters and fisheries and includes, namely, the following activities: a) approve the strategic lines and research policies; b) approve the Internal Regulations of InOM; c) propose the staff for approval by the competent body; d) carry out the performance control, in particular with regard to the fulfillment of the established purposes and objectives; e) suspend, revoke or cancel, under the terms of the applicable legislation, the acts of the bodies of the InOM that are contrary to the law and other normative and management instruments; f) perform disciplinary power over the members of the InOM bodies, under the terms of the applicable legislation; g) order the carrying out of inspection, inspection or auditing of the acts carried out by the bodies; h) carrying out inquiries to the InOM services; i) propose to the Prime Minister the appointment of the General Director and the Scientific Director of InOM, under the terms of the applicable legislation, etc.

    Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

    • USAID is working with the Mozambican government, private sector and local communities to build capacity and strengthen the country’s legal and judicial systems so that criminals are held accountable and deterred from illegal wildlife trafficking.  One component of capacity building will entail the training of judges, prosecutors, investigators and rangers to better understand Mozambique's conservation law and how to enforce it. What is more, USAID is investing in technology, equipment and surveillance equipment, enabling rangers and park staff to better protect its tremendous biodiversity. The country’s 2017 Conservation Law, for example, serves as a shining example of the modernization of its legal approaches: the legislation outlines a robust legal framework for addressing illegal wildlife trafficking through the development of a Rapid Reference Manual for the Investigation and Prosecution of Wildlife Crimes (RRM). Since its inception, the manual has been adapted into versions used to train rangers and investigators in better evidence gathering techniques and judges in understanding trafficking crimes and how to recover assets of convicted criminals. RRMs have also been shared with six universities so that the country’s next generation of leaders have a better understanding of what is at stake. In 2020, USAID partnered with the South African Judicial Education Institute and the Mozambican Legal and Judicial Training Centre to host a wildlife trafficking colloquium where 60 Mozambican and South African prosecutors and judges shared best practices in countering wildlife trafficking intelligence, surveillance and case development. As a result of this knowledge mobilization, in 2020, 92 percent of the cases initiated went to the prosecution phase.  This represents a 38 percent increase from 2018.  Conviction rates of wildlife crimes have also seen a similar positive trend. For example, in 2020, 85 percent of cases brought to court received convictions and since 2018, no elephants have been poached in the Niassa Special Reserve and no lions have been killed or maimed by illegal snares or traps in Gorongosa National Park.

    References and Further Reading


    Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development Mozambique (M I T A D E R):