Fighting environmental crime with INTERPOL
A self-described devil’s advocate, Roberto del Castillo says FES taught him how to write and hone the critical thinking skills necessary for his role in project management and partnership development with INTERPOL (International Crime Police Organization).
From wildlife poaching and the illegal trade in controlled animal products, such as ivory and rhinoceros horn, to illegal logging and fishing, del Castillo works with law enforcement agencies and stakeholders around the world to develop projects and partnerships that will support enforcement activities, exchange of information and intelligence, and build law enforcement capacity to fight environmental crime around the globe.
Taking ivory as an example, working relationships and cooperation between police and customs agencies in both export and import countries are key. Stopping a large ivory shipment in its tracks can garner recognition and support. However, understanding the benefit that could be gained through collaboration and trust by allowing one of these shipments to pass and handing responsibility over to other internal agencies that can further investigate criminal syndicates is very valuable.
“While stopping the poaching before it happens is the best solution, to actually make a lasting impact on the ivory trade requires a wide angle view and a holistic partnership based approach,” del Castillo explains. “You can’t find and prosecute the buyer if the shipment is intercepted in customs.”
“Capacity building is one of the main tools we use to fight international environmental crime. Providing law enforcement with the adequate knowledge base and capacity to carry out their work, and with the resources and support they need to combat transnational crime, is a fundamental goal of our organization. INTERPOL is the connector between the numerous enforcement agencies around the world. We facilitate the sharing of intelligence and information and provide any support needed for investigations of transnational crimes. We are all stronger when we’re working together.”
At York University, del Castillo loved the lively discussion and debate he found in his classes at FES and has found it to be invaluable in his career.
“Recognizing the value in everyone’s point of view is essential in partnership building,” he said. “Being the devil’s advocate and challenging these sometimes opposing views is part of the process of cultivating multiple ideas and developing specific goals and action plans that can become a work plan or project.”
From drafting project proposals to articulating the details of the partnerships he facilitates, writing is a large part of his work, a skill he developed through the many essays and projects he did at FES and synthesizing the feedback of his professors to professionalize his writing.
“My first paper was a C+ in the Environmental Politics course. Needless to say I was quite embarrassed by it. In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have put that much pressure on myself as I was completely changing my study or focus area, but it’s really all a matter of practice and repetition. By third year I was getting mostly As and I ended up graduating Cum Laude.
He came to York University after spending several years in the acting industry in Toronto. He had some success as an actor but felt he wanted to finish his degree and pursue a career that would provide him with the opportunity to work on one of his passions, and to travel. FES was a good fit because it allowed him to sample a wide variety of courses and explore diversity in his interests from corporate social responsibility to conservation policy.
“When it comes to knowledge, I feel strongly it’s better not to be specialized, although the trend in the professional workforce seems to be going the other way,” del Castillo said. I think it’s better to read and learn a variety of things and to develop yourself as a person. Your own person. There are people who will read a book or an article and regurgitate the ideas inside. But ultimately, that is just someone else’s opinion. FES really empowered me to learn, discuss and think for myself.”
Further elaborating on young people developing themselves, del Castillo emphasizes that virtually every young professional he meets in Europe, where he has been based the last four years, does one or two internships before entering the work force. He thinks it is a great way to build skills and find the right career fit so you can be happier in your work.
And when it comes to finding your dream job, del Castillo emphasizes persistence is the key.
“I was fortunate to have had the contact information of the director of the environmental crime programme, to originally connect with. I emailed him when I first graduated but was told there weren’t any opportunities. I spent seven months continuing to email and staying in touch with him before there an opportunity arose.”
Not only did it demonstrate that he was eager to work there, it showed tenacity.
He has worked with INTERPOL for four years out of the headquarters in Lyon, France but he has just transferred to Singapore.
“I’m excited to shift my focus into developing partnerships in Asia but part of the appeal of this move is that it opens a whole hemisphere of personal travel to me as well.”
Current Job Title
- Project Management and Partnership Development