The second round of applications is now open for 4 months. The deadline for all applications to be submitted to the Special Programme secretariat is Wednesday 20th June 2017 at midnight.
Register now to learn more about the next meetings of the Conferences of Parties to the three chemicals conventions. Available in English, French or Spanish.
The report of the first meeting of the new informal Basel Convention partnership on household waste, held in Montevideo, Uruguay, from 2 to 4 August 2016, is now available online.
A list of concept notes for voluntary financial contributions for the biennium 2016/17 is now available on the BRS websites
Ahead of the 2017 Triple COPs, recent meetings in Geneva have emphasised that freedom from a polluted environment is a human right
(This article is an expanded version of the BRS Blog by Malika Amelie Taoufiq-Cailliau, Legal Officer, which appeared on www.brsmeas.org during March 2017)
Ahead of the meetings of the BRS Conferences of the Parties (COPs), to be held 24 April to 5 May 2017 in Geneva, discussions on a human rights-based approach for better protection of the environment and of human health, the common objectives of the BRS Conventions, and thus for the sound management of chemicals and wastes, were ‘effervescing’ recently under various fora, such as at the 34th session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council which took place 27 February to 24 March, and the annual International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) from 10 to 19 March.
According to reports recently published by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2017), 1.7 million children die each year due to a polluted environment; of which 570,000 deaths occur each year among children under five years old, due the main pollutant, the air. The reports emphasise electronic and electrical wastes as one of the emerging environmental threats to children; and that harmful chemicals work themselves through the food chain thus contributing to this alarming situation.
On the occasion of one of the numerous discussions that took place during the recent Geneva meetings on environment and human rights at the Human Rights Council, at a side-event organised on 6 March WHO’s Ms. Maria Neira stressed that “human health is a human right” and even more a child’s right. Thus, “investing in the removal of environmental risks to health, such as improving water quality or using cleaner fuels, will result in massive health benefits”. Much work is still needed to turn this into protection on the ground, building on the human rights commitment as embodied through the ‘Geneva Pledge’ (for Human Rights in Climate Action) and later the Paris Agreement, adopted in December 2015 in Paris by 195 Parties and entered into force in November 2016, which marked the first times that a Multilateral Environmental Agreement strongly advocated for a human rights-based approach of environment protection in its preamble.
This watershed took place shortly after the adoption in September 2015 by the UN General Assembly of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is itself strongly grounded in human rights and provides further opportunities to advocate integration of human rights within the framework of international efforts to promote sustainable development to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this context, UN Environment stressed the importance of respecting, protecting and promoting human rights and gender equality in “Delivering on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, through the adoption of Resolution L.6 at the Second Session of the UN Environmental Assembly (UNEA-2), convened on 23-27 May 2016, in order to ensure that no one is “left behind”, in particular the most vulnerable, such as children, who need special attention and actions.
The latest Report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, Mr. Baskut Tuncak, as presented to the Human Rights Council, at its 33rd session in September 2016, moved towards this by focusing on children’s rights and by pointing out the “silent pandemic” of disease and disability affecting millions of children, to the point that paediatricians have now sadly begun to refer to children born “pre-polluted.”
The Report further states that, to remedy the situation:
Indeed, children are the future. They are and should be at the core of our preoccupations and work. They are among the most affected by harmful effects on health and the environment caused by hazardous chemicals wastes; but as children can be great agents of change, they are also part of the solution for a ‘detoxified future’. This is why on 13 March 2017, for instance, the BRS Secretariat participated in a panel at the FIFDH and presented on the BRS Conventions to a youth audience and the wider public, explaining the roles of these international treaties in protecting human health and the environment.
What comes next? The meetings of the ‘BRS Triple COPs’, from 24 April to 5 May 2017, in Geneva, will provide Parties and other stakeholders with an opportunity to address these issues, whether at a side-event on “Human rights, Children’s Rights, and Hazardous Substances & Wastes” or at the High-Level Segment, to be attended by Environment Ministers from upwards of 80 countries.
Decisions taken at the COPs, whether for the listing of additional chemicals in the annexes to the Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, or for new partnerships to solve problems of waste management under the Basel Convention, will therefore play a role in protecting children from exposure, and ultimately in saving young lives. Only in this way can we detoxify the future.
 See: http://www.who.int/ceh/publications/don-t-pollute-my-future/en/
 See: http://www.who.int/ceh/publications/inheriting-a-sustainable-world/en/
 The Preamble of the Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change makes it clear that all States “should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights”.
 To read the entire report, in the 6 official UN languages, click on the following link:
 For more information on the 2017 edition of the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH), and its full programme, see: http://www.fifdh.org/site/en/2017-edition/programme
All the latest information, including the schedule for Bureaux and Regional meetings for Sunday 23rd April, for the 2017 Triple COPs is available online
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BRS App provides a window to information about the meetings of the global chemicals and wastes conventions. It gives quick and easy access to essential information about the 2015 COPs as well as other information about the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.
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An online interactive infographic describes the Guidelines, Expert Working Group, Manuals, Pilot Projects and Toolbox which support the parties’ work on environmentally sound management (ESM)
A new Rotterdam Convention study in small island developing states (SIDs) found that whilst the use of organic alternatives is increasing, threats posed by the misues of toxic chemicals still persist.
Capacity building is an integral part of the support to parties provided by the BRS Secretariat, read about it here ahead of the Triple COPs.
The current technical assistance and capacity-building programme has four main components: needs assessment and the development of supporting tools and methodologies; capacity-development; partnerships; and regional delivery. It was developed and presented to the Parties for the first time at the meetings of the conferences of the Parties held in 2013. Since then the Secretariat has been implementing its technical assistance activities based on the programme.
Based on past experience in implementation, lessons learned and the needs expressed by Parties, the Secretariat has developed a draft four-year technical assistance plan for 2018-2021 replacing the current biennial programme approach with a view to better addressing the needs of Parties. The activities are now planned in such a way as to allow for improved impact assessment, monitoring and evaluation.
The plan is based on objectives and guiding principles that together set a strategic direction for the technical assistance activities to support Parties in implementing the conventions. In the light of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it also seeks to support Parties in integrating chemicals and wastes management into national strategies for sustainable development.
The plan includes activities that Parties, non-Party States, regional centres and other organizations can implement at the national, regional and international levels that are in line with the directions and priorities set by Parties through their respective decisions and programmes of work.
While using the harmonized approach across the three conventions, specific characteristics of technical assistance for each convention are taken into account. Capacity development to support Parties in the implementation of the three conventions and cross-cutting issues focuses on the following thematic areas:
Basel Convention: national strategies for the environmentally sound management of hazardous and other wastes, control procedures for transboundary movements of hazardous and other wastes, the take-back procedure, the Ban Amendment, the disposal of hazardous wastes and waste prevention and minimization;
Rotterdam Convention: national action plans, information exchange obligations, effective participation in the work of the Chemical Review Committee, submission of import responses for pesticides and industrial chemicals listed in Annex III to the Convention, alternatives to Annex III chemicals, monitoring, data collection, reporting of pesticide poisoning incidents related to severely hazardous pesticide formulations, national decision-making process related to banning or restricting chemicals and submission of notifications of final regulatory action, and the establishment of systems and procedures for sending export notifications with regard to banned or severely restricted chemicals not listed in Annex III to the Convention;
Stockholm Convention: guidance for the development and updating of national implementation plans, including on inventories, effective participation in the work of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee, elimination or restriction of the production and use of intentionally produced persistent organic pollutants, alternatives to persistent organic pollutants, reduction or elimination of releases of unintentionally produced persistent organic pollutants, persistent organic pollutants in articles, stockpiles, and the environmentally sound management and disposal of persistent organic pollutant wastes;
Cross-cutting areas pertinent to two or all three of the conventions: legal and institutional frameworks, national coordination, the exchange of information on chemicals and wastes, the provision of support to customs officers, illegal traffic and trade of hazardous chemicals and wastes, inventories, national reporting under the Basel and Stockholm conventions, gender and social dimensions, the mainstreaming of chemicals and wastes into national sustainable development strategies in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, accident prevention and preparedness for hazardous waste and chemicals emergencies, the strengthening of the legal-science-policy-business interface, regional cooperation among entities responsible for the implementation of the conventions, and the enhancement of skills for chairing meetings of convention bodies.
The technical assistance plan for the period 2018–2021 is submitted for consideration to the upcoming Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions which will be held in Geneva from 24 April - 5 May 2017. In order to provide sufficient time for planning and implementation of projects and activities, which includes the mobilization of resources, the plan lays down the foundation for the next four years, describing the overall goal and objectives, as well as expected outputs and outcomes, with the understanding that the plan will be reviewed and adjusted, as needed, by the Conferences of the Parties in 2019.
Technical Assistance Branch
Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions
Our latest interview, with FAO’s Aleksandar Mihajlovski, explains all.
Questions & Answers with Aleksandar Mihajlovski, FAO’s Officer in charge of publishing the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Circular, the essential information document for the implementation of the Rotterdam Convention.
Q. What does your role at the Secretariat entail?
My work centres around the PIC Circular, which unifies and puts the two main provisions of the Convention into action – the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure and the exchange of information on hazardous chemicals. This document is compiled throughout the year and is published and circulated to all the parties and interested stakeholders twice every year, in June and December.
I am also in charge of reviewing and verifying the import response decisions and the Notifications of Final Regulatory Actions (FRAs), as well as proposals for listing Severely Hazardous Pesticide Formulations (SHPFs) into Annex III, submitted to the Secretariat by the parties to the Convention in accordance with Articles 10, 5 and 6, respectively. The parties submit this information to the Secretariat individually, it is then shared through the PIC Circular to all of the parties that make up the Convention – there are currently 157, and it is available to view on this website for all interested stakeholders.
Q: Take us through what the Convention sets out to do.
The RC team promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among parties in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals in order to protect human health and the environment from potential harm. We do this by facilitating the exchange of information on chemicals that may be unsafe for use.
The Convention deals with pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted by the parties because of environmental or human health concerns and which have been reported to the Secretariat. Two such notifications for the same chemical submitted by at least two parties from two different PIC regions are needed in order to activate a complex mechanism that potentially might end up with adding the chemical to the Annex III list of hazardous chemicals, and consequently for it to become relevant for the PIC procedure. This obligation for the parties is indicated in Article V, followed by Annexes I and II, which provide detailed explanations of the information requirements for submitting notifications as well as the criteria for listing the chemicals in Annex III.
In addition, through Article 6 and Annex IV, the Convention gives developing countries or parties with transition economies the opportunity to submit proposals for inclusion on the list of SHPFs in Annex III, based on reports of poisoning incidents.
The information received by the Secretariat, is part of the information exchange mechanism and it basically activates the PIC procedure through which chemicals become listed in Annex III of the Convention text. The PIC procedure is relevant only for the Annex III listed chemicals, and means that parties are obliged to submit national decisions on their future imports of these chemicals. I believe it is important to emphasize that the response or national decisions on future imports do not constitute a ban considering that the party based on its own national consultative process has the intrinsic right to allow the import of the chemical, not to allow import, or to allow imports subject to specified conditions. Decisions by an importing country must be trade neutral, meaning that the decisions must apply equally to domestic production for domestic use as well as to imports from any source.
As all these import decisions are circulated to the parties through the PIC Circular, and at the same time are available online for reference on the database, the exporting country parties are obliged under the Convention to make sure that the exporter under their national jurisdiction complies with these decisions.
I would like to emphasize another very important aspect of the information exchange mechanism established as an obligation for the parties that are exporting chemicals produced but banned or restricted for use within their own territory to the importing party. It is important to note that the exporting party must submit export notifications to the importing party, informing it about the planned export of a chemical that is banned or restricted before the first shipment and annually thereafter.
Q. Why does the management of hazardous chemicals continue to be so important globally?
Well we live in a world where the chemical industry represents one of the largest sectors of the global economy and it is one of the highest contributors to growth in the world. All sorts of chemicals are used, applied and present in people’s everyday lives. They are utilised in the construction industry, in electronics, to make different sorts of plastics, in consumer care products and in agriculture were they are present in fertilisers and pesticides. This calls for attention and caution in the way these products are managed and dealt with starting from their development, throughout the production process, application and use through to adequate disposal.
As I have already underlined, many of the chemicals that are developed and available for use, have certain hazardous properties and pose risks to human health and the environment. The RC has 47 hazardous chemicals listed under Annex III. Thirty-three of these are pesticides and fourteen are industrial chemicals. At the Conference of the Parties (COP) this May, eight more chemicals will be considered for listing and the parties will decide whether they will be included in Annex III of the Convention.
The RC’s PIC procedure for pesticides and industrial chemicals in international trade, together with the Stockholm Convention (SC) on protecting human health and the environment from Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and the Basel Convention (BC) on the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and their disposal, jointly through the synergies processes contribute to the careful management of hazardous chemicals and waste throughout their life-cycle, from production to disposal.
Ultimately, the adequate management of hazardous chemicals is a globally important issue because it is directly linked to the basic human rights of access to clean air, clean water and healthy and safe food. In a recent report by the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the right to food, pesticides are cited as a global human rights concern. According to the latest figures, hazardous pesticides are responsible for 200,000 deaths each year, with 99 percent of these cases occurring in developing countries, lacking functional national regulations for hazardous chemicals management.
Q. Explain the process of the Chemical Review Committee (CRC), how does science become policy?
I already explained the rationale and the mechanism that precedes the CRC’s work, after the Secretariat receives the notifications of FRAs and proposals for SHPFs, and before being forwarded for consideration by the CRC. The CRC is composed by 31 independent experts in chemicals management appointed by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the RC. The Committee is responsible for undertaking the scientific review of chemicals proposed for listing.
The Convention requires science-based risk and hazard evaluations, as well as scientifically supported information on physico-chemical, toxicological and eco-toxicological properties of the pesticides for which parties submit notifications of final regulatory actions for banning or restricting certain pesticides. The specific information requirements and criteria are listed in Annex I and Annex II of the Convention. Annex I contains all the information requirements for notifications made pursuant to article 5, whereas Annex II describes the criteria for listing these banned or severely restricted chemicals in Annex III, making them subject to the PIC procedure. Annex II requires a risk evaluation based on a review of scientific data in the context of the conditions prevailing in the party’s country submitting the notification of a final regulatory action to ban or restrict a chemical. The data should be generated in accordance with scientifically recognized methods and data reviews carried out in accordance with sound scientific principles and methods.
Based on the Committee’s recommendations, the COP, as the governing body of the Convention, decides by consensus whether to include or not to include hazardous chemicals and pesticides in Annex III of the Convention.
Q. Give us an example of a success story you have overseen since joining the Secretariat. What happened, where? And, how did you see an impact at grassroots level?
It is hard for me to emphasize any country or Party to the Convention. To a certain extent, I am involved in almost daily communication with all the Parties to the Convention either regarding the Import Decisions either regarding the Notifications of FRAs or SHPF proposals they submit to the Secretariat. The verification and the review process in many occasions require getting back to the Party DNA to directly assist and meticulously explain the missing or not correctly provided information. The proper submission of these information exchange documents as indicated in the Convention text, is giving me unique chance and opportunity to help and assist Parties into implementation of the Convention at national level which further on has regional and global benefits fitting into the main objective of the Convention – to protect human health and the environment from the hazardous chemicals. Of course, the reward comes in the end with the addition of new hazardous chemical into Annex III, realizing that the chemical I started working with when initially submitted to the Secretariat, becomes part of the PIC procedure.
Browse the newly published list of planned side events, including two film screenings, for the forthcoming 2017 Triple COPs.
Discover the information, tools and communities that make the joint clearing house mechanism a reality to support the conventions.
Nominations are sought for outstanding women and men who have pioneered the integration of gender into the sound management of chemicals and wastes
Highlights from the scoping studies on integrating gender issues into the implementation of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions in Nigeria and Indonesia are now available
Women are vulnerable to the harmful effects of chemicals when working in agriculture: are they also the solution?
Women are central to the development of rural areas and national economies. They make up at least 43 percent of the agricultural workforce worldwide, with that figure rising to more than 70 percent in some countries.
By improving rural women’s access to resources and opportunities, food security can be enhanced for current and future generations. This goal lies at the heart of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) mandate.
Finding simple solutions to accelerate progress, however, is no easy matter. The prevalence of toxic chemicals and pesticides around the world is especially hazardous to women. What is worse, those most vulnerable are unaware of the dangers they face in using and handling these substances.
“The livelihoods of rural families are dependent on their crops and their harvests. They rely on these to feed their children, themselves and to sell at market. Often, this is their sole form of survival. So, when a farmer identifies a pest threatening their only source of food or money; their immediate reaction is that a “ready-to-use” solution like a pesticide is the exactly what they need,” said Elisabetta Tagliati, FAO Programme Officer for the Rotterdam Convention (RC).
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, is to achieve gender equality and to empower all women and girls. Addressing key challenges such as poverty, inequality, and discrimination against women is essential to change the course of the 21st century.
The target is to enhance the use of enabling technology, and in particular information and communications, to promote the empowerment of women.
Gender equality and rural women’s empowerment are central to UN efforts to reduce rural poverty and to achieve food security for all. By supporting national governments, several countries have now adopted national food and agriculture policies and action plans that fully integrate the need to spread knowledge about either cutting down on the use of or handing pesticides appropriately.
Ultimately, to increase incomes, it is essential to maximise women’s presence in rural institutions in addition to creating gender-parity by amending policies at local, national and international levels. Raising awareness of practices carrying low or high risks is key to advancing the economic empowerment of women working in agriculture.
Building a safer planet involves spreading the word about the correct ways to handle pesticides, from their purchase and sale, through to transporting them, in addition to raising awareness about the precautions to take to store them safely. The risks to those spraying fields without adequate equipment are high and ensuring instructions can be understood by those coming in to contact with pesticides is essential. Labels intended to inform are often a barrier towards safe use because many of those utilising the chemicals are unable to read or understand the languages in which guidelines are produced. “Insecticides are designed to destroy insects and this means they are also likely to be toxic to humans. Herbicides are widely used, and over time, low doses of exposure, can increase the risks of Parkinson’s disease, cancers, diabetes, gluten intolerance, infertility, and reproduction disorders,” said Tagliati. The RC has also noted that children commonly play in fields where pesticides are present and that women frequently wash contaminated clothes with their bare hands.
To tackle these trends, the RC holds international and national workshops to train and advise individuals.
“Globally we are looking at about 500,000 chemicals that are used in industrial processes. Some 5000 chemicals are added to that list every year. Most of them are extremely beneficial. Among them are medicines for saving lives. They are also necessary for industrial processes, to produce equipment for use, and, they are required to sustain a certain level of agricultural production such as fertilisers and plant protection products. About 200 million farmers apply these substances around the world,” said Gerold Wyrwal, FAO Agricultural Officer for the Rotterdam RC.
Many of these farmers are women and these women are often the victims of disturbing experiences.
Scientists report that global reproductive health is being affected and the research shows that pesticides are at least partly to blame. Moreover, pesticides have been linked to miscarriages, premature births and reduced fertility in both men and women.
The evidence indicates that exposure; even to small doses can be lethal. The pesticide problem calls for renewed and ongoing action.
Text by Sarah Barden
Communications and Advocacy Officer
FAO Rotterdam Convention Secretariat
The BRS Clearing House Mechanism takes another step forward with joint country profiles now bringing all national information on chemicals governance into one place.