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Announcements

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.

Call for 2nd round of applications in the context of the Special Programme to support institutional strengthening

 

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.

Report now online from Montevideo meeting on household waste

Report now online from Montevideo meeting on household waste
 

A list of concept notes for voluntary financial contributions for the biennium 2016/17 is now available on the BRS websites

Concept notes for voluntary financial contributions 2016-17 now available

Concept notes for voluntary financial contributions 2016-17 now available

 

 

The Secretariat hands over the signed BRS Geneva Gender Parity Pledge to Mr. Michael Moller, UNOG Director General.

Geneva Gender Parity Pledge

Geneva Gender Parity Pledge

On 2 December 2015, during the United Nations Oath of Office ceremony at the Palais des Nation, the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions Secretariat (BRS) handed over to Mr. Michael Moller, UNOG Director General, the signed BRS Geneva Gender Parity Pledge. 

The Geneva Gender Parity Pledge aims to strive for gender parity in all discussions in International Geneva and in panels where BRS staff is involved. Further, the Secretariat commits to provide gender training sessions for its staff members to enable them to liaise with other United Nations colleagues and to beacon gender aspects; to include gender related sessions in the agenda of workshops organized by the BRS Secretariat to further strengthen the mainstreaming of gender equality in projects and programmes under the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions; and to update the BRS Gender Action Plan on a yearly basis.

Contact: Matthias Kern at matthias.kern@brsmeas.org and Tatiana Terekhovap at tatiana.terekhovap@brsmeas.org

#DETOX Outcomes: Additional chemicals listed, new partnership on household waste established, mandate given to tackle marine plastics

#DETOX Outcomes: Additional chemicals listed, new partnership on household waste established, mandate given to tackle marine plastics

Countries make important progress towards goal of a safer planet

May 5, Geneva – Significant steps were agreed upon by parties to the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions (BRS), as the 2017 Triple COPs drew to a close in Geneva this week. Hosted under the headline, “A future detoxified: sound management of chemicals and waste,” participants reached consensus over a range of issues at the largest ever meeting of the Conventions to-date, attended by around 1,300 participants from more than 170 countries. Eighty ministers took part in high-level talks on the final days of the two-week-long event, which began on April 24.

The Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions share the common objective of protecting human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals and wastes. All three Conventions made good progress on their stated targets of reducing dependence on toxic substances and promoting ecologically sound alternatives to pest control, paving the way towards a safer world. “We have seen a surge in positive commitments from governments. The relevance and importance of the BRS Conventions is therefore central to achieving sustainable development, the eradication of poverty and a peaceful and fair world. The sustainable management of chemicals and waste must be met, in order for our health and that of our children to be protected, wherever we live, and whatever our job, whatever our gender, nationality or income,” said UNEP’s Executive Secretary of the three Conventions, Rolph Payet.  

The Basel Convention agreed a number of important decisions including the establishment of a new public-private Partnership on Household Waste, to assist countries deal with this issue of growing concern, and gave a mandate to begin tackling marine litter, a key challenge of our time.

By consensus, the Rotterdam Convention (RC) added three new chemicals to Annex III. These are two pesticides, carbofuran and trichlorfon, and one industrial chemical, short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) – traces of which have been found in air, waterways and sediments. The addition of these highly toxic substances brings the total number of chemicals listed under the RC to fifty one. The COP also added tributyltin (TBT) under industrial chemicals category in addition to pesticides category. No agreement was reached, however, on chrysotile asbestos, carbosulfan, and pesticide formulations paraquat dichloride formulations and fenthion, although many Parties expressed their willingness to do so in order to ensure the best information exchange on these hazardous chemicals. Listing does not constitute a ban, but does however enable Parties to make informed decisions on future imports of these chemicals, based on a structured information exchange, also called the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure.

“It is clear that agriculture in 2017 and beyond must produce more, while at the same time protecting and enhancing the underlying natural resources on which it is based. The need for more varied, specialized and innovative approaches, that draw on traditional knowledge and advances in science and technology will only be addressed through greater collaboration and cooperation at all levels,” said FAO’s Executive Secretary of the Rotterdam Convention (RC), William Murray. Achieving global food security and improved livelihoods for all requires a sustainable approach to the intensification of agricultural production. Healthy soil, clean water supplies and biologically diverse ecosystems are essential components in building a detoxified future.

The Stockholm Convention succeeded in listing all of the Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) which had been recommended, namely decaBDE and short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) in Annex A and hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD) in Annex C. In listing, these substances will now be reduced and eliminated, for the benefit of current and future generations.

The safe management of chemicals and wastes are essential for the implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on poverty reduction, health, gender, water, cities, oceans, food and sustainable consumption and production.

The role of the private sector was prominent throughout, including at the first ever Technology Fair which showcased solutions for implementing the three conventions. Parties renewed their commitment to work together, enhance efficient implementation of the conventions and strengthen synergies for a detoxified future.

For more information

For technical information: Kei Ohno-Woodall (+41 79 233 3218), kei.ohno-woodall@brsmeas.org

For technical information on the Rotterdam Convention: Christine Fuell (+39 06 5705 3765) christine.fuell@fao.org 

For general info, to arrange interviews, etc:  Charlie Avis (+41 79 730 4495), charles.avis@brsmeas.org

Notes to editors on the listed chemicals:

Newly-listed under the Rotterdam Convention

Carbofuran: an insecticide with trade name Furadan used to control soil insects in fruit and vegetable production, with negative impacts upon the environment including on birds, small mammals, and bees.

Trichlorfon: an insectide or pesticide with trade name Cekufon 80 SP in Europe, Dipterex in Brazil and others, used on fruits and vegetables causing acute neurotoxic and carcinogenic effects and impacts on human reproduction and the endocrine system.

Short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs): an industrial chemical with numerous trade names including Chlorowax, A70 (wax) and Chlorofo, used as a softener in paints, plastics fillers and coatings and as a flame inhibitor in rubber, plastics and textiles - traces of which have been found in air, waterways and sediments posing particular risks to soil and water-dwelling organisms.

Tributyltin compounds (TBT): a pesticide/industrial chemical with trade name Biomet and Intersmooth, used most commonly in anti-fouling paints for ship hulls, and as biocide in wood preservatives

Newly-listed under the Stockholm Convention

Decabromodiphenyl ether (commercial mixture, c-DecaBDE): an intentionally produced chemical used an additive flame retardant including in plastics, textiles, adhesives, sealants, coatings and inks. C-decaBDE containing plastics are used in electrical and electronic equipment, wires and cables, pipes and carpets, transported over long-range and with significant adverse human health and environmental effects, including adverse effects to reproductive health and output in a number of species as well as developmental and neurotoxic effects, and endocrine disruption.

Short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs): see above as per Rotterdam Convention.

Hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD): a Persistent Organic Pollutant already listed under Annex A of the Stockholm Convention, now additionally listed under Annex C, most commonly used as a solvent for other chlorine-containing compounds causing systemic toxicity following exposure via oral, inhalation, and dermal routes. Effects may include fatty liver degeneration, epithelial necrotizing nephritis, central nervous system depression and cyanosis.

 

Now online: all photos of the 2017 Triple COPs

Now online: all photos of the 2017 Triple COPs

Browse and download the BRS photos of the chemical conventions Triple COPs, including side events, plenary, and high-level segment

Now online: all photos of the 2017 Triple COPs

Now online: all photos of the 2017 Triple COPs

 

New members of bureaux and subsidiary bodies elected at Triple COPs

New members of bureaux and subsidiary bodies elected at Triple COPs

At their 2017 meetings, the conferences of the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions elected new members of bureaux and subsidiary bodies under the conventions.

New members of bureaux and subsidiary bodies elected at Triple COPs

New members of bureaux and subsidiary bodies elected at Triple COPs
 
BRS Secretariat contributes to system-wide approach on e-waste

BRS Secretariat contributes to system-wide approach on e-waste

Part of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) process, the recent Geneva meeting highlighted challenges to data collection on electronic waste, a key focus area of the Basel Convention

BRS Secretariat contributes to system-wide approach on e-waste

BRS Secretariat contributes to system-wide approach on e-waste

As part of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2017 The thematic workshop “Addressing the global e-waste challenge. The Global e-Waste Statistics Partnership” was held on 16 June 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. Moderated by the Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, Rolph Payet, the event was organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations University (UNU) and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) to highlight current challenges in the area of e-waste and introduce the global e-waste statistics partnership. It was emphasized that we are facing a lack of data on e-waste since only about 40 countries in the world collect national e-waste statistics and there is an urgent need to build statistical capacities in the developing countries.  In this regard coordination at the national level for establishing policy frameworks and data on e-waste is critical and it communication and ICT ministries should work with ministries of environment at the national level to produce better e-waste policies and data.

For more information on WSIS and e-waste, please click here.

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Briefings on the outcomes of the 2017 Triple COPs to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

The online briefings will provide an overview of the main outcomes and decisions of the recent meetings of the conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions that were held from 24 April to 5 May 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Briefings on the outcomes of the 2017 Triple COPs to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

Briefings on the outcomes of the 2017 Triple COPs to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions
 
Human rights, agriculture, environment emphasised at COPs High-Level Segment

Speeches from UNHCHR, UN FAO, and the GEF are now online

Human rights, agriculture, environment emphasised at COPs High-Level Segment

Human rights, agriculture, environment emphasised at COPs High-Level Segment

 

Key messages emerging from the High Level Segment of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

From Thursday, 4 May 2017, to Friday, 5 May 2017, more than 140 Ministers, Deputy Ministers, and Ambassadors from over 100 countries gathered together for the High-Level Segment of the 2017 triple Conferences of the Parties, under the theme “A future detoxified: Sound management of chemicals and waste”.

Key messages emerging from the High Level Segment of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

Key messages emerging from the High Level Segment of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

From Thursday, 4 May 2017, to Friday, 5 May 2017, more than 140 Ministers, Deputy Ministers, and Ambassadors from over 100 countries gathered together for the High-Level Segment of the 2017 triple Conferences of the Parties, under the theme “A future detoxified: Sound management of chemicals and waste”.

Overall messages

1. With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals, the political momentum for a detoxified planet has increased, and this window of opportunity must be seized.

2. There can be no sustainable development without a commitment to a pollution-free planet, and this requires sound management of chemicals and waste.

3. The key to a detoxified future is by taking action now, and the implementation by all parties of all the provisions of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, which should be translated into national legislation, policy and actions.

On opportunities for a detoxified future in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

(a)  The sound management of chemicals and wastes is central to achieving the three dimensions of sustainable development, and should be dealt with as a priority, as well as, in a mutually supportive manner  to achieve the 2030 goals.  It is also central to addressing poverty, food security, access to water, achieving human rights and gender balance, particularly for women, children and vulnerable populations, and is linked to addressing climate change and the protection of biodiversity. With the obvious linkage between the Sustainable development goals and the conventions, and its many cross-sectoral aspects, chemicals and wastes related Sustainable development goals cannot be achieved without the implementation of the conventions.

(b)  The 2030 Agenda provides a unique opportunity for mainstreaming chemicals and waste related issues into national sustainable development plans, and for the development of business cases for sound management of chemicals and wastes. Institutional frameworks must be strengthened at all levels and policy coherence achieved across all sectors. This requires strong political will, cooperation, as well as community and end-user awareness, including partnerships.

(c)  Furthermore, the 2030 Agenda provides specific targets which support the commitment for sound management of chemicals and wastes in order to protect human health and environment. The importance of increasing efforts to achieve the Sustainable development goals is clear through a focus on poverty reduction strategies recognizing that the poor are the most affected by pollution including extensive use of chemicals in agriculture.

(d)  There is a need for greater commitment by industry to prevent pollution of streams and water bodies on which communities depend, especially those in abject poverty. Industry must play a more proactive role in achieving the sustainable development goals.

(e)  Different levels in development and differing capacities among countries to address the challenges of chemicals and wastes management must be recognized, particularly in small island developing states, least developed countries and other vulnerable populations who have limited capacity or access to information to deal with environmental challenges.

On opportunities for strengthened implementation through partnerships

(a)  Increased cooperation and coordination is needed at the national, regional and global levels to implement the Conventions effectively.  Partnerships have a central role, and civil society, business, industry, and private sector investment must be fully involved and engaged.

(b)  Partnerships have proved to be useful tools in the implementation of the chemicals and waste agendas and should be further encouraged. Multistakeholder partnerships, including those with the private sector, should be strengthened to promote new technologies, win-win partnerships and innovation in support of the implementation of the Conventions.

(c)  Partnerships must be established with all sectors and stakeholders including with local communities and municipal entities. A bottom-up approach is essential as citizens are the key driver for action. Regional networks can assist in monitoring and managing cross border issues and civil society groups can help governments monitor their environment.

(d)  The Basel and Stockholm Conventions regional centres and national institutions are uniquely positioned to deliver synergistically on chemicals and wastes by engaging in capacity-building and catalysing the transfer of technology for the sound management of chemicals and waste at the national level.

(e)  Availability of, and access to adequate financial resources are fundamental in order to ensure the restoration of our oceans and landscapes from chemical pollution and for the adequate implementation of the chemicals and wastes agenda within the framework of the Sustainable development goals.

On opportunities for reducing waste and pollution while enabling economic and social prosperity

(a)  Although there has been much progress, further efforts are needed to achieve the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle and with respect to  hazardous wastes prevent or minimize significant adverse effects on human health and the environment, through the work of the three conventions

(b)  Commitment to, and conscientious implementation of the chemicals and wastes conventions contributes to the achievement of environmentally sound management of chemicals, the reduction of illegal waste traffic and pollution nationally and  across borders thus enabling economic and social prosperity.

(c)  Awareness raising of the interlinkages between the conventions and issues such as air pollution, plastic pollution and marine litter increases the visibility of the chemicals and wastes issues in a simple manner to stakeholders, the media and schools, thereby enhancing the Conventions’ contributions to the achievement of Sustainable development goals, the protection of human health and the environment.

(d)  Adequate technology transfer is essential to address sustainable development in fields such as agriculture, recycling technologies, household and medical waste management, as well as training and capacity-building in chemicals and waste management throughout the lifecycle. Legislation and control techniques should be in place in all sectors, as there is limited enforcement even where such regulations exist.

(e)  Lack of financial resources, as well as, limited institutional capacity are legitimate concerns which require attention. Further scientific research is also needed in developing countries along with associated funding for national coordinating units, laboratories and research institutes to develop and adapt new technologies for chemicals and wastes management, to establish baseline data, develop viable alternatives, promote science based decisions, and enhance monitoring capacity and database management skills in order to monitor progress in the targets of the Sustainable development goals.

(f) Mechanisms should be established to implement the polluter pays principle, with economic and policy incentives and disincentives, taking into consideration the specific situation of each country.

(g)  Formalization of the informal recycling sector is fundamental for the creation of decent jobs, and the reduction of legal and also occupational risks and environmental impacts. There is a large potential for recycling to have positive economic impacts in developing countries. This must be guided by strong regulatory frameworks and technical expertise to ensure that wastes destined for use as a resource do not have an impact on health and the environment.

(h)  Concepts such as the circular economy and the green economy are models that provide opportunities for developing countries to reduce waste and pollution while enabling economic and social prosperity and that also requires behavioural and cultural adaptations.

(i) Industry should be encouraged to develop chemicals and products based upon green and sustainable chemistry principles taking into account the precautionary principle, in particular in the case where persistence, bioaccumulation and long range transport are of concern, in order to prevent further damage to health and environment. 

The 2017 Triple COPs have begun. Read the opening day speeches here

Opening day speeches from BRS’ Rolph Payet and Bill Murray, and UN Environment’s Ibrahim Thiaw are now available online.

The 2017 Triple COPs have begun. Read the opening day speeches here

The 2017 Triple COPs have begun. Read the opening day speeches here

 

The 2017 Triple COPs are open – Press Release now online

1,500 participants, 180 countries, 3 conventions, 2 weeks, but just 1 goal: A Future Detoxified. Download the official Press Release here.

The 2017 Triple COPs are open – Press Release now online

The 2017 Triple COPs are open – Press Release now online

1,500 participants, 180 countries, 3 conventions, 2 weeks, 1 goal: A Future Detoxified

24 April 2017, Geneva – Over 1,600 representatives from more than 180 countries as well as observers including from civil society groups and the chemical and waste industries are gathering in Geneva to discuss measures to promote the sound management of chemicals and wastes.

The two week-long Triple Conferences of the Parties (COPs) to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions aims to strengthen the three international treaties contributing to the global management of hazardous chemicals and waste.

"Chemicals constitute the building blocks of modern life. But without ensuring the environmentally sound management of chemicals and the phase-out of especially hazardous substances, we will continue to see more lives lost to poisoning, contamination and pollution. What we need to address this crisis is stronger regulatory action taken at national and international levels. That is why this meeting of the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions is so critical. Only through cooperation and collaboration can we hope to create a detoxified future for everyone," said Ibrahim Thiaw, UN Environment Deputy Executive Director.

UNEP Executive Secretary of the three Conventions, Rolph Payet, reminded government delegates that, “more than ever, the people of this planet are counting on you, representatives of governments and Parties to the Conventions, to make the right decisions; decisions which will lead to improved quality of life for our people and for a sustainable planet. Negotiations taking place here should enable us to tackle this nexus between development and planetary health.”

Staged under the theme “A future detoxified: sound management of chemicals and waste,” Parties will seek to reach consensus over a range of issues. For the Rotterdam Convention (RC), this includes eight proposals for adding carbofuran, carbosulfan, trichlorfon, fenthion, paraquat, chlorinated paraffins, chrysotile asbestos and tributyltin to the RC’s “watch list” – also known as Annex III. Forty-seven chemicals make up the current list of substances deemed hazardous to human health and the environment and which are subsequently subject to the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure. Parties will also consider ways to strengthen the effectiveness of the Convention and seek to adopt compliance procedures and mechanisms.

“FAO and UNEP each provide unique expertise to support Parties to address the challenges of managing hazardous chemicals and pesticides. They also help countries to streamline the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into their national agendas. This Conference is an excellent occasion to work together to build on the impressive results we have already achieved” said FAO’s Deputy Director for the Plant Production and Protection Division and Co-Executive Secretary of the Rotterdam Convention (RC), William Murray.

For the Stockholm Convention, issues include proposals for listing decabromodiphenyl ether (commercial mixture, c-decaBDE) and short-chain chlorinated paraffins in Annex A for elimination as well as hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD) in Annex C which targets the reduction and ultimate elimination of the unintentional releases of the chemical. Among the other issues that will get priority attention of Parties to the Stockholm Convention (SC) is the development of compliance procedures and mechanisms, and the first ever evaluation of the effectiveness of the Convention. The Conference will consider the progress the Convention is making in achieving its objective of protecting human health and the environment from Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), measured against a framework of indicators provided by the COPs.

For the Basel Convention (BC), the COPs will consider prevention and minimization of the generation of waste which is the subject of new guidance to assist Parties, and a set of practical manuals for the promotion of the environmentally sound management of wastes and revised fact sheets on specific waste streams all of which have been prepared by an expert group on environmentally sound management. Other work under consideration includes two new and four updated technical guidelines for Environmentally Sound Management (ESM) of POPs, a glossary of terms to provide further legal clarity and guidance on dealing with illegal traffic developed by the Implementation and Compliance Committee. Parties will also consider establishing a new partnership focusing on a major waste stream, household waste.

The Conferences will also examine progress in the implementation of the Conventions among participating Parties, in particular in developing countries and countries in transition where handling hazardous chemicals throughout their lifecycles presents greater challenges. Those attending will attempt to make progress on the sharing of information on hazardous chemicals and strive to build further international cooperation and coordination regarding their usage.

More than 40 side events will be held during the biennial event. Among the topics being presented are mercury waste management, pesticide risk reduction, hazardous work in agriculture, child labour and methods to safeguard the human rights of those facing exposure. A technology fair will highlight the importance partners such as industry and private sector groups play in developing new technologies for the safe management of chemicals and promoting opportunities for developing alternatives.

On May 4 and 5, government ministers and delegates will participate in a high-level session to discuss themes ranging from creating a detoxified future; to meeting the targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; generating greater opportunities to implement the Conventions through partnerships; and techniques to cut waste and pollution while facilitating economic and social prosperity.

Achieving SDG 12 – which sets out to secure the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment – will take centre stage.


For more information

For technical information: Kei Ohno-Woodall (+41 79 233 3218), kei.ohno-woodall@brsmeas.org

For technical information on the Rotterdam Convention: Christine Fuell (+39 06 5705 3765) christine.fuell@fao.org

For general info, to arrange interviews, etc:  Charlie Avis (+41 79 730 4495), charles.avis@brsmeas.org

New BRS COPs app now available for download

Don't miss a thing from the 2017 Triple COPs: Get the new, improved, BRS mobile application.

New BRS COPs app now available for download

New BRS COPs app now available for download

BRS App iconBRS 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.

BRS App is available on App Store for iOS and Google Play for Android devices.

For more information about the BRS App, please contact Julien Hortoneda at Julien.Hortoneda@brsmeas.org.

Media background notes on the COPs now online

All you need to know about the 2017 Triple COPs in one place: download your copy now!

Media background notes on the COPs now online

Media background notes on the COPs now online

All you need to know about the 2017 Triple COPs in one place: download your copy now!

New BRS infographic explains all about Basel Convention work on ESM

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)

New BRS infographic explains all about Basel Convention work on ESM

New BRS infographic explains all about Basel Convention work on ESM

 

Field interviews confirm ongoing exposure to hazardous chemicals and pesticides amongst island rural families

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.

Field interviews confirm ongoing exposure to hazardous chemicals and pesticides amongst island rural families

Field interviews confirm ongoing exposure to hazardous chemicals and pesticides amongst island rural families
 
The sound management of chemicals and waste as a human right

Ahead of the 2017 Triple COPs, recent meetings in Geneva have emphasised that freedom from a polluted environment is a human right

The sound management of chemicals and waste as a human right

The sound management of chemicals and waste as 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][2], 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[3]

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[4]  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:

  •  Prevention of exposure is the best remedy. 
  • The best interests of the child must be a primary consideration of States in protecting children’s rights. Which rights?
    • the right to life, to survival and development,
    • the right to physical and mental integrity,
    • the right to health,
    • the right to a healthy environment,
    • the right to be free from the worst forms of child labour,
    • the right to an adequate standard of leaving, including safe food, water and housing,
    • the right to non-discrimination, and
    • other rights implicated by toxics and pollution embodied in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • States have an obligation and businesses have a corresponding responsibility to prevent childhood exposure to toxic chemicals and pollution.

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[5]  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.

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[1] See: http://www.who.int/ceh/publications/don-t-pollute-my-future/en/

[2] See: http://www.who.int/ceh/publications/inheriting-a-sustainable-world/en/

[3] 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”.

[4] To read the entire report, in the 6 official UN languages, click on the following link: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/33/41

[5] 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

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