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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

 

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.

Coming soon: online webinars to help prepare for the 2017 Triple COPs

Coming soon: online webinars to help prepare for the 2017 Triple COPs

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.

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

 

 

More than 40 side events scheduled for chemical conventions’ COPs

More than 40 side events scheduled for chemical conventions’ COPs

Browse the newly published list of planned side events, including two film screenings, for the forthcoming 2017 Triple COPs.

More than 40 side events scheduled for chemical conventions’ COPs

More than 40 side events scheduled for chemical conventions’ COPs
 
Regional BRS Preparatory Meetings scheduled to ensure efficient COPs

Regional BRS Preparatory Meetings scheduled to ensure efficient COPs

With financial support from Switzerland, parties will consult regionally at preparatory meetings organised in March in Bangkok, Dakar, Riga and Sao Paolo.

Regional BRS Preparatory Meetings scheduled to ensure efficient COPs

Regional BRS Preparatory Meetings scheduled to ensure efficient COPs
 
Keep well informed with the BRS clearing house mechanism, now with new, user-friendly, web section

Keep well informed with the BRS clearing house mechanism, now with new, user-friendly, web section

Discover the information, tools and communities that make the joint clearing house mechanism a reality to support the conventions.

Keep well informed with the BRS clearing house mechanism, now with new, user-friendly, web section

Keep well informed with the BRS clearing house mechanism, now with new, user-friendly, web section
 
How does the Rotterdam Convention work to protect human health and environment?

How does the Rotterdam Convention work to protect human health and environment?

Our latest interview, with FAO’s Aleksandar Mihajlovski, explains all.

How does the Rotterdam Convention work to protect human health and environment?

How does the Rotterdam Convention work to protect human health and environment?

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. 

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Ten Gender Pioneers to be honoured at the 2017 Triple COPs

Nominations are sought for outstanding women and men who have pioneered the integration of gender into the sound management of chemicals and wastes

Ten Gender Pioneers to be honoured at the 2017 Triple COPs

Ten Gender Pioneers to be honoured at the 2017 Triple COPs

 

Investigating how to integrate gender into implementation of the chemicals conventions

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

Investigating how to integrate gender into implementation of the chemicals conventions

Investigating how to integrate gender into implementation of the chemicals conventions

 

Geneva-based gender and environment advocates honoured

The work of Senior Programme Officer and former BRS Gender Coordinator, Matthias Kern, was recognised during International Women’s Day celebrations on 8 March 2017

Geneva-based gender and environment advocates honoured

Geneva-based gender and environment advocates honoured

 

Feature article: Reducing risks from pesticides by empowering rural women

Women are vulnerable to the harmful effects of chemicals when working in agriculture: are they also the solution?

Feature article: Reducing risks from pesticides by empowering rural women

Feature article: Reducing risks from pesticides by empowering rural women

Pesticide Risk Reduction through Empowering rural women

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).

Protecting vulnerable groups

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. 

Safeguarding health

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.  

Promoting the sound management of toxic substances

“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

Chemicals emergency response preparedness capacity built during first-of-its-kind workshop in Latin America

A simulated chemical emergency in a Sao Paolo park was among the highlights of a workshop organised by BRS and the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) recently, hosted by the Brazilian Regional Centre CETESB

Chemicals emergency response preparedness capacity built during first-of-its-kind workshop in Latin America

Chemicals emergency response preparedness capacity built during first-of-its-kind workshop in Latin America

 

New joint information profiles now online for 193 countries

The BRS Clearing House Mechanism takes another step forward with joint country profiles now bringing all national information on chemicals governance into one place.

New joint information profiles now online for 193 countries

New joint information profiles now online for 193 countries
 
Technology Fair to showcase solutions at 2017 Triple COPs

Parties and observers, including from the private sector are invited to exhibit solutions at the BRS Technology Fair, which will be held on the margins of the COPs from 27 to 29 April 2017.

Technology Fair to showcase solutions at 2017 Triple COPs

Technology Fair to showcase solutions at 2017 Triple COPs
 
How effective is the Stockholm Convention?

Anne Daniel, Chair of the Stockholm Convention’s Effectiveness Evaluation Committee, shares her thoughts.

How effective is the Stockholm Convention?

How effective is the Stockholm Convention?

Interview with Anne Daniel, General Counsel with the Public Law Sector of Canada’s federal Department of Justice by Charlie Avis, BRS Public Information Officer

Charlie Avis: Anne, many thanks for joining us, tell us please what is your position, your role, and how do you relate to the work of implementing the Stockholm Convention? 

Anne Daniel: Thank you. I work for the Department of Justice advising mainly Environment and Climate Change Canada on a wide range of multilateral environmental agreements. I served on the Canadian delegation during the negotiation of the Stockholm Convention, as well as at all of the COPs to date.  I have also chaired a number of negotiating groups, and am currently leading efforts as Chair of the Stockholm Convention’s Effectiveness Evaluation Committee.

CA: You mentioned the Effectiveness Evaluation committee, whose report has just been published. What are the main conclusions from that evaluation you’d like to share with our audiences?

AD: The report is basically a snapshot of the progress the Convention is making in achieving its objective of protecting human health and the environment from POPs, measured against a framework of indicators provided by the Conference of the Parties (COP).

We concluded that the Convention provides an effective and dynamic framework to regulate POPs throughout their lifecycle, addressing the production, use, import, export, releases, and disposal of these chemicals worldwide.  However, inadequate implementation is the key issue that has been identified in the evaluation, and we have made a number of recommendations aimed at resolving that problem.

CA: More specifically?

AD: To address inadequate implementation, we noted that priority attention should be given to developing, strengthening, and/or enforcing national legislation implementing the Convention that is appropriate for both industrial chemicals and pesticides and specifically implements the Convention’s obligations on POPs.  This gap currently affects implementation of many of the listed POPs, and even PCBs, one of the original “dirty dozen”, where we concluded that the deadlines of 2025 and 2028 are not likely to be met by most Parties.  We also note that Parties are becoming bound by amendments involving chemicals in commerce and not registering for exemptions that they need in order to be in compliance with their obligations. Another area of poor implementation is the submission of national reports, which are required every four years and outline how Parties have met their obligations.  The reporting rate of about 40% meant that there were substantial gaps in the information the committee had to work with during our evaluation.  We recommend that when a compliance committee is established, a priority focus of its work programme should be to improve reporting.

CA: It sounds like a lot of work. So people around the world are less exposed to these toxic chemicals than previously? What about “new” chemicals entering the market, how does the international community deal with those?

AD: Yes, the good news is that the Convention has an excellent Global Monitoring Programme, and monitoring results indicate that regulations targeting POPs are succeeding in reducing levels of POPs in humans and the environment.  For POPs listed as of 2004, concentrations measured in air and in human populations have declined and continue to decline or remain at low levels due to restrictions on POPs that predated the Convention and are now incorporated in it.  For the POPs added in 2009 and after, concentrations are beginning to show decreases, although in a few instances, increasing and/or stable levels are observed.

With better implementation, we can expect these results to improve, and we hope our evaluation report can contribute to helping bring the international community closer to meeting the Convention’s objective.

CA: In a few weeks time there will be the meetings of the conferences of the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions. Will you be travelling to the Triple COPs in Geneva, and what are your hopes and expectations? 

AD: I will indeed participate on the Canadian delegation for all three COPs. For the Stockholm Convention, I expect that the listing decisions and the discussions on a compliance mechanism will be important issues for many delegations, but I hope that Parties reading this interview will take the time to study the recommendations of our Committee, which will be inserted into and negotiated in the relevant COP decisions.  As this is the first effectiveness evaluation done on the basis of a framework of indicators, our report examines all aspects of the Convention’s work and is very far-reaching.

CA: Clearly, much has been achieved, congratulations. What are the major challenges for the Convention, in years ahead?

AD: Based on our report, I would say that improving legislative implementation of the Convention’s obligations at the national level is a major challenge. As the Convention continues to list POPs, with many that are currently extensively used, it may be a challenge for many jurisdictions to take timely action to eliminate and restrict these as required. The Committee noted that there is no subsidiary body charged with focusing on implementation issues in the intersessional period—a real gap—and while adoption of a compliance mechanism has been a challenge in the past, it could fill this gap.   Additional sources of financing also need to be sought and current sources focused on the priorities identified in our report, such as the elimination of the use of PCB in equipment by 2025 and the environmentally sound waste management of liquids and equipment containing or contaminated with PCB, the development of safer, effective and affordable alternatives to DDT and strengthening the capacity of Parties still relying on DDT to commence a sustainable transition away from DDT, and the use of best available techniques and best environmental practices to address releases of unintentionally produced POPs, among others.

CA: How does the international community respond to that?

AD: We have finished our work, and now it is up to the Conference of the Parties to carefully consider the Committee’s recommendations—and decide on the actions that will help improve our individual and collective performance—and move us closer to meeting the Convention’s goal of protecting human health and the environment from POPs.  We are also asking that the secretariat be requested to update the framework of indicators based on the Committee’s recommendations so that the next evaluation is even better.

CA: On the subject of implementation, the Secretariat will host a Technology Fair, in the margins of the Triple COPs, to showcase solutions for implementing the three conventions, including from the private sector. Do you encourage Canadian and other businesses to take part?

AD:  Yes, absolutely.  This seems like a great opportunity for the private sector to showcase how they can contribute to the Convention`s objective.  One of our recommendations is that there is a need to strengthen technical assistance and technology transfer activities, and I encourage those considering participating to review the executive summary of our report at paragraphs 130-137 for particular areas of need.

Regarding another event, the Committee`s Vice-chair and I will be hosting a side event at 1 pm on Tuesday April 25th before this issue arises on the Stockholm agenda.  We plan to explain our report in detail to delegates in advance of plenary discussion.

CA: Thank you very much for your time answering these questions, and thank you also for providing leadership to the Effectiveness Evaluation Committee. I look forward to seeing you at the Triple COPs!

AD:  You are very welcome…..  Before signing off, I want to thank the incredible team that produced this comprehensive and detailed report,the executive summary and the report on the framework, which we hope will help not only the Stockholm Convention, but possibly other treaties that are seeking to evaluate their own performance: the entire Committee from all UN regions, our Vice-chair, Linroy Christian from Antigua and Barbuda, and the secretariat team that worked effectively and efficiently to support the Committee in this complex and challenging task.

Monitoring shows regulations are reducing environmental & human exposure to toxic chemicals

Highlights of the first Stockholm Convention Effectiveness Evaluation Report, including factsheets on 5 key POPs, now available online.

Monitoring shows regulations are reducing environmental & human exposure to toxic chemicals

Monitoring shows regulations are reducing environmental & human exposure to toxic chemicals
 
Angola accedes to the Basel Convention, becoming the 186th Party

Angola deposited its instrument of accession, meaning that the Convention will enter into force for Angola on 7 May 2017, immediately following the thirteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties.

Angola accedes to the Basel Convention, becoming the 186th Party

Angola accedes to the Basel Convention, becoming the 186th Party

Angola deposited its instrument of accession with the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 6 February 2017, meaning that the Convention will enter into force for Angola on 7 May 2017, immediately following the thirteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties.

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