28 April to 10 May 2013
Presidents, excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to join my colleague Jim Willis in welcoming all of you here this morning.
FAO’s Director General, Mr. José Graziano da Silva, ask me to present his apologies for not being able to be here today, but he will be with us for the High-level Segment.
This is my first Conference of the Parties as Executive Secretary of the Rotterdam Convention and I am very honoured to address all three Conferences of the Parties, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm today at the opening of these very special meetings, which reflect the progress we have made with regard to synergies.
I would like to take the opportunity to talk about agriculture, not just because this is FAO’s mandate but above all because it is central to the Rotterdam Convention and to world society.
Over the last 60 years agriculture production has been able to respond to the world’s rapidly rising demands for food, but this has occurred at significant human and environmental costs. Those include, among others, negative effects of pesticides and fertilizers on human health and on natural resources.
Agriculture in the 21st century needs to be both safer and more sustainable. More sustainable, because agriculture needs to produce more to eradicate hunger in the world, while contributing to reducing poverty and protecting our precious natural resources. And safer because, in addition to providing environmental benefits, the agricultural sector will have to produce safer and healthier products for consumers.
The central theme of the Conferences of the Parties for these two weeks is “sustainable synergies”. The Rotterdam Convention is a concrete example of FAO’s commitment to promote synergies. The Rotterdam Convention Secretariat, jointly hosted by FAO and by UNEP, is one of the first examples of synergies in the history of the 3 Conventions! The restructuring of the UNEP part of the Secretariat provided challenges in the synergistic way we work together, however, all colleagues in Rome and in Geneva are strongly committed to building and nurturing close and fruitful working relationships between our Secretariats to support Parties to protect human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals and wastes.
The Memorandum of Understanding between UNEP and FAO, approved by the 2nd conference of the parties to the Rotterdam Convention and signed by the Director-General of FAO and the Executive Director of UNEP in December 2005 sets out the arrangements to perform jointly the Secretariat functions of the Rotterdam Convention and requests each organisation to assume responsibilities on the basis of their areas of competence, comparative strengths and experience; in particular, FAO having primary responsibility for pesticides and UNEP taking primary responsibility for other chemicals.
The activities of the FAO part of the Rotterdam Convention Secretariat are closely in line with those of FAO’s Pesticides Management Programme responsible for example for the implementation of the International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides; highly hazardous pesticides, and the prevention and disposal of obsolete pesticides.
Their activities address pesticides throughout their life-cycle and complement each other in the implementation of the Rotterdam Convention, but also in the implementation of Basel and Stockholm related issues in the area of pesticides.
The Rotterdam Secretariat also benefits from the close cooperation with the technical officers in the 16 Regional and Subregional Offices of FAO, as well as of the currently 96 FAO representations worldwide. I would like to take the opportunity to draw your attention to the FAO stand which provides further in-depth information on this unique cooperation and mutual support. Next week 2 side events with FAO participation will take place, featuring highly hazardous pesticides and Sustainable Synergies through Sustainable Agriculture, the latter being opened by the Director General of FAO.
A range of issues related to synergies and joint activities for the programmes of work for the next biennium will be presented to you for decision. Given that the majority of all chemicals addressed by the 3 Conventions are pesticides, we believe that the synergy process offers excellent opportunities for all 3 conventions to benefit from FAOs network of expertise.
The individual COPs will also have to take important decisions as own legal entities. My colleague Jim already highlighted the exciting opportunity to come to an agreement on the compliance mechanism – and this is where we hope to benefit from the Basel Conventions’ expertise. Another challenge will be the adoption of a programme of work and budget that considers specific and joint activities.
At the core of every COP is of course the consideration of chemicals to add to the so called PIC procedure and Jim perfectly pronounced the names of all 6 of them – so I will not even try. Being also FAO’s Director of the Plant Production and Protection Division, I would like to mention, in particular, the pesticide azinphos-methyl and the liquid formulations of paraquat dichloride at or above 276 g/L, which would be the first severely hazardous pesticide formulation to be included since the entry into force of the convention.
This is a great example of how the Convention gives developing countries the opportunity to raise global awareness on the specific problems they face with pesticides. If this so called SHPF and the pesticide will be listed in the course of this meeting, this will prove once again how extremely useful the Rotterdam Convention is particularly to developing countries where agriculture plays an important role, but where conditions of use of pesticides often put farmers at high risk.
Including a substance in Annex III of the RC is not constituting a ban! But it enables all parties to take informed decisions on future imports of the most hazardous chemicals.
I would like to add that the discussions on listing these chemicals could not take place without the outstanding work of the Chemical Review Committee including their inter-sessional work and I would like to thank its members and the chair for this.
In the spirit of synergies this technical body will hold its next meeting back to back with the Stockholm Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee and we are looking forward to hosting these meetings in October in the Headquarters of FAO in Rome.
Rome would also have been the venue of this present COP based on the provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding, which foresees alternating the COPs between the seats of the Secretariats. However, due to the synergy decisions taken at COP5, the Joint Bureaux, based on the Joint Secretaries proposal, have decided to convene this event in Geneva. I would like to take the opportunity to express my gratitude to the Government of Switzerland for hosting us here, for their warm welcome and for supporting this meeting in an exceptional manner.
I would like to join Jim in thanking the many donors for their substantive financial contributions that made possible participants travel to this important meeting. My thanks go also to the Joint Bureaux and the 3 Presidents for their outstanding preparation of this Meeting and I wish them all success for the coming two weeks.
Before closing, let me return again to agriculture. Overall, sustainable intensification of agricultural production creates both positive and negative impacts on human welfare and livelihoods, particularly to those developing countries where agricultural exports are the main source of revenue. The challenges for agriculture production to assure global food security and sustainable management of natural resources are highly complex.
I believe that global agreements such as these three Conventions are outstanding examples of what we can do together to build up a world free of hunger and malnutrition and at the same time conserve the global environment and take the advantage of the natural services provided, such as pollination, natural biological control of pests, carbon sequestration, beneficial invertebrates in soil and so on. FAO is committed to supporting the implementation of international agreements, codes of conduct and standards aimed at protecting, conserving and restoring natural resources.
Presidents, excellencies, distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, these Conventions are not just about chemicals. They deal with empowerment of poor countries and poor consumers and producers. I hope that in undertaking your work over the next two weeks you will keep the theme “ sustainable synergies” in mind. I consider these Conventions as truly output- oriented and concrete outcomes of the many international efforts towards sustainable development in recent years. Certainly, they are modest steps in the face of the challenges that lie ahead, but they can make a major difference.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let me finish with assuring you my sincere commitment to the practice of our Secretariats of working closely together to provide a high level of support to Parties.
I wish you very successful meetings and expect they can bring us important contributions.