Speeches and Interviews

 

Focus on Latin America: the work of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions Regional Centre in Montevideo, Uruguay

Read our interview with Gabriela Medina to understand how regional efforts help implement the Basel and Stockholm conventions.

Focus on Latin America: the work of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions Regional Centre in Montevideo, Uruguay

Focus on Latin America: the work of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions Regional Centre in Montevideo, Uruguay

Interview between Charlie Avis, Public Information Officer for the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions, and Chem. Gabriela Medina, Director of the Basel Convention Coordinating Centre, and Stockholm Convention Regional Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean. The Centre (BCCC/SCRC) is hosted by the Uruguayan Ministry of Housing, Land Planning and Environment (MVOTMA, Spanish acronym), and housed in the Technological Laboratory of Uruguay (LATU, Spanish acronym), in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Charlie Avis (CA): Good morning Gabriela and thank you for your time to answer our questions: your Regional Centre is the next in our series whereby we put one Centre per month “in the spotlight” in order to highlight all the many ways the Regional Centres contribute to the implementation of the conventions.

Gabriela Medina (GM): Thank you Charlie for this opportunity to share our work with a wider audience!

CA: Firstly, please tell us a little bit about the Centre (BCCC/SCRC) itself. Where are you housed, institutionally and geographically, how many staff do you have, and when was the BCCC/SCRC established: basically how did the Centre come about?

GM: Charlie, the Basel part of the joint Centre has been operational since 1998 and is hosted by the Technological Laboratory of Uruguay (LATU), established through an agreement between the Ministry of Housing, Land Planning and Environment (MVOTMA) and the Basel Convention Secretariat at that time. It was then endorsed by the 4th COP of the Stockholm Convention in 2009 to act as Regional Centre for Capacity Building and Technology Transfer for the GRULAC Region.

Direction of the Centre, performed by me, belongs to the Ministry of Housing, Land Planning and Environment (MVOTMA), so, I am a public officer working for MVOTMA, and the Co-Direction of the Centre belongs to the Technological Laboratory of Uruguay (LATU), and is performed by my colleague Ing. Alejandra Torre.

Our permanent staff is formed by five persons, Director, Co-Director, two technical assistants, and an accountant, but through our different projects we hire translation and design services and experts in different topics depending on the field of work.

CA: Do you serve all of the countries of the region, how many Parties are there, and how do you manage with language: do you communicate solely in Spanish, or also in Portuguese, or in English or how?

GM: The BCCC/SCRC  serves all the parties to the Latin America and the Caribbean region presently 33 countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Granada, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

We therefore need, and have, the capability to communicate in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

CA: It must be very challenging, yet very rewarding. What are the main technical issues or focus areas covered by the BCCC/SCRC and what activities does the BCCC/SCRC have in order to overcome these challenges?

GM: The focal areas of our work have been:

  • Global Monitoring Programme Phase I (2009-11). Capacity building on POPs Sampling and analysis in breast milk and air samples, in: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.
  • Minimization and environmentally sound management of mercury containing waste affecting most exposed populations in various economic, industrial and health sectors (2010-13), in: Argentina, Costa Rica and Uruguay.
  • Temporary storage and final disposal of mercury and its wastes (2011-12), in: Argentina and Uruguay.
  • The Minamata Convention and its implementation in the Latin America and Caribbean region (2013-14), in all GRULAC countries.
  • Capacity Building on Hazardous Waste and Promotion of Best Available Technologies and Best Environmental Practices (BATs and BEPs) (2013-14), in: Bolivia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Dominican Republic).
  • Regional strategy for strengthening environmental laboratories (2014-15), in: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
  • UNEP Guidance on the Development of Legal and Institutional Infrastructures and Measures for Recovering Costs of National Administration (LIRA Guidance), April to August 2013, we have participated using the Pilot Guidance in Uruguay, as well as being part of the experts group on the elaboration of the Guidance. Parties served: global level.

Nowadays we are working on:

  • Project on Mercury Inventories and Risk Management Plans (2014-17), in: Argentina, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay.
  • Project on Minamata Initial Assessment (2014-17), in: Bolivia, Chile, Dominican Republic and Paraguay.
  • Project: Regional Outlook on Waste Management (ROWM), (2016-17), in: all GRULAC countries.
  • We are Co – Charing jointly with Mauritius, the new Basel global partnership initiative on establishing a Household Waste Initiative.
  • Project: Global Monitoring Proramme Phase II (2015-18). Capacity building on POPs Sampling and analysis in breast milk, water and air samples, in: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.
  • Project: Steering Committee on Chemicals and Waste Network for Latin America and the Caribbean, this is an initiative emerged by the GRULAC Forum of Ministers of Environment (2016-18), in: all GRULAC countries.
  • Project: National Implementation Plans, Stockholm Convention, Umbrella Component (2016 – 2017), in: Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

CA: So I understand one specific area of focus for the BCCC/SCRC is on POPs, and on the Stockholm Convention’s Global Monitoring Programme in particular. Are there concrete evidence of lowering levels of POPs concentrations in your region? Are we winning the battle?

GM: Charlie the situation in POPs is quite complex, we have got data on GMP Phase I (the former 12 pollutants), and now we are carrying on the GMP Phase II, with all the news POPs which have been included. Let’s wait until the next results to see what is happening at least at Regional Level.

CA: Gabriela, can we switch to a topic slightly more personal? How did you come to lead this BCCC/SCRC, how did your career lead you this in your direction, and what advice would you have for other women, hoping or striving for a career in science, or in international development more generally?

GM: Charlie, this is a real personal question, hahahahaha!!.

I started to work in the Environmental Ministry very young in 1994, while I was studying at the University; I started working in the environmental laboratory, where I worked for 13 years.Later in 2007, I was the Director of the Special Solid Waste and Contaminated Sites Department.

Once I obtained a degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry, I took several postgraduate courses in Brazil, Japan, Germany and Holland, I am specialized in environmental toxicology, and as a woman, and living in a developing country, I think I had good job opportunities and training.

The environmental theme is very vast, and given that the development of chemicals and waste grows in an amazing way, since it has an exponential growth, the good news is that there is a lot to do, it has its difficulties, talking about prevention issues, because policies always go one step backward  than industrial development.

In 2011 the Government offered me to Manage the Center, something I accepted immediately, it really is a very challenging job.

For other women I would like tell them that there is a lot to do, and to see the environmental progress over the years is very rewarding, therefore, we should to continue working for the health and environment in a worthy way for our society.

CA: And lastly, please, could you comment briefly on the forthcoming 2017 Triple COPs? Will you be present? What do you see as the main challenges, working towards a Future Detoxified?

GM: Next year will be a great job since we will have the BRS triple COP, the 1st Minamata COP, where the next lines of work will be taken for the coming years, I hope to participate, in fact, I am anxious to be in the different meetings, where we can take decisions for a better world, working to reduce pollutants worldwide, as I pointed out, much remains to be done, and everything is in our hands.

CA: Thank you, for your time and for your answers. Good luck with your important work!

GM: Thank you, Charlie, and if you need any further information on our centre and its activities, please go to our website.

Listen to the POPs rap, a musical postcard from Toronto

Canadian Karen Quinto felt the sustainable management of chemicals so important, she wrote a rap to communicate it. Listen to her song and tell us if you agree.

Listen to the POPs rap, a musical postcard from Toronto

Listen to the POPs rap, a musical postcard from Toronto

Interview between Charlie Avis, Public Information Officer for the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions, and Ms. Karen Yves Quinto, a scientist/musician/artist from Toronto, Canada.

Charlie Avis (CA): Good morning Karen, thank you for time in sharing with us your work and first of all can I say how much I and many of my colleagues enjoyed your rap about persistent organic pollutants, or POPs. Congratulations!

Karen Yves Quinto (KYQ): Thank you, Charlie, for the opportunity to get my work out there and it’s great to know you enjoyed the song, it was certainly fun writing it!

CA: Firstly, please tell us a little bit about yourself. From what age did you feel interested in science and in chemistry and the environment?

KYQ: Well, I went to a progressive elementary school where we had Botany and Zoology as early as grade 1 and I fell in love with microscopes in grade 4 because it was like another world for me. I kind of forgot about science during high school, because I was too busy fitting in and science was not a popular subject, so I got into art and music instead up until I decided to pursue a career in science in the end. As for chemistry and the environment, those interests developed at Ryerson University where I did my undergrad. I was really into Microbial Fuel Cells, so I studied the topic for my Directed Studies in Chemistry course in my final year. We also had a very prominent, environmentally focused science programs and I held leadership positions in many environmentally focused projects, from making vertical gardens to petitioning to save the Experimental Lakes Area here in Canada.

CA: Why rap music, why not singer/song-writer guitar, for example?

KYQ: I do sing and write songs in other music projects. In my {Mandelbrot} & {Julia}: Boundaries Dissolve album, I focused more on my jazz lounge repertoire. I chose to delve into science rap recently because first of all, it's amusing in the context of science and I like to perform during my presentations. But I think rap also has a way of communicating quite plainly and honestly about any topic. Rapping is a good medium for communicating science because scientific terms are easier to rhyme. It also has a huge "wow" factor and has been my strategic go-to for seminars and presentations at school. It makes people laugh and it's never boring, so I keep doing it. I initially wrote "Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)" for Environment Canada's "Take Our Kids to Work Day", Canada's annual initiative to bring high school students to their parent/guardian's workplace. I went to my dad's workplace when I was a teen but he was in a manufacturing setting so there were lots for students to see because it was very visual. However, at Environment Canada, it was harder to show what scientists and policy makers actually do in a concrete and tangible way. So, I volunteered to co-host the event in 2015 and I used my POPs rap as an introduction to our work at the Hazardous Air Pollution Laboratory.

CA: How did the students react to your rap?

KYQ: When I first performed the rap, they looked very embarrassed for me. And I get it, it's unusual to be rapping about science but I know they acknowledged the skill that went into that. Some of them secretly told me later that initially they thought it was going to be lame, but they found it was "actually good". After the day was over, some parents emailed me afterwards saying that their children couldn't stop talking about the science rap that they had seen. And believe me, these teens are hard to impress! So in the end, I think it was successful in reaching the younger demographic.

CA: I’m curious, do you have other science raps you’ve written before POPs? And do you have any recordings of them?

KYQ: I've rapped about Lysteria in second year undergrad for Cellular Biology, then I wrote "Microbial Fuel Cells" and "Climate Change" for my Masters of Environmental Science presentations. If anyone wants to hear my music, they can go to https://soundcloud.com/karen-quinto or https://karenquinto.com/music-projects/ where they can stream my recorded music. The other rap songs are still in the process of being recorded. I barely record, to be honest, I much prefer performing in front of an audience!

CA: I’m sure you’ll get some additional visitors, after this interview. The only “criticism” I’ve heard about your POPs rap is that it is too short, and it’d be great to be able to enjoy it for longer! Is it difficult to write and perform for longer than a minute or so?

KYQ: I wrote POPs as an intro to a presentation of our work at Environment Canada, so initially the one-minute mark was because of its original use. Rap is fast-paced, so there’s a lot of work and longevity that goes into writing and performing one. You have to be concise and find ways for all the words to fit and rhyme in your own style. Then you have to memorize the whole thing, which requires a seriously intense amount of repetition until it is recorded in the muscle memory of your mouth. I suppose I could write a few more verses!

CA: Let’s talk about environment awareness. How would you describe the awareness of young adults and teenagers, for example in your city, concerning the environment, concerning chemicals, everyday pollution, waste, recycling, themes like that?

KYQ: I can’t really speak about statistics or anything concrete like that, but from what I have observed, it really depends on many factors: their geography, their upbringing at home, their school, and other sources like the shows that they watch. Some cities like Toronto have a fairly good recycling culture, but other cities don’t. If you’re eating home cooked meals, you’re less likely to produce trash than if you were always on the go. If your school has a clean-up day, it becomes part of your habit. If you live in a condo without a recycling program, you’re not going to think about recycling as much as if you lived in a house. I think that young adults in general are becoming more aware of the “big picture” environmental issues, but practicing environmentalism is dependent upon the local community of that teen.

CA: Tell me what are your current projects, anything else POPs-related?

KYQ: Right now, I am more into the painting side of things. I perform sometimes and have collaborations on the side, really slow-burning stuff. I’m not a full-time musician, so everything is happening on a different timescale. Nothing POPs-related, although I’m sure something interesting is bound to come along and help me continue that path. I have been bouncing around ideas and thinking about ways to communicate that area of science. I’m very much project-driven when it comes to my art. I like finding opportunities to create something for both science and art’s sake.

CA: Last question from me: the international community has its two-yearly “COPs” - or meetings of the conference of parties – coming up in Geneva next April, when new chemicals will be added to the Stockholm Convention and other decisions will be taken through the Basel and Rotterdam Conventions to protect human health and the environment. Do you think you could write a song about that?

KYQ: Is that an offer? Yeah for sure, I’d welcome any invitation to write and even perform; the sky’s the limit. Why not? That’s a very exciting proposition. When I wrote POPs, I was having lunch in the cafeteria of Environment Canada and planning what to do for an education event. That’s how my ideas thrive and come to fruition.

CA: Not an offer, no, but maybe the germ of an idea! Let’s see. Karen, thank you so much for your time, for your answers, and especially for your music. Good luck with your inspiring work, please let’s keep in touch!

ANAG: Thanks Charlie, we definitely will! And let me just add that if anyone wants to connect with me about science, art, and/or music, they can add me on www.linkedin.com/in/karenquinto or email me at k.quinto@mail.utoronto.ca

 

The BRS interview - Focus on the Gulf region

Latest in the series talks to Dr Abdulnabi Al-Ghadban, who leads the Stockholm Convention Regional Centre in Kuwait.

The BRS interview - Focus on the Gulf region

The BRS interview - Focus on the Gulf region

Interview between Charlie Avis, Public Information Officer for the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions, and Dr. Abdul Nabi Al-Ghadban, the Coordinator of the centre.

Charlie Avis (CA): Good morning Dr. Al-Ghadban, thank you for time in sharing with us the work of the SCRC Kuwait.

Dr. Abdul Nabi Al Ghadban (ANAG): Thank you, Charlie, for this kind invitation!

CA: Firstly, please tell us a little bit about the Regional Centre (RC) itself. Where are you housed, institutionally and geographically, how many staff do you have, and when was the RC established: basically how did the Centre come about?

ANAG: The RC is located or hosted by the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) in the state of Kuwait which is located at the north western part of the Gulf region. KISR was established in 1967 to carry out applied scientific research and to provide consulting services for both governmental and private sectors in Kuwait, the Gulf region and the Arab World. Due to its nature of work and based on its capabilities in terms of experienced manpower (researchers, professionals and technicians), number of laboratories and the variety of up to date equipment) KISR was nominated to serve as a Stockholm Convention Centre by the parties of Asia region, and was endorsed by the Conference of the Parties of the Stockholm Convention to serve as a Stockholm Convention Regional Centre in 2009. The number of staff members totally devoted to the RC is 15; other staff members who are involved in several related field of interest are also accessible whenever needed.

CA: Do you serve all of the countries of the Gulf region or Middle Eastern region? How many Parties are there?

ANAG: We serve all parties of the Convention in general and in particular we serve the countries located in the West Asia region, namely; Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon.

CA: What are the main technical issues or focus areas covered by the RC?

ANAG: The main objective of the RC is to strengthen and further develop the capabilities of countries in West Asia region in implementing the Stockholm Convention through capacity building and the transfer of environmentally sound technologies adopted and used under the Stockholm convention. Therefore our priorities are to 1) Coordinate with the 10 served members regarding the compliance of the stated recommendations by the POPRC and the conference of the parties; 2) Provide all served members with needful technical support to assist them in fulfilling the requirement of the convention; and 3) Upgrade the RC with up to date facilities such as equipment for providing better services.

CA: I’m sure you work on POPs and on the Stockholm Convention’s Global Monitoring Plan in particular. What would you say is the level of awareness amongst policymakers and decision-makers in the region concerning POPs? And amongst the general public?

ANAG: Yes the level of awareness is somewhat progressing well compared to the past period. A good example is the development of NIPs in most of the countries we serve. This reflected good rate of awareness as far as the policymakers in such countries. Obstacles that prevented other countries in developing the NIPs is currently monitored by the RC and we hopefully reach a level where all parties have not only the NIPs but also the updated ones based on the latest information of the SC. As far as the general public it varies, in some counties it is of an advanced stage, but in others such as in Syria and Yemen is not in a good stage, and this is interpreted due to the effect of state of wars in such countries. We hope that such conflicts be resolved soon so that we do our mandate more effectively.

CA: How would you like the RC to evolve, in the next say 5 to 10 years?

ANAG: our vision for evolving the RC in the next coming 5 to 10 years is to ensure that all members we are serving would have the means and support needed that can be offered by  the RC to reach the level of full compliance with the Stockholm convention.

CA: Are there any key events towards which you are currently focusing your energies and resources?

ANAG: currently we are focusing in the following: 1) transfer or disseminate scientific data that are obtained from implemented projects related to POPs to other members; 2) conduct frequent meetings and or training workshops related to the implementation of recommendations set by the SC; 3) facilitate more cooperation between the RC and UNEP as well as other UN-bodies.

CA: The theme of the 2015 Triple COPs was “Science to Action”. What does “Science to Action” mean to you and how might it guide the work of the RC?

ANAG: To me science to action implies delivering or meeting the objective in a smooth way. Science will create data that can be validated at a later stage. Whence such validation is being done then a good justification for banning or getting rid of a certain chemical or pollutant would be granted. The second step is to convey this message to the community in a very professional or meaningful manner so that the community understand the issue and support the scientific community in meeting the objective of the convention. It is simply all about the support given by the community to the scientist.

CA: Thank you, for your time and for your answers. Good luck with your important work!

ANAG: Thank you, Charlie, and if you need any further information on our centre and its activities, please go to our website www.kisr.edu.kw

Linkages between children, human rights, and chemicals and wastes

BRS contributed to the UN Human Rights Day of General Discussion on chemicals and the rights of the child, held in Geneva on 23 September 2016. Read Rolph Payet’s speech here.

Linkages between children, human rights, and chemicals and wastes

Linkages between children, human rights, and chemicals and wastes

2016 Day of General Discussion 23rd September 2016 on Children’s Rights and the Environment

Speech given by Amelie Taoufiq, Legal Officer, on behalf of Dr. Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions (UNEP)

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, dear colleagues, friends, ladies and gentlemen:

First, on behalf of Dr. Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the BRS Conventions on hazardous chemicals and wastes, three Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) administered by UNEP, please allow me to thank the Committee on the Rights of the Child, OHCHR and other partners, for organising this Day of General Discussion on the environment and children’s rights, including the side-event on the “Unsound Management of Chemicals and the Rights of the Child”, as well as panellists for their very interesting presentations. Today discussion, we believe, is of major importance so that we may all brainstorm, identify and analyse gaps, think forward and look ahead in terms of concrete course of actions on these key issues.

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’....

Also, on this occasion, I would like to thank the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, Mr. Tuncak, for his excellent work, which we support, and for the report presented last week at the Human Rights Council, pointing out the “silent pandemic” of disease and disability affecting millions of children, to the point that paediatricians now begun to sadly refer to children born “pre-polluted”....

In this regard, within the BRS/UNEP perspective, I would like to quickly highlight 3 (three) angles, as follows:

1. Some positive achievements and examples under BRS Conventions/UNEP with respect to the protection of children from exposure to hazardous chemicals and wastes:

  • It is important to recall that, through their common objectives, i.e. the protection of human health and the environment, the BRS Conventions are committed, in their provisions implementation, to protect children from hazardous chemicals and wastes, thereby contributing to protect fundamental children’s rights such as the rights: to life, to health, to a healthy environment, to development, to food security , to clean water and sanitation and to an adequate standard of leaving;
  • The specific conditions of vulnerable groups, including children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, and indigenous communities, including children therefrom, are explicitly and implicitly recognized in some convention provisions or taken into account in specific programmes implementing the BRS Conventions; also in this respect, the BRS Secretariat has been active, even before adoption of SDG No5 on gender, on promoting gender equality, between men and women, as well as boys and girls, which is closely linked to protecting children (e.g. development of the BRS-Gender Action Plan/GAP).
  • To prevent and remedy harmful exposure of human beings, mostly children, to hazardous chemicals and wastes, it is essential to monitor this exposure e.g.:  the Global Monitoring Programme (GMP) on POPS and breast milk in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO);
  • BRS S-Y-N-E-R-G-I-E-S……at all levels;
  • Among the most recent positive UNEP achievements: adoption of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, to enter into force the soonest hopefully, and perhaps to be synergized with the BRS Conventions, following the life-cycle approach of sound management of chemicals and wastes;
  • Etc..
2. The gaps, i.e. where additional guidance and developments are needed, most essentially would be:
  • Compliance mechanisms and procedures to still be adopted under the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions;
  • Financing, mobilizing funds;
  • Prevention from exposure…;
  • Involvement of not all relevant stakeholders;
  • Limited number of chemicals listed;
  • Awareness, communication, education, information;
  • Capacity;
  • Etc..

3. Some ideas of good practices and recommendations, could be for instance:

  • More synergies, i.e. to enhance cooperation and coordination, between all relevant stakeholders, and at all levels, national, regional and international levels. So,
  • “Partnerships, partnerships, partnerships”….recalling the recent words of the newly appointed UNEP Executive Director, Mr. Erik Solheim;
  • More chemicals listed under the Conventions - through the CRC and POPRC,  the technical and scientific bodies under the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions - and ultimately by the Conference of the Parties;
  • More awareness raising, education, communication;
  • More funding…;
  • More technical assistance in order to build better capacity on these issues;
  • Environmental treaties to refer more explicitly to vulnerable groups, including children;
  • Etc..

Finally, I would like to recall and encourage you to participate in the forthcoming 2017 meetings of the Conferences of the Parties (COP) of the BRS Conventions, to be held in May; the meetings will include a high-level segment. The theme of the meetings and the high-level segment will be “A future detoxified: sound management of chemicals and wastes”. Thus, these may be a good momentum and an opportunity to seize so as to continue addressing the important issues mentioned above and these discussed at today DGD, in order to eventually help ‘detoxify the future’...

Science in action: the work of the Stockholm Convention Regional Centre in Brazil

Our popular series continues with an interview with Otavio Okano and Lady Virginia from CETESB in Sao Paolo, Brazil

Science in action: the work of the Stockholm Convention Regional Centre in Brazil

Science in action: the work of the Stockholm Convention Regional Centre in Brazil

Interview between Charlie Avis, Public Information Officer for the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions, Mr. Otavio Okano and Ms. Lady Virginia Traldi Meneses, Director and Technical Coordinator respectively, of the Stockholm Regional Centre for Latin America, located in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Charlie Avis (CA): Good morning Mr. Otavio Okano and Ms. Lady Virginia, thank you for time in sharing the work of the SCRC Brazil.

Mr. Otavio Okano: Thank you, Charlie, for this kind invitation and congratulations on this important initiative to disseminate information on the Regional Centres.

CA: Firstly, please tell us a little bit about the Regional Centre (RC) itself. Where are you housed, institutionally and geographically, how many staff do you have, and when was the RC established: basically how did the Centre come about?

Mr. Otavio Okano: The RC is located in the São Paulo city in São Paulo State, one of the most industrialized states in Brazil and very important economically, with a population of 44 million inhabitants in an area of 248,000 sq. km. A large number of agricultural and industrial activities that use a variety of chemical products are concentrated here. 

RC is housed in the Environmental Company of Sao Paulo State (CETESB) which was created in 1968 and its mission is to improve and to assure environmental quality of Sao Paulo State in order to achieve sustainable development. To accomplish this task CETESB has 46 offices scattered in the state with around 2,000 employees, highly qualified, most of them graduated in technical areas, such as engineering, biology, chemistry, geology and other professional specialties.

CETESB performs its action in many different fields such as: environmental permits; environmental quality contro;, enforcement of regulations; environmental monitoring and pollution charges on sources of pollution. Set up with modern facilities, equipped with analytical instruments based on leading-edge technology, our laboratories accredited by ISO/IEC 17025:2005, perform more than 350,000 analyses per year, encompassing a wide variety of physical-chemical, biological and toxicological tests on the most different matrices.

CETESB currently has the largest and most comprehensive network of environmental quality monitoring in the country. Air, water, sediment, groundwater, soil and vegetation are systematically studied; researched  resulting to a state policy on control actions and preservation for the benefit of society.

Besides that, CETESB works for the prevention, preparedness and response to chemical emergencies; provides technical support and intervention if such emergencies occurred on roads, railroads and maritime transports, hazardous substance discard, industries, gasoline stations, pipelines, and provides supports to the Emergency Preparedness in Cases of Disasters with Chemical Products in Latin America.

CETESB works with waste treatment and final disposal facilities, which includes environmental assessment and evaluation of technological feasibility as well. Since the 90’s it has a multidisciplinary team dealing with the management of contaminated sites that includes environmental drilling, soil sampling, monitoring well installation, ground-water sampling, and non-invasive site investigation with geophysical equipment.

The centre also participates and/or coordinates some of  the Latin American and the Caribbean networks, such as Chemical Emergency Network (REQUILAC), Prevention and Management of Contaminated Sites Network (RELASC) and Pan American Network of Information in Environment (REPIDISCA). 

In short, CETESB is actively engaged in the National Environmental Council (CONAMA) regulatory activities. In its capacity as environmental agency and RC it usually collaborates with discussions addressing national and subnational legislation on pollution control, chemicals and waste management and licensing in Brazil. It also shares experiences on enforcement and inspection in order to support GRULAC countries aiming at strengthening their regulatory capacity in these fields.

All this expertise led the Company to become an international certification agency and reference agency for environmental issues in Latin America for regional centers in the world and for United Nation.Due to its recognized and relevant technical expertise, CETESB was nominated, in 2007, by the Brazilian Government to become a Stockholm Convention Regional Centre on POPs for Latin America and the Caribbean Region and since then, has been rated with the maximum evaluation score.

CA: Do you serve all of the countries of the region, how many Parties are there, and how do you manage with languages: do you communicate solely in Spanish, or Portuguese, or English, or how?

Mr. Otavio Okano: We serve all parties of the Convention in the GRULAC countries that speak Spanish and English as well the Portuguese speaking African countries. Although Brazil is the unique country of GRULAC that speaks Portuguese, there have been no difficulties in conducting technical assistance and training programs for them. For Spanish speaking countries, the total technical class materials and the slide presentations are translated from Portuguese into Spanish language. Besides, the majority of CETESB’s trainers speak Spanish and only a few classes are simultaneously translated from Portuguese into Spanish. The same applies for English speaking countries, where the trainings are given by professionals who speak English and, occasionally, a simultaneous translation is performed. On the other hand, legislations, guidelines, analytical methods i.e., documents etc available in Portuguese  from Brazilian institutions that could be useful to the GRULAC countries are translated as needed.

CA: What are the main technical issues or focus areas covered by the RC?

Mr. Otavio Okano: Charlie, in order to define the technical issues to be offered, our strategy is to analyze the NIPs of the GRULAC parties that are already submitted and then, we identify their main priorities to be addressed. Based on CETESB’s expertise mentioned before, linked to  the NIPs priorities,  we focus on several environmental technical and legal issues, related to chemical and waste, especially POPs and Hg, comprising: toxicology; urban and health care solid waste management; PCBs and obsolete pesticide wastes management; BATs and BEPs measures for the Unintentional POPs; chemical emergency responses; soil and groundwater pollution prevention; identification, management and evaluation of contaminated sites with POPs and Hg; POPs and heavy metals environmental monitoring in the following matrixes: air, soil,  sediments, groundwater and biological samples (aquatic organisms, milk and human blood); laboratory analysis to monitor POPs (PCBs, chlorinated organic pesticides and dioxin and furans) and Hg; and regulatory frameworks and management guidance.

CA: So I understand one specific area of focus for the Centres is on POPs and on the Stockholm Convention’s Global Monitoring Plan in particular. What would you say is the level of awareness amongst policymakers and decision-makers in the region concerning POPs? And amongst the general public?

Ms. Lady Virginia: Charlie, as mentioned before, CETESB has recognized strength in the scientific, technological and legal areas. Our Centre has been working in strengthening the capacity of the GRULAC countries for the implementation of NIPs and transferring of technology through training programs. . The main targets of these activities are the policymakers and decision-makers and the technical staff. In this way, we provide them with the tools for improving the environment and to protect human health from POPs in the region.

In order to increase the broader awareness amongst the public in general we had developed an e-learning course on the Stockholm Convention on POPs having various  aspects of its implementation for the Brazilian stakeholders. From this experience, our RC has been developing an e-learning program on POPs in general to be extended to the Region. CETESB has a website with wide range of information on chemical management and we keep updating the RC webpage.

Regarding the Global Monitoring Plan, I would say that LAC has made a lot of efforts in training laboratories to perform POPs and Hg analysis, to improve the availability of  inventories and monitoring data base of these compounds in the Region. CETESB plays a crucial role in providing training to many laboratories of the GRULAC region including national laboratories.  However, much more needs to be done to improve GMP in GRULAC region. The establishment of a laboratory network for analysis of these compounds is challenging but crucial to overcome the lack of capacity at country level and to obtain reliable data base. Another way might be to build on other initiatives such as the Global Atmospheric Passive Sampling network (GAPS) that covers the Region. Mechanism to promote coordination and facilitation would be necessary in order to synergize the efforts.

CA: How would you like the RC to evolve, in the next say 5 to 10 years?

Ms. Lady Virginia: Charlie, what we have been noticing is that developing and economies in transition country Parties have complied with the SC obligations for the first dozen POPs better than the new POPs. We therefore understand that for the management of new POPs a broader knowledge of the chemicals management is necessary in general, comprising, among others, applicable chemical and environmental legislations, integrated institutional arrangement with scientific support and control of chemical in product, in order to transpose the SC obligations to the national level.

In this context, I would say that in the next 5-10 years, our RC intends to provide capacity building  of these countries and to assist them technically and administratively  paving the way to the post 2020 chemical agenda.

CA: RC, we often highlight the fact that the world of sustainable management of chemicals and waste features quite a large number of prominent and successful, high-profile women, yourself included. Could you perhaps say a few words about how it was for you as a woman making a career in science, in the environmental sector, in chemicals and waste? And any advice for any budding female scientists out there who might read this interview? 

Ms. Lady Virginia: I would say that the persistent historical and global context of discrimination against women has made most of them believe they are not competent enough and, therefore unable to reach higher levels inside an organization at a professional level, especially at the technical level.

In Brazil, despite the difficulties faced by many women due to gender discrimination, especially in the poorest sections of the population, women constitute the majority of the labor force in the market. In my case, fortunately I was born in a family where I was able to study and  had the freedom to choose what career to follow and develop myself professionally, both in technical area such as management. I was lucky to have parents who always encouraged me and promoted my education. So I could be graduated in Chemical Engineering, specialized in Environmental Engineering and Industrial Administration, completed my PhD in the subject “Institutional, Legal, Political and Technical Aspects on Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants Implementation: Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers”. In addition, CETESB, as a company dedicated to environmental issues, has always been open to new ideas and ideals and therefore has a large number of graduates and highly qualified women in its staff. Furthermore, I had   the opportunity to take part in several activities concerning chemicals and wastes.

What can I tell to women is that we cannot underestimate our power to carry out, because, among many qualities, we have the ability to conciliate professional activities with other areas of life. Also, women are the symbol of life, so they must  engage themselves in all technical or political spheres to leave it a better place for future generation in this wonderful Planet, where, regardless of gender, we are all human beings. 

CA: The theme of the 2015 Triple COPs was “Science to Action”. What does “Science to Action” mean to you and how might it guide the work of the RC?

Ms. Lady Virginia: In the 2015 Triple COPs our RC participated as a Scientific Fair exhibitor demonstrating our achievements in this subject. In fact, the theme itself was a great motivation for us since we needed to convert the results of scientific researches into concrete actions and therefore, to strengthen guidelines and science‐policy interface for the effectiveness of the Conventions. Let me highlight on the activities of CETESB that are routinely enforced, which have been shared with the countries by our RC. 

CA: Thank you, for your time and for your answers. Good luck with your important work!

Mr. Otavio Okano: Thank you, Charlie, and if you need any further information on our centre and its activities, please go to our websitewww.pops.CETESB.sp.gov.br and we look forward to working with you!

Dr. Kateřina Šebková on how more science is needed in policy-making

Our latest interviewee highlights the rapidly developing CEE region and also reflects on women in science.

Dr. Kateřina Šebková on how more science is needed in policy-making

Dr. Kateřina Šebková on how more science is needed in policy-making

Interview between Charlie Avis, Public Information Officer for the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions, and Dr. Kateřina Šebková, Director of the Stockholm Regional Centre for Central and Eastern Europe, located in Brno, Czech Republic.

Charlie Avis (CA): Good morning Katka and thank you for your time to answer our questions: your Regional Centre is the next in a new series whereby we put one Centre per month “in the spotlight” in order to highlight all the many ways the Regional Centres contribute to the implementation of the conventions.

Dr. Kateřina Šebková (KS): Thank you, Charlie, for this great opportunity to share our work with a wider audience!

CA: Firstly, please tell us a little bit about the Regional Centre (RC) itself. Where are you housed, institutionally and geographically, how many staff do you have, and when was the RC established: basically how did the Centre come about?

KS: Charlie, the Stockholm Convention Regional Centre in Czech Republic (SCRC) is hosted by the Research Centre for Toxic Compounds in the Environment (RECETOX), which is an independent research centre operating within the Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic since 2007. City of Brno is conveniently located 190 km southeast of Prague, the capital of the country, some 130 km north of Vienna (capital of Austria) and at about the same distance from another capital, Bratislava (Slovakia). It is in a region experiencing steady technological and economic growth over last 25 years, a hub of large life science projects and home to new growing business and technology incubators, and a city with more than 50,000 university students.

The RC was established on the basis of the Czech experience in working on implementation of the Stockholm Convention nationally in 2003, on the identified knowledge gaps and data needs through an European research project enhancing laboratory expertise in countries of the central and Southern Europe in 2004-5 (EU FP5 APOPSBAL), and on understanding that we have ability providing such technical assistance and capacity building when felt the urgent need for it among other countries.

And our team - you would be surprised - there are only two permanent staff of the SCRC, however we closely cooperate with and draw on resources available at the whole RECETOX having more than 200 staff, 4000 m2 of modern research space, 70 laboratories, two lecture rooms, and a more than 30 year-long expertise in dealing with environmental issues, interdisciplinary research as well as providing practical solutions for environmental decontamination and remediation. In addition, we maintain a large international network of experts who cooperate with us, thus our teams vary according to a project. We can have a team of five up to 50, depending on a task, challenges and money.

CA: Do you serve all of the countries of the region, how many Parties are there, and how do you manage with all the very many languages: do you communicate solely in English, in German, in Russian or how?

KS: We are able to communicate in several languages, but the Centre`s main languages are Czech and English. Moreover, we can and have run courses and provided consultations in Russian, Slovak and French as well. In addition, other Central and Eastern European languages are also spoken at RECETOX, so we are quite well set in this regard.

The RC serves all 23 countries of Central and Eastern Europe and supports over 30 other countries in other regions (Africa, Central Asia, and in Latin America) as a strategic scientific partner. In addition, we also work as a project partner with UNEP, UNIDO and UNDP and organize conferences, global or regional workshops, and summer schools.

When looking at the monitoring activities, we have so far supported almost 60 countries worldwide and while looking at our training, there are about 80 countries that benefited from our expertise and services.

CA: It must be very challenging, yet very rewarding. What are the main technical issues or focus areas covered by the RC and what activities does the RC have in order to overcome these challenges?

KS: I fully agree. When looking at the monitoring activities, we have so far supported almost 60 countries worldwide since 2005 and while looking at our training, there are about 80 countries that benefited from our expertise and services. This is about 50-200 people that visit us each year.

Our 2016-2019 work plan as SCRC concentrates on strengthening global capacities in chemical analyses of toxic chemicals, on support in implementation of the Global Monitoring Plan to the Stockholm Convention by operating monitoring networks (MONET) in Europe,  Africa and in the Czech Republic and by training experts in sampling, monitoring, and data mining and management. In addition, we will strive to support decision making by communicating science based advances in the research, presentation of environmental and human data in relation to toxic chemicals through electronic tools, by enlarging capacities in the management of PCB, new POPs, and by contributing to a greater understanding of linkages between environment and health. We also need to enhance visibility of our activities among our stakeholders, so we have a quarterly newsletter and a website and we try to attend many global meetings to meet our constituency. There are too many parallel issues, and I would say that main challenge for us is time.

CA: So I understand one specific area of focus for the Centre is on POPs, and on the Stockholm Convention’s Global Monitoring Plan in particular. What would you say is the level of awareness amongst the general public in the region concerning POPs? And amongst policymakers and decision-makers?

KS: Charlie, on awareness raising among general public in our region, there is more to be done apart from a website and a quarterly newsletter that we release. On the other hand, we developed and operate publicly available instruments that enhance understanding of anyone interested in POP occurrence - our environmental data repository and portal is available since 2010 displaying POPs monitoring information generated by us and our partners (www.genasis.cz). Similar instrument was developed for global purposes to serve the effectiveness evaluation and Global Monitoring Plan. And this talk certainly is a good opportunity to spread the news further.

Decision makers in this region are quite aware of chemicals problem, namely in relation to environmental burdens and hotspots in our region, as the political and economic transition since 1990s revealed many unwanted or untreated inheritance of obsolete stocks and wastes that needs to be dealt with. Unfortunately, there are other issues related to changes in the region that can outweigh the importance of environmental protection. On the other hand, we need to raise their awareness on the strong link between chemicals and health and perhaps that could get POPs and other chemicals back to the spotlight. We emphasize this in each talk we do.

CA: The RC has clearly achieved a lot, but what is the single achievement of which you are most proud?

KS: We are really proud of the GMP data warehouse, a joint achievement of the BRS Scientific Branch and RECETOX. It is the first global electronic tool that is publicly available and brings under one roof validated global data on levels of POPs in core matrices (air, breast milk and water), allows to evaluate effectiveness of eliminating or minimizing POP releases into the environment. Its data browser generates maps, charts, evaluates trends, and is publicly available online, so I believe it has a very strong awareness raising as well as decision making potential (http://www.pops-gmp.org/visualization-2014/app.php/).

CA: How would you like the RC to evolve, in the next say 5 to 10 years?

KS: We started with environmental chemistry and a handful of chemicals under one Convention at the outset, nowadays our range of studied chemicals and expertise spans to more global instruments including SAICM and Minamata Convention on Mercury. Currently, we have a capacity to support others with expertise in relation to POPs, emerging chemicals, endocrine disrupters, non-EDCs, as well as heavy metals. We are working hard on enhancing our understanding of links between health and environment as well as improving the speed of the transfer of knowledge from science to policy by being involved in larger population studies and working on harmonization of data collection, processing, visualization and data mining in order to be prepared and being able to capture all aspects of human exposure as well as holding solid data to support decision making worldwide.

CA: Katerina, can we switch to a topic slightly more personal? How did you come to lead this RC, how did your career lead you this in your direction, and what advice would you have for other women, hoping or striving for a career in science per se, or in international development more generally?

KS: Sure, I am happy to share this with others. I have a degree and a PhD in chemistry from both the Czech Republic and France and I started working in a family business as specialist for food commodities. Since 2003, I worked as chemical specialist and negotiator for the Ministry of Environment of the Czech Republic on chemicals management, and represented the Czech Republic in negotiations on new global legal agreements or EU legislation in relation to mercury and persistent organic pollutants for eight years. I was also representing the CEE region in the bureau of the Stockholm Convention from 2007 to 2009 and in the bureau of Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Mercury between 2010 and 2013. I joined RECETOX in 2012 to run the Stockholm Convention Regional Centre and to establish and maintain a more solid bridge from science to policy and back and thus employ my previous work and life experience.

I would say to other ladies - science is exciting, very demanding and not everyone can be an excellent scientist, so pressure is on. On the other hand, scientific background has certainly helped me greatly in finding my niche in working at the ministry and speaking several languages. And lastly, I would add that there continues to be a dire need for people with a scientific background at the policy level to push environmental issues to a more prominent position (where they should be) and increase understanding among decision makers on the subject matter that affects us as well as future generations.

CA: And lastly, please, what do you think are the most pressing, emerging issues will be for sustainable management of chemicals and wastes in central and Eastern Europe, in the next years, and how well is the region equipped to meet those challenges?

KS: In two words - complex mixtures - is the future pressing topic for all of us. So far, we have globally mostly generated information on impacts and effects of individual chemicals in the environment and for a limited pool of chemicals, but there is much more to be done, quite urgently. We have a little or no knowledge on synergistic effects of chemical mixtures that can enhance negative impacts of individual toxic compounds and such mixtures are all around us - in our personal care products, consumer goods, food and many other items.

The region will be better off in near future as mentioned above on where we would like to evolve. Our weakness is that a longitudinal studies have not been carried out more broadly in this region, but we are working on it. We gradually strengthened capacities and span of our research infrastructure, we established a new cohort (longitudinal) study in 2015, building on expertise available through WHO ELSPAC study since 1991, and we are also launching an exposome study that would generate important information for countries in the region as well as for global community and work of international organizations such as WHO and UNEP.

CA: Thank you, for your time and for your answers. Good luck with your important work!

KS: Thank you, Charlie, and if you need any further information on our centre and its activities, please go to our website http://www.recetox.muni.cz/rc/ and we look forward to working with you!

A Caribbean View: Latest BRS interview takes us to Trinidad and Tobago

Read all about the big issues for the Caribbean in this interview with Dr. Ahmad Khan.

A Caribbean View: Latest BRS interview takes us to Trinidad and Tobago

A Caribbean View: Latest BRS interview takes us to Trinidad and Tobago

Interview between Charlie Avis, Public Information Officer for the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions, and Dr. Ahmad Khan, Director of the Basel Convention Regional Centre for the Caribbean, located in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago.

Charlie Avis (CA): Good morning Dr. Khan and thank you for your time to answer our questions: your Regional Centre is the next in a new series whereby we put one Centre per month “in the spotlight” in order to highlight all the many ways the Regional Centres contribute to the implementation of the conventions.


Ahmad Khan (AK): Thank you Charlie for this opportunity to share our work with a wider audience!

CA: Firstly, please tell us a little bit about the Regional Centre (RC) itself. Where are you housed, how many staff do you have, and when was the RC established: basically how did the Centre come about?

AK: Charlie, the Caribbean BC Regional Centre was first established as a “desk” at the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) as early as 1998 but as time passed and more responsibilities were placed on the Regional Centres by the Conference of Parties, the Caribbean Regional Centre evolved into a fully autonomous regional institution. By 2008, the Centre had the legal authority to enter into contracts, hire staff and own its own physical assets and is now located at its leased premises in Port-of-Spain. The financial support for the centre is provided by the host country, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Its current staff complement is ten persons - three administrative staff, six professional staff and one chief cook and bottle washer!

CA: Now, please tell us, the Caribbean is a large and diverse region, made up of many countries which differ from one another in many ways. Do you serve all of the countries of the Caribbean, how many Parties are there, and how do you manage with the languages: Spanish, English, French, Dutch?

AK: The RC serves all the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions in the region and we have already started to serve those countries who have signed onto or are intending to ratify the new Minimata Convention. So far there are sixteen countries that are served in various ways by the Centre.

These are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Belize, The Republic of Cuba, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, The Republic of Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica, The Federation of St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, The Republic of Suriname and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

The operating language of the Centre is English but we do translate our educational material into Spanish, Dutch and French as needed. Our main activities are Training and Technology Transfer and thus far we have had only limited challenges with the differences in language between our member countries since most of the professional staff at the Ministries and Agencies in each country with whom we are in direct contact are often bi- or multi-lingual. Some of the staff at the Centre are bilingual English and Spanish speakers as well so this helps with our communication with our member countries.

CA: It must be very challenging, yet very rewarding. What are the main technical issues or focus areas covered by the RC and what activities does the RC have in order to overcome these challenges?

AK: The focal areas of the Caribbean Regional Centre are defined by our member countries on a biennial cycle, during our annual Steering Committee meetings, and are mainly on building technical, institutional and legislative capacity in each country for the environmentally sound management of wastes and chemicals. Charlie, the priorities for the Caribbean over the next two biennial cycles (2016 – 2019) lie in the effective management of waste lubricating oils, electronic wastes, waste pneumatic tyres, industrial chemicals, lead acid batteries, obsolete pesticides, persistent organic pollutants, mercury and municipal wastes. It sounds like quite a mouthful but we are actively pursuing an agenda to institute a regional collaborative system for integrated waste and chemicals management with our member country partners to reduce the generation of wastes at source, to institute sustainable resource recovery measures and to institutionalize on a regional basis novel technologies for waste and chemicals recycling using the public sector/private sector/civil society collaborative approach. In short Charlie, our bottom up approach to serving our member countries’ needs have allowed us to overcome a number of challenges except one critical one and that is sourcing funding for implementation of projects and programmes in a timely manner.

CA: So I understand one specific area of focus for the RC is on e-waste, in relation to assisting parties fulfil their obligations under the Basel Convention. What would you say is the level of awareness amongst the general public in the region concerning e-waste? And amongst policymakers and decision-makers?

AK: Charlie the e-waste situation in the Caribbean is like La Soufriere in Montserrat, the peak gets bigger and bigger as time goes on. This is because the Caribbean in general is consumer driven when it comes to mobile phones, computers and other ICT equipment….everyone must have the latest and hottest gadget!

In addition some islands have even instituted policies to provide free laptop computers and tablets to every student entering a secondary school or tertiary educational institution all of which come back as waste within three to five years. Regrettably, the level of education and awareness of the e-waste problem by both the policy and decision makers and the population in general is not yet at a stage where this toxic and hazardous waste stream is given the attention it deserves.

We at the Centre have produced brochures and newsletters to enhance the level of awareness of all stakeholder and interest groups in the islands. But what we expect will work best for us is when we have finally been able to establish sub-regional e-waste refurbishment, disassembly and material recycling facilities to remove this waste stream from our landfills, waterways, beaches and backyards.

It is important to note that the Caribbean may be diverse and extend over quite a large acreage of space but our population size is at best 17 million people so the economies of scale hamper what we can do by way of investment in recycling facilities. For instance, when the precious and semi-precious metal containing components are recovered from waste electronic equipment, we can only hope to be able to broker this on the international market rather than set up metal recovery facilities. The latter option is too costly and not sustainable in relation to the volumes of e-waste generated within the entire Caribbean region.

CA: Let us now consider the wider region served by the RC. How do you liase with all these other countries, who are your partners on the ground there, and what kinds of activities do you carry out in-country?

AK: The BCRC-Caribbean works with our member countries in two ways. We work primarily through the political and technical Focal Points of the waste and chemicals conventions in government, in each country. But the BCRC-Caribbean is also fortunate to have a very competent and knowledgeable Steering Committee which is comprised of representatives of the fourteen countries who are parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions. These fourteen ladies and gentlemen ensure delivery of our services on the ground in each country but also bring back to us the issues of priority concern for each country and assist us in developing work programmes to address these.

Our services for now are essentially project driven but we have also conducted workshops and seminars on topics related to e-waste management, on waste oils management, on used lead acid battery collection and disposal, on waste tyres recovery and recycling, on NIPs updates, on Mercury assessments and on industrial chemicals and obsolete pesticides management.

CA: The RC has clearly achieved a lot, but what is the single achievement of which you are most proud?

AK: I cannot identify a single achievement that stands out but I think in developing our delivery of services to the region, we have been successful in creating networks with the public sector, the private sector, the business communities and civil society groups which work well with us and through which we work effectively. Our medium term goal is to expand that network and to encourage these four groups of stakeholders to collaborate and cooperate on projects and programmes aimed at improving the environmentally sound management of wastes and chemicals in the region among themselves and for us to eventually take on the role of “facilitators of the process”, providing technical support and advisory services as required.

CA: How would you like the RC to evolve, in the next say 5 to 10 years?

AK: The next 5 to 10 years is a very important period for the Caribbean region as it moves towards firstly adopting the Sustainable Development Goals and then integrating these into national policy, planning and legislation. In the short term, I see the BCRC-Caribbean working towards aligning the environmentally sound management of wastes and chemicals into some of the relevant SDGs and by extension assisting the countries we serve in achieving higher degrees of compliance and implementation of the wastes and chemicals conventions and protocols. But more importantly in the medium to long term period, I see the Centre increasing its capacity to develop projects, source funding to support the implementation of these projects and executing them on behalf of our Caribbean partners and at the same time building capacity in the region and in individual countries so that they can eventually take ownership to do it themselves.

CA: Dr Khan, how did you come to lead this RC, how did your career lead you this in your direction, and what advice would you have for other Trinidadians, male or female, striving for a career in science and international development?

AK: When you embark on a career in a small island developing state you invariably become a jack of all trades because of the limited human resource capital in these types of countries. I came to this job after developing a career in waste and chemicals management in the region so I think I brought some experience in the field with me. But I started out as an environmental scientist with an emphasis and interest in marine pollution and oceanography in a marine scientific research institution. I moved away from applied research fairly quickly and became an environmental management professional in an integrated oil and gas company. This transition allowed me to move my career from being an applied scientist into the management and engineering disciplines. I took that experience and training with me to the private sector and further development my career as an environmental management practitioner in a consulting environment. I think the fifteen years spent in the consulting business made me an expert in nothing but knowledgeable in a little bit of everything….so here I am now coasting to retirement…..

Charlie, I think the most important thing I can share with young men and women in the region, who are interested in a career in science and international development, is to keep the focus on what you want to achieve in life. Scientific knowledge is evolving almost on a daily basis and as professionals we must recognise that science and technology can provide a pathway to do so much good for so many people with so little effort. I have always held the view that the more we learn as an individual, the greater is our responsibility to improve the quality of life of our fellow human beings and I’d like to encourage others to adopt the same philosophy.

CA: And lastly, please, what do you think are the most pressing, emerging issues will be for sustainable management of chemicals and wastes in the Caribbean, in the next years, and how well is the region equipped to meet those challenges?

AK: This is a difficult question to answer Charlie since the region has a diverse economic base. For the larger and more industrialized islands like Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic, Barbados, Cuba and Jamaica, the main challenge will be to integrate waste and chemicals management into national environmental policy and legislation and then to enforce the provisions in law so created. It will also be important to stimulate economic activities in waste minimization, resource recovery and recycling in these countries.

For the smaller islands whose economies are more dependent on tourism, commercial enterprises and agriculture, the main challenge will be to ensure that all wastes and chemicals generated at the municipal level are properly handled and disposed of in such a manner to minimize impacts to human health and the environment. For these islands, the preservation of living and non-living natural resources is of paramount importance since these resources are the drivers of the local economies.

As a region the Caribbean is strong in having the capacity to identify and develop programmes and activities to address its priority issues on wastes and chemicals management but its limitation in capacity to fund and implement programmes and activities has to be strengthened.

In the next three years the BCRC-Caribbean will be working with at least eight of the islands and territories in the region to build capacity to achieve these objectives.

CA: Thank you, for your time and for your answers. Good luck with your important work in this important region, and I hope we shall be able to meet in person at the UNEA2 in Nairobi next month?

AK: Thank you, Charlie, and if you need any further information on our centre and its activities, please go to our website www.bcrc-caribbean.org.

Rolph Payet on the outlook for sustainable management of chemicals and waste

Read the BRS Executive Secretary’s address to the first International Conference on Chemical Safety and Security (ICCSS1) held in Kielce, Poland 18-20 April 2016.

Rolph Payet on the outlook for sustainable management of chemicals and waste

Rolph Payet on the outlook for sustainable management of chemicals and waste

Excellencies

Ladies and Gentlemen

As we entered the third millennium, our world had become more globalised and interconnected. We can today manufacture to bespoke needs in one part of the world and ship to anywhere within days. However, those great transformations have exposed millions of people and biodiversity to hazardous chemicals and wastes. 

New estimates from the World Health Organization indicate that at least 12.6 million people died as a result of living or working in an unhealthy environment in 2012, primarily from environmental risk factors, such as air, water and soil pollution, chemical exposures, climate change, and ultraviolet radiation. The situation is far worse in the developing world, the WHO report finds. Low- and middle-income countries in the WHO South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions had the largest environment-related disease burden in 2012, with a combined total of 7.3 million deaths, most attributable to indoor and outdoor air pollution, whilst there were also 2.2 million deaths in the African region, 1.4 million deaths in the European region, 854,000 deaths in the Eastern Mediterranean region and 847,000 deaths in the region of the Americas. Furthermore, the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, estimated that 41 million tones of electronic wastes are generated per year, growing to 50 million tons by next year.

Africa and Asia, being the destinations for large-scale shipments of hazardous wastes, has resulted in large areas turned into illegal dumps scavenged by the poor in those countries. Inconsistency in regulations between exporting and importing countries - including what is classified as hazardous or contaminated waste - poses a challenge to effectively combating illegal waste trafficking. Wastes have the potential to pollute and expose millions of people to hazardous chemicals through food chains, water, the oceans and the atmosphere.

Contaminated land is also global issue with chemical safety concerns at hand. In many countries, hundreds of square kilometers of land have a legacy of contaminated land resulting from mining, past industrial activity, intensive agriculture, chemical stockpiles and waste management. Sadly, despite efforts by numerous organizations, such as UNEP, FAO, UNIDO and donors such as the GEF - land contamination is still on the increase especially in the developing countries. Contamination of water bodies, remote communities and also the atmosphere through open burning presents a serious chemical danger to the entire planet.

Chemical Safety, in the context of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions involves all efforts to ensure the protection of human health and the environment through sound management of chemicals and wastes. Whilst our conventions are limited to a few chemicals it provides an international legal framework for the sound management of chemicals and wastes.  Furthermore, many of those chemicals, such as POPs are present in almost all materials and products produced in the last 50 years or so. Their accumulation in the environment in expected to last beyond this century due to their long-term environmental persistence.

The Stockholm Convention lists 26 chemicals that are persistent, toxic, bio-accumulative and travel long distances in the environment for which consumption, production and use, import and export, disposal and/or environmental release must be reduced, prohibited and/or eliminated. The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is the most comprehensive global agreement specifically targeting hazardous and other wastes. The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade focuses on facilitating information exchange about hazardous chemicals and severely hazardous pesticide formulations, by providing for a national decision-making process on their imports and exports and by disseminating these decisions to Parties.

Against this backdrop of widespread use of chemicals in products, the capacity of countries to implement chemical safety is severely limited in many parts of the world. The Special Programme under UNEP and the Chemicals and Wastes Conventions is expected to support countries in building robust policies, regulations and mechanisms for the sound management of chemicals. However, resources remain limited. Although in 2014, the global chemicals industry earned more than 5 trillion dollars, its contribution to the sound management of chemicals and wastes is but a pittance. The current contributions to the UNEP Special programme are about 14 million dollars, which is about 0.0028%. The GEF Chemicals and Waste Portfolio, which includes partnerships with industry, at 2.7 billion USD, does not even come close to 1%. Indeed, there are numerous efforts and initiatives by industry but we cannot achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals with this level of support from the industry.

For example, in a report to the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention indicates that there are at least 11,000 Tons of DDT stockpiles around the world. DDT has been linked to a large number of cancers, male infertility and child growth. Such stockpiles are a clear and present danger to millions of people located in those areas. Can we remove those stockpiles in a sound manner - yes, and before 2030 - yes - We need financial resources and political will!

It is also an honor and a pleasure for me to represent the Executive Director of UNEP, Mr Achim Steiner, who unfortunately could not be with us this afternoon. UNEP remains committed to the sound management of chemicals and wastes, and to the minimization of hazardous wastes. Many initiatives implemented by UNEP have addressed the issue of chemical safety, especially in areas of institutional support and scientific knowledge. It has produced a number of guidance and capacity building to countries on sound management of chemical wastes, and led many global initiatives such as the DDT Alliance.  As such, the UNEP Chemicals and Waste branch, based in Geneva, is a very strong partner with the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Convention Secretariat. We also work very closely with the Minamata Convention Secretariat.

The Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions are successful examples of the commitment of the global community, including governments, industry, academia and public interest groups towards a common goal to produce and use chemicals in ways that minimize adverse effects to human health and the environment. Although these three conventions have done a great deal to improve the global situation regarding toxic chemicals and hazardous wastes, the treaties alone cannot solve all the problems. The global chemicals industry whoch accounts for around 9% of the world's economy needs to play a greater role. We need to continue to build partnerships and invest in a future that is driven by sustainable chemistry and the sound management of chemicals and wastes.

The Sustainable Development Agenda provides us with a unique opportunity to engage and make this vision a reality. The role of initiatives such as the Chemss2016 forum in strengthening community preparedness and enhancing chemical safety and security is of great importance for the global environmental sound management of chemicals and wastes and for the international community to achieve sustainable development goals.

In closing, I wish to thank the people of Poland for their warm welcome. The conference organizers, in particular Andrzej Jagusiewicz, who was also former President of the Basel Convention, for his invitation to this timely global conference.

Thank you.

China and Asia Pacific: the work of the Regional Centre in Beijing, China

Latest in the BRS interview series features Dr. Jinhui Li, Executive Director of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions Regional Centre, Beijing China.

China and Asia Pacific: the work of the Regional Centre in Beijing, China

China and Asia Pacific: the work of the Regional Centre in Beijing, China

Interview between Charlie Avis, Public Information Officer for the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions, and Dr. Jinhui Li, Executive Director of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions Regional Centre, hosted by the Tsinghua University, Beijing, China.

Charlie Avis (CA): Good morning Professor Li and thank you for your time to answer our questions: in fact, your Regional Centre is the first in a new series whereby we put one Centre per month “in the spotlight” in order to highlight all the many ways the Regional Centres contribute to the implementation of the conventions.

Jinhui Li (JL): Thank you Charlie, we are happy to be the first!

CA: Firstly, please tell us a little bit about the Regional Centre (RC) itself. Where are you housed, how many staff do you have, and how do you manage to cover both the Basel and the Stockholm, Conventions within one RC?

JL: We are supported institutionally by Tsinghua University and the Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People’s Republic of China. The Centre is located at Tsinghua University. Currently, there are thirty one full time staff divided into six departments covering administrative affairs, regional waste management, regional chemicals management, multilateral environmental agreement research, environmental technology consulting, and circular development research. In addition, we also have a part-time technical team consisting of numerous professors and experts, master/doctoral candidates, and post-doctors, supporting the process of assisting countries to achieve the aims of both the Basel and Stockholm Conventions.

CA: Now, please tell us, but does the RC “only” cover China, or a wider region as well?

JL: The RC serves all the parties in the Asia and Pacific Region who are willing to be served by it, such as Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia etc.

CA: The biggest, and some of the smallest, countries in the world, an extremely diverse collection of countries, contexts, cultures, and capacities therefore. For the sake of the next question, then, let’s focus on China. As you know, BRS is just launching a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on electronic, or e-waste. What are the main issues or capacity constraints hindering sustainable management of e-waste in China, and what activities does the RC have in order to overcome these challenges?

JL: As we all know, the increasingly rapid growth of production and consumption of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) has led to a sharp rise in the volume of e-waste at the end of their life. E-waste has both toxic and valuable materials. China has established a whole set of policies for e-waste management, and significant improvements have been achieved. The management, collection and recycling systems have been quickly established. For example, we have now 109 qualified e-waste recycling enterprises benefitting from (fund) subsidies, and corresponding fund audit mechanisms; and the collection rate for the 5 standard types (TVs, computers, washing machines, air-conditioners and refrigerators) increased from approximately 4% in 2012 to 35% in 2014. But there are problems: for example the existence of large-scale informal collection and recycling sectors with potential environmental and health risks; kinds of e-waste which cannot effectively be collected; and the levels of e-waste treatment are not advanced, without advantageous deep utilization technology for dismantled materials.

In China, the main issues hindering sustainable management of e-waste mainly include the following points: first, that the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system is not fully implemented in the lifecycle of e-waste, producers should take more responsibility beyond only paying money; second, is that there remains somewhat weak policy implementation, despite some regulations such as on the eco-design and fund reduction mechanism for producers, a lack of supporting implementation regulations hinders actual implementation; third, regulations do not define the responsibility of all stakeholders clearly, particularly for consumers and vendors, and in general environmental awareness and responsibility of these and other stakeholders remains low. All these factors, plus the presence of a large scale irregular second-hand market, hinder the flow of e-waste to formal collection and proper recycling.

The RC has conducted many projects on the e-waste management and technology to improve the E-waste management, technology and facility development in China. Activities have included participating in the development of e-waste regulations or policies; studying collection systems to explore effective collection modes; conducting training to raise public awareness and enhance information-sharing and education; strengthening of producer’s responsibilities; developing deep utilization technologies for dismantled materials; and promoting the domestic dissemination and use of international e-waste guidelines, amongst others. The RC is also developing partnerships at international, regional and domestic levels in order to cooperate in the process to achieve the target of environmentally sound management of e-waste overall.

CA: I understand one big area of focus for the RC is on persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, in relation to assisting parties fulfil their obligations under the Stockholm Convention. Sticking with China, what would you say is the level of awareness amongst the general public concerning POPs?

JL: For some time now, China has been actively pushing for the elimination and reduction of POPs with great success. China banned the production, use, import and export of 17 kinds of POPs including mirex and DDT; reduced by about 10% of the dioxin emissions in key industries such as waste incineration, iron ore sintering, and non-ferrous metal production; disposed of more than 20,000 tonnes of historical waste pesticides and contaminated soils in 12 provinces; disposed of 30,000 tonnes of PCBs-contaminated electric equipment and 13,000 tonnes of PCBs-contaminated waste and soil in 17 provinces. China has made significant efforts on remediation of POPs-contaminated sites,.

Additionally, the amendments of the newly listed 10 POPs under the Stockholm Convention entered into force in China, which will further promote the POPs management. All these efforts and progress not only enhanced the national capacity of POPs management in China, but also raised the public awareness, although more effort is required to raise people’s awareness further.

CA: Let us now consider the wider region served by the RC. How do you liase with all these other countries, who are your partners on the ground there and what kinds of activities do you carry out?

JL: The RC maintains good communications with all Focal Points of the parties in the region. We actively continue to invite all the parties in Asia-Pacific region to participate in our work andto provide information on trends and best practices to all who are interested. For example, the Basel Convention and Stockholm Convention international monthly newsletters have been compiled by the RC continuously since 2011 and are delivered to almost all parties and other stakeholders directly or in-directly through other regional centres (eg. through SPREP for the Pacific). Moreover, the online international training platform on waste and chemicals in English is being established and will open to all the parties and stakeholders so as to improve the capacity and knowledge in the field of waste and chemicals.

Other regional centres are also important partners and the RC has signed MOUs with SPREP and BCRC Egypt in 2013 and 2015 respectively, for cooperation on a joint information newsletter, staff and researchers exchanges, and joint applications for potential funds. BCRC China also has conducted joint activities and cooperation with BCRC CAM, BCCC-Nigeria, BCRC/SCRC SEA, BCRC-Iran and SCRC-India. The cooperative efforts include internships, joint activities and information exchanges.

In addition, RC is working hard to improve the cooperation with UN organizations. We have been members of the StEP initiated by UNU, PEN and others for several years and have established good cooperative relationships. BCRC China initiated the Programme on Establishing Public and Private Partnership for Metal Recycling in Asia and the Pacific Region in 2015 which is now being considered as a focal area of Global Partnership on Waste Management by UNEP. UNDP, UNIDO, ILO and other international organizations are also current or potential partners.

CA: How would you like the RC to evolve, in the next say 5 to 10 years?

JL: As per our Preliminary Strategic Plan (2014-2020), which was deliberated and adopted during the First Meeting of Steering Committee of the BCRC China in 2014, we intend to significantly strengthen our own  capacity for the implementation of Basel Convention; upgrade the level of assistance to parties in Asia and the Pacific region for the implementation of the Basel Convention; and enhance the international influence of BCRC China in the field of environmentally sound management of wastes and chemicals. Under the guidelines, RC is willing to continue to take efforts to promote regional communication and cooperation with countries and international organisations, conduct more extensive and meaningful activities for supporting Parties in meeting their obligations, as well as propel synergies with other Conventions.

CA: The RC has achieved a lot, but what are the achievements of which you are most proud?

JL: Firstly, the RC has formed a steady and effective network linking national governments, academic institutions and related enterprises together, which played an important role in bolstering the work of RC; secondly, RC has strengthened its presence in government service and negotiations support; thirdly, RC has formed an integrated and systematic information platform, including but not limited to the website system, the annual international conference on waste management and technology (ICWMT), online training, information release systems and performance services; and last but not least, RC has continually stimulated international cooperation, for example RC has built relationships with International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC), United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD) and Solving the E-waste Problems Initiative (StEP), and Metal Recycling PPP in Asia and the Pacific Region. RC obtained the full score during the assessment on regional centres of Basel and Stockholm Convention in 2015, which shows that our work is recognized by the parties of the conventions.

CA: And lastly, Professor Li, what do you think the most pressing, emerging issues will be for sustainable management of chemicals and wastes in your region, in the next years?

JL: As the sustainable management of chemicals and wastes is vitally important for environmental protection, all stakeholders in society should work together to reduce the risk by chemicals and wastes. A lack of legislation is the most pressing issue in this region. When it comes to the recycler, e.g., e-waste, a reasonable legislation and subsidies framework would promote their interest on e-waste recycling activities, at the same time conferring responsibility for any environmental pollution during the collection and recycling processes. In terms of the public, awareness raising is key, with important needs for information exchange mechanisms and platforms. We also face long-standing issues such as language barriers, large populations and large territorial areas, which all offer challenges for achieving the sustainable management of chemicals and wastes in our region.

CA: Thank you, Professor Li, for your time and for your answers. Good luck with your important work in this important region.

JL: Thank you, Charlie, and if you need any further information on our centre and its activities, please go to our websites http://www.en.bcrc.cn and www.sc.bcrc.cn and we also have a newsletter to you which you can subscribe in order to keep up to date.

Women and men working together for the environment

Kerstin Stendahl reflects on the successful BRS International Womens Day event, which celebrated inspirational women from many Geneva-based organisations.

Women and men working together for the environment

Women and men working together for the environment

Synergies is joint action and working together. As part of last week’s International Women’s day, the BRS secretariat and the Geneva Environment Network celebrated inspirational women in Geneva working together for the environment. 

The response to our call to find such inspirational women was overwhelming. We received a total of 160 nominations. It is fair to say that all of the nominated women deserved to be recognised and selecting twenty women to shine the light on was a hard task.    

The 20 inspirational women that were selected by a small committee comprising of BRS, GEN and government representatives (men and women) represent a wide range of organizations, sectors, functions and nationalities. Some of the dynamic, knowledgeable,  bold and enthusiastic women are from the UN family or intergovernmental organizations; from UNEP, UNECE, the Secretariat of the Aarhus Convention, UNDP REDD+, UNITAR, the International Trade Center (ITC), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Civil society is also represented by passionate and dedicated women from WWF, the International Institute on Sustainable Development and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. We also celebrated  respected, motivated and motivating women from the private sector, namely from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and Transparence.

Last but not the least, the committee acknowledged the important contribution of wise and insightful visionaries from the University of Geneva and the Swiss Parliament.

The inspirational women are: 

  • Susan Brown, Director of Global and Regional Policy at WWF
  • Fiona Marshall, environmental Affairs Officer with the Secretariat of the Aarhus Convention
  • Silja Halle, programme officer with UNEP’s post conflict and disaster management branch
  • Isabella Marras, coordinator of the  Sustainable UN Facility of UNEP
  • Monika Linn, the Chief of the Sustainable Development and Gender Unit in the Office of the Executive Secretary of UNECE
  • Berta Pesti, technical adviser on REDD+ finance at UNDP
  • Emily Bradley, UNITAR with the multilateral diplomacy team
  • Laurence Boisson de Chazournes, Professor at the University of Geneva
  • Nawal Ait-Hocine, sustainability, legal and compliance Executive
  • Ann- Kathrin Zotz, associate expert for the trade and environment programme at the International Trade Center
  • Nathalie Bernasconi, senior international lawyer and head of the economic law and policy work of the international institute on sustainable development
  • Dina Ionesco, the head of the migration, environment and climate change division of the International Organization for Migration
  • Sheila Logan, programme officer with UNEP on chemicals and waste related issues, and mercury
  • Maria Mendiluceis, the Managing Director of Climate and Energy ar the World Business Council for Sustainable Development
  • Elena Manaenkova, Assistant Secretary General at the World Meteorological Organization
  • Maria Neira, the Director of the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health at the World Health Organization
  • Sarah Price, head of Projects and Development at the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification
  • Isabelle Boutillon, Director of Premises infrastructure at the World Intellectual Property Organization
  • Cristina Buetti, at the International Telecommunication Union on issues dealing with environmental sustainability, e-waste and smart cities
  • Lisa Mazzone, a Swiss green party member of the Swiss Parliament.

The event was coupled with a portrait exhibition of our 20 awardees at the International Environment House here in Geneva.   

The nomination process provides much food for thought. Most of the nominations came through a bottom up process, whereby colleagues or staff put a name of a supervisor forward. Many of the nominated were supported by team nominations.  Many of the women were nominated by male colleagues. We also saw a few instances of a supervisor putting a name forward. 

I find it really encouraging that we can see years of mainstreaming efforts bearing fruit, as many of the nominated women work for organizations or entities the focus of which is not environmental matters as such but where environment and sustainability is important.

I would like to place a challenge for next year. Let’s look at nominating women who work to support and enable leaders and agendas.  Let’s recognise women from all UN regions who work to make change happen for the betterment of environment and sustainable development.

Ever since the signing of the Charter of the United Nations in 1945,  the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men, the UN has contributed to the advancement of the status of women worldwide. It is absolutely essential that gender equality is promoted and ensured through internationally agreed strategies, standards, programmes and goals, such as the Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality.  In my experience, the greatest impact is achieved through the daily on the ground work that we do – both men and women – to recognise, advance and respect gender equality.    

It is only when we in our work and lives have completely assimilated the view that men and women, girls and boys should have equal choices, equal opportunities, equal access – and shoulder responsibility in equal measure - that we have achieved our goal. 

This is not to say that equality means that we strive for sameness of men and women, but rather that the differences among us are a great strength. Being in an international setting, with varying cultural backgrounds and expectations, makes the challenge all the more interesting and complex. 

18th February is the 4th Anniversary of the - joint - BRS Secretariat

BRS Deputy Executive Secretary, Kerstin Stendahl, outlines lessons learnt from 10 years of working on synergies.

18th February is the 4th Anniversary of the - joint - BRS Secretariat

18th February is the 4th Anniversary of the - joint - BRS Secretariat

10 years of synergies among the BRS conventions

Distinguished participants and colleagues,

It is a great pleasure to represent the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions here today.  I would like to thank and congratulate the CBD secretariat and Switzerland for facilitating and organising this workshop.  It is clear that there is much scope and hope for progressing synergies within the biodiversity cluster over the next few days

As Deputy Executive Secretary of the BRS Conventions I have been working on synergies in the secretariat for the last three years.  Before that I was very engaged in synergies from a Party perspective, co-chairing different working groups and COP sessions.  I feel very fortunate to have been involved from the start in this interesting, challenging and successful process.

In May this year, the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions will be celebrating the 10 year anniversary of our synergies process.  It all began in 2006 with the Stockholm COP 2 decision to join an ad hoc joint working group consisting of a total of 45 members.  There were to be 15 parties per convention that were selected taking due consideration of regional balance. 

It was clear from the start that in order to strengthen coordination and cooperation among the BRS conventions, the parties to all three conventions needed to feel that they were equally included and were entering a level playing field in the negotiations. 

Addressing fears and distrust among those that face change is an absolute necessity in any synergies process.  Needless to say, transparent communication is key.

The need to ensure inclusion and equal opportunity meant that already the establishment of the joint working group required some carefully crafted language.  The Stockholm COP was the first to address the issue and therefore suggested the establishment of an ad hoc joint working group as a possible way forward and then went on to invite the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel and Rotterdam Conventions to consider that option, and in the event of their endorsement, noted that it would agree to its establishment.

One decade later the synergies live on, with new challenges. 

We will know more about what these challenges are by the end of this year as we are just about to embark on a review of the synergies arrangements at all levels of implementation.  Based on the results from the review, the conferences of the parties to the three conventions should at their COPs in May 2017be able to define how the synergies arrangements could be enhanced and what needs to be adapted or modified in the future to increase the impact of the conventions. 

Let me remind ourselves of the initial objectives of the BRS synergies process.  The Parties stated clearly that what they wanted out of enhanced cooperation and coordination among the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions was:

  • strengthened implementation at the national, regional and international levels
  • promotion of coherent policy guidance
  • enhanced efficiency in the provision of support to Parties with a view to reducing their administrative burden
  • maximising the efficient and effective use of resources at all levels

The synergies process among the BRS conventions has always been, and still is, driven by parties, taking into account global concerns and specifically responding to the needs of developing countries. 

The joint working group therefore spent much time during its three meetings discussing what the specific needs of Parties are and these discussions subsequently guided the drafting of the COP decisions. 

The Parties were also very clear as to the fact that any institutional rearrangements had to be based on needs expressed. The notion of form follows function has always been at the core of synergies.  

Over the last decade the Parties to the three conventions have adopted some 20 decisions pertaining specifically to enhanced cooperation and coordination among the Parties. 

What have we achieved so far?

  • We have convened two sets of ordinary meetings of the Conferences of the Parties back to back in 2013 and 2015, and the third set of tripleCOPs will be held in May next year. 
  • We have also held two sets of extraordinary meetings of the COPs – specifically to look at synergies issues.  Thanks to the generous support of governments, we have been able to fund 2-3 developing country participants to the tripleCOPs, thus aiding national dialogue among the delegates.
  • Many countries also already have in place interministerial commissions or committees on chemicals and waste.
  • We also present information on national focal points in a joint manner on our websites, making it easier to link up with colleagues from the three conventions
  • As to the COPs’ programmes of work - some 20 cross-cutting and joint activities have been included allowing for lifecycle implementation of the conventions.
  • A joint technical assistance programme for the three conventions is in place, as part of which the secretariat arranges national and regional training workshops on how to increase coordination and cooperation.
  • We compile and highlight case studies on successful synergies at national level and thus facilitate processes on best practices and learning from others
  • There is increased collaboration between the scientific and technical bodies of the conventions, involving experts from several conventions, for example training of members of scientific groups, joint rosters of experts, guideline documents that address joint issues and intersessional work on environmentally sound management of POPS waste
  • Other issues dealt with in a joint manner include  legislation, linked obligations, enforcement, illegal traffic, information exchange and flow, customs, resource mobilisation, awareness raising, risk assessment and communication, import/export issues, and alternatives to hazardous chemicals
  • Through our regional centres under Basel and Stockholm we increasingly channel regional delivery for all three conventions as well as for the Minamata convention on mercury
  • We have adopted a harmonized approach to parties’ needs assessments, resource mobilization and international cooperation.
  • We have a joint calendar for all meetings of the conventions easily accessible on our web-page
  • We do joint communication and joint web-pages for the three conventions as well as a synergies webpage
  • The parties negotiate the three budgets of the conventions in a joint budget group and present the budgets in an overall format
  • Parties have also requested us to determine the feasibility of a joint single trust fund for staffing costs
  • The three secretariats have been merged into one, with one joint Executive Secretary and an Executive Secretary for the FAO part of the Rotterdam secretariat
  • The merged secretariat works in a matrix structure through its branches on technical assistance, scientific support and conventions operations as well as a unit on administrative services. Through the matrix we disseminate and develop best practices and processes across the joint secretariat.  We also hold regular matrix training sessions. 

I also hope that Parties and colleagues in the UN system as well as stakeholders find it easier to access and work with us now that we are one secretariat, a one stop shop as it were.

In conclusion, it is clear that the conventions have benefitted from joint action at the various levels of implementation. 

It is important, though, to note that the conventions and their decision-making bodies remain sovereign and autonomous. This is the firm foundation and another essential guiding principle of our work that has been clearly communicated by our Parties.

I wish you much success in your deliberations on this very important and engaging matter.

Thank you. 

What are the implications of the recent CRC11 meeting?

Interview between Charlie Avis, BRS Public Information Officer, Yun Zhou, Technical Officer of the Rotterdam Convention Secretariat based at FAO Rome.

What are the implications of the recent CRC11 meeting?

What are the implications of the recent CRC11 meeting?

Interview between Charlie Avis, BRS Public Information Officer, Yun Zhou, Technical Officer of the Rotterdam Convention Secretariat based at FAO Rome.

Charlie Avis (CA): Good morning, Yun, you must be very busy right now following up on the recent CRC meeting, thanks for joining me and first question please: what exact role does this scientific subsidiary body play in the workings of the Convention?
Yun Zhou (YZ): Good morning, Charlie and thank you! Yes indeed we are all very busy building on the highly successful meeting. The CRC – or Chemicals Review Committee to give it its full title – is made up of 31 experts in chemicals management appointed by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Rotterdam Convention and is responsible for undertaking scientific review of chemicals proposed for listing. Based on the Committee’s recommendations the COP takes a final decision on the listing of a chemical into Annex III of the Convention

CA: So actually the Committee prepares the way for decisions to be taken by parties at the COP, at which point they become binding. So, please tell me, what decisions have been taken by the Committee so far?
YZ: At its tenth meeting, CRC took decisions to recommend listing short-chained chlorinated paraffins and tributyltin compounds in Annex III to the Convention as industrial chemicals.  The Committee then prepared draft decision guidance documents on those chemicals and adopted them at the eleventh meeting. The Committee also concluded that at least two notifications of final regulatory action from two PIC regions for carbofuran and carbosulfan met the criteria in Annex II to the Convention, and thereby recommended listing of those chemicals in Annex III to the Convention as pesticides. The Committee will prepare draft decision guidance documents for consideration at its next meeting in September 2016.

CA: The two pesticides you mention, carbosulfan and carbofuran: can you please give me an idea of what uses they have had, and in which parts of the world?
YZ: Indeed. Carbofuran and carbosulfan are used to control pests in a wide variety of field crops. Just to give some examples, in the EU carbofuran was used to control soil insects where maize, sugar beet or sunflowers are grown. In Canada, it was applied to sunflower, corn, sugar beet, potato, raspberry, and strawberry. In the Sahelian countries it was used in various vegetables, fruits and other crops as well as in forests. With regard to carbosulfan it was used on maize, sugar beet, citrus and cotton. The review of the two pesticides by the CRC is triggered by the notifications submitted by the EU, seven Sahelian countries and in the case of carbofuran also by Canada. These countries concluded that the risks to human health and environment caused by the two pesticides were unacceptable and consequently banned them.

CA: And if those two chemicals are then listed, what would that mean for the parties in terms of obligations?
YZ: The chemicals listed in Annex III to the Convention are subject to the Prior Informed Consent - or PIC - Procedure. The PIC procedure is a mechanism for obtaining and disseminating the decisions of importing Parties on the import of the chemicals listed in Annex III and for ensuring compliance with those decisions by exporting Parties.

Each chemical listed in Annex III has a decision guidance document (DGD) made available to all Parties. The decision guidance documents are intended to help governments assess the risks associated with the handling and use of the chemical and make more informed decisions about future import and use of the chemical, taking into account local conditions.

For each chemical listed in Annex III, all Parties need to take a decision on whether or not they will allow future import of the chemical, and send such a decision (import response) to the Secretariat. The Secretariat circulates the import responses every six months through the PIC circular. Exporting Parties need to ensure that exports of chemicals in Annex III do not occur contrary to the decision of each importing Party. Exporting Parties ensure that import responses published in the PIC Circular are immediately communicated to their exporters, industry and other relevant authorities.

CA: Good! Back to the CRC, is there another “chance” between now and the COP to propose additional decisions?
YZ: Yes, the CRC will meet again in September 2016 to review candidate chemicals and propose additional decisions on listing if they meet the criteria set out by the Convention. In order for them to do so parties of the Convention need to submit notifications of final regulatory actions for banned or severely restricted chemicals. Further, developing countries and countries with an economy in transition are encouraged to submit proposal on pesticide formulations that cause human health or environment problems under the use conditions in their countries. The CRC counts on timely submission by parties. 

CA: And what work is ongoing between now and then?

YZ: A lot of work is going on between now and then. For each of the chemicals listed in Annex III a DGD is prepared by the CRC to help governments making informed decisions about future imports of these chemicals. As decided at the current meeting, the CRC immediately started with the preparation of the DGD for carbofuran and carbosulfan, which will be finalized at its next meeting and submitted to the COP together with CRC’s recommendations to list the pesticides in Annex III. In order to enhance the efficiency of its work, about two months before the actual meeting the CRC will start to preliminary review the information submitted by parties, which is often voluminous. The members serve the Committee for four year in each term. In May 2016 about half of the current committee members will be replaced by new members. In view of the upcoming meeting of the CRC in September 2016 and of the substantial contribution required of members towards the intersessional work, it is important to enable new members and to provide them with appropriate tools. An orientation workshop will be organized in April 2016 to familiarize new members with the role and mandate of the CRC, as well as its operational procedures and policy guidance. The workshop will provide a platform to exchange experience, transfer knowledge and will help fostering efficient working relationships among members of the Committee. The secretariat supports the CRC in carrying out all these activities. It is indeed rewording to work with such a highly competent and dedicated Committee.

CA: Finally, the Convention is jointly administered by FAO in Rome and UNEP in Geneva. Can you say something about this shared responsibility, and how does it work in practice?
YZ: Indeed, the team supporting the CRC consists of staff from both parts of the Secretariats and works closely together. A workplan is jointly developed, which clarifies the responsibilities of each team member and helps us to communicate and monitor the progress. With regard to the technical support to the Committee the FAO colleagues are taking care of the pesticides while UNEP colleagues deal with the industrial chemicals. As the meeting was held at the FAO headquarters we also receive logistic support from the relevant divisions of the organization.  

CA: Thank you very much for your time, good luck with this important work
YZ: Thank you !

Reflections on 22 years of working for a safer tomorrow

On the occasion of his retirement, BRS Senior Programme Officer, Nelson Sabogal, reflects on a distinguished career devoted to the sound management of chemicals and waste.

Reflections on 22 years of working for a safer tomorrow

Reflections on 22 years of working for a safer tomorrow

Interview between Nelson Sabogal, Senior Programme Officer, BRS Secretariat, and Charlie Avis, BRS Public Information Officer.

CA: Good morning, Nelson, first of all, let me wholeheartedly congratulate you on your retirement, you will be much missed not only here in the BRS Secretariat but also around the world. Thank you, in advance, for sharing with us some of your reflections, experiences, hopes, and aspirations as you reach this landmark in your life.

NS: Thank you Charlie

CA: So, please, tell us, in the 22 years you have been involved internationally in chemicals and waste governance, what do you consider the sector’s major achievement?

NS: I think the phase out of the ozone depleting chemicals by developed and developing countries. All the countries in the world have done an excellent effort to implement the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and its Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, so that we now expect the recovery of the ozone layer around the middle of this century, in 35 years time from now.

CA: How was that achieved? What were some of the crucial elements which allowed that to happen?

NS: This was achieved because of science, when the ozone research demonstrated the risk of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the decrease of stratospheric ozone over Antarctica, the policy makers, using the precautionary principle, adopted the Montreal Protocol and the financial and technical means were provided through the Multilateral Fund and the Panels. The scientific, environmental, technical and economic information was provided on time to amend the Protocol and the countries followed by phasing out the CFCs, halons and other substances that destroy the ozone layer in their industries and the consumers played a fundamental role like in the refrigeration and aerosols sectors. Personally I consider this is an excellent example that shows that the humankind can tackle the climate change, at the end this is a responsibility of every one.

CA: A lot of your work has been on behalf of the different regions, and not just your native Latin America. How have you seen the changing political, economic, and technological landscape across those regions, in these two and half decades?

NS: Well, in the specific case of the chemicals and waste sector there has been a lot of progress in all regions of the world, as an example, there is very well crafted legislation in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Mexico, the environmentally sound management of wastes has improved in Asia, and a lot of obsolete stocks of old pesticides containing persistent organic pollutants have been eliminated in Africa, and Europe is moving towards prevention and minimization of the generation of wastes. All these contributions are important, and the process is largely driven by the Parties as one would expect, however there is also a lot of expertise in the private, academic, non-governmental sectors, and in the cities of the world. We have an excellent asset, the Basel and Stockholm Conventions Regional Centres that steer regional efforts by linking global hazardous chemicals and wastes management obligations with national development plans.

CA: The BRS Secretariat is unique in environmental governance in that it serves and coordinates three separate but interlinked international conventions. Tell us a little background to how this “synergies” arrangement came about, and how successful do you consider it to have been, relative to initial expectations?

NS: Actually, I am privileged to have been involved since the start of the synergies process and the idea was to enhance the implementation of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, bearing in mind the lifecycle approach and the interlocking coverage of the three conventions. The main focus was the Parties, that when they are implementing the three conventions, they ensure close cooperation and coordination among the relevant sectors and ministries. In fact, I think the main focus should increasingly now be in the field, in the real implementation of the three conventions at national and local levels.

CA: From Science to Action: what does that mean for you, and what does it mean for the Convention/s?

NS: Well firstly to achieve lifecycle approach to the sound management of hazardous chemicals and wastes to protect human health and the environment you need a good understanding of the scientific aspects. Science was behind of the Montreal Protocol and the Stockholm Convention. The work for the implementation of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions have contributed to the development of knowledge, like the Basel Technical Guidelines and the scientific documents on the chemicals and their alternatives that contribute to the recommendations of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee and the Chemicals Review Committee. The Parties should continue to strengthen the scientific and technical base of the three conventions in order to have better decisions and enhance their implementation.

CA: One last question please: how do you see the future for sound management of chemicals and wastes, what are the big issues, where are the major challenges, what are the prospects for succeeding to protect human health and the environment?

NS: Excellent questions! The future for the sound management of chemicals and wastes is prevention, minimization and better use of the chemicals and resources from wastes. Already Europe is moving on the Waste Prevention Programmes, California has very good examples on how to prevent waste in several industrial and services sectors and China is moving to circular economy industry, turning waste into resources. Waste reduction also helps conserve resources for future generations and contributes to a cleaner environment and to protect the climate of the Earth.

We also have our “lighthouse” the Cartagena Declaration on the Prevention, Minimization and Recovery of Hazardous Wastes and Other Wastes adopted at the Tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (COP 10).

I am retiring in the year of the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations and the year of the adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

CA: Thank you very much for your time Nelson, muchas gracias, and all good wishes for your future, you have definitely earned a rest although I expect you will still be quite busy!

NS: Thank you, Charlie.

Executive Secretary addresses the International Conference on Chemicals Management

The fourth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management took place in Geneva from 28 September to 2 October 2015. The Executive Secretary's interventions at the meeting are now available.

Executive Secretary addresses the International Conference on Chemicals Management

Executive Secretary addresses the International Conference on Chemicals Management

Interventions by Rolph Payet on progress and challenges towards the achievement of the 2020 goal for the sound chemicals management, at the fourth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (agenda item 4(a)).

Distinguished Participants, 

As a stakeholder of SAICM, this meeting is an important opportunity for us to assess what more we must do together over the next five years especially with regards to the numerous outstanding challenges highlighted by previous speakers. 

Enhanced cooperation and coordination between chemicals and wastes-related MEAs, in particular the BRS conventions, and SAICM, is indeed key to the pursuit of the 2020 goal. 

With this in mind, I am pleased to inform you (in a flash) of the outcomes of the 2015 meetings of the three COPs and of the specific contributions made under the three Conventions to the five objectives of the SAICM Overarching Policy Strategy: 

With regard to the Risk reduction Objective:

  • Nine new technical guidelines were adopted under the Basel Convention, including, on an interim basis, technical guidelines concerning the transboundary movement of e-waste and used electronic and electrical products; 
  • Three new chemicals were added to the Stockholm Convention
  • One new chemical was added to the Rotterdam Convention 
With regard to the Knowledge and information Objective:
  • The three conferences of the parties adopted identical decisions on the clearing-house mechanism for information exchange and “Science to action”, promoting the exchange of information and strengthening the scientific underpinning for decision-making and policy-making in the sound management of hazardous chemicals and wastes.
  • I would also like to draw the attention of delegations to the report of the Special Rapporteur on implications of human rights on chemicals and wastes with regards to ‘access to information’. 

With regard to the Governance Objective: 

  • The COPs re-emphasized the importance of enhancing cooperation and coordination with other international bodies to facilitate the fulfilment of the objectives of the conventions, in particular within the chemicals and wastes cluster. 
  • Pursuant to this mandate, the BRS Secretariat participates in SAICM meetings and provides inputs to relevant SAICM processes in areas of common interest, and undertakes a number of other cooperative activities with the SAICM Secretariat, through an internal task-force established in early 2014 between the BRS Secretariat and the Chemicals and Waste Branch of UNEP. 
  • I bring to your attention information document SAICM/ICCM.4/INF/24, which summarizes the main areas of cooperation between the BRS Secretariat and SAICM. 

With regard to the Capacity-building and technical cooperation Objective:

  • Similar decisions on technical assistance were adopted by the COPs in which they welcomed the technical assistance programme for the biennium 2016-17 and requested the Secretariat to implement it with relevant actors;
  • The Basel and Stockholm COPs adopted similar decisions on regional centres, and further recognized their role in enhancing the provision of technical assistance to support national efforts of developing countries and countries with economies in transition for the implementation of the conventions; 
  • On partnerships, the Basel Convention COP extended the mandate of the Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment (PACE) until 2017. 

With regard to the Illegal traffic Objective:

  • The COPs requested the Secretariat to prepare recommendations on possible synergies between the three conventions in preventing and combating illegal traffic and trade in hazardous chemicals and wastes, building on lessons learned under the Basel Convention.
  • The COP to the Basel Convention mandated the Implementation and Compliance Committee to develop guidance on how to deal with wastes illegally trafficked ; and renewed the membership of the Environmental Network for Optimizing Regulatory Compliance on Illegal Traffic (ENFORCE) which promotes cooperation and coordination between relevant entities to deliver capacity-building activities and tools on preventing and combating illegal traffic. 

The BRS Secretariat is an important stakeholder to SAICM and, as mandated by the COPs, will continue to contribute to SAICM processes and activities of relevance to the conventions. 

Other interventions made by the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions at the ICCM4:

Interview with the new Rotterdam Executive Secretary (FAO)

Meet the new ES of the FAO part of the Rotterdam Convention, William Murray, and discover his expectations for the upcoming Chemicals Review Committee (CRC) meeting in Rome.

Interview with the new Rotterdam Executive Secretary (FAO)

Interview with the new Rotterdam Executive Secretary (FAO)

Meet the new ES of the FAO part of the Rotterdam Convention, William Murray, and discover his expectations for the upcoming Chemicals Review Committee (CRC) meeting in Rome.

INTERVIEW: Look ahead to the Triple COPs with the three COP Coordinators

A look ahead to what to expect from the Triple COPs with Alain Wittig, Andrea Lechner, and Marylene Beau

INTERVIEW: Look ahead to the Triple COPs with the three COP Coordinators

INTERVIEW: Look ahead to the Triple COPs with the three COP Coordinators

INTERVIEW: Look ahead to the Triple COPs with the three COP Coordinators

Interview between Charlie Avis, BRS Public Information Officer, and the three COP Coordinators, respectively Basel: Alain Wittig; Rotterdam: Andrea Lechner; and Stockholm: Marylene Beau, Programme Officers with the BRS Secretariat.

Charlie Avis (CA): Good morning, Alain, Andrea, and Marylene, you must be very busy right now with less than a week before the Triple COPs, so thanks for your time. Tell me, how are the preparations going?
Alain Wittig (AW): Good morning, Charlie and thank you! Yes indeed we are all very busy with the final preparations of the organization of the Triple COPs - all is going well. We had the great pleasure of meeting the 3 COP Presidents in Geneva last week to finalize arrangements for these meetings. We discussed, among others, the rotation of chairing the various joint sessions on joint issues and the arrangements for the meetings of the bureaux and contact groups. The entire Secretariat is now working hard in finalizing the last arrangements to ensure that all is in place for the opening of the meetings next Monday to enable the successful running of the meetings of COPs.

CA: What does it actually mean “COP Coordinator”, what do you actually do?
Andrea Lechner (AL): Everything! Well, actually each of us is in charge of the COP-related work under one of the Conventions. In preparing for the COPs, we make sure that all meeting documents are prepared on time and that the organization of work provides sufficient time for discussing all agenda items. We also coordinate the intersessional work with the bureaux and the presidents of our COPs in terms of follow-up to decisions taken, bureaux meetings and ensuring that Convention-specific activities are incorporated into the Secretariat’s work plans and are duly implemented as requested by the COPs. 

CA: You seem to work very much as a team - which would suggest there is a lot in common to your individual responsibilities. Is this how you identify “synergies”?
Marylene Beau (MB): Indeed, although we have specific areas of responsibilities, we very much work together as a team to organize these meetings. The Conventions, through the synergies process, have a joint secretariat (UNEP part) which facilitates the implementation of consistent approaches and processes across the three conventions. This is done at different levels, e.g. programmatic or administrative levels. Regarding the servicing of the meetings of the COPs, a lot of synergies have been identified and the best practices have been retained and improved throughout the years to enhance the efficiency of the Secretariat’s functions in this regard.

CA: Let’s turn to the COPs themselves. Is the agenda for this coming Triple COP organised any differently to the previous one? Will there be joint sessions featuring all three conventions together?
AW: The Triple COPs this year will in many ways be organized in a similar manner as in 2013, but they will also feature some differences. For example, this year there will be no high-level segment or simultaneous extraordinary meetings. Regarding some of the similarities, the three COPs are again being organized back-to-back and will include joint sessions on joint issues. Another similarity is that the joint sessions will be followed by sequential sessions of each individual COP meeting, starting with the SC COP, followed by the BC COP and finally the RC COP. The last day of the meetings will again feature a joint session to consider the outcomes of the joint contact groups and would discuss any outstanding joint issues, before each COP closes its meeting.

CA: Can you describe the process: how do decisions get made in the COPs, and how does that eventually influence national implementation?
AL: Decisions at the COPs are generally taken by consensus. The texts for these decisions are prepared by the Secretariat and presented in pre-session documents or so-called Conference Room Papers. For more complex items, contact groups are set up at the meetings to prepare draft decisions for adoption in plenary. Having the three COPs meet during the same two-week period allows them to take harmonized decisions on common issues. After the COPs, it is up to each country to implement these decisions at the national level. For some more substantive decisions, such as those to amend the convention for example in order to list new chemicals, parties to the conventions might need to amend their national regulations in order to reflect the decision taken by the COP.

CA: So what is coming up next week, which is common to the three conventions?
MB: The upcoming COPs will include some joint sessions during which issues that are common to two or three of the conventions will be considered. The items for the joint sessions were agreed upon by the bureaux of the COPs. The objective of the joint sessions is to strengthen implementation and interlinkages between the areas of work under the different conventions or to address cross-cutting organizational matters. Items that will be considered in joint sessions include POPs wastes, technical assistance, financial resources, compliance under the Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, international cooperation and coordination, programmes of work and budgets.  

 CA: Are there interesting things happening alongside the COPs?
AW: Yes, many interesting events will take place in the margins of the COPs! A science fair will take place in parallel to the negotiation process from 7 to 9 May 2015 under the common theme of this year’s Triple COPs - ‘From science to action, working for a safer tomorrow’. The aim of the Fair is to increase the understanding of the scientific basis and related processes of the three conventions and to increase awareness of the in-depth scientific considerations relating to decision-making under the three conventions. In addition to the science fair, more than 35 side events will be held during lunch breaks and in the evenings on major issues covered under the conventions. The Government of Switzerland will organize a number of events, such as a reception during the evening of Monday 4 May, and a boat trip on Sunday 10 May 2015, to give a warm welcome to delegates to Geneva.

CA: And the million dollar (chemicals and waste) question: what are your expectations for next week, what will be decided?
AL: There are a number of “standing” items on the agenda of every COP that we expect guidance on from the parties: These include for example the Secretariat’s technical assistance programme, financial resources for chemicals and wastes and last but not least the programme of work and budget for the next biennium. From COP coordinator side, the most exciting discussions at the upcoming COPs will be related to the adoption of technical guidelines under the Basel Convention, the listing of new chemicals under the Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions and the possible adoption of procedures and mechanisms on compliance under the Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions. We look forward to the decisions parties will take on these matters.

CA: Any surprises in store?
MB: A lot of the issues at the agendas of the COPs have been consulted and discussed among regions and countries during the preparatory process leading to the meetings, either through the bureaux or the regional preparatory meetings that took place in March-April.  We thus feel much more aware about issues that could come up than in the past. However, for large meetings like the Triple COPs, we can always expect some surprises, which we hope will be good ones!  

CA: Thank you very much for your time, good luck next week.
AW, AL, MB: Thank you very much Charlie for this opportunity and we wish a successful COP to all participants.

 

Interview with FAO’s Christine Fuell

Find out all about Rotterdam Convention implementation and the role of FAO in the latest of our interview series marking the Countdown to the Triple COPs

Interview with FAO’s Christine Fuell

Interview with FAO’s Christine Fuell

Interview with Christine Fuell, Senior Technical Officer and Coordinator of the Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention within the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome, Italy, and Charlie Avis, BRS Public Information Officer.

CA: Good morning, Christine, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us today. What are the main issues to be addressed at the upcoming meetings of the triple COPs, in particular for the Rotterdam Convention?

CF: Good morning, Charlie, and thank you for giving me this opportunity. One of the main issues will of course be the consideration of chemicals for inclusion in Annex III to the Convention. This time the Chemical Review Committee (CRC), which met in Rome in October 2014, recommended the pesticides methamidophos and trichlorfon, as well as two so-called severely hazardous pesticide formulations, namely fenthion formulation, and paraquat dichloride formulations. In addition, we will discuss, for the 5th time in the history of the Convention COP meetings, the industrial chemical chrysotile asbestos. Another important topic is of course the status of implementation of the Convention. This provides Parties with the opportunity to highlight their implementation efforts and encourages others to do likewise.

CA: The theme of the 2015 triple COPs’ meetings is “From science to action: working for a safer tomorrow” – is science key to the Rotterdam Convention and if so, how?

CF: Definitely! The availability of scientific information is essential to our ability to understand the risks posed by chemicals and pesticides to human health and the environment, and eventually assists us to manage those risks properly. The objective of the Rotterdam Convention is to contribute to the environmentally sound use of certain hazardous chemicals, by inter alia facilitating information exchange about their characteristics. The Convention is built upon requirements for science-based risk and hazard evaluation, as well as scientifically-supported information on the physico-chemical, toxicological and eco-toxicological properties of the chemicals and pesticides for which Parties submit notifications of final regulatory actions for bans or restrictions. Such notifications are reviewed by an independent and impartial scientific committee, the CRC, which consists of government-designated experts in chemical management.

CA: The Rotterdam Convention aims to protect human health and the environment from potential harm of certain hazardous chemicals, as do the other two chemicals and waste conventions, the Basel and Stockholm Conventions. Why is the Secretariat for the Rotterdam Convention split between Geneva and Rome?

CF: The Convention, in Article 19, states that the secretariat functions shall be performed jointly by UNEP and FAO; a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was also adopted in 2005 by both organizations with a view to clarify the secretariat roles and fulfil this responsibility, acknowledging the "areas of competence, comparative strengths and experience, FAO having primary responsibility for pesticides and UNEP taking primary responsibility for other chemicals, in order to facilitate the mobilization by the Secretariat of the full range of scientific, technical and economic expertise required by the Convention".

FAO, as the United Nation’s specialized agency for food and agriculture, has the strongest expertise on pesticides and their whole life-cycle, including their uses and wastes when pesticides become obsolete. FAO also provides key capacity on alternatives and alternative approaches, including integrated pest management and agro-ecology. The development and sharing of alternatives (to banned or restricted hazardous chemicals, whether industrial chemicals or pesticides) is a key element of the Rotterdam Convention.

CA: What else does FAO bring, in terms of capacities and expertise?

CF: It is not only the expertise available in FAO Headquarters itself, but also the global network which currently covers more than 180 countries. The decentralized network includes 5 Regional Offices, 9 Subregional Offices, and 80 FAO Representations. We closely cooperate with 18 Plant Protection Officers and their national networks all around the world, all with substantive expertise with regard to pesticides and with thorough knowledge of the national and regional situation and the conditions of use, something very important when it comes to - for example - incidents with severely hazardous pesticide formulations.

CA: How do they support you in practice?

CF: Most importantly, they give us first-hand information on the immediate needs of a country. Furthermore, whenever we provide technical assistance to a country or a region, they mobilise the most relevant and effective networks in that region. They, together with the Designated National Authorities (DNAs) and Official Contact Points (OCPs), support us to ensure that we reach out to the right participants, and make us aware of any particularities that might influence the success of a project or a workshop, and helping also with practical and logistic arrangements. But it doesn’t stop here.

CA: What else?

CF: We align the technical assistance we provide based on the programme of work mandated by the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention, as far as possible with FAO’s strategic objectives, regional initiatives, major areas of work and the country priorities as outlined in their Country Programming Framework. Like this, we join forces, avoid duplication of work, and ensure the maximum impact from given resources.

CA: Can you give us a practical example?

CF: In 2014, the secretariat staff supported several Latin-American countries through sub-regional training and planning workshops to prepare national action plans and to strengthen their capacity on meeting their obligations under the Rotterdam Convention. National follow-up is then done by the FAO Plant Protection Officers in the sub-region, with whom the Secretariat exchanges all necessary materials and instructions via skype, email, teleconferences and any media. This saves time and costs on staff travel while ensuring that participants have a direct partner in the region. Technical assistance of this nature in 2014 in Latin-America led to the submission of 60 additional import responses (Honduras: 17, Dominican Republic: 29, Nicaragua: 8, and Colombia: 6).

CA: Will you be travelling to attend the meetings of the triple COPs in Geneva in May, and if so, what are your expectations?

CF: Of course! The whole Rome team will be present, and not only for the Rotterdam Convention COP meeting. We will have a booth at the Science Fair, we will facilitate specialist side events, and we will support the contact groups meeting aside the plenary sessions of the COPs. We will also assist the colleagues in Geneva in many organizational/administrative and technical tasks behind the scene. As to expectations, agreement on the so called non-compliance mechanism and procedures would be a very significant step forwards, because it has been considered at all previous meetings of the Rotterdam Convention COP, including the latest one held in 2013 (‘RC COP6’), at which much progress was made. 

Most importantly, the Parties’ unanimous agreement on the listing of all 5 candidate chemicals would be a big achievement, remembering that this would not constitute an outright ban but rather make them subject to the PIC procedure, a structured process of information exchange, from which all Parties may greatly benefit. I know my expectations are high; however, thanks to our joint efforts in the preparation of these COPs’ meetings, I am confident that we will meet many of them! 

CA: Thank you very much for your time.

CF: Thank you, Charlie, for this opportunity and see you soon in Geneva!

Gender – Why it matters and what BRS is doing

Kerstin Stendahl, BRS Deputy Executive Secretary, on how gender considerations are necessary for full implementation of the Conventions

Gender – Why it matters and what BRS is doing

Gender – Why it matters and what BRS is doing

“Linking gender equality with sustainable development is important for several reasons. It is a moral and ethical imperative. Efforts to achieve a just and sustainable future cannot ignore the rights, dignity and capabilities of half the world’s population.” UN Women World Survey 2014.

Charlie Avis: Kerstin, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, please tell us why gender is relevant to the sound management of chemicals and hazardous wastes and the implementation of the BRS conventions?

Kerstin Stendahl: Incorporating gender consideration into the sound management of chemicals and wastes is absolutely key because women, men, boys and girls are exposed to chemicals and hazardous wastes in different ways and to varying degrees depending on where they work and live.  In addition to gender differences in exposure to hazardous substances there are also differences in physiological susceptibility between men and women, girls and boys.  We need to take these differences into account when we devise measures for the sound management of chemicals and wastes so that we tailor our responses with gender aspects in mind.

Gender equality, sustainable development and the sound management of chemicals and wastes is a model example of synergies at work, and thus the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts. Without gender equality the BRS conventions will fall short of full implementation and will not therefore contribute to sustainable development to their best possible capacity.

It is very encouraging that the international community now recognizes that negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda will need to harbour, nurture and execute these fundamental ideas.

CA: What is the Secretariat doing towards this goal?

KS:  Gender equality at all levels is an important factor in making implementation of our conventions efficient.  This is why the BRS secretariat strives to make gender considerations an integral part of our day-to-day work.  Through the dedicated work of our gender coordinator and the gender task team we have devised ways and means to mainstream gender into the planning and execution of policies and activities, as decided on by the Parties.  Have a look at the BRS Gender Action Plan at http://synergies.pops.int/ManagementReports/Gender/Overview/tabid/3651/language/en-US/Default.aspx

CA: The conventions aim at protecting all human beings and the environment, why do we need to focus especially on gender?

KS: Gender mainstreaming requires us to carefully assess whether the action we take will equally impact the lives of women and men, boys and girls.  It is not an easy task and we still have a lot to do in this area, not least when it comes to addressing the unsound management of chemicals and wastes and the disproportionate impact that they have on women and girls. We also need to encourage and empower women to be part of decision – making, whereby their knowledge, experience and expertise is equally heard and accounted for.  Significant in this regard is the question of access to Secretariat training and support services. In 2014, 52% of the more than 1,100 participants in the BRS technical assistance webinar programme were female, demonstrating that women are aware of – and can use just as easily - this very popular format for building individual and institutional capacities. In this way, we support women (and men) to empower themselves to play a role for securing the sustainable management of chemicals and waste.

CA: What support is out there, to help make this happen?

KS: Thankfully, the BRS is supported and guided in its gender work by a pool of competence and expertise among governments, within UNEP and the UN system at large.  Amongst these, the work of UN Women, deserves a specific mentioning.  Its report World Survey 2014  focusses on the theme of gender equality and sustainable development and is an essential read for all of us aiming at a sustainable future. (http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2014/10/world-survey-2014-press-release#sthash.6oo084i2.dpuf )  

CA: Are there already any specific activities going on?

KS: Through the Task Team’s work and as part of the BRS Gender Action Plan, the development of internal baseline data and statistics on involvement of women and men in projects and programmes of the secretariat is well underway. More substantively, we monitor consideration of gender aspects in proposal development and project implementation, and facilitate and encourage training of staff on gender mainstreaming. And we are collecting success stories of gender mainstreaming in chemicals and waste projects which will be showcased as “gender heroes” during our triple COPs in May. Lastly, the secretariat is actively contributing to the forthcoming (UNEP) Global Gender and Environment Outlook, and collaborates with the UNEP Gender and Social Safeguards Unit on online and face-to-face trainings on gender and environment.  I also hope that we will see more discussions about the gender dimension in the implementation of our conventions during the triple COPs in May. 

CA: Tell me about the Secretariat’s staffing, is that gender balanced?

KS: It is certainly something we monitor and bear in mind as part of all action on human resources together with other aspects, such as regional balance.

I would say that we our track record is quite good. Because of specific attention we now have a gender ratio of 50% men and women at “director” level, 49% men and 51% women at “professional” level, and 56% women and 44 % men at “general service” level.


An African perspective: capacities and partnerships in focus

Join Professor Oladele Osibanjo as he describes the main capacity constraints, and partnership opportunities, for solving waste and chemicals issues in Africa

An African perspective: capacities and partnerships in focus

An African perspective: capacities and partnerships in focus

Regional Capacity, and Innovative Partnerships for the Sustainable Management of Waste: An African Perspective

Interview between Professor Oladele Osibanjo, Executive Director of the Basel Convention Coordinating Centre For Training & Technology Transfer for the African Region (Ibadan, Nigeria) and Charlie Avis, BRS Secretariat Public Information Officer

Charlie Avis: Good morning, Professor Osibanjo, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us today. Please tell me, what is the role of your Centre, and why is it important?

Professor Oladele Osibanjo:  Thank you. The Centre aims to strengthen the capacity of the parties in Africa in complying with the provisions of the Basel Convention in legal, technical and institutional arrangements; strengthen the framework for environmentally sound management (ESM) of hazardous and other wastes across the Africa region. It also assists them to effectively implement their obligations on trans-boundary movements of hazardous and other wastes. This is done very much in partnership with the Basel Convention Regional Centres (BCRCs) in Egypt for Arabic-speaking countries; in Senegal for Francophone; and South Africa (Africa Institute) for Anglophone African countries respectively.

One important role of the Centre is to facilitate interaction and exchange of information between the BRS Secretariat and Regional Centres, and among the Regional Centres, Parties and other related institutions. The centre convenes regional consultations to identify  priorities and formulate strategies, and helps define and execute regional programmes. These contribute to synergies and mechanisms of cooperation among the Regional Centres and other stakeholders in environmentally sound management (ESM) and minimization of the generation of hazardous wastes and technological transfer in and outside the region. The Centre also maintains a regional information system accessible to stakeholders.

CA:  What are the main capacity constraints facing African governments striving to implement the Basel Convention?

OO:   The infrastructure for sound management of hazardous wastes varies from no action, to little or weak action,  among the parties in the African region. The parties are at different stages of development with different approaches to hazardous waste management. Hence the importance of a regional approach as this helps parties in the region to adopt a common template for addressing ESM of hazardous waste. It also allows parties lagging behind to catch up faster with the rest of the region. It further helps to promote the implementation of the environmentally sound management of hazardous and other wastes as an essential contribution to the attainment of sustainable livelihood, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the protection of human health and the environment in the region.

The capacity challenges are multidimensional and complex. In general, waste disposal is practised more than waste management (collection, storage, sorting, transportation, recycling, processing and disposal) often due to a lack of or weak infrastructure for hazardous waste management with limited knowledge and understanding of the operational and managerial/maintenance aspects of hazardous waste management. This can also be a function of missing and/or inadequate legal and institutional/administrative frameworks for hazardous waste ESM and the control of transboundary movements. Insufficient financial resources result in poor funding leading to low standards of  hazardous waste management.  Also, a prevailing low level of awareness at all levels of governance of the adverse environmental and human health impacts of hazardous waste can lead to  a  lack of political will. Not least, the non-domestication of the Basel Convention after ratification into national laws weakens the control of transboundary movement of hazardous waste at the national level.

CA:  In terms of sector, what is the fastest growing waste stream in Africa?

OO:  The fastest growing waste stream in Africa in terms of sector is electronic waste, also known as e-waste, or Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). Africa generates about 2 million metric tons of e-waste annually. This stems from the fact that Africa is one of the major destinations of e-waste exports from developed countries under the guise of exporting used or second-hand functional electronic products to assist Africa bridge the so-called digital divide. Less than 20% of African population can afford to purchase new electronic products hence the high demand for used electronic products which could be near end of life or are already end-of-life on arrival in Africa.

CA:  How can partnerships contribute to solving these issues?

OO:  The issue of e-waste is a globalized problem requiring global solutions. The Basel Convention Parties recognized the importance of public-private partnerships in the development of innovative, appropriate, and effective strategies for achieving the ESM of hazardous waste. Thus the Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment (PACE) was launched at the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 9)in Bali, Indonesia in June 2008. PACE is a multi-stakeholder partnership forum with representatives of Governments, private sector (both producers and recyclers), international organizations, academia, the Basel Convention Regional Centres/Basel Convention Coordinating Centres – and environmental public-interest non-governmental organizations. They come together to tackle issues related to the ESM, repair, refurbishment, recycling and disposal of used and end-of-life computing equipment. PACE has developed international guidelines for ESM of end-of-life computing equipment and has begun to test the implementation of these guidelines in pilot activities in developing countries and countries with economies in transition.  

Other international partnerships include the United Nations University initiative StEP (Solving the E waste Problem (StEP) which also focuses on providing solutions to the e-waste problem, through the application of scientific research based on the life-cycle approach.  There is also the UNEP Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) which is carried out with the Information Communication Sector (ICT) since 2001.

CA:  What do you consider to be the three main successes of PACE, for the African region?

OO:   PACE provided a unique forum for representatives of personal computer manufacturers, recyclers, international organizations, academia, BCRCs/BCCCs, environmental NGOs, and governments to tackle environmentally sound refurbishment, repair, material recovery, recycling and disposal of used and end-of-life computing equipment in an environmentally sound manner. It raised awareness, particularly through the participation of government officials and Directors of BCRCs/BCCC from Africa, all gaining exposure, knowledge and experience in the process.  At the country level, Africa also benefitted from PACE, for example the E-waste inventory in Burkina Faso, and a pilot project on collection and management of used and end-of-life computing equipment from informal sector which is on-going in the same country.

CA:  How would you like to see the platform established by MPPI and PACE taken forward?

OO:   The legacies of these two global partnerships should be sustained, strengthened and taken forward in a variety of ways. It is important that the knowledge and experiences gained in MPPI and PACE in promoting ESM on used and end-of-life mobile phones and computing equipment is not lost, and that their multi-stakeholder platform should continue to provide a platform for advancing ESM in a wider spectrum of WEEE issues and products beyond consumer electronics and cover other categories of E-waste in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, at the regional and national levels beyond December 2015.

In practical terms, establishing an ‘’Ad hoc follow-up group‘’ on PACE at the end of COP 12, would continue already initiated activities that are ongoing, finalize pilot projects,  and enable reporting of lessons learned. It is also important to undertake revision of section 3 of the Guidance Document on the Environmentally Sound Management (ESM) of Used and End-of-Life Computing Equipment.

lt is also important that a New PACE or PACE after PACE be established after December 2015, that would provide a global coordination role towards facilitating the strengthening of information and experience sharing and discussion on emerging issues within the wider WEEE agenda. An expanded mandate (TOR) and governance structure envisioned for the NEW PACE  under a proposed 2-tier coordination arrangement would give greater responsibility to the BCRCs/BCCCs in regional and national coordination; while the Basel Convention Secretariat retains the primary role for global coordination, which model would require consideration and approval by COP 13 and follow-up implementation strategy.

CA:  Finally, will you be travelling to the triple COPs in Geneva in May, and if so, what are your expectations?

OO:   Yes l will be traveling to the triple COP. My expectations are many and will share a few with you. I would love to see more active participation and greater involvement of delegates from developing and economic in transition countries in contact groups’ activities. This, together with improved and more predictable and sustainable funding mechanisms for implementing Chemicals and Waste MEAs in developing countries, would do much for tackling the waste issues in Africa.

New progammes on enhanced advocacy, awareness-raising and education on the global chemicals and waste issues would be welcome, with connectivities and implications for sustainable development, poverty alleviation and the creation of green jobs, for developing countries and countries with economies in transition.

CA:  Thank you very much for your time.

OO:   It is my pleasure. Thank you.

Interview: Science as the Bottom Line

Abiola Olanipekun, Chief of the BRS Scientific Support Branch, explains that rigorous and inclusive scientific processes underpin the 3 conventions

Interview: Science as the Bottom Line

Interview: Science as the Bottom Line

Interview with Abiola Olanipekun, Chief of the BRS Scientific Support Branch by Charlie Avis, BRS Public Information Officer

Charlie Avis: Abiola, why will a Science Fair accompany the forthcoming triple COPs of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions here in Geneva, from 7-9th May 2015? 

Abiola Olanipekun: Thank you. We are staging a 3 day Science Fair in order to raise awareness amongst delegates, parties and stakeholders, concerning how science underpins the implementation of the three conventions. The event will feature interactive displays, special events, film viewings, hands-on exhibits, panel discussions, lots of presentations and posters, and this diversity reflects the enormous range of stakeholders who together are moving forward the agenda for sustainable management of chemicals and waste.

CA: How does science underpin the conventions’ implementation, then?

AO: The science/policy interface is of supreme importance, in a world shaped by often largely political and economic interests. Right since the negotiation and adoption of the three Conventions, a sound scientific base was seen as necessary to give the Conventions both the information, and the credibility, they need in order to pursue their goals of protecting human health and the environment.

CA: More specifically?

AO: Scientific analysis is central to every step of the process. For example, when a chemical is proposed for listing under the Stockholm Convention, a party is to submit a proposal, accompanied by a scientific justification for the need for global control. Scientific evaluation is carried out by experts from various countries from all United Nations (UN) regions, who are involved in the work of the respective technical subsidiary bodies under the Conventions. These experts sign a “declaration of conflict of interest” meaning that they will not pursue any financial interests or influence by a commercial entity to enter into their deliberations. Further steps requiring inputs from the scientific community include risk mitigation through identification of suitable alternatives and the search for Best Available Techniques and Best Environmental Practices. Guidelines for monitoring, capacity-building on the implementation of alternatives, assistance with reporting obligations, and a host of other activities are also undertaken based on state-of-the-art science and objective expertise.

CA: It sounds like a lot of work. Is it bearing fruit?

AO: Yes, the good news is that according to our data, people and the environment are less exposed to certain Persistent Organic Pollutants (or POPs) than previously. The trend is definitely downwards with respect to chemicals listed in the Convention annexes. But at the same time, we have our work cut out: since new chemicals are entering the market – and therefore entering our environment and our bodies, all the time.

CA: Please tell me about this good news, what are you actually measuring? 

AO: We are mandated to carry out a global monitoring programme to measure POPs concentrations in the air, water and in human populations (breast milk and maternal blood) and have been implementing this global programme since the entry into force of the Stockholm Convention in 2004. Within 11 years of existence of the Convention, a rich and extremely valuable global POPs monitoring dataset has been generated. These data are compiled into Regional and Global Monitoring Reports every six years. The first reports were published in 2009, showing baseline concentrations of POPs in all UN regions, and the second round of reports are being issued in the next weeks and will focus on the identification of trends in exposure to POPs over time.

CA: And what do the data show?

AO: The trends are definitely downwards! This demonstrates the effectiveness of the Convention. For the first time, these monitoring data are also made available through a global monitoring plan data warehouse and information system which can be accessed at http://www.pops-gmp.org/  The development and adoption of technical guidelines for environmentally sound management of wastes under the Basel Convention is also critical in ensuring that hazardous wastes are managed in a manner to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects which may result from such wastes.

CA: Very impressive indeed. What are the major challenges for the Conventions, in terms of the scientific underpinning for implementation?

AO: Capacity. Many developing countries lack the capacity – or resources - to effectively engage in the scientific processes, meaning that it is challenging to ensure that their inputs are properly integrated. This is especially problematic because exposure to certain types of chemicals and pollutants is often higher in developing countries than elsewhere – for example in the by-hand and informal recycling of electronic waste.

CA: How do you respond to that?

AO: The Secretariat has a very full technical assistance programme, and all efforts are made to include the regional perspectives, including through the designated Basel and Stockholm Conventions  Regional Centres, and by bringing developing country delegates to the relevant meetings. Financial support from our “donor” partners is very necessary for this. But beyond that, we need to better assist parties to mainstream scientific approaches and evidence into national development planning processes, to encourage sharing of information between parties and between sectors, to integrate the chemicals and wastes issues into the wider development agenda, and to ensure that these issues are properly reflected in the planning and definition of the Sustainable Development Goals. We need to strengthen the “synergies” at all these different levels and scales.

CA: And the Science Fair, is it the first step towards that?

AO:  Not the first step, but a very significant step, yes. There is no time to waste. I would like to thank the donors and hosts of the Science Fair – the governments of Finland and Switzerland respectively – for supporting us to highlight the importance of Science to Action: Working for a Safer Tomorrow.

Focus on Technical Assistance and Capacity-Building

Why is Capacity-Building crucial for implementing the Conventions? An Interview with the Chief of the BRS Technical Assistance Branch, Maria Cristina Cardenas, tells us why.

Focus on Technical Assistance and Capacity-Building

Focus on Technical Assistance and Capacity-Building

Central to the Quest for Sustainable Management of Chemicals and Waste

Interview with Maria Cristina Cardenas, Chief of the BRS Technical Assistance Branch by Charlie Avis, BRS Public Information Officer

Charlie Avis: Maria Cristina, you are Chief of the BRS Technical Assistance Branch, please tell us what “capacity-building” means to the Secretariat, and why is it important? 

Maria Cristina Cardenas: Thank you. The capacity building programme aims to assist parties to create the enabling environment necessary for enhanced or strengthened efforts to implement their obligations under the conventions. It is important because only by implementing the conventions will we achieve the objectives set out, namely to protect the environment and human health from the effects of chemicals and hazardous wastes.

CA: What are the main capacity gaps at national level, and where are the gaps (geographically) most acute?

MCC: According to the recent needs assessment that was undertaken by the Secretariat, the main needs are in the fields of the environmentally-sound management of priority waste streams, in particular on e-wastes, used lead-acid batteries, persistent organic pollutants wastes and mercury wastes; the collection of data for undertaking inventories for POPs and for reporting ; the monitoring of human health or environmental incidents at the national level, in order to prepare proposals for listing severely hazardous pesticide formulations; the identification of alternative substances or methods to substitute for newly-listed chemicals, and the collection of information for updating NIPs and for reporting.

In terms of the geographical scope the needs vary between and among regions as well as between the conventions themselves.

CA: The webinar series seems to have been especially effective, with more than 1,100 participants benefitting last year alone. How long has the BRS Secretariat been staging webinars?

MCC: The webinar programme was officially launched by the Stockholm Convention Secretariat in February 2011, and one year later it was expanded to include the Basel and Rotterdam Conventions (when the 3 Secretariats were officially merged into one).

CA: Can you please give me a concrete example of a webinar (title, scope, length, speakers, number and origin of participants)?  

MCC: Webinars are training or information sessions with a duration of maximum 60 minutes. They are generally organized twice a week on Tuesdays (10-11am) and Thursdays (4-5pm Geneva time) in order to provide an opportunity for participants from different time zones to connect.  The sessions are hosted and chaired by Secretariat staff, who introduces the presenter for the session. He or she is usually an invited expert on a specific topic or a Secretariat staff member who responsible for a particular programme. Presentations take about 30 minutes, leaving ample time for participants to ask questions and engage with the presenter.  Typically there are 20 to 30 participants attending each webinar session.  Of course there are always exceptions and for instance the up-coming webinar sessions on briefings for the COPs are scheduled for 90 minutes. This is to allow for the presenter to provide the full overview of the COPs as well for the participants to be able to ask questions.  The majority of our webinar sessions are recorded and thus if you miss one you can always view the recording of the presentations and download the questions asked.

CA: How do you deal with the language needs of participants? 

MCC: Sessions are offered in the official UN languages depending on the interest of the topic. Generally we schedule sessions mainly in English, French and Spanish, however we have also run them in Arabic and in Russian. We hope to soon offer webinars with simultaneous interpretation into a second language, after we have overcome some technical obstacles.

CA: What kind of feedback have you received – from participants, from parties, for your colleagues?

MCC: Overall the feedback that we receive from parties and participants is very positive. Stakeholders around the globe are happy to be able to join the webinars and be in touch with experts and the Secretariat in real time without having to move away from their desks.  Many find it to be a very useful training tool in addition to the face-to-face activities that the Secretariat organizes.

CA: You mention face-to-face training: In addition to webinars, what else is the BRS Secretariat doing to fill these capacity needs?

MCC: The  Secretariat’s technical assistance programme builds upon the strengths and best practices of the individual programmes for the delivery of capacity-building support under each of the 3 conventions.  We have four main components:  Needs assessment; Development of supporting tools and methodologies; Capacity-building and training activities; Partnerships and regional centres . The idea is to provide a full suite or awareness-raising and technical support across the spectrum of themes and issues of relevance to the conventions, globally.

CA: What plans do you have for the future, for BRS capacity-building?

MCC:  We are currently exploring the different avenues offered by technology, in particular we are looking into expanding the use of virtual, electronic, platforms. We will soon be launching online training modules, and we are also working with academia to developing some massive open online courses (MOOCs). In addition we will continue to strengthen our face-to-face training programme by promoting the use of hands-on training methodologies and information exchange during practical training activities and workshops.

CA: And the “flagship” webinar programme will undoubtedly continue. Last question, will capacity issues be prominent at the triple COPs, and if so, where, and what kind of decisions/commitment can we expect?

MCC:  Yes indeed, the Webinar programme will continue to run and be strengthened.  As for the COPs, capacity issues will be quite prominent, and technical assistance is an agenda item under each of the three COPs. It will be introduced during the joint session of the triple COPs on the first day, and is expected to be discussed in a contact group which will be operating during the 3 COPs. Parties will be provided with an overview of what the secretariat has undertaken since the last COPs as well as a proposed programme on technical assistance for the three conventions. This programme is basically a continuation of the programme which was set up in 2012 after the re-organization of the 3 secretariats into one.  It also takes into account the needs assessments that were carried out for each of the conventions in 2014. In addition the Basel and Stockholm COPs will evaluate the performance and sustainability of the 23 regional centres serving the Conventions.

CAA: So, all-in-all, it is expected the COPs will recognise the importance of capacity-building for fulfilling the conventions’ objectives, leading to a renewed mandate for the next two years. Maria Cristina, thank you very much for your time.


Executive Secretary addresses SAICM Open-Ended Working Group

The 2nd meeting of the Strategic Approach to Integrated Chemicals Management, OEWG, takes place in Geneva 15 to 17 December 2014. The Executive Secretary's speech is now available.


Executive Secretary addresses SAICM Open-Ended Working Group

Executive Secretary addresses SAICM Open-Ended Working Group

Speaking notes for Rolph Payet on the Basel and Stockholm Regional Centres 15 December 2014

Dear participants,

The Basel Convention provides in Article 14 for the establishment of Regional Centres for Training and Technology Transfer (BCRCs) regarding the management of hazardous wastes and other wastes and the minimization of their generation, and the Stockholm Convention provides in Article 12 for the establishment of regional and subregional centres for capacity-building and transfer of technology (SCRCs) to assist developing country Parties and Parties with economies in transition to fulfil their obligations under the Convention.

The 14 Basel Convention Regional Centres and 16 Stockholm Convention Regional Centres, where 7 serve as joint regional or sub-regional centres, are established and operating pursuant to the relevant provisions of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions and decisions of the Conference of Parties. Their primary purpose is to provide services, mainly technical assistance, capacity building and in many cases project implementation and coordination for the implementation of the Conventions to the Parties served by the Centres.

At our last regional centres meeting three weeks ago, heads of those centres called for a more integrated approach to chemicals management and they are ready to implement not only the decisions of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, but also decisions within the chemicals area provided financing is available, such as from the GEF, UNEP SAICM QSP, and voluntary contributions to the BRS Secretariat among others.

All Centres are indeed catalysts for the promotion and implementation of policies aimed at life-cycle of chemicals and integrated waste management. They are suitable forum where programmes’ synergies could be established or where their potential could be exploited.

The network of the Basel and the Stockholm Conventions Regional Centres is also working with the regional offices of UNEP and FAO. The Regional Centres are conducting training programmes, workshops, seminars and pilot projects in the field of the environmentally sound management (ESM) of hazardous wastes and the elimination of POPs, transfer of environmentally sound technology and minimization of the generation of hazardous wastes, with specific emphasis on training of trainers, disseminating information, including promotion of public awareness, identifying, developing and strengthening mechanisms for the transfer of technology.

The Regional Centres are also organizing meetings, symposiums, missions in the field and carrying out joint projects in cooperation with UNEP, UNDP, UNIDO, FAO, UNITAR, WHO and industry and non-governmental organizations. In doing so, the centres work closely with SAICM.

We fully endorse and support the request by the SAICM regional meetings that the Basel and Stockholm Conventions regional centres continue to act as regional delivery centres for SAICM and that our regional centres are key actors in the implementation of various projects at the regional level. We wish to recognize and support the contribution of the SAICM Quick Start Programme to several of the projects carried out by the regional centres.

We are working together to support countries to enhance their capacity to achieve the sound management of chemicals and wastes for a better living and contributing to the three dimensions of sustainable development. We thank you for your support and efforts.

We invite countries that are willing to enhance their capacity for the sound management of chemicals and wastes, including the implementation of the Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm and Minamata Conventions, to continue to submit their needs for capacity building of human resources and strengthening of the institutions to the BRS Secretariat or the Basel and Stockholm Regional Centres.

I take the opportunity to bring to your attention information document SAICM/OEWG.2/INF/8 and especially the table which summarizes the main areas of cooperation.

Finally, I like to highlight that the United Nations Environment Assembly of UNEP in its Resolution 1/5 on chemicals and waste acknowledged the role of the regional centres of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions to support the implementation of those conventions and all relevant activities, as well as the role that they play in contributing to other chemicals –and waste-related instruments and in mainstreaming the sound management of chemicals and waste.

Thank you for your attention!

Why are the meetings of the COPs Important ?

As 2015 begins, David Ogden, Chief of the Conventions Operations Branch, tells us why.

Why are the meetings of the COPs Important ?

Why are the meetings of the COPs Important ?

An explanation of the significance of the forthcoming 2015 Meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions

Interview with David Ogden, Chief of Conventions Operations Branch, by Charlie Avis, Public Information Officer, BRS Secretariat

Charlie Avis: David, please tell me, why are the triple COPs in 2015 important?

David Ogden: Well, the triple COPs - or the 2015 Meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, to name them in full - are the principal platform for proposing sustainable solutions, based on sound science, to protect human health and the environment from the possible adverse effects of hazardous chemicals and waste. Together, the three conventions represent not just a governance structure, but also a set of tools and shared capacities for assisting governments implement these solutions. So what happens at the triple COPs in May next year will influence the direction the Parties take sustainable chemicals and waste management for the next two years, and beyond.

CA: What will be discussed?

DO: Some key guidance documents, which are developed to assist countries put in place the necessary arrangements for implementation, will be discussed at the COPs. In particular, draft Technical Guidelines on E-Waste, on POPs waste, and on Mercury waste, will be on the agenda. Also, Parties have put forward a number of new chemicals for possible inclusion in the Rotterdam and Stockholm Convention processes: this is a key step for sustainably managing those substances, if they are found to present harmful threats to human and environmental health. Also, the new work programme for 2016-17 will be discussed, including a number of key initiatives such as ensuring appropriate technical assistance for the regions, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Stockholm convention.

CA: E-waste sounds interesting. Why is E-waste on the agenda?

DO: E-waste is a rapidly growing waste stream – mobile phone usage is very high across the world and many devices don’t last very long. We need proper recycling, reuse, and disposal of these appliances, because they are for example full of heavy metals and other potentially hazardous substances. Gram for gram, there is more gold in a mobile phone than in retrievable gold ore, so it is also an opportunity and a real, economic, resource. But recycling and disposal needs to be done in a way which is also safe for workers, good for society as a whole, and also good for the environment. Hence the draft Technical Guidelines, which will assist governments with appropriate procedures on transboundary movements of E-waste.

CA: You mentioned science in your opening remarks: why is science so important to all of this?

DO: The Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm processes are scientifically-driven. There is a need first to identify and then to understand the risks from chemicals and waste, in order to be able to propose alternatives and sustainable approaches to their management. “Science is the judge” for whether chemicals and waste are listed, and eventually banned, or not. After that, socio-economic factors influence the types of measures used to address the risks. All aspects of the Conventions’ decision-making are therefore underpinned by rigorous, international, cooperative scientific analysis. To help explain how this works, this time we are organising a Science Fair to bring these complexities to a wider audience.

CA: What is the Science Fair?

DO: Together with our partners – governments as well as civil society, and the private sector – we will stage a three-day Fair, highlighting how science is used to inform all the different steps for deciding and implementing the different aspects of the three conventions. From 7th to 9th May, we will showcase work from all over the world, employing a variety of media including videos, interactive exhibits, panel discussions and others. The Fair reflects the overall theme of the meetings of the COPs, which is “From Science to Action: Working for a Safer Tomorrow”.

CA: For a Safer Tomorrow: a good place for us to stop. Thank you for your time. 


Kerstin Stendahl delivers opening remarks at the launch of the Patent Landscape Report on E-Waste Recycling Technologies

In collaboration with WIPO related to e-waste, the “Patent Landscape Report on Electronic Waste Recycling and Material Recovery Technologies” to provide insight into how the patent and business literature can be probed to advance technical progress and maintain a competitive environment.



Kerstin Stendahl delivers opening remarks at the launch of the Patent Landscape Report on E-Waste Recycling Technologies

Kerstin Stendahl delivers opening remarks at the launch of the Patent Landscape Report on E-Waste Recycling Technologies

Opening remarks by Kerstin Stendahl, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, at the Launch of the Patent Landscape Report on E-Waste Recycling Technologies prepared in collaboration between WIPO and UNEP/BR

Geneva, 12 December 2013

Welcome everyone at the International Environment House and thank you to the Geneva Environment Network, who organized this event and provided the refreshments.

We are happy to present the result of a fruitful collaboration with WIPO related to e-waste, the “Patent Landscape Report on Electronic Waste Recycling and Material Recovery Technologies” to provide insight into how the patent and business literature can be probed to advance technical progress and maintain a competitive environment.

Concern about environmental damage caused by careless handling and disposing of e-waste was raised already more than a decade ago. E-waste is a priority waste stream under the Basel Convention since 2006.

Additional focus on hazardous flame retardants in e-products, the PBDEs, came up under the Stockholm Convention a few years later and lead to the ban of these compounds in 2009.

Environmentally sound management of e-waste is a complex task where issues of refurbishment, reuse, recycling, material recovery and disposal have to be considered. But also issues of waste avoidance and minimization including product design play an important role if we want to manage the life-cycle of e-products in a sustainable manner.

Clearly, a multi-stakeholder approach is needed where different groups and organizations with specialized expertise work together and contribute to a common goal.

We have the chance in Geneva to have many different UN organizations and we noticed with satisfaction a growing interest from many of them on matters related to e-waste.

The Secretariat is working closely, amongst others, with the ITU on a handbook on “Life-cycle management of ICT equipment’, with the International Labour Organization (ILO), which is, for example, exploring the flows of e-waste, the risks it poses to e-waste workers and the environment, as well as labour issues and regulatory frameworks and with WHO on e-waste and child/vulnerable populations’ health initiative.

All work areas are extremely important pieces of the mosaic we try to put together to get a better understanding of the complex picture of environmentally sound management of e-waste.

I give the floor first to WIPO and thereafter to Mr. Bradley, who will moderate and facilitate the discussion.

Today’s presentations will be available on the Geneva Environment Network website.

Kerstin Stendahl calls for increased awareness & safer alternatives to unsound chemicals
Collective global action agreed to in our multilateral environmental agreements coupled with implementation supported by the Global Environment Facility is helping to reduce threats posed by the use of chemicals.

Kerstin Stendahl calls for increased awareness & safer alternatives to unsound chemicals

Kerstin Stendahl calls for increased awareness & safer alternatives to unsound chemicals
Collective global action agreed to in our multilateral environmental agreements coupled with implementation supported by the Global Environment Facility is helping to reduce threats posed by the use of chemicals.
Remarks by Clayton Campanhola (FAO) at the opening of the ordinary and extraordinary meetings of the conferences of the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, 28 April 2013, Geneva, Switzerland

Clayton Campanhola, Executive Secretary of the Rotterdam Convention, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Remarks by Clayton Campanhola (FAO) at the opening of the ordinary and extraordinary meetings of the conferences of the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, 28 April 2013, Geneva, Switzerland

Remarks by Clayton Campanhola (FAO) at the opening of the ordinary and extraordinary meetings of the conferences of the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, 28 April 2013, Geneva, Switzerland

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.

Thank you!

Remarks by Bakary Kante (UNEP) at the opening of the ordinary and extraordinary meetings of the conferences of the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, 28 April 2013, Geneva, Switzerland

Bakary Kante, Director of the Division of Environmental Law and Conventions (DELC), United Nations Environment Programme.

Remarks by Bakary Kante (UNEP) at the opening of the ordinary and extraordinary meetings of the conferences of the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, 28 April 2013, Geneva, Switzerland

Remarks by Bakary Kante (UNEP) at the opening of the ordinary and extraordinary meetings of the conferences of the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, 28 April 2013, Geneva, Switzerland

Sunday, 28 April 2013, Geneva, Switzerland

Madame President Magdalena Balicka,

Mr. President Osvaldo Álvarez-Pérez,

Mr. President Franz Perriz,

Excellences, distinguished delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a distinct honour to address you this morning on behalf of UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, on the occasion of the opening of this historic set of conferences of the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions.

I am delighted to be here in Switzerland on the occasion of the second extraordinary meetings of the conferences of the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, the eleventh ordinary meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel, Convention, the sixth ordinary meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention, and the sixth ordinary meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention.

Madam and Mister Presidents, the Government and the people of Switzerland deserve our deep thanks for the warm welcome and hospitality afforded to delegates meeting here in the beautiful city of Geneva.

Mr. Steiner regrets that he could not be with you today. He very much looks forward to joining you next week to participate in the discussions of the high-level segment and closing session of these extraordinary meetings.

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished delegates,

This marks a milestone in the development of these three legally autonomous agreements.

The manner in which the meetings are organized is but one indication of the innovative spirit which has flowed into chemicals and waste MEAs’ work, a process captured by the phrase, ‘sustainable synergies’.

Synergies mean much more than the organization of meetings, more than the combining of the secretariats of the three conventions into an integrated, comprehensive organization.

Synergies is the spirit in which work on implementation of the conventions is done, one that combines an approach for the sound management of chemicals and waste at all levels that responds in an effective, efficient, coherent and coordinated manner to new and emerging issues and challenges.

The synergies process among the Conventions constitutes the first international effort to streamline environmental governance and as such has been on the leading edge of efforts to harmonize and improve cooperation and coordination between MEAs.

It is a key part of the long-term effort to gear international environmental governance to the challenges of the 21st century.

I applaud your courage in taking the synergies process to the next, higher stage of development, one that breaks the mold and continues to recast the framework of global environmental governance.

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished delegates,

The adoption of The Future We Want at Rio+20 and its endorsement by the UN General Assembly has reaffirmed the target, set in 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, to by 2020 ensure that" chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment".At the Rio conference, Governments recognized the significant contributions to sustainable development made by the chemicals and wastes multilateral environmental agreements. In the year following the Rio+20 Conference, the world’s attention has been riveted on chemicals and waste management as never before.

The 3rd International Conference on Chemicals Management, meeting under UNEP’s auspices in Nairobi last September, agreed to take forward work on five emerging issues,including hazardous substances within the lifecycle of electronic products.

The publication of the first Global Chemicals Outlook and the Costs of Inaction report have demonstrated the unacceptable toll on human health the mismanagement of pesticides place on developing countries.

The agreement reached in Geneva last January on the future global instrument on Mercury was another major step toward securing The Future We Want.

The release of the State of Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 2012 and Summary for Decision-Makers at the UNEP Governing Council, and the adoption by that same body of a substantive decision on Chemicals and Waste Management, in February of this year, testified to the sobering challenges we face and the need to press ahead in the search for sustainable solutions to chemicals and waste management issues.

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished delegates,

The conference agenda of Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions before you respond to these challenges.

To illustrate with but a few examples, the parties to the Basel Convention, will consider adoption of guidelines to address the environmentally sound management of electronic and electrical waste.

The parties to the Rotterdam Convention will consider proposals next week to add to the Convention’s Annex III pesticides and industrial chemicals to ensure informed actions can be taken to protect human health and the environment against their harmful effects.

And the parties to the Stockholm Convention will consider adding a widely used industrial chemical to the Convention’s Annex A, putting it on course for elimination from most applications.

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished delegates,

As you move forward, UNEP may be counted upon as a close partner. With the strengthened mandate UNEP received following Rio+20 and the decision of the UN General Assembly to open UNEP up to universal membership, UNEP is now in an even better position to contribute to the success of the conventions.

UNEP and FAO have undertaken a review of the arrangements adopted pursuant to the “Synergies Decisions” on cooperation and coordination among the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

The report provides an assessment of the progress made towards the implementation of the synergies decisions with the objective of establishing how the synergies process has contributed to enhancing cooperation and coordination at all levels. It is our hope that the findings of the review will assist you in developing further synergies among your conventions.

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished delegates,

We have moved the chemicals and waste agenda from a position of once relative isolation to centre stage on the development agenda. This is clearly where it belongs.

With your help, the conventions will remain on the centre stage until we deliver enduring, sustainable solutions for 2020 and beyond.

Thank you.
Geneva is the global centre of international chemicals and waste management work

In a wide-ranging interview with Geneva International Cooperation, Executive Secretary Jim Willis speaks about the global impacts of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, the “synergies process” and some key challenges facing management of chemicals and hazardous wastes today.

 

Geneva is the global centre of international chemicals and waste management work

Geneva is the global centre of international chemicals and waste management work

In a wide-ranging interview with Geneva International Cooperation, Executive Secretary Jim Willis speaks about the global impacts of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, the “synergies process” and some key challenges facing management of chemicals and hazardous wastes today.