The second round of applications is now open for 4 months. The deadline for all applications to be submitted to the Special Programme secretariat is Wednesday 20th June 2017 at midnight.
Register now to learn more about the next meetings of the Conferences of Parties to the three chemicals conventions. Available in English, French or Spanish.
The report of the first meeting of the new informal Basel Convention partnership on household waste, held in Montevideo, Uruguay, from 2 to 4 August 2016, is now available online.
A list of concept notes for voluntary financial contributions for the biennium 2016/17 is now available on the BRS websites
1,500 participants, 180 countries, 3 conventions, 2 weeks, but just 1 goal: A Future Detoxified. Download the official Press Release here.
1,500 participants, 180 countries, 3 conventions, 2 weeks, 1 goal: A Future Detoxified
24 April 2017, Geneva – Over 1,600 representatives from more than 180 countries as well as observers including from civil society groups and the chemical and waste industries are gathering in Geneva to discuss measures to promote the sound management of chemicals and wastes.
The two week-long Triple Conferences of the Parties (COPs) to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions aims to strengthen the three international treaties contributing to the global management of hazardous chemicals and waste.
"Chemicals constitute the building blocks of modern life. But without ensuring the environmentally sound management of chemicals and the phase-out of especially hazardous substances, we will continue to see more lives lost to poisoning, contamination and pollution. What we need to address this crisis is stronger regulatory action taken at national and international levels. That is why this meeting of the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions is so critical. Only through cooperation and collaboration can we hope to create a detoxified future for everyone," said Ibrahim Thiaw, UN Environment Deputy Executive Director.
UNEP Executive Secretary of the three Conventions, Rolph Payet, reminded government delegates that, “more than ever, the people of this planet are counting on you, representatives of governments and Parties to the Conventions, to make the right decisions; decisions which will lead to improved quality of life for our people and for a sustainable planet. Negotiations taking place here should enable us to tackle this nexus between development and planetary health.”
Staged under the theme “A future detoxified: sound management of chemicals and waste,” Parties will seek to reach consensus over a range of issues. For the Rotterdam Convention (RC), this includes eight proposals for adding carbofuran, carbosulfan, trichlorfon, fenthion, paraquat, chlorinated paraffins, chrysotile asbestos and tributyltin to the RC’s “watch list” – also known as Annex III. Forty-seven chemicals make up the current list of substances deemed hazardous to human health and the environment and which are subsequently subject to the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure. Parties will also consider ways to strengthen the effectiveness of the Convention and seek to adopt compliance procedures and mechanisms.
“FAO and UNEP each provide unique expertise to support Parties to address the challenges of managing hazardous chemicals and pesticides. They also help countries to streamline the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into their national agendas. This Conference is an excellent occasion to work together to build on the impressive results we have already achieved” said FAO’s Deputy Director for the Plant Production and Protection Division and Co-Executive Secretary of the Rotterdam Convention (RC), William Murray.
For the Stockholm Convention, issues include proposals for listing decabromodiphenyl ether (commercial mixture, c-decaBDE) and short-chain chlorinated paraffins in Annex A for elimination as well as hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD) in Annex C which targets the reduction and ultimate elimination of the unintentional releases of the chemical. Among the other issues that will get priority attention of Parties to the Stockholm Convention (SC) is the development of compliance procedures and mechanisms, and the first ever evaluation of the effectiveness of the Convention. The Conference will consider the progress the Convention is making in achieving its objective of protecting human health and the environment from Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), measured against a framework of indicators provided by the COPs.
For the Basel Convention (BC), the COPs will consider prevention and minimization of the generation of waste which is the subject of new guidance to assist Parties, and a set of practical manuals for the promotion of the environmentally sound management of wastes and revised fact sheets on specific waste streams all of which have been prepared by an expert group on environmentally sound management. Other work under consideration includes two new and four updated technical guidelines for Environmentally Sound Management (ESM) of POPs, a glossary of terms to provide further legal clarity and guidance on dealing with illegal traffic developed by the Implementation and Compliance Committee. Parties will also consider establishing a new partnership focusing on a major waste stream, household waste.
The Conferences will also examine progress in the implementation of the Conventions among participating Parties, in particular in developing countries and countries in transition where handling hazardous chemicals throughout their lifecycles presents greater challenges. Those attending will attempt to make progress on the sharing of information on hazardous chemicals and strive to build further international cooperation and coordination regarding their usage.
More than 40 side events will be held during the biennial event. Among the topics being presented are mercury waste management, pesticide risk reduction, hazardous work in agriculture, child labour and methods to safeguard the human rights of those facing exposure. A technology fair will highlight the importance partners such as industry and private sector groups play in developing new technologies for the safe management of chemicals and promoting opportunities for developing alternatives.
On May 4 and 5, government ministers and delegates will participate in a high-level session to discuss themes ranging from creating a detoxified future; to meeting the targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; generating greater opportunities to implement the Conventions through partnerships; and techniques to cut waste and pollution while facilitating economic and social prosperity.
Achieving SDG 12 – which sets out to secure the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment – will take centre stage.
For technical information: Kei Ohno-Woodall (+41 79 233 3218), firstname.lastname@example.org
For technical information on the Rotterdam Convention: Christine Fuell (+39 06 5705 3765) email@example.com
For general info, to arrange interviews, etc: Charlie Avis (+41 79 730 4495), firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening day speeches from BRS’ Rolph Payet and Bill Murray, and UN Environment’s Ibrahim Thiaw are now available online.
Don't miss a thing from the 2017 Triple COPs: Get the new, improved, BRS mobile application.
BRS App provides a window to information about the meetings of the global chemicals and wastes conventions. It gives quick and easy access to essential information about the 2015 COPs as well as other information about the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.
BRS App is available on App Store for iOS and Google Play for Android devices.
For more information about the BRS App, please contact Julien Hortoneda at Julien.Hortoneda@brsmeas.org.
All you need to know about the 2017 Triple COPs in one place: download your copy now!
An online interactive infographic describes the Guidelines, Expert Working Group, Manuals, Pilot Projects and Toolbox which support the parties’ work on environmentally sound management (ESM)
A new Rotterdam Convention study in small island developing states (SIDs) found that whilst the use of organic alternatives is increasing, threats posed by the misues of toxic chemicals still persist.
Ahead of the 2017 Triple COPs, recent meetings in Geneva have emphasised that freedom from a polluted environment is a human right
(This article is an expanded version of the BRS Blog by Malika Amelie Taoufiq-Cailliau, Legal Officer, which appeared on www.brsmeas.org during March 2017)
Ahead of the meetings of the BRS Conferences of the Parties (COPs), to be held 24 April to 5 May 2017 in Geneva, discussions on a human rights-based approach for better protection of the environment and of human health, the common objectives of the BRS Conventions, and thus for the sound management of chemicals and wastes, were ‘effervescing’ recently under various fora, such as at the 34th session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council which took place 27 February to 24 March, and the annual International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) from 10 to 19 March.
According to reports recently published by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2017), 1.7 million children die each year due to a polluted environment; of which 570,000 deaths occur each year among children under five years old, due the main pollutant, the air. The reports emphasise electronic and electrical wastes as one of the emerging environmental threats to children; and that harmful chemicals work themselves through the food chain thus contributing to this alarming situation.
On the occasion of one of the numerous discussions that took place during the recent Geneva meetings on environment and human rights at the Human Rights Council, at a side-event organised on 6 March WHO’s Ms. Maria Neira stressed that “human health is a human right” and even more a child’s right. Thus, “investing in the removal of environmental risks to health, such as improving water quality or using cleaner fuels, will result in massive health benefits”. Much work is still needed to turn this into protection on the ground, building on the human rights commitment as embodied through the ‘Geneva Pledge’ (for Human Rights in Climate Action) and later the Paris Agreement, adopted in December 2015 in Paris by 195 Parties and entered into force in November 2016, which marked the first times that a Multilateral Environmental Agreement strongly advocated for a human rights-based approach of environment protection in its preamble.
This watershed took place shortly after the adoption in September 2015 by the UN General Assembly of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is itself strongly grounded in human rights and provides further opportunities to advocate integration of human rights within the framework of international efforts to promote sustainable development to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this context, UN Environment stressed the importance of respecting, protecting and promoting human rights and gender equality in “Delivering on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, through the adoption of Resolution L.6 at the Second Session of the UN Environmental Assembly (UNEA-2), convened on 23-27 May 2016, in order to ensure that no one is “left behind”, in particular the most vulnerable, such as children, who need special attention and actions.
The latest Report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, Mr. Baskut Tuncak, as presented to the Human Rights Council, at its 33rd session in September 2016, moved towards this by focusing on children’s rights and by pointing out the “silent pandemic” of disease and disability affecting millions of children, to the point that paediatricians have now sadly begun to refer to children born “pre-polluted.”
The Report further states that, to remedy the situation:
Indeed, children are the future. They are and should be at the core of our preoccupations and work. They are among the most affected by harmful effects on health and the environment caused by hazardous chemicals wastes; but as children can be great agents of change, they are also part of the solution for a ‘detoxified future’. This is why on 13 March 2017, for instance, the BRS Secretariat participated in a panel at the FIFDH and presented on the BRS Conventions to a youth audience and the wider public, explaining the roles of these international treaties in protecting human health and the environment.
What comes next? The meetings of the ‘BRS Triple COPs’, from 24 April to 5 May 2017, in Geneva, will provide Parties and other stakeholders with an opportunity to address these issues, whether at a side-event on “Human rights, Children’s Rights, and Hazardous Substances & Wastes” or at the High-Level Segment, to be attended by Environment Ministers from upwards of 80 countries.
Decisions taken at the COPs, whether for the listing of additional chemicals in the annexes to the Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, or for new partnerships to solve problems of waste management under the Basel Convention, will therefore play a role in protecting children from exposure, and ultimately in saving young lives. Only in this way can we detoxify the future.
 See: http://www.who.int/ceh/publications/don-t-pollute-my-future/en/
 See: http://www.who.int/ceh/publications/inheriting-a-sustainable-world/en/
 The Preamble of the Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change makes it clear that all States “should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights”.
 To read the entire report, in the 6 official UN languages, click on the following link:
 For more information on the 2017 edition of the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH), and its full programme, see: http://www.fifdh.org/site/en/2017-edition/programme
All the latest information, including the schedule for Bureaux and Regional meetings for Sunday 23rd April, for the 2017 Triple COPs is available online
Capacity building is an integral part of the support to parties provided by the BRS Secretariat, read about it here ahead of the Triple COPs.
The current technical assistance and capacity-building programme has four main components: needs assessment and the development of supporting tools and methodologies; capacity-development; partnerships; and regional delivery. It was developed and presented to the Parties for the first time at the meetings of the conferences of the Parties held in 2013. Since then the Secretariat has been implementing its technical assistance activities based on the programme.
Based on past experience in implementation, lessons learned and the needs expressed by Parties, the Secretariat has developed a draft four-year technical assistance plan for 2018-2021 replacing the current biennial programme approach with a view to better addressing the needs of Parties. The activities are now planned in such a way as to allow for improved impact assessment, monitoring and evaluation.
The plan is based on objectives and guiding principles that together set a strategic direction for the technical assistance activities to support Parties in implementing the conventions. In the light of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it also seeks to support Parties in integrating chemicals and wastes management into national strategies for sustainable development.
The plan includes activities that Parties, non-Party States, regional centres and other organizations can implement at the national, regional and international levels that are in line with the directions and priorities set by Parties through their respective decisions and programmes of work.
While using the harmonized approach across the three conventions, specific characteristics of technical assistance for each convention are taken into account. Capacity development to support Parties in the implementation of the three conventions and cross-cutting issues focuses on the following thematic areas:
Basel Convention: national strategies for the environmentally sound management of hazardous and other wastes, control procedures for transboundary movements of hazardous and other wastes, the take-back procedure, the Ban Amendment, the disposal of hazardous wastes and waste prevention and minimization;
Rotterdam Convention: national action plans, information exchange obligations, effective participation in the work of the Chemical Review Committee, submission of import responses for pesticides and industrial chemicals listed in Annex III to the Convention, alternatives to Annex III chemicals, monitoring, data collection, reporting of pesticide poisoning incidents related to severely hazardous pesticide formulations, national decision-making process related to banning or restricting chemicals and submission of notifications of final regulatory action, and the establishment of systems and procedures for sending export notifications with regard to banned or severely restricted chemicals not listed in Annex III to the Convention;
Stockholm Convention: guidance for the development and updating of national implementation plans, including on inventories, effective participation in the work of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee, elimination or restriction of the production and use of intentionally produced persistent organic pollutants, alternatives to persistent organic pollutants, reduction or elimination of releases of unintentionally produced persistent organic pollutants, persistent organic pollutants in articles, stockpiles, and the environmentally sound management and disposal of persistent organic pollutant wastes;
Cross-cutting areas pertinent to two or all three of the conventions: legal and institutional frameworks, national coordination, the exchange of information on chemicals and wastes, the provision of support to customs officers, illegal traffic and trade of hazardous chemicals and wastes, inventories, national reporting under the Basel and Stockholm conventions, gender and social dimensions, the mainstreaming of chemicals and wastes into national sustainable development strategies in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, accident prevention and preparedness for hazardous waste and chemicals emergencies, the strengthening of the legal-science-policy-business interface, regional cooperation among entities responsible for the implementation of the conventions, and the enhancement of skills for chairing meetings of convention bodies.
The technical assistance plan for the period 2018–2021 is submitted for consideration to the upcoming Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions which will be held in Geneva from 24 April - 5 May 2017. In order to provide sufficient time for planning and implementation of projects and activities, which includes the mobilization of resources, the plan lays down the foundation for the next four years, describing the overall goal and objectives, as well as expected outputs and outcomes, with the understanding that the plan will be reviewed and adjusted, as needed, by the Conferences of the Parties in 2019.
Technical Assistance Branch
Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions
Our latest interview, with FAO’s Aleksandar Mihajlovski, explains all.
Questions & Answers with Aleksandar Mihajlovski, FAO’s Officer in charge of publishing the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Circular, the essential information document for the implementation of the Rotterdam Convention.
Q. What does your role at the Secretariat entail?
My work centres around the PIC Circular, which unifies and puts the two main provisions of the Convention into action – the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure and the exchange of information on hazardous chemicals. This document is compiled throughout the year and is published and circulated to all the parties and interested stakeholders twice every year, in June and December.
I am also in charge of reviewing and verifying the import response decisions and the Notifications of Final Regulatory Actions (FRAs), as well as proposals for listing Severely Hazardous Pesticide Formulations (SHPFs) into Annex III, submitted to the Secretariat by the parties to the Convention in accordance with Articles 10, 5 and 6, respectively. The parties submit this information to the Secretariat individually, it is then shared through the PIC Circular to all of the parties that make up the Convention – there are currently 157, and it is available to view on this website for all interested stakeholders.
Q: Take us through what the Convention sets out to do.
The RC team promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among parties in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals in order to protect human health and the environment from potential harm. We do this by facilitating the exchange of information on chemicals that may be unsafe for use.
The Convention deals with pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted by the parties because of environmental or human health concerns and which have been reported to the Secretariat. Two such notifications for the same chemical submitted by at least two parties from two different PIC regions are needed in order to activate a complex mechanism that potentially might end up with adding the chemical to the Annex III list of hazardous chemicals, and consequently for it to become relevant for the PIC procedure. This obligation for the parties is indicated in Article V, followed by Annexes I and II, which provide detailed explanations of the information requirements for submitting notifications as well as the criteria for listing the chemicals in Annex III.
In addition, through Article 6 and Annex IV, the Convention gives developing countries or parties with transition economies the opportunity to submit proposals for inclusion on the list of SHPFs in Annex III, based on reports of poisoning incidents.
The information received by the Secretariat, is part of the information exchange mechanism and it basically activates the PIC procedure through which chemicals become listed in Annex III of the Convention text. The PIC procedure is relevant only for the Annex III listed chemicals, and means that parties are obliged to submit national decisions on their future imports of these chemicals. I believe it is important to emphasize that the response or national decisions on future imports do not constitute a ban considering that the party based on its own national consultative process has the intrinsic right to allow the import of the chemical, not to allow import, or to allow imports subject to specified conditions. Decisions by an importing country must be trade neutral, meaning that the decisions must apply equally to domestic production for domestic use as well as to imports from any source.
As all these import decisions are circulated to the parties through the PIC Circular, and at the same time are available online for reference on the database, the exporting country parties are obliged under the Convention to make sure that the exporter under their national jurisdiction complies with these decisions.
I would like to emphasize another very important aspect of the information exchange mechanism established as an obligation for the parties that are exporting chemicals produced but banned or restricted for use within their own territory to the importing party. It is important to note that the exporting party must submit export notifications to the importing party, informing it about the planned export of a chemical that is banned or restricted before the first shipment and annually thereafter.
Q. Why does the management of hazardous chemicals continue to be so important globally?
Well we live in a world where the chemical industry represents one of the largest sectors of the global economy and it is one of the highest contributors to growth in the world. All sorts of chemicals are used, applied and present in people’s everyday lives. They are utilised in the construction industry, in electronics, to make different sorts of plastics, in consumer care products and in agriculture were they are present in fertilisers and pesticides. This calls for attention and caution in the way these products are managed and dealt with starting from their development, throughout the production process, application and use through to adequate disposal.
As I have already underlined, many of the chemicals that are developed and available for use, have certain hazardous properties and pose risks to human health and the environment. The RC has 47 hazardous chemicals listed under Annex III. Thirty-three of these are pesticides and fourteen are industrial chemicals. At the Conference of the Parties (COP) this May, eight more chemicals will be considered for listing and the parties will decide whether they will be included in Annex III of the Convention.
The RC’s PIC procedure for pesticides and industrial chemicals in international trade, together with the Stockholm Convention (SC) on protecting human health and the environment from Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and the Basel Convention (BC) on the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and their disposal, jointly through the synergies processes contribute to the careful management of hazardous chemicals and waste throughout their life-cycle, from production to disposal.
Ultimately, the adequate management of hazardous chemicals is a globally important issue because it is directly linked to the basic human rights of access to clean air, clean water and healthy and safe food. In a recent report by the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the right to food, pesticides are cited as a global human rights concern. According to the latest figures, hazardous pesticides are responsible for 200,000 deaths each year, with 99 percent of these cases occurring in developing countries, lacking functional national regulations for hazardous chemicals management.
Q. Explain the process of the Chemical Review Committee (CRC), how does science become policy?
I already explained the rationale and the mechanism that precedes the CRC’s work, after the Secretariat receives the notifications of FRAs and proposals for SHPFs, and before being forwarded for consideration by the CRC. The CRC is composed by 31 independent experts in chemicals management appointed by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the RC. The Committee is responsible for undertaking the scientific review of chemicals proposed for listing.
The Convention requires science-based risk and hazard evaluations, as well as scientifically supported information on physico-chemical, toxicological and eco-toxicological properties of the pesticides for which parties submit notifications of final regulatory actions for banning or restricting certain pesticides. The specific information requirements and criteria are listed in Annex I and Annex II of the Convention. Annex I contains all the information requirements for notifications made pursuant to article 5, whereas Annex II describes the criteria for listing these banned or severely restricted chemicals in Annex III, making them subject to the PIC procedure. Annex II requires a risk evaluation based on a review of scientific data in the context of the conditions prevailing in the party’s country submitting the notification of a final regulatory action to ban or restrict a chemical. The data should be generated in accordance with scientifically recognized methods and data reviews carried out in accordance with sound scientific principles and methods.
Based on the Committee’s recommendations, the COP, as the governing body of the Convention, decides by consensus whether to include or not to include hazardous chemicals and pesticides in Annex III of the Convention.
Q. Give us an example of a success story you have overseen since joining the Secretariat. What happened, where? And, how did you see an impact at grassroots level?
It is hard for me to emphasize any country or Party to the Convention. To a certain extent, I am involved in almost daily communication with all the Parties to the Convention either regarding the Import Decisions either regarding the Notifications of FRAs or SHPF proposals they submit to the Secretariat. The verification and the review process in many occasions require getting back to the Party DNA to directly assist and meticulously explain the missing or not correctly provided information. The proper submission of these information exchange documents as indicated in the Convention text, is giving me unique chance and opportunity to help and assist Parties into implementation of the Convention at national level which further on has regional and global benefits fitting into the main objective of the Convention – to protect human health and the environment from the hazardous chemicals. Of course, the reward comes in the end with the addition of new hazardous chemical into Annex III, realizing that the chemical I started working with when initially submitted to the Secretariat, becomes part of the PIC procedure.
Browse the newly published list of planned side events, including two film screenings, for the forthcoming 2017 Triple COPs.
Discover the information, tools and communities that make the joint clearing house mechanism a reality to support the conventions.
Nominations are sought for outstanding women and men who have pioneered the integration of gender into the sound management of chemicals and wastes
Highlights from the scoping studies on integrating gender issues into the implementation of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions in Nigeria and Indonesia are now available