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Chemicals meeting ends with extensive progress toward chemical convention

Nairobi, 20 September 1996 - As some 87 governments ended a week-long meeting in Nairobi today, the stage is now set for a global convention on the trade in dangerous chemicals and pesticides next year.

The talks, the second planned negotiating session, are part of an inter-governmental process to reach a legally binding treaty regulating the import and export of hazardous chemicals and pesticides through the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure.

"We have made excellent progress", said Mr James Willis, Director of Chemicals at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). "The negotiations this week in Nairobi moved at a very rapid pace and covered many of the major issues. If the governments retain the commitment demonstrated to date, then I am sure they will meet their target of a legal binding treaty in 1997. With a PIC convention in operation, the international community will have taken its first major step toward establishing a comprehensive approach to chemicals risks."

Through the voluntary PIC procedure, importing countries can learn about dangerous and toxic chemicals and pesticides that may be shipped to them. They can decide whether they want to permit or ban future imports. Exporting countries are notified which products importing countries no longer want to receive and can help ensure that illegal exports do not occur. The procedure is jointly handled by UNEP, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Efforts by UNEP and FAO to promote chemical safety were initially based on the 1985 International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides and the 1987 London Guidelines for the Exchange of Information on Chemicals in International Trade. These two voluntary systems encourage governments to share information amongst themselves and to shift to ecologically sustainable chemicals management.

As some pesticides and other chemicals that are banned or severely restricted in certain developed countries are still widely used elsewhere, particularly in developing countries, the governing bodies of UNEP and FAO introduced the voluntary "Prior Informed Consent" procedure (PIC) in 1989. As of July 1996, some 145 countries are participating in the PIC procedure.

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Note to journalists: Official documents for the meeting are available on the Internet at http://irptc.unep.ch/pic/

Michael Williams
Tel (41-22) 979 9242
Fax (41-22) 797 3464
Email: mwilliams@unep.ch
UNEP Geneva

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Robert G. Bisset
Media/Information Officer
Information and Public Affairs
United Nations Environment Programme
PO Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +254-2-623084
Fax: +254-2-623692
Email: Robert.Bisset@unep.org
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UNEP News Release 1996/52

Friday 20 Sep 1996
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