Press releases

Wednesday 11 Jun 1997

Progress on legal issues related to the Basel Convention

Nairobi, June 1997 - The Ad Hoc Working Group of Legal and Technical Experts, a subsidiary body of the Conference of the Parties of the Basel Convention on the control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, at its fifth session in May 1997 in Geneva, made substantial progress in drafting a Protocol on Liability and Compensation for Damage Resulting from Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. Experts from all parts of the world discussed this complex issue and managed to streamline the previous draft. This was the first time since its establishment that the Working Group managed - even during only four days of meeting - to revisit all articles of a draft Protocol.

The debate focused on the question to whom liability should be channelled, i.e. the person(s) from whom the claimant may ask compensation for the damage under international law. Two major trends emerged: one that favoured that the person(s) in "operational control" should be liable, the other calling for channelling liability to the exporter of the wastes which caused the damage.

On the question of the establishment of an International Fund for immediate response measures in an emergency situation and for compensation to the extend that compensation for damage under the civil liability regime is inadequate or not available, opinions continued to be divided. A number of delegations opposed the establishment of such a Fund within the Protocol at this stage as too many uncertainties about its structure, management, modalities and operation existed. Other countries saw the establishment of a Fund as crucial for the Protocol because otherwise, the Protocol would not be consistent with the objectives of the Basel Convention.

The experts agreed on an article on State responsibility as well as on definitions, including a definition of "damage", and significantly progressed in clarifying the scope of the draft Protocol.

Monitoring implementation of and compliance with the obligations set out by the Basel Convention

Promoting the implementation of and compliance with the Basel Convention was the main issue of discussion in the second meeting of the Consultative Sub-group of Legal and Technical Experts which also took place in May 1997 in Geneva. The group is expected to give a recommendation on the best way to promote full implementation of the provisions of the Basel Convention. This includes an examination whether a mechanism or procedure for monitoring implementation of and compliance with the Convention is required.

The outcome of both groups will be presented to the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties which is to take place in October 1997.

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is the broadest and most significant international treaty on hazardous waste presently in effect. As of this date, 110 States and the European Community are Parties to the Convention. There are more than 400 million tonnes of hazardous wastes generated each year worldwide; some 10 per cent of these wastes cross national borders. Due to economic reasons, a large amount of the movements go from industrialized countries to developing countries as well as to Eastern and Central Europe where disposal costs are lower. Unfortunately, a number of these countries still lack environmentally sound management of waste disposal. Thus, transboundary movements of hazardous wastes have become a global problem demanding global solutions.

For further information: Dr. Iwona Rummel-Bulska
Executive Secretary, UNEP/Secretariat of the Basel Convention
15, chemin des An‚mones, 1219 Chƒtelaine/GE,
Switzerland
Tel: (41 22) 979 92 18/Fax: (41 22) 797 34 54;
Email: canales@unep.ch

UNEP Information Note 1997/22

Wednesday 11 Jun 1997
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