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Negotiations under way on global treaty to combat persistent organic pollutants

Nairobi, 25 January 1999 - Ninety-seven countries gathered at United Nations Environment Programme headquarters today for the second round of negotiations on a global treaty to reduce and eliminate environmental emissions and discharges of persistent organic pollutants or POPs.

The five days of negotiations 25-29 January come in response to world-wide concern over the dangers to public health and the environment posed by POPs like PCBs and DDT. The UNEP Governing Council mandate calls on countries to reach an international convention on POPs by the year 2000.

The Nairobi meeting builds on the first round of talks in Montreal, Canada from 29 June to 2 July 1998 where countries reached early consensus on the way forward.

In addressing the plenary session, UNEP Deputy Executive Director Shafqat Kakakhel expressed confidence governments "will act deliberately and decisively here in Nairobi to bring the world closer to the vital safeguards of a POPs convention."

Citing the progress made in Montreal, Kakakhel described the work on a global treaty as "on target and on time," and said negotiators' "clear and committed action reflects the sad reality that POPs represent."

"These persistent, toxic pollutants travel long distances, far from their source to remote parts of the world," Kakakhel said. "They harm the ecological support system on which life depends. They accumulate and magnify as they move through the food chain, concentrating even in the largest animal species like polar bears and whales. No country is safe from their effects. No person is protected against their presence. Persistent organic pollutants endanger public health and the environment around the globe, causing illness and taking lives. They pose risks to the unborn and endanger generations to come." Because of such factors, "no country, acting alone, can stem the tide," he told the plenary session.

There are 12 POPs on the initial list for action under the treaty being drafted: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, dioxin, endrin, furans, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, PCBs, and toxaphene. They fall into three categories: pesticides, industrial byproducts, and unintended by-products of combustion and industrial processes.

The negotiations will also focus on scientific criteria and a procedure for identifying additional pollutants for possible inclusion under the treaty.

The Nairobi meeting is formally known as the Second Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC2) for an International Legally Binding Instrument for Implementing International Action on Certain Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Note to journalists:
Official documents and other information are available via the Internet at

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Linda Durkee
at (+41-22) 917 8511, fax (+41-22) 797 3460,
in Nairobi, 254-2 623088, fax 623692

Tore J. Brevik,
UNEP Information and Public Affairs,
tel: 623292, fax: 254-2 623927.

UNEP News Release 1999/5

Monday 25 Jan 1999
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