Press releases

Friday 23 Apr 1999

Basel Convention talks conclude after making good progress

Geneva/Nairobi, 23 April 1999 - A two-week series of three preparatory meetings on the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes is concluding in Geneva today after making significant advances on all major items. These items will be finalized at the Fifth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-5) to the Basel Convention, to be held in Basel, Switzerland from 6-10 December 1999.

I) The Ad Hoc Working Group moved forward on the core issues of the Draft Protocol on Liability and Compensation for Damage Resulting from Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

Under the chairmanship of Mrs. Perla de Alfaro of El Salvador, the Group grappled with the Protocol's scope, the establishment of an Emergency Response and Compensation Mechanism, and other draft articles. The improved draft text will now go forward to the Committee for Implementation, which meets in June. Based on the progress made this week and the good spirit of cooperation, the Working Group is optimistic about the chances of adopting the Protocol at COP-5. This would make Basel the first global environmental agreement to include a liability and compensation regime.

II) The Technical Working Group agreed on draft guidelines for the management of both plastics and tires. Many developing countries urgently need technical guidelines for reducing risks from these important categories of wastes at the national level. Good progress was also made on the first draft of guidelines for biomedical and health wastes.

The Group also advanced on "hazard characterization", which involves rigorously defining indicators such as "ecotoxicity" and "acute toxicity" for use in evaluating the content of wastes. In addition, delegates discussed the problem of dismantling old ships, which can contain large quantities of asbestos, PCBs, and other hazardous wastes.

III) The Second Joint Meeting of the Technical Working Group with the Consultative Subgroup of Legal and Technical Experts discussed the problem of illegal traffic. It explored how to improve the monitoring of traffic over international borders through cooperation with Interpol and the World Customs Organization and through other practical methods.

The Joint Meeting also worked on developing a monitoring and compliance regime for the Basel Convention. This regime will be facilitative and non-confrontational, focusing on supporting and helping governments that are having difficulties complying with their obligations. Progress was also made on elaborating the practical aspects of an emergency mechanism, which would include a fund for rapid clean-ups in the event of an incident.

The Basel Convention was adopted in March 1989 after a series of notorious "toxic cargoes" from industrialized countries drew public attention to the dumping of hazardous wastes in developing and East European countries. It entered into force in May 1992 and now has 123 Parties. The last COP was held in Kuala Lumpur in February 1998.

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Note to journalists: For more information please contact
Iwona RummelBulska
on tel: (+4122) 917 8213, fax: 797 3454,

or

Michael Williams
on (+41 22) 917 8242/44, fax: 797 3464,
email: mwilliams@unep.ch.

Official documents and other materials are available in English on the Internet at
http://www.unep.ch/basel/.

In Nairobi, contact:
Tore J. Brevik,
UNEP Spokesman
on tel: (+254-2) 623292,
email: brevikt@unep.org,
or
Robert Bisset
on tel: 623084, fax: 623692,
email: bissetr@unep.org

UNEP News Release 1999/32

Friday 23 Apr 1999
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