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Compensation and Liability Protocol Adopted by Basel Convention on Hazardous Wastes

Nairobi/Basel, 14 December 1999 - The Protocol on Liability and Compensation for Damage Resulting from the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal has been adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention. Officials from the 125 governments, including 26 government ministers, met last week in Basel, Switzerland, to consider the Protocol, among other issues regarding hazardous wastes.

The objective of the Protocol is to provide for a comprehensive regime for liability as well as adequate and prompt compensation for damage resulting from the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and other wastes, including incidents occurring because of illegal traffic in those wastes.

For the first time, we have a mechanism for assigning responsibility for damage caused by accidental spills of hazardous waste during export or import, said Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The adoption of the Protocol is a major breakthrough.

The Protocol talks began in 1993 in response to the concerns of developing countries about their lack of funds and technologies for coping with illegal dumping or accidental spills. The impetus for this protocol came from developing countries concerned about their lack of financial and technological capacity for cleaning up unwanted hazardous waste dumps or spills on their territory.

The Protocol addresses who is financially responsible in the event of an incident: The generator of the wastes or the exporter. Each phase of a transboundary movement, from the generation of wastes to their export, international transit, import, and final disposal, is considered. Delegates have also finalized the operation and funding of a Multilateral Fund (to pay for clean-up operations until the liable party is identified) and an Emergency Fund (for urgent action immediately after an incident).

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal entered into force in 1992. It is concerned with the annual world-wide production of hundreds of millions of tonnes of hazardous wastes. These wastes are considered hazardous to people or the environment if they are toxic, poisonous, explosive, corrosive, flammable, eco-toxic, or infectious.

The Convention regulates the movement of these wastes and obliges its members to ensure that such wastes are managed and disposed of in an environmentally sound manner. Governments are expected to minimize the quantities that are transported, to treat and dispose of wastes as close as possible to where they were generated, and to minimize the generation of hazardous waste at source.

Note to journalists:
For more information please contact
Mr. Michael Williams
on (+41-22) 917 8242/44, fax: (+41-22) 797 3464,

Official documents and other information on the Basel Convention are available on the Internet at

In Nairobi, contact:
Tore J. Brevik,
UNEP Spokesman
on tel: +254- 2-623292,
Robert Bisset
on tel: +254-2-623084, fax: 623692,

UNEP News Release 1999/142


Robert Bisset
Office of the Spokesman/Director
Communications and Public information
UNEP, P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel. +254-2-623084, Fax. +254-2-623692,

Tuesday 14 Dec 1999
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