Press releases

Monday 20 Mar 2000

Fourth round of talks begin on global, legally binding treaty on persistent organic pollutants

Bonn/Geneva/Nairobi, 20 March 2000 - Representatives from more than 110 countries convened in Bonn today to participate in the fourth round of negotiations on an international legally binding treaty on persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, being held from 20-25 March 2000.

"Expectations are high," Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), told the opening plenary session, calling the reason for this clear: "It is the well-being of our planet and all living beings. It is the security of future generations. It is the integrity of the chain of life."

Growing consensus on the need for a treaty reflects recognition that persistent organic pollutants pose a risk to human health and the environment. They are toxic, last for a long time, and travel long distances far from the source of release. They accumulate in fatty tissue, becoming more concentrated higher in the food chain and with time. They are passed to the next generation in the placenta and breast milk. Funding measures to deal with these toxic pollutants will be key.

"One of your most important tasks will be to draft provisions that will enable developing countries and countries with economies in transition to be active partners under the Convention," Toepfer told delegates, urging them "to come together on the funding issues." He said, "We all understand that the Convention will be asking developing countries to shoulder new responsibilities. Where they lack the means to accomplish its goals, we must find a way to work with them."

With a deadline for agreement this year, negotiators are deciding on provisions on control measures and funding for technical assistance for 12 pollutants listed in the mandate for a treaty from the UNEP Governing Council. They are the pesticides-aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex, and toxaphene; the industrial chemicals- polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and hexachlorobenzene, which is also a pesticide; and the unwanted byproducts of combustion and industrial processes-dioxins and furans. Countries are also moving to establish scientific criteria and a procedure for identifying additional pollutants for future international action.

In his address, Toepfer also called for direct action to reduce or eliminate persistent organic pollutants in advance of the treaty. UNEP and the World Health Organization are already working together to reduce malaria and reliance on DDT, creating a win-win situation for health and the environment. Together with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, they are bringing together environment, health, and agriculture agencies to develop integrated strategies for reduced reliance on all POPs- pesticides.

The fifth and last round of talks will be held in South Africa in November or December 2000, with the Diplomatic Conference and signing ceremony set for Stockholm in May 2001.

*****

Note to Editors: The Bonn meeting is formally known as the Fourth Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4) for an International Legally Binding Instrument for Implementing International Action on Certain Persistent Organic Pollutants.

It builds on the foundation for a treaty laid at the First Session (INC-1) held in Montreal from 29 June to 2 July 1998; the Second Session (INC- 2) held in Nairobi 25-29 January 1999; and the Third Session (INC-3) held in Geneva 6-11 September 1999.


Note to journalists:
Official documents for INC- 4 and other information on POPS are available on the POPs Homepage
(http://www.chem.unep.ch/pops).

There will be a closing press conference 25 March 2000 at 13:15 p.m. at the International Congress Centre Bundeshaus, 15 Görrestrasse, Entrance 2A, Room A.

For more information or to arrange interviews, contact
James B. Willis, Director,
UNEP Chemicals,
at tel: (+41 22) 917 81 38, fax: (+41 22) 79 34 60,
e-mail: chemicals@nep.ch;

Linda Durkee,
Policy and Communications Advisor,
UNEP Chemicals,
tel: (+41 22) 917 85 11,
e-mail: ldurkee@unep.ch

UNEP News Release 00/29

Monday 20 Mar 2000
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