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This is the third of three webinars looking at Integrated Pest Management practices to control the important Coffee Berry Borer (CBB) pest, as an alternative to using the highly hazardous pesticide Endosulfan. This webinar aims to share practical experiences of coffee farmers, in managing CBB with traps.

Growing Coffee without Endosulfan: experiences with traps for managing Coffee Berry Borer (CBB)

Growing Coffee without Endosulfan: experiences with traps for managing Coffee Berry Borer (CBB)
 

Call for applications by 31 December 2014.

Download the communication and application form

Consultancy announcement: illegal traffic and trade

Call for applications by 31 December 2014.

The Secretariat is pleased to announce the launch of a new online tool for finding its many joint technical and scientific publications. The use of an integrated search engine combines publications from the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Convention processes for the first time, and enables interested browsers to search by keyword, life cycle phase, or chemical/waste name under the Conventions.

The tool aims to better facilitate the sharing of key information about sustainable chemicals management amongst stakeholders, ease the work of Parties and Observers to the three Conventions, is the latest in the ongoing process of harmonisation and improvement of knowledge management within the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions.

New Tool Goes Live for Finding Technical and Scientific Publications

The Secretariat is pleased to announce the launch of a new online tool for finding its many joint technical and scientific publications. The use of an integrated search engine combines publications from the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Convention processes for the first time, and enables interested browsers to search by keyword, life cycle phase, or chemical/waste name under the Conventions.

The tool aims to better facilitate the sharing of key information about sustainable chemicals management amongst stakeholders, ease the work of Parties and Observers to the three Conventions, is the latest in the ongoing process of harmonisation and improvement of knowledge management within the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions.

Calendar of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

 
For the first time, regional meetings help parties prepare for the triple COPs

For the first time, regional meetings help parties prepare for the triple COPs

Stakeholder meetings in Indonesia, Kenya, Slovakia and Uruguay are designed to assist identify regional priorities and develop regional positions ahead of the triple COPs in May.

For the first time, regional meetings help parties prepare for the triple COPs

For the first time, regional meetings help parties prepare for the triple COPs



COP President explores implementation of the Basel Convention

COP President explores implementation of the Basel Convention

Read the new interview with Basel COP President Andrzej Jaguisiewicz to learn more about how Parties come together to further implementation of this key legal instrument on hazardous wastes

COP President explores implementation of the Basel Convention

COP President explores implementation of the Basel Convention

The Country-Led Initiative: How Parties come together to implement the Basel Convention (BC)

Interview between Andrzej Jagusiewicz, President of the Basel Convention 2015 COP12 (Warsaw, Poland) and Charlie Avis, BRS Secretariat Public Information Officer

Charlie Avis: Good morning, Andrzej, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us today. The Basel Convention aims to protect human health and the environment, as do the other two chemicals and waste conventions, Rotterdam and Stockholm. Where does the Basel Convention fit, within the broader global environment and development landscape and the move towards “Sustainable Development Goals”?

Andrzej Jagusiewicz:  Thank you. It’s quite obvious that if you have products you will have wastes, which may also be hazardous. Today some countries are self-sufficient in managing these wastes, although unfortunately many others have not got the necessary infrastructure to manage them in an environmentally sound manner. These are the driving forces for the global trade of hazardous wastes, where the Basel Convention can be seen not only as a kind of market regulator, but also as a powerful instrument to develop and support trade with due respect to human health and the environment.  Therefore implementation of the Basel Convention requires a lot of effort to build capacity, exchange good practices and raise awareness, with improved technical assistance and available funding the Basel Convention can make our world safer and healthier.  
There are more and more chemicals in the world, but their production, export/import and use must strictly follow the international laws, regulations and guidelines in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To me this means that chemical/waste security and safety must be a priority on the global UN agenda, while increased use of chemicals worldwide must be undertaken in a manner that ensures that ecosystems remain healthy and our well-being is preserved. With respect to the latter, I would expect rapid progress to reinforce the inclusion of chemicals and waste in the Sustainable Development Goals indicators. 
 
CA:  What is the Basel “Country-Led Initiative” (CLI) and what does it aim to achieve?

AJ:  CLI is a very important initiative of the Governments of Indonesia and Switzerland. The follow up to this initiative currently focuses on three goals: addressing the entry into force of the Ban Amendment, developing guidelines for environmentally sound management of wastes, and finally providing further legal clarity. The Ban Amendment is a crucial addition to the Basel Convention, as it aims to strengthen the objective of guaranteeing that wastes are only exported to parties that have the capacity to ensure their environmentally sound management. Its ratification and entry into force is also strongly related to the SDGs. From the beginning of my presidency, the ratification of the Ban Amendment has been my priority as a continuation of the outstanding efforts of my predecessor. A lot has been done, but still we are lacking several ratifications for entry into force of the Amendment. Let’s hope these will occur sooner rather than later.  Concerning ESM guidelines it’s quite clear that they are very important to capacity-building efforts for developing countries and a need to harmonize approaches towards the management of different hazardous wastes globally. Legal clarity is also necessary for the consistent interpretation of terminology which could be translated into consistent implementation of the Basel Convention. As terminology is being constantly developed together with the glossary of terms under the Basel Convention this goal seems to be a long-term effort. I think it would be beneficial if transboundary shipments of hazardous wastes would be accompanied by relevant ESM guidelines or reference to these, where appropriate. 

CA:  What are the main obstacles to implementing the Basel Convention, in terms of capacities and expertise?

AJ:  I can notice some disparities in providing technical assistance (TA), including proper funding between the UN regions. This was strongly voiced during the BRS regional meeting for the Central and Eastern Europe region (CEE) in Bratislava that I had the privilege to chair recently. So let’s put all UN regions on equal footing provided their needs are well identified and organize TA in a tailor-made and custom-oriented manner. Another obstacle is the lack of proper activities by some of the Basel Convention regional and coordinating centres (BCRCs).  We need to audit BCRCs performance and subsequently either to revitalize underperforming centres or transfer their activities to other BCRCs.   Also I think we need more exchange of good practices between the regions and at interregional level and full availability of all guiding and training documents in all UN languages, including WEBINARs.

CA:  How does the CLI address these constraints?

AJ:  First of all, it has revitalised Parties’ interest in Basel Convention issues, for example the Government of Switzerland is now sponsoring participation of developing countries in various meetings to the extent the others can only envy.  With respect to the CLI, it has helped to organize a series of workshops and information briefings for permanent missions in Geneva on the facilitation of the entry into force of the Ban Amendment.  Parties and other stakeholders have also become very active in trying to solve the last obstacles to get the agreement on e-wastes guidelines and last but not least has sponsored three participants from each of the eligible CEE countries at the regional preparatory meeting for the COPs, which took place in Bratislava. For the first time ever, we had such meetings in all regions well in advance of the COPs meetings. Due to this initiative, the Parties could be informed about the challenges ahead and discuss these informally to come to a common understanding. It has been really great!   
 
CA:  What are the main issues to be addressed at the upcoming triple COPs, for Basel?
AJ:  To me, this would be to establish a compliance/implementation mechanism under the Rotterdam Convention and the Stockholm Convention, following (why not…) the Basel Convention example. The Basel Convention is much older and more mature, therefore could offer the benefit of its experience. Moreover, if we are building synergies among the three conventions then let us benefit from each other. Another issue would be to resolve longstanding issues and agree on the listing of chemicals under the Rotterdam Convention in order to ensure that science-based evidence drives decision making.  And finally I would be happy if we get the Basel Convention e-waste guidelines adopted. 
 
CA:  The theme of the 2015 triple COPs is “From science to action: working for a safer tomorrow” – is science key to the Basel Convention and if so, how?

AJ:  Science-based evidence is crucial to drive policies; to make a safer world; and to live in our planet within its limits.  Of course we still take a consensus approach between science and policy within multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), but let’s use the theme of the 2015 triple COPs and the Science Fair, organized in the margins of the meetings, to inject more science than politics into the decision-making process in the future.  I am sure that the Science Fair will be a memorable event and play important role in understanding the benefits and risks from using the chemicals in today’s world.  

CA:  Finally, will you be travelling to the triple COPs in Geneva in May, and if so, what are your expectations?

AJ:  I expect to have interactive and fruitful triple COPS, as all regions will have already met before and be better prepared than in 2013. Also I think that the regions could speak more with one voice than they did in the past and voice their interest in further developing synergies, including with the Minamata Convention.   

As for myself I will try to do my best and simply survive.   
 
CA:  Thank you very much for your time.

AJ:  I also thank you for this opportunity to share my views with our web visitors.   


Countdown to the Triple COPs – Update on Stockholm listings

Countdown to the Triple COPs – Update on Stockholm listings

Ask Kei Ohno all you need to know about chemicals proposed to be newly listed at this year’s Conference of the Parties

Countdown to the Triple COPs – Update on Stockholm listings

Countdown to the Triple COPs – Update on Stockholm listings



First ever, interactive, online Synergies publication now available

First ever, interactive, online Synergies publication now available

Aiming to help Customs Authorities meet their responsibilities for protecting against the adverse impacts of hazardous chemicals and wastes, this is the first ever interactive BRS publication.

First ever, interactive, online Synergies publication now available

First ever, interactive, online Synergies publication now available
 
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Country-Led Initiative the focus for your questions

Ask Susan Wingfield how the CLI helps countries capture the benefits of improved waste management

Country-Led Initiative the focus for your questions

Country-Led Initiative the focus for your questions
 
An African perspective: capacities and partnerships in focus

Join Professor Oladele Osibanjo as he describes the main capacity constraints, and partnership opportunities, for solving waste and chemicals issues in Africa

An African perspective: capacities and partnerships in focus

An African perspective: capacities and partnerships in focus

Regional Capacity, and Innovative Partnerships for the Sustainable Management of Waste: An African Perspective

Interview between Professor Oladele Osibanjo, Executive Director of the Basel Convention Coordinating Centre For Training & Technology Transfer for the African Region (Ibadan, Nigeria) and Charlie Avis, BRS Secretariat Public Information Officer

Charlie Avis: Good morning, Professor Osibanjo, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us today. Please tell me, what is the role of your Centre, and why is it important?

Professor Oladele Osibanjo:  Thank you. The Centre aims to strengthen the capacity of the parties in Africa in complying with the provisions of the Basel Convention in legal, technical and institutional arrangements; strengthen the framework for environmentally sound management (ESM) of hazardous and other wastes across the Africa region. It also assists them to effectively implement their obligations on trans-boundary movements of hazardous and other wastes. This is done very much in partnership with the Basel Convention Regional Centres (BCRCs) in Egypt for Arabic-speaking countries; in Senegal for Francophone; and South Africa (Africa Institute) for Anglophone African countries respectively.

One important role of the Centre is to facilitate interaction and exchange of information between the BRS Secretariat and Regional Centres, and among the Regional Centres, Parties and other related institutions. The centre convenes regional consultations to identify  priorities and formulate strategies, and helps define and execute regional programmes. These contribute to synergies and mechanisms of cooperation among the Regional Centres and other stakeholders in environmentally sound management (ESM) and minimization of the generation of hazardous wastes and technological transfer in and outside the region. The Centre also maintains a regional information system accessible to stakeholders.

CA:  What are the main capacity constraints facing African governments striving to implement the Basel Convention?

OO:   The infrastructure for sound management of hazardous wastes varies from no action, to little or weak action,  among the parties in the African region. The parties are at different stages of development with different approaches to hazardous waste management. Hence the importance of a regional approach as this helps parties in the region to adopt a common template for addressing ESM of hazardous waste. It also allows parties lagging behind to catch up faster with the rest of the region. It further helps to promote the implementation of the environmentally sound management of hazardous and other wastes as an essential contribution to the attainment of sustainable livelihood, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the protection of human health and the environment in the region.

The capacity challenges are multidimensional and complex. In general, waste disposal is practised more than waste management (collection, storage, sorting, transportation, recycling, processing and disposal) often due to a lack of or weak infrastructure for hazardous waste management with limited knowledge and understanding of the operational and managerial/maintenance aspects of hazardous waste management. This can also be a function of missing and/or inadequate legal and institutional/administrative frameworks for hazardous waste ESM and the control of transboundary movements. Insufficient financial resources result in poor funding leading to low standards of  hazardous waste management.  Also, a prevailing low level of awareness at all levels of governance of the adverse environmental and human health impacts of hazardous waste can lead to  a  lack of political will. Not least, the non-domestication of the Basel Convention after ratification into national laws weakens the control of transboundary movement of hazardous waste at the national level.

CA:  In terms of sector, what is the fastest growing waste stream in Africa?

OO:  The fastest growing waste stream in Africa in terms of sector is electronic waste, also known as e-waste, or Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). Africa generates about 2 million metric tons of e-waste annually. This stems from the fact that Africa is one of the major destinations of e-waste exports from developed countries under the guise of exporting used or second-hand functional electronic products to assist Africa bridge the so-called digital divide. Less than 20% of African population can afford to purchase new electronic products hence the high demand for used electronic products which could be near end of life or are already end-of-life on arrival in Africa.

CA:  How can partnerships contribute to solving these issues?

OO:  The issue of e-waste is a globalized problem requiring global solutions. The Basel Convention Parties recognized the importance of public-private partnerships in the development of innovative, appropriate, and effective strategies for achieving the ESM of hazardous waste. Thus the Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment (PACE) was launched at the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 9)in Bali, Indonesia in June 2008. PACE is a multi-stakeholder partnership forum with representatives of Governments, private sector (both producers and recyclers), international organizations, academia, the Basel Convention Regional Centres/Basel Convention Coordinating Centres – and environmental public-interest non-governmental organizations. They come together to tackle issues related to the ESM, repair, refurbishment, recycling and disposal of used and end-of-life computing equipment. PACE has developed international guidelines for ESM of end-of-life computing equipment and has begun to test the implementation of these guidelines in pilot activities in developing countries and countries with economies in transition.  

Other international partnerships include the United Nations University initiative StEP (Solving the E waste Problem (StEP) which also focuses on providing solutions to the e-waste problem, through the application of scientific research based on the life-cycle approach.  There is also the UNEP Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) which is carried out with the Information Communication Sector (ICT) since 2001.

CA:  What do you consider to be the three main successes of PACE, for the African region?

OO:   PACE provided a unique forum for representatives of personal computer manufacturers, recyclers, international organizations, academia, BCRCs/BCCCs, environmental NGOs, and governments to tackle environmentally sound refurbishment, repair, material recovery, recycling and disposal of used and end-of-life computing equipment in an environmentally sound manner. It raised awareness, particularly through the participation of government officials and Directors of BCRCs/BCCC from Africa, all gaining exposure, knowledge and experience in the process.  At the country level, Africa also benefitted from PACE, for example the E-waste inventory in Burkina Faso, and a pilot project on collection and management of used and end-of-life computing equipment from informal sector which is on-going in the same country.

CA:  How would you like to see the platform established by MPPI and PACE taken forward?

OO:   The legacies of these two global partnerships should be sustained, strengthened and taken forward in a variety of ways. It is important that the knowledge and experiences gained in MPPI and PACE in promoting ESM on used and end-of-life mobile phones and computing equipment is not lost, and that their multi-stakeholder platform should continue to provide a platform for advancing ESM in a wider spectrum of WEEE issues and products beyond consumer electronics and cover other categories of E-waste in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, at the regional and national levels beyond December 2015.

In practical terms, establishing an ‘’Ad hoc follow-up group‘’ on PACE at the end of COP 12, would continue already initiated activities that are ongoing, finalize pilot projects,  and enable reporting of lessons learned. It is also important to undertake revision of section 3 of the Guidance Document on the Environmentally Sound Management (ESM) of Used and End-of-Life Computing Equipment.

lt is also important that a New PACE or PACE after PACE be established after December 2015, that would provide a global coordination role towards facilitating the strengthening of information and experience sharing and discussion on emerging issues within the wider WEEE agenda. An expanded mandate (TOR) and governance structure envisioned for the NEW PACE  under a proposed 2-tier coordination arrangement would give greater responsibility to the BCRCs/BCCCs in regional and national coordination; while the Basel Convention Secretariat retains the primary role for global coordination, which model would require consideration and approval by COP 13 and follow-up implementation strategy.

CA:  Finally, will you be travelling to the triple COPs in Geneva in May, and if so, what are your expectations?

OO:   Yes l will be traveling to the triple COP. My expectations are many and will share a few with you. I would love to see more active participation and greater involvement of delegates from developing and economic in transition countries in contact groups’ activities. This, together with improved and more predictable and sustainable funding mechanisms for implementing Chemicals and Waste MEAs in developing countries, would do much for tackling the waste issues in Africa.

New progammes on enhanced advocacy, awareness-raising and education on the global chemicals and waste issues would be welcome, with connectivities and implications for sustainable development, poverty alleviation and the creation of green jobs, for developing countries and countries with economies in transition.

CA:  Thank you very much for your time.

OO:   It is my pleasure. Thank you.

Focus on regional issues - Your chance to ask-an-expert

Suman Sharma answers your questions on How does Technical Assistance assist Parties implement the Chemicals and Waste Conventions?

Focus on regional issues - Your chance to ask-an-expert

Focus on regional issues - Your chance to ask-an-expert
 
Synergies for better managing the international trade of hazardous chemicals and wastes

New electronic leaflet provides an overview of the respective international trade control regimes under the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

Synergies for better managing the international trade of hazardous chemicals and wastes

Synergies for better managing the international trade of hazardous chemicals and wastes
 
The role of partnerships and stakeholders in the sustainable management of chemicals and waste

Countdown to the Triple COPs: BRS’ Matthias Kern answers your questions on www.unep.org concerning implementing the Conventions through partnerships.

The role of partnerships and stakeholders in the sustainable management of chemicals and waste

The role of partnerships and stakeholders in the sustainable management of chemicals and waste



Partnership is Key as BRS joins the Global Expanded Water Monitoring Initiative

Another example of how partnerships can further implementation of the Conventions, GEMI is an inter-agency initiative led by UN Habitat, UNEP and WHO, under the umbrella of UN Water.

Partnership is Key as BRS joins the Global Expanded Water Monitoring Initiative

Partnership is Key as BRS joins the Global Expanded Water Monitoring Initiative



BRS’ Tatiana Terekhova answers your question on Gender

Second in the popular Countdown to the Triple COPs series of UNEP “Expert-of-the-Day”, Tatiana explains the importance of gender for the sustainable management of chemicals and waste

BRS’ Tatiana Terekhova answers your question on Gender

BRS’ Tatiana Terekhova answers your question on Gender
 
Gender – Why it matters and what BRS is doing

Kerstin Stendahl, BRS Deputy Executive Secretary, on how gender considerations are necessary for full implementation of the Conventions

Gender – Why it matters and what BRS is doing

Gender – Why it matters and what BRS is doing

“Linking gender equality with sustainable development is important for several reasons. It is a moral and ethical imperative. Efforts to achieve a just and sustainable future cannot ignore the rights, dignity and capabilities of half the world’s population.” UN Women World Survey 2014.

Charlie Avis: Kerstin, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, please tell us why gender is relevant to the sound management of chemicals and hazardous wastes and the implementation of the BRS conventions?

Kerstin Stendahl: Incorporating gender consideration into the sound management of chemicals and wastes is absolutely key because women, men, boys and girls are exposed to chemicals and hazardous wastes in different ways and to varying degrees depending on where they work and live.  In addition to gender differences in exposure to hazardous substances there are also differences in physiological susceptibility between men and women, girls and boys.  We need to take these differences into account when we devise measures for the sound management of chemicals and wastes so that we tailor our responses with gender aspects in mind.

Gender equality, sustainable development and the sound management of chemicals and wastes is a model example of synergies at work, and thus the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts. Without gender equality the BRS conventions will fall short of full implementation and will not therefore contribute to sustainable development to their best possible capacity.

It is very encouraging that the international community now recognizes that negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda will need to harbour, nurture and execute these fundamental ideas.

CA: What is the Secretariat doing towards this goal?

KS:  Gender equality at all levels is an important factor in making implementation of our conventions efficient.  This is why the BRS secretariat strives to make gender considerations an integral part of our day-to-day work.  Through the dedicated work of our gender coordinator and the gender task team we have devised ways and means to mainstream gender into the planning and execution of policies and activities, as decided on by the Parties.  Have a look at the BRS Gender Action Plan at http://synergies.pops.int/ManagementReports/Gender/Overview/tabid/3651/language/en-US/Default.aspx

CA: The conventions aim at protecting all human beings and the environment, why do we need to focus especially on gender?

KS: Gender mainstreaming requires us to carefully assess whether the action we take will equally impact the lives of women and men, boys and girls.  It is not an easy task and we still have a lot to do in this area, not least when it comes to addressing the unsound management of chemicals and wastes and the disproportionate impact that they have on women and girls. We also need to encourage and empower women to be part of decision – making, whereby their knowledge, experience and expertise is equally heard and accounted for.  Significant in this regard is the question of access to Secretariat training and support services. In 2014, 52% of the more than 1,100 participants in the BRS technical assistance webinar programme were female, demonstrating that women are aware of – and can use just as easily - this very popular format for building individual and institutional capacities. In this way, we support women (and men) to empower themselves to play a role for securing the sustainable management of chemicals and waste.

CA: What support is out there, to help make this happen?

KS: Thankfully, the BRS is supported and guided in its gender work by a pool of competence and expertise among governments, within UNEP and the UN system at large.  Amongst these, the work of UN Women, deserves a specific mentioning.  Its report World Survey 2014  focusses on the theme of gender equality and sustainable development and is an essential read for all of us aiming at a sustainable future. (http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2014/10/world-survey-2014-press-release#sthash.6oo084i2.dpuf )  

CA: Are there already any specific activities going on?

KS: Through the Task Team’s work and as part of the BRS Gender Action Plan, the development of internal baseline data and statistics on involvement of women and men in projects and programmes of the secretariat is well underway. More substantively, we monitor consideration of gender aspects in proposal development and project implementation, and facilitate and encourage training of staff on gender mainstreaming. And we are collecting success stories of gender mainstreaming in chemicals and waste projects which will be showcased as “gender heroes” during our triple COPs in May. Lastly, the secretariat is actively contributing to the forthcoming (UNEP) Global Gender and Environment Outlook, and collaborates with the UNEP Gender and Social Safeguards Unit on online and face-to-face trainings on gender and environment.  I also hope that we will see more discussions about the gender dimension in the implementation of our conventions during the triple COPs in May. 

CA: Tell me about the Secretariat’s staffing, is that gender balanced?

KS: It is certainly something we monitor and bear in mind as part of all action on human resources together with other aspects, such as regional balance.

I would say that we our track record is quite good. Because of specific attention we now have a gender ratio of 50% men and women at “director” level, 49% men and 51% women at “professional” level, and 56% women and 44 % men at “general service” level.


Gender – UN urges more action to achieve equality

Gender in the spotlight: As the UN sets equality targets for 2030, find out what the BRS Secretariat is doing to achieve gender equality.

Gender – UN urges more action to achieve equality

Gender – UN urges more action to achieve equality
 
Interview: Science as the Bottom Line

Abiola Olanipekun, Chief of the BRS Scientific Support Branch, explains that rigorous and inclusive scientific processes underpin the 3 conventions

Interview: Science as the Bottom Line

Interview: Science as the Bottom Line

Interview with Abiola Olanipekun, Chief of the BRS Scientific Support Branch by Charlie Avis, BRS Public Information Officer

Charlie Avis: Abiola, why will a Science Fair accompany the forthcoming triple COPs of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions here in Geneva, from 7-9th May 2015? 

Abiola Olanipekun: Thank you. We are staging a 3 day Science Fair in order to raise awareness amongst delegates, parties and stakeholders, concerning how science underpins the implementation of the three conventions. The event will feature interactive displays, special events, film viewings, hands-on exhibits, panel discussions, lots of presentations and posters, and this diversity reflects the enormous range of stakeholders who together are moving forward the agenda for sustainable management of chemicals and waste.

CA: How does science underpin the conventions’ implementation, then?

AO: The science/policy interface is of supreme importance, in a world shaped by often largely political and economic interests. Right since the negotiation and adoption of the three Conventions, a sound scientific base was seen as necessary to give the Conventions both the information, and the credibility, they need in order to pursue their goals of protecting human health and the environment.

CA: More specifically?

AO: Scientific analysis is central to every step of the process. For example, when a chemical is proposed for listing under the Stockholm Convention, a party is to submit a proposal, accompanied by a scientific justification for the need for global control. Scientific evaluation is carried out by experts from various countries from all United Nations (UN) regions, who are involved in the work of the respective technical subsidiary bodies under the Conventions. These experts sign a “declaration of conflict of interest” meaning that they will not pursue any financial interests or influence by a commercial entity to enter into their deliberations. Further steps requiring inputs from the scientific community include risk mitigation through identification of suitable alternatives and the search for Best Available Techniques and Best Environmental Practices. Guidelines for monitoring, capacity-building on the implementation of alternatives, assistance with reporting obligations, and a host of other activities are also undertaken based on state-of-the-art science and objective expertise.

CA: It sounds like a lot of work. Is it bearing fruit?

AO: Yes, the good news is that according to our data, people and the environment are less exposed to certain Persistent Organic Pollutants (or POPs) than previously. The trend is definitely downwards with respect to chemicals listed in the Convention annexes. But at the same time, we have our work cut out: since new chemicals are entering the market – and therefore entering our environment and our bodies, all the time.

CA: Please tell me about this good news, what are you actually measuring? 

AO: We are mandated to carry out a global monitoring programme to measure POPs concentrations in the air, water and in human populations (breast milk and maternal blood) and have been implementing this global programme since the entry into force of the Stockholm Convention in 2004. Within 11 years of existence of the Convention, a rich and extremely valuable global POPs monitoring dataset has been generated. These data are compiled into Regional and Global Monitoring Reports every six years. The first reports were published in 2009, showing baseline concentrations of POPs in all UN regions, and the second round of reports are being issued in the next weeks and will focus on the identification of trends in exposure to POPs over time.

CA: And what do the data show?

AO: The trends are definitely downwards! This demonstrates the effectiveness of the Convention. For the first time, these monitoring data are also made available through a global monitoring plan data warehouse and information system which can be accessed at http://www.pops-gmp.org/  The development and adoption of technical guidelines for environmentally sound management of wastes under the Basel Convention is also critical in ensuring that hazardous wastes are managed in a manner to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects which may result from such wastes.

CA: Very impressive indeed. What are the major challenges for the Conventions, in terms of the scientific underpinning for implementation?

AO: Capacity. Many developing countries lack the capacity – or resources - to effectively engage in the scientific processes, meaning that it is challenging to ensure that their inputs are properly integrated. This is especially problematic because exposure to certain types of chemicals and pollutants is often higher in developing countries than elsewhere – for example in the by-hand and informal recycling of electronic waste.

CA: How do you respond to that?

AO: The Secretariat has a very full technical assistance programme, and all efforts are made to include the regional perspectives, including through the designated Basel and Stockholm Conventions  Regional Centres, and by bringing developing country delegates to the relevant meetings. Financial support from our “donor” partners is very necessary for this. But beyond that, we need to better assist parties to mainstream scientific approaches and evidence into national development planning processes, to encourage sharing of information between parties and between sectors, to integrate the chemicals and wastes issues into the wider development agenda, and to ensure that these issues are properly reflected in the planning and definition of the Sustainable Development Goals. We need to strengthen the “synergies” at all these different levels and scales.

CA: And the Science Fair, is it the first step towards that?

AO:  Not the first step, but a very significant step, yes. There is no time to waste. I would like to thank the donors and hosts of the Science Fair – the governments of Finland and Switzerland respectively – for supporting us to highlight the importance of Science to Action: Working for a Safer Tomorrow.

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