Preventing and combating illegal traffic and trade in hazardous chemicals and wastes under the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions

The Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions provide for a range of measures to achieve their goals, including setting of conditions and procedures to be followed for the import and export of the covered chemicals and wastes. These conditions and procedures are expected to ensure that importing States are not confronted with hazardous chemicals and wastes that they do not wish to receive, for instance because they have prohibited their use or because they are unable to manage them in an environmentally sound manner. The control of the international trade of chemicals is covered by the Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, while trade of wastes is primarily regulated under the Basel Convention.

International trade in hazardous chemicals and wastes is considered legal, as far as the conventions are concerned, when the conditions and procedures embodied in these conventions are complied with. For instance, under the Basel Convention, a Party is not allowed to import hazardous wastes from a non-Party, unless a specific agreement is concluded. In a similar way, imports and exports of POPs included in the Stockholm Convention are allowed only for the purpose of environmentally sound disposal or for a use which is permitted by the importing State. Other requirements for trade to be considered “legal” may be imposed by other international treaties as well as by the national legal framework of a country: such requirements must therefore also be contended with in order to determine whether a particular shipment is legal.

During the 2017 COPs, the three COPs adopted for the first time substantively similar decisions on synergies in preventing and combating illegal traffic and trade in hazardous chemicals and wastes (see decisions BC-13/21, RC-8/14, SC-8/24). Parties were encouraged to establish national-level coordination mechanisms with a view to facilitating the exchange of information among relevant authorities responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the provisions of the Conventions, aimed at controlling the export and import of the chemicals and wastes covered under the Conventions, and to provide information to the Secretariat about cases of illegal traffic and trade in the chemicals and wastes covered by the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, where the provision of such information is appropriate under existing reporting procedures.

This approach was reiterated and strengthened by the decisions adopted at the 2019 COPs (see decisions BC-14/24, RC-9/12, SC-9/22).