Opening remarks of the 2017 Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions

Mr. Rolph Payet
Executive Secretary of the
Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions
24 April 2017, Geneva Switzerland

Excellencies, Presidents of the Conferences of the Parties, distinguished delegates, dear friends,

Welcome to the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention, the 8th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Rotterdam Convention and the 8th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Stockholm Convention.

As early as 1920 Geneva has been host to international organisations and multilateral international meetings, and in recent years we have seen the establishment of chemicals and wastes related organisations and bodies in Geneva. The outcomes of this work crystalizes in these three conventions which set out an international multilateral environmental agreements framework for the sound management of chemicals. The three conventions, and the Minamata Convention, create a global legal framework for parties to agree on how we should manage hazardous chemicals and wastes many of which are now found in every aspect of our life, our societies and the environment, even to the deepest ocean trenches of the planet.

A growing number of local and global issues are increasingly linking hazardous chemicals, pollution and wastes to human health and well-being. More than ever, the people of this planet are counting on you, representatives of governments and parties to the conventions, to make the right decisions; decisions that would lead to improvements in the quality of life of people and for a sustainable planet. Negotiations taking place over the next two weeks should enable to make progress in tackling this nexus between development and planetary health.

In preparation of these Conferences of the Parties, the secretariat has organised a number of regional preparatory meetings with the generous support of the Swiss government. I was personally encouraged by the level of commitment demonstrated by all parties during those preparatory sessions. I was further motivated to see that our efforts have resulted in the largest ever gathering of delegations for the three COPs. We have to day registered over 1862 participants, from more than 160 countries, and indeed in recent months seen new parties sign or ratify the conventions. 
In addition to this surge in positive commitments from governments, a number of events of international significance and relevance to the conventions have transpired since our last COPs in 2015. These include:

  • The adoption by heads of state and world leaders attending the UN Sustainable Development Summit, in September 2015, of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets, many of which are interlinked to the  sound management of chemicals and wastes further demonstrates the importance of these international conventions on sustainable development;
  • The adoption by  the fourth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management held in September 2015 of the  decision to initiate an intersessional process to prepare recommendations regarding the Strategic Approach and the sound management of chemicals and wastes beyond 2020;
  • The adoption by the second session of UNEA held in June 2016 of  several resolutions, highlighting the important contribution of the conventions towards the implementation of sound management of chemicals and waste (Resolution 2/7), and resolution 2/8 on sustainable consumption and production, resolution 2/11 on marine plastic litter and microplastics and resolution 2/5 on delivering the 2030 agenda;
  • The adoption by  the 69th World Health Assembly held in  May 2016 of a number of resolutions of specific relevance to the conventions, particularly resolution WHA69.4 on the role of the health sector in the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management towards the 2020 goal as well as the welcoming of  a roadmap for enhanced global response to the adverse effects of air pollution;
  • The release during the 33rd Session of the  Human Rights Council held in September 2016,   of the report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes;

The relevance and importance of the Chemicals and Wastes Conventions is therefore central to achieving sustainable development, the eradication of poverty and achieving a peaceful and fair world. Indeed the BRS Secretariat has been active and remains engaged in supporting these global goals.

We have also engaged with the private sector, and to showcase their commitment to engaging with governments in finding sustainable solutions, I will later this week open our first ‘Technology Fair’ which is aimed at showcasing the efforts of industry and non-governmental organisations in moving towards the sound management of chemicals and wastes. Indeed, we need your continued support and that of industry and non-governmental organisations to make it happen. I trust the fair will be inspirational as well as create opportunities for technology transfer and exchange of knowledge and practices.

With regards to the matters at hand during these CoPs, I am convinced that we will be able to tackle a number of outstanding issues. Whilst I will not go into any level of detail here, I would like to just remind parties of the importance of listing those chemical identified under the best available scientific information and the compliance mechanisms for the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions. Secondly, it is also important to remind all parties in a position to do so, to financially support activities to ensure the effectiveness of the three conventions. In the past years, we have seen a significant decrease in voluntary contributions for the implementation of those conventions and, more generally, financial resources for the sound management of chemicals. That said, I would like to sincerely thank our donors who have remained strongly committed in supporting the work of the conventions, namely Australia, the Peoples Republic of China, Denmark, the European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. I encourage them to continue their support, and invite others to join. With regards to the core funding of the secretariat, I am sad to say that the arrears of parties continue to increase, despite efforts by the Bureaux and my office to encourage parties to meet their financial obligations. I would like to urge parties to make good on their commitment so that we can continue to deliver effectively as a secretariat.

With regard to the implementation of the Stockholm Convention, I would also like to thank the Global Environment Facility (The GEF), the principal entity entrusted with the operation of the financial mechanism of the Convention on an interim basis, and its implementing agencies for their continued efforts in ensuring the availability of financial resources and technical expertise for the development and updating of National Implementation Plans (NIPs) and the implementation of the Convention on the ground. Without this support the decisions of the COP will be difficult if not impossible to implement. More than 4.3 billion US Dollars are required for the implementation of the Stockholm Convention over the period 2018−2022, as noted in the needs assessment report which will be considered at this meeting. And this does only takes into account legacy Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), since comprehensive data from updated NIPs was unfortunately not yet available. This is a significant amount and I would like to urge the GEF Secretariat and donor countries, as they prepare for the 7th replenishment, to take into consideration the recommendations of this report and enhance the financial support to the entire chemicals and wastes focal area. This triple COPS is also important as we will be hosting more than one hundred high level delegates, the majority of which will be ministers of environment, health and/or agriculture. This is by far the largest turnout to date, and I would like to especially thank our parties and delegates for reaching out to their governments at the highest possible political level. Kindly convey the warm welcome and appreciation of the Secretariat.

I would also like to thank our administrative host, UN Environment for their support and also FAO for their support given to the Rotterdam Convention and our office in Rome. In closing, I wish to thank the Genevois and the Swiss people and government for their ‘accueil’ and their strong support for the chemicals and wastes agenda, thank you Mr. Marc Chardonnens, State Secretary, Swiss Federal Office for the Environment.   I would like you to also join me in applauding the professionalism of my team in the BRS secretariat, including the team in Rome (thank you Bill) as we continue to improve our performance within the matrix structure adopted by the CoPs. Indeed, the synergies report has shown clearly those areas were we have excelled but also the weaknesses we need to address.

We have also continued to strengthen our collaboration with other UN organisations such as UN Environment, FAO, ILO, IMO, ITU, OCHA, OHCHR, UNIDO, UNDP, WHO, WTO, UNCHR,  and UNITAR who continue to pledge their commitment to the chemicals and wastes agenda. The Secretariat cannot do this job alone and the regional centres for the Basel and Stockholm Conventions continue to play a significant role in the implementation of the conventions on the ground. These BRS Regional Centres need support, both politically and financially.

Excellencies, Presidents, distinguished delegates, dear friends, as you know the new UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres   will also be here in Geneva during the first week our COPs.  Unfortunately, due to other pressing obligations he will not be able to join us physically.  However, he is aware of the importance of these COPs within the wider UN Agenda and in his recent statements he is giving priority to the sustainable development agenda and the importance of ensuring the health of humans and the planet.

The sustainable management of chemicals and waste must be achieved, in order for our health, and that of our children, to be protected, wherever we live, whatever our job, whatever our gender, nationality or income.

Let us begin our work, with this in mind.

Thank you