All for one and one for all!

Celebrating ten years of collaboration in the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

The BRS Secretariat is ten years young today, yet it’s difficult to imagine a time when the missions of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions were not intertwined. From the Basel Convention’s broad mandate to minimize the generation of hazardous and other wastes, ensure their environmentally sound management and control their transboundary movements, to the Rotterdam Convention providing countries with a first line of defence against unwanted imports of hazardous chemicals, and the Stockholm Convention’s work on prohibiting or restricting the production, use, international trade, release and storage of persistent organic pollutants, all three agreements share the common objective of protecting human health and the environment.

The BRS Secretariat is essentially a functional representation of the synergistic relationship that exists between the three Conventions. As Executive Secretary Rolph Payet puts it, “In more ways than one, we serve as the hazardous chemicals and wastes nexus, always working to further enhance international environmental governance and cooperation. I am proud to serve an entity that continues to be the flagship of efforts to improve international environmental governance.

One of the principal functions of the BRS Secretariat is the preparation and management of the BRS Conference of the Parties (BRS COPs), the highest decision-making body under each Convention. Drawing on guidance provided by the Bureaux of the Conferences of the Parties, the Secretariat organises the BRS COPs on a biannual basis. This year will signal the first time that all Parties will have the opportunity to meet again in Geneva since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, marking what is described by Deputy Executive Secretary Carlos Martin-Novella as an auspicious occasion: “2022 is a milestone year for multilateral cooperation with respect to the environment. The United Nations Environment Programme is turning 50 years old, the international community is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, and the BRS Secretariat is completing a decade of successful work.” The 2022 BRS COPs, which will be held from 7 to 16 June is Geneva, are a great opportunity for world leaders, experts and decisionmakers to meet face-to-face for the first time in the post-pandemic era and agree on new solutions to bring forward positive change in the environmental world.

Having been with the BRS Secretariat since day one, Senior Policy and Strategy Advisor Maria Cristina Cardenas has a well-rounded perspective about the ways the Secretariat’s work has been advancing cooperation on global environmental issues over the years. “Considering that the BRS Conventions are not only legally binding but also enjoy nearly universal coverage, decisions taken over these past ten years to address major issues like plastic waste management, toxic chemicals and biopesticides, all have a lasting and substantial effect on all of our lives and the planet”, she remarks.

Such environmental issues certainly don’t exist in a vacuum. The Secretariat provides a platform for their assessment, taking into account scientific as well as socioeconomic considerations, and thereby feeding into the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda 2030. With ten years down and hopefully many more to come, there’s definitely room for more ambition and further progress to be made ahead.


Disclaimer: The BRS 10th anniversary refers to the day when all the BRS Secretariats administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (the Basel Convention Secretariat, the Stockholm Convention Secretariat, and half of the Rotterdam Convention Secretariat) came under joint management on 18 February 2011.