The Basel Convention reaches historic agreement on North-South movements of hazardous waste
November 16, 2011  //  By:   //  Blog Post, Featured  //  No Comment

The 10th Conference of the Parties (COP10) of the Basel Convention, the global treaty on waste management, reached a fundamental agreement in Cartagena, Colombia. After an intense week of negotiations with the participation of 118 members and more than 700 delegates, the COP10 passed an amendment to ban the export of hazardous wastes from OECD to non-OECD countries. After a 15-year deadlock in the discussions, this will undoubtedly strengthen the international controls for transboundary movements of these dangerous materials and will improve the effectiveness of the Basel Convention signed in 1989.

The amendment will come into force for those countries that wish to adhere to it, but it constitutes a new regime for those countries that intend to trade their waste. They will now be under pressure to ensure the minimization of health and environmental impacts, and the social and labor conditions of trading waste. The amendment also recognizes the different conditions in developed and developing nations, and that waste management should be assumed as a global problem with global consequences.

In his remarks about this achievement, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner highlighted how this decision creates an instrument to reduce poverty, to promote health and social equality, and to advance in the implementation of  green economies. Additionally, it proved to be an excellent negotiation exercise, demonstrating how, by working together, countries can find common ground on these important issues. As stated by Paula Caballero, representative of the Colombian Government, the meeting in Cartagena “demonstrated that multilateralism works”.

The Convention also adopted a Strategic Framework for its implementation over the years 2012-2021. The framework is oriented to improve environmental management of waste as a contribution to health, sustainability, and poverty eradication. Decisions were also made regarding compliance, financial assistance, and private-public partnerships.

Recommendations by the Convention for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20 meeting suggest that it should consider the prevention, minimization, and recovery of wastes as fundamental contributions to sustainable development.

The Basel Convention Conference of the Parties will meet again in Geneva, Switzerland in 2013.

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About the Author :

Natalia Escobar-Pemberthy joined the GEG team in September 2011as a research assistant for the UMass Center of Governance and Sustainability. Natalia graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2005 and its currently a PhD Student in the Global Governance and Human Security program at UMass Boston

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