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Conventions on Chemical Management

The environmental issues regarding the transboundary movement of chemicals and their management have resulted in four UN Processes. They are the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent (PIC), the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), the Basel Convention on Toxic Waste, and a Code of Ethics. In 2006, the first UN Convention

Dubai Declaration

In Dubai Feb 2006, ministers and senior officials from more than 140 countries agreed to a new international agreement called Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). It aims to ensure that chemicals management all over the world is done in a manner that will help reach the target set at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development "to achieve, by 2020, that chemicals are used and produced in ways that lead to a minimisation of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment." As the High Level declaration puts it, SAICM represents a commitment “to achieving chemical safety and thereby assisting in fighting poverty, protecting vulnerable groups and advancing public health and human security”. More

PIC Negotiations

Growth in internationally traded chemicals during the 1960s and 1970s led to increasing concern over pesticides and industrial chemical use, particularly in developing countries that lacked the expertise or infrastructure to ensure their safe use.

This prompted the development of the International Code of Conduct for the Distribution and Use of Pesticides by the FAO and the London Guidelines for the Exchange of Information on Chemicals in International trade by UNEP. Both the Code of Conduct and the London Guidelines include procedures aimed at making information about hazardous chemicals more readily available, thereby permitting countries to assess the risks associated with their use.

The aim is to promote a shared responsibility between exporting and importing countries in protecting human health and the environment from the harmful effects of certain hazardous chemicals being traded internationally through a voluntary PIC procedure.

The PIC Database can be found at

More from UNEP at

Latest on PIC Convention from

Delegates to the 1992 (UNCED) recognized that the use of chemicals is essential to meet social and economic goals, but also acknowledged that a great deal remains to be done to ensure the sound management of chemicals. Chapter 19 of Agenda 21 contains an international strategy for action on chemical safety. States were set to achieve, by the year 2000, the full participation in and implementation of the PIC procedure.

The Rotterdam Convention on PIC:

The Rotterdam Convention which covers the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure, is the first multi-environmental Convention to be signed since the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992. PIC is an information exchange and notification procedure. Its aim is to ensure that international shipment of a chemical that has been banned or severely restricted in any country in order to protect human health or the environment, or, severely hazardous pesticide formulations causing health or environmental problems under conditions of use in developing countries, do not proceed without the consent of the PIC Designated National Authority (DNA) in the importing country, based on prior information on the chemical. Exporting countries are required to give prior notification to importing countries of the intended export of a PIC list chemical, and the exporter has to supply prior information on the nature of the chemical, its hazards, prevention measures etc (including notifying their national government). The importing country PIC DNA evaluates this information then either gives or refuses its consent as to whether to allow import (or to set conditions on the import). The exporter is then bound to abide by the consent decision even if it does not permit import. Exporting country governments then have a duty to ensure that their exporters abide by the consent decision and do not export where consent has been refused.

105 States attended the 6th International Negotiating Committee meeting to agree:

The transformation of the existing voluntary PIC system into the interim PIC system, based on the legally-binding Convention. The interim system, which is still voluntary, will carry on until the first Conference of the Parties (COP), once the Convention has been ratified.

Regional capacity building work in the regions force of the PIC Convention including. The Convention will enter into force 90 days after the 50th ratification is received, and it will be legally binding.

The work plan of the Joint Secretariat of UNEP Chemicals (industrial chemicals) and FAO (pesticides).

Signatures and ratifications

In 2002 the Rotterdam Convention, developed to reduce international trade of dangerous chemicals, has 34 of 50 needed ratifications. The WSSD Plan reinforced the process and also includes a renewed global commitment to phase out chemicals that harm human health and the environment, with a specific target date of 2020.

PIC Regions

Article 5 of the Convention establishes that a ban or severe restriction of a pesticide or chemical for health or environmental reasons in any two regions will qualify it for the PIC list (in the voluntary system it was one)

INC6 decided that the PIC regions should be based on FAO regions for the interim period, inserting non-FAO member States into the appropriate region to give the following picture:

Asia (23 countries); Europe (49 countries), Latin America and the Caribbean (33 countries); Near East (22 countries), North America (2 countries: Canada and US), Southwest Pacific (16 countries) This means that all bans or severe restrictions in the European Region, which stretches from Finland to Malta and from the UK to Russia, will only count as one for the purpose PIC. (but 49 for ratification).

Interim Chemical Review Committee (ICRC)

The Interim Chemical Review Committee (ICRC) was established as the Convention's main technical body. Its task is to review and give opinions on government notifications as contained principally in PIC Decision Guidance Documents (DGDs) for the listing of new chemicals and pesticides, as well as for removal of substances from the PIC list.

ICRC will be based on experts designated by governments but appointed by the ICRC. Negotiations on numbers from each region were tense. Developing countries were especially concerned that experts from developed countries should not dominate the ICRC.

Decision Guidance Documents (DGDs)

It had been agreed that any chemicals already identified for the voluntary procedure should be brought into PIC, and a number are waiting to be put on the list. The meeting considered the Decision Guidance Documents (DGD) for six pesticides and decided:

  • binapacryl and toxaphene-agreed to include both. It is thought there is no present production or trade of either of these pesticides, but toxaphene is also a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP) pesticide, and it was recognised that they were business left over from the voluntary PIC.

  • ethylene dichloride and ethylene oxide-both are nominated as pesticides but are also industrial chemicals. It was agreed that the DGDs should make this distinction clearer before they are included in PIC.

  • maleic hydrazide-the pesticide is included because of the impurity, hydrazine. The chemical should be further reviewed and if appropriate the DGD revised and forwarded to the ICRC.

  • bromacil-this pesticide (a DuPont herbicide) is banned in Germany, Slovenia and Sweden, primarily because of concerns of persistence and leaching from sandy soils to groundwater. It is severely restricted in Belize. The INC recommended that the basis of the reported control actions and appropriateness for its inclusion in PIC be reviewed.

Latest on Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent: http://www.pic.int/

Stockholm Convention on POPs

POPs are chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms and are toxic to humans and wildlife.

Growth in the use of certain chemicals in industry or as pesticides increased dramatically during the 1960s and 1970s. POPs are chemical substances that are persistent, bioaccumulate and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment.

Prior to 1992, international action on chemicals primarily involved developing tools for risk assessment and conducting international assessments of priority chemicals

Agenda 21 Chapter 19 on the "Environmentally Sound Management of Toxic Chemicals Including Prevention of Illegal International traffic in Toxic and Dangerous Products," called for the creation of an Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS). The Inter-Organization Programme on the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC) was also established to promote co-ordination among international organizations involved in implementing Chapter 19.

In March 1995, the UNEP Governing Council (GC) invited the IOMC, together with the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) and the IFCS, to initiate an assessment process. They assessed a short-list of 12 POPs, taking into account the circumstances of developing countries and countries with economies in transition. The assessments of the chemicals included available information on their chemistry, sources, toxicity, environmental dispersion and socio-economic impacts. The IFCS was further invited to develop recommendations and information on international action).

The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE) recently concluded negotiations for a Protocol to the Convention on Long- Range transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) regarding 16 POPs. On 24 June 1998, 32 countries and the European Community signed the Protocol, which aims to control, reduce or eliminate discharges, emissions and losses of POPs.

The Protocol

  • Bans the production and use of some products outright (aldrin, chlordane, chlordecone, dieldrin, endrin, hexabromobiphenyl, mirex, toxaphene)

  • Schedules others for elimination at a later stage (DDT, heptachlor, exachlorobenzene, PCBs)

  • Severely restricts the use of DDT, hCh (including lindane), and PCBs.

  • Obliges countries to reduce their emissions of dioxins, furans, PAhs and hCB below their 1990 levels and provides for best available techniques to cut emissions of these POPs.

In July 1998 in Montreal, Canada, representatives of over 100 governments gathered to negotiate an international agreement to minimise emissions and releases of POPs such as DDT and PCBs into the environment. The negotiations also address the accumulation of unwanted and obsolete stockpiles of pesticides and toxic chemicals, particularly in developing countries. The INC is focusing on a list of twelve POPs grouped into three categories:

  1. pesticide POPs: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex and toxaphene;

  2. industrial chemical POPs: hexachlorobenzene and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); and

  3. POPs that are unintended byproducts: dioxins and furans.

The Stockholm Convention, signed into existence in May 2001, calls for global elimination of POPs. The treaty targets an initial 12 chemicals for phase out and lays out a process for adding new chemicals that meet agreed criteria for persistence, bioaccumulation and transportability. 50 countries need to ratify the Stockholm Convention and there was a challenge to do this for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg in September 2002. While this goal was not reached (21 countries had ratified the Convention at that time), participating nations at the WSSD did include in their "Plan of Implementation" specific goals to promote the rapid ratification and implementation of the Stockholm Convention.

Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants: http://www.pops.int/

International POPs Elimination Network: http://www.ipen.org/

Basel Convention on Toxic Waste

To regulate the 3 million tons of toxic waste that crosses national borders each year, countries negotiated the Basel Convention on hazardous wastes.

The Basel Convention was adopted in March 1989 after a series of notorious "toxic cargoes" from industrialized countries galvanized world outrage over the dumping of hazardous wastes in developing and East European Countries. It entered into force in May 1992.

Malaysia 1998 -- The Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention on the Control of transboundary Movement of hazardous Wastes and their Disposal continued the battle to stem and eradicate the "evil cargo" of hazardous wastes.

"Those illegal exports are a crime against mankind and nature and they must be prosecuted as a criminal act. Intensive co-operation with Interpol and the UN Commission on human Rights is a must. There is an urgent need to build the capacity of states to prevent illegal traffic of hazardous wastes," said UNEP's Executive Director Mr Klaus Toepfer .

The main aim is to change the production pattern, to stimulate production technologies which decrease the quality and the hazard of all kinds of waste, we must stimulate clean products and production.

The COP 4 established hazardous waste lists.The hazardous Waste list (A) would ban the export of wastes containing arsenic, lead, mercury, asbestos, and dozens of other chemicals and substances. The non-hazardous waste list (B)would exempt from the ban those wastes that can be safely (and profitably) recycled or re-used, including scrap iron, steel or copper, certain electronic assemblies, non-hazardous chemical catalysts, and many ceramics solid plastics, and paper and textile wastes.

The Convention has grown from 30 Contracting Parties in 1992 to 117, five years later,. In 1995 they adopted a ban which goes beyond final disposal, and covers transboudnary movements of hazardous wastes from the OECD, the EC, Liechtenstein to other countries for recovery operation."

To enter into force the Ban Amendment has to be ratified by three fourths of the parties including the United States. Representatives recommended faster development of a Protocol for Liability and Compensation for damage resulting from transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and their disposal. They emphasized that the main goal of the Basel Convention was environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes, among other things.

More on Basel Convention: http://www.basel.int/

Code of Ethics

The Code of Ethics on the International Trade in Chemicals ("The Code"), concluded in 1994, represents the commitment of the world's industries to reduce the risks of chemical substances to human health and the global environment. Many provisions contained in the Code call on private sector parties to take initiatives in ensuring the safety of chemicals throughout their whole life cycle - to develop safer packaging and clear and concise labelling, to end the production and trade in chemicals with unacceptable risks, to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals, and to take a number of other steps to promote chemical safety through testing and assessment, quality assurance, providing safety information, and promoting education and training for safety purposes.

More details of the Code of Ethics in Chemicals: http://irptc.unep.ch/ethics/

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2002 Edition