From: UN Environment Programme
Published October 26, 2004 04:30 PM

Meeting the Global waste Challenge: Basel Convention Conference to Focus on Priorities, Partnerships and Resources

Geneva, 25 October 2004 - Ministers and senior officials are meeting here this week to discuss how to invigorate national efforts to achieve the goals of the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.

"Minimizing and safely managing hazardous and other wastes contributes to the UN Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty and improving access to safe drinking water and sanitation," said Executive Director Klaus Töpfer of the United Nations Environment Programme, which provides the Convention's secretariat.

"The Basel Convention needs to mobilize more resources and further engage industry and other partners if it is to achieve its full potential for protecting human health and the environment. Investments in effective systems for separating hazardous from non-hazardous wastes at the local level should be an important priority," he said.

After three days of discussion, the Conference will conclude on 28-29 October with a high-level segment where ministers and heads of delegation will set strategy for the way forward.

The basis for their discussions will include a strategy paper entitled "Mobilizing Resources for a Cleaner Future: Implementing the Basel Convention". The paper explores options for securing more sustanable sources of funding to meet the practical challenges posed by wastes at the local and regional levels.

Strongly linked to this resource-mobilization effort will be development of a work programme for the Basel Convention Partnership Programme. Working from the theme "Partnership for meeting the global waste challenge," this Programme aims to engage the energies of industry and civil society in reducing and managing hazardous and other wastes.

"The Basel Convention provides the only global forum for dealing with all aspects of the global waste challenge. The high-level discussions will offer a unique opportunity for setting priorities and identifying the solutions and resources needed to tackle them," said Sachiko Kuwabara-Yamamoto, the Convention's Executive Secretary.

Another important theme for the high-level segment will be the life-cycle approach to chemicals management. Industry needs to become better and better at minimizing unwanted byproducts and designing products with fewer hazardous components. They need to become increasingly adept at recycling or reintegrating leftover materials back into the manufacturing cycle.

A number of legal and technical issues are also on the meeting agenda. Governments will continue their discussions of how best to promote the environmentally sound management of dismantling obsolete ships. They will explore how to make the rules and goals of the Basel Convention and those of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) mutually supportive.

Another important agenda item is the adoption of guidelines for managing and disposing of wastes contaminated with persistent organic pollutants. POPs include some of the most hazardous chemicals ever created, such as PCBs and dioxins and furans. Strengthening national capacities for managing POPs wastes will strongly suport the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, which seeks to minimize and eliminate an initial list of 12 POPs.

The Seventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (COP 7) will be held in Room XVIII at the Palais des Nations from 25 - 29 October. The Basel Convention currently boasts 162 member governments (plus the EC).

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