|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Commission on Sustainable Development
Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting
5th & 6th Meetings (AM & PM)
Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting for Commission on Sustainable Development
Considers Focal Issues of Waste Management, Mining
Panellists in Favour of ‘Paradigm Shift’ Away from Traditional Perceptions
There was a need for a paradigm shift in the traditional perception of waste as a costly and unwanted by-product, to one whereby it would be regarded as a resource, panellists told the Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting for the nineteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development today.
As the Commission held a panel discussion on waste management this morning, Katharina Kummer Peiry, Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention, said waste should be repositioned as a valuable resource, since waste management presented economic opportunities, such as providing “green” jobs, as well as financial incentives, while contributing to pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals. While financing for waste management was traditionally a low priority on the national and international environmental agendas, it was to be hoped that there would be an incentive for industries to invest in state-of-the-art facilities, particularly in developing countries and with regard to new and growing types of electronic waste, she said.
One particular waste stream representing an underutilized resource of great value was organic waste, said Magnus Bengtsson, Director of the Sustainable Consumption and Production Group at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. Although less than 10 per cent of municipal organic waste was put to use — the rest being dumped in landfills — techniques such as composting and anaerobic digestion could be used in waste management to create organic matter and nutrients that could be returned to the soil. Furthermore, reducing the amounts of organic waste placed in landfills saved money for municipalities and reduced the levels of greenhouse gases generated by waste in landfills, especially methane. However, such new technologies required both education and incentives, he noted.
Addressing the issue of solid-waste management in developing countries, Luis Diaz, President of CalRecovery, Inc., in California, added that training municipal employees in general concepts would lead to cost savings, as some developing-world municipalities spent 50 per cent of their budgets on managing solid waste. He stressed that public education should take place in close cooperation with professionals who knew the local conditions. It should rely on methods of communication popular in a specific area, he said, adding that non-governmental organizations, business leaders and community leaders should be involved. Measures must be taken to retain properly trained personnel in municipal offices and to secure finances.
The panellists were making presentations on policy options and actions to address barriers and constraints in the implementation of sustainable development, as it applied to waste management. Two other panellists made presentations on mining during an afternoon discussion. The Commission’s upcoming nineteenth session will focus on three other thematic issues: transport; chemicals; and a 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns.
As the Meeting took up mining, Gavin Hilson, Reader in Environment and Development at the United Kingdom’s University of Reading, discussed the benefits of formalizing artisanal and small-scale mining, which largely entailed low-tech labour-intensive mineral extraction and processing in developing countries. He said that, while the sector was characterized by such negative aspects as environmental problems, mercury contamination, land degradation, disease, and child labour, the international community must do its best to legalize it. Properly formalizing the camps would be a “win-win” situation as they provided jobs, as well as resources like gold, diamond and gemstones to Governments.
Agreeing that natural resource extraction could have both positive and negative socio-economic and environmental impacts on communities, Roy Maconachie, Lecturer in International Development at the University of Bath, also in the United Kingdom, said the first step towards enhancing artisanal diamond mining livelihoods was to enhance good governance. That was being done in part through the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which aimed to stem the flow of conflict diamonds, as well as through such national initiatives such as the Diamondiferous Area Community Development Fund and the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative in Sierra Leone. Because uneven power structures in many countries made governance challenging, however, measures for improvement must take the whole socio-economic context into consideration, he said.
The Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 3 March, to hear panel presentations and hold discussions on the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns.
The Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting for the nineteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development met this morning to hold a panel discussion on waste management, one of the five thematic areas of focus during the upcoming session. It was expected to discuss mining during its afternoon meeting. (See Press Release ENV/DEV/1193 of 28 February.)
Panel on Waste Management
The following panellists featured in the discussion on policy options to address barriers and constraints in the implementation of sustainable development as it applies to the thematic issue of waste management: Magnus Bengtsson, Director, Sustainable Consumption and Production Group, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Japan; Luis Diaz, President, CalRecovery Inc., California, United States; and Katharina Kummer Peiry, Executive Secretary, Basel Convention.
ABDELGHANI MERABET ( Algeria), Vice-Chair of the Commission, said at the outset of the discussion that rapid economic growth, changing behavioural attitudes and lifestyles, unsustainable consumption patterns and rapid urbanization in many parts of the world had led to a significant increase in the volume and variety of waste. Managing and minimizing waste represented challenges for all countries, especially developing ones due to their growing economies, rising incomes and rapid urbanization. Efficient waste management had become critical in the fight against poverty and in the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals relating to sanitation and public health.
He said the priority objective of waste management was to promote prevention and minimization by focusing on “the 3Rs” (reduce, reuse, recycle) and on recovering materials useful in generating energy. Understanding the generation of various categories of waste was fundamental to the formulation of appropriate policies, he said, noting that a number of waste streams — especially e-waste and hazardous waste — had emerged or assumed greater importance, and that conventional waste management systems were not designed to handle them. The availability of reliable and representative data was crucial, he added.
Waste management required an integrated approach, as well as the involvement of various stakeholders, including the informal sector, he continued, noting that stronger cooperation was conducive to the creation of innovative, strong partnerships at the global, regional, national and local levels. Questions to focus on included: how a macroeconomic approach to sustainable materials management policies could be developed alongside an integrated waste management approach in order to maximize social, environmental and economic gains; how incentives for radical redesign and waste minimization could be created; how the capacity of developing countries safely to treat hazardous and other complex waste could be significantly strengthened; and how the quality and reliability of waste-related data (including on waste monitoring) could be improved.
NIKHIL CHANDAVARKAR, Division of Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the report of the Secretary-General “Policy options and actions for expediting progress in implementation: waste management” (document E/CN.17/2011/6), saying it had been prepared through inter-agency collaboration and sought to point out the numerous benefits of promoting waste management. It should be read in conjunction with the Secretary-General’s report on sustainable consumption and production because the two topics went hand in hand, he said, sharing the report’s main messages on strategies and policies for waste management, strengthening an enabling environment for implementation, and the way forward.
Prior to the panellists’ presentations, the Commission screened a short film about the treatment of waste and its path to the production of energy by American Combustion Industries, Inc. (ACI) in California, United States.
Ms. KUMMER PEIRY said there was a need for a paradigm shift in the traditional perception of waste as a costly and unwanted by-product, to one whereby it was regarded as a resource. She said the 1989 Basel Convention had been created to deal with hazardous and other waste, on the basis of the two pillars of regulation — transboundary movements, and environmentally sound management of hazardous and other waste.
Waste was no longer a local or national issue but a global one, she continued, emphasizing, however, that financing for waste management was low on the national and international environmental agendas because it was rather unpopular on the national and global agendas. There was a need to treat waste as a valuable resource, he said, adding that the economic opportunities presented by waste management should be highlighted because they could provide “green” jobs and financial incentives while contributing to the realization of the Millennium Development Goals.
She went on to say that the Basel Convention had been working in that direction by, among other things, adopting the Bali Declaration on Waste Management for Human Health and Livelihood; the Mobile Phone Partnership Initiative; and the Nairobi Declaration on Environmentally Sound Management of e-Waste. The Convention was also working to contribute to the necessary paradigm shift through public-private partnerships and synergies, as well as through capacity-building by its regional centres.
She said the theme of the Convention’s Tenth Conference of Parties, to be held in Colombia, would be on the prevention, minimization and re-use of wastes. The intention was to generate more concrete approaches to securing support for waste management as a fundamental change in the perception of wastes, including hazardous wastes, so that waste management could feed directly into the discussions on the green economy. There was a need to examine how the Basel Convention’s provisions could be expanded to accommodate and integrate secondary resource management, he said. To make the green economy a reality and ensure that environmentally sound management would become a possibility, there was a need to establish universal standards, such as certification schemes that were universally applied, monitored and evaluated.
Support for developing countries must also be addressed, she said, as developing countries often did not have the possibilities to use state-of-the-art technologies. Mainstreaming into other processes and innovative funding mechanisms such as fees for certification should be found. She hoped there would also be an incentive for industries to invest in state-of-the-art facilities. E-waste was present all over the world and e-waste generation in developing countries would exceed that of developed countries over the next 10 years. Waste should be repositioned as an economic opportunity which could provide for green jobs and contribute to Green Economy and the Millennium Development Goals. She noted that one incentive was that 30 mobile phones contained the same amount of gold as one ton of ore.
Mr. BENGTSSON, focusing on organic waste, said it was an underutilized resource of great value. A large volume of organic waste was being developed in cities, he said, noting that more than half of municipal waste was organic. A large share of it remained uncollected, with less than 10 per cent being used as a resource because it was dumped in landfills. When municipalities tried to collect and dispose of that waste, it ended up in improper dump sites that posed hazards to the environment. When they tried to upgrade waste disposal practices through landfills the big piles of waste generated methane, a strong greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide, which contributed to global environmental problems.
However, other technologies could deal with at least a share of waste management, he said, noting that composting and anaerobic digestion could create nutrients and organic matter that could be returned to the soil, offering many benefits. Biogas could also be an affordable energy source, which was important in small island developing States, where energy was expensive. Reducing the amounts of waste placed in landfills saved money for municipalities, but helpful practices like source separation were not easy to achieve, requiring both education and incentives, he said, adding that municipalities did not understand the market, including how farmers could use compost or how the food chain worked, so they must be taught, he stressed.
Municipalities had to build partnerships, including with fertilizer manufacturers, as Waste Concern, a non-governmental organization in Bangladesh, was doing as it practised composting in Dhaka. Quality control in that chain was also essential in avoiding the contamination of products. An additional obstacle was the payment of subsidies for non-organic fertilizers, which made it more difficult for organic producers to compete.
On the supply side, municipalities also needed to form partnerships with civil society, non-governmental organizations and other groups, he said. One good example was in Indonesia, where a significant amount of waste that usually went into landfills had been composted. The role of municipalities had been to facilitate and encourage that process, including by coordinating with the private sector. That market must be stimulated naturally; it could not just be commanded by Governments, but promoted through work with all key stakeholders, including other ministries.
It was necessary to target the local level, where there was a need for local authorities to redefine their role from service provider to facilitator and network coordinator, working with other actors on those practices, he said. Initiatives could come from civil society and the private sector, and the authorities needed to encourage that. There was also a need to develop the skills needed to lead those kinds of processes and coordinate stakeholders. There was also a need to target the national level in order to ensure that municipalities adopted waste-management technologies, he said.
Mr. DIAZ, focusing on solid waste management in developing countries, said they had seen substantial urban growth but lacked the legislation and policies for realistic, long-term planning, as well as storage and collection facilities. There was also a lack of proper disposal, he said, noting that few universities taught waste management. Owing to a lack of training, many local authorities resorted to crisis management, he said, noting also the absence of reliable data. Existing plans might be inappropriate as they were written by people unfamiliar with the area and, therefore, unrealistic, he said.
Noting that the urban poor received minimal collection services, he said human settlements evolved without planning, paid no taxes and did not receive waste collection. They relied on uncontrolled dump sites where animals fed and children were allowed to scavenge. Waste was often disposed close or next to rivers, he said, adding that there were few sanitary landfills, as well as a tremendous lack of engineering know-how.
In order to address that situation, a key objective was to spread knowledge of solid waste management to all members of the community, even in industrialized countries, he said, emphasizing that local communities must be enabled to carry out all phases of waste management. Elected officials, municipal workers and the general public should be trained, he noted, pointing out that elected officials were often not interested in details or technologies. Planning should be emphasized, as should the enforcement of regulations, which would result in improved health and environment, among other benefits.
Municipal employees should know about the general concepts of waste management, he said, adding that they should “lead by example” and enforce laws and regulations. That would lead to an improved image of civil servants, as well as to cost savings, he said, noting that some developing-world municipalities spent 50 per cent of their budgets on solid waste management and received many unaffordable and inappropriate technologies. However, continuity was key, he said, pointing out that the election of a new mayor often led to the hiring of new people and the loss of all investment in training.
He stressed that public education should take place in close cooperation with professionals who knew the local conditions, and should rely on methods of communication popular in a specific area. Non-governmental organizations, business leaders and community leaders should be involved and, above all, there was a need for political will. Measures must be taken to retain properly trained personnel in municipal offices and secure finances. In order to put recycling projects into practice, it was necessary to determine the availability of markets for recyclables.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers emphasized that the rapid increase in both solid and hazardous wastes was the result of economic growth, urbanization and industrialization, and that sustainable waste management was crucial for sustainable development. They discussed national plans, as well as steps that the international community should take, calling for a focus on an integrated approach that considered the entire life cycle of a product, pursued the “3Rs” and moved towards increasingly safe management of hazardous waste.
Delegates also stressed that a main objective should be to prevent and minimize waste, with some even discussing the possibility of a “zero-waste economy”. One speaker called for the elimination of unnecessary packaging that modern society could do without, saying that both producers and consumers should play a role in such an effort. Another referred to the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, used by purchasers around the world to identify, compare and buy environmentally preferable electronic products.
Electronic, or e-waste, was part of the increasing complexity of waste that countries faced, speakers said. Outlining environment-friendly processes, one delegate said all retailers must take back “end-of-life” products, including electronics, at no charge and since consumers absorbed some of the costs as a small portion was included in the product’s price.
Calling for continuing international assistance, many delegates said they required access to financing and technological know-how, including through seminars and workshops. One representative asked what specific measures could be taken through global partnerships to help developing countries address the financial and technological difficulties of waste management. Another noted that, while public-private partnerships should be pursued on the national level, it could not replace financial assistance from developed countries.
Numerous representatives also raised the issue of plastics piling up in concentrated masses on ocean floors, which posed risks to the livelihoods of fishermen and to the lives of hundreds of animal species. Since oceans were not part of national territories, the international community should take joint action. Delegates asked what the panellists could recommend for dealing with such “plastic islands”, and what they thought of the idea of an “international environmental court”.
Speakers also raised the question of food waste, with some noting that households, particularly in developed countries, threw away too much of their food purchases, which led to other waste issues. Delegates discussed the possibility of banning food waste.
Throughout the discussion, speakers emphasized that waste should not be seen as useless, but as an economic resource that could be converted into energy.
Panel Discussion on Mining
The following panellists featured in the discussion on policy options to address barriers and constraints in the implementation of sustainable development as it applies to mining: Gavin Hilson, Reader in Environment and Development, School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, United Kingdom; and Roy Maconachie, Lecturer in International Development, Department of Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath, United Kingdom.
ANDREW GOLEDZINOWSKI ( Australia), Commission Vice-Chair, introduced the topic, describing the mining industry as very important to many countries, developing ones, in particular. When managed properly, mining offered the opportunity to catalyse broad-based development and reduce poverty, he said, noting, however, that despite the mining sector’s progress on the issues of transparency and governance, gaps remained. While many countries could enhance the contribution of mineral wealth to their national economies, steps remained to be taken towards disclosure of mining activities and revenues.
Greater progress was also needed in respect of upholding the human rights, land rights and livelihoods of local and indigenous communities, he said. There was also a need for progress on the environmental and social impacts of mining, and on the relations between Governments, companies and citizens. The mining sector should be rooted in the long-term development imperatives of national economies, he said, stressing also the need to ensure a fair distribution of the benefits from mining among citizens. Governments should consider “reduce-reuse” policies, increasing the recycling of metals, as well as research and development into safe substitutes for metals used in the production process. The international community should help countries through technical cooperation, by exchanging good practices, and by pursuing initiatives on transparency and the use of revenues.
He asked participants to focus on questions such as: how the international community could facilitate the implementation of appropriate mechanisms for ensuring transparency and the disclosure of information; what steps should be taken in the legal, financial and regulatory areas in order better to prevent the damaging environmental impacts of mining activities; how the international community could help countries support the livelihoods of communities engaged in small-scale mining; and what the priority areas were for international training and capacity-building support to developing countries in the mining sector.
Mr. HILSON discussed the question of formalizing artisanal and small-scale mining, drawing upon his experiences in Africa, where he had done most of his fieldwork. He explained that it involved the “low-tech”, labour-intensive mineral extraction and processing activities found in developing countries, and that the industry employed 20 million people directly. It was a poverty-driven industry, particular in sub-Saharan Africa, where two groups of people were found in artisanal mining camps: former Government workers and skilled people who flocked to the camps because there were no jobs in the cities (2 to 3 per cent); and the rural or farm families who, unable to survive on crops alone, needed to earn supplementary wages (97 to 98 per cent).
The sector was characterized by numerous positive and negative aspects, he said, adding that since it was not going away, the international community must do its best to formalize it and legalize operators, which would place donors in a better position. In a time when growing numbers of people were unemployed, the sector was providing an increasing number of jobs, he said, adding that it would be a “win-win” situation if the camps were properly formalized because they provided gold, diamonds and gemstones, among other resources. However, the sector’s numerous negative aspects included environmental problems like mercury contamination, land degradation, disease and unhygienic practices, and child labour, which was tied to the movement from farming to mining.
With regard to child labour, he said the International Labour Organization’s comprehensive policies set a minimum working age for children, underscoring the importance of further adapting those policies to the local context. Given the link between mining and farming, children were to be found running around mining sites, he said, noting that issues such as crop shortages and short growing seasons led to families branching into mining to earn more money in order to send their children to school or build bigger houses. Children’s tasks in mining camps were similar to those that they carried out in farming, such as carrying water, he added.
He said there was a two-part solution to dealing with artisanal and small-scale mining: supporting legalized activities; and preventing people from moving into illegal mine sites. Regarding the former, he said there was a need to do a better job of setting aside or blocking off areas for artisanal mining before all the land was taken. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, the Mining Code authorized the designation of artisanal and small-scale mining zones. In Mozambique, similar policies had been in play since 1998, as was the case in Ghana, where 72 square kilometres had been blocked off for the activity.
Additionally, it was necessary to provide better microcredit distribution than had been the case previously, he said. One success story on microcredit involved the Government asking local miners to form associations, at which point they would qualify for loans and be able to access equipment, provided they sold their minerals to Government buyers. That arrangement had worked out well and the local miners had bought equipment and increased their yield. Regarding the prevention of illegal activity, he said there was a need to support the farming activities that people were abandoning, assisting with lucrative cash crops like citrus, cocoa and oil palm.
Furthermore, it was important to support children in order to deal with the child-labour problem, he said, citing his fieldwork in Ghana, which showed that children were engaging in artisanal and small-scale mining to pay school fees and help their families. Improved provision of microcredit loans, therefore, would lead to less of a need for children to try to earn money in order to attend school, he said, emphasizing the need to provide impoverished education systems with additional resources, to supply children with books, transport, meals and uniforms, and to relocate schools out of mining areas entirely.
Mr. MACONACHIE focused on the changes, challenges and policy options of artisanal mining and rural livelihoods in Africa, based mainly on his research on small-scale diamond mining in Sierra Leone. He said the extraction of natural resources could have both positive and negative socio-economic and environmental impacts on communities. Artisanal and small-scale mining was a widespread and poverty-driven activity throughout the developing world employing a greater number of people than large-scale mining. The sector was fraught with challenges and constraints, he said, adding that mining in Sierra Leone was alluvial in nature and diamonds could be extracted with simple tools.
As was well known, diamond mining had attracted conflict in Sierra Leone, he said, noting that the accessibility of the gems had also drawn many poor and uneducated migrants in the post-conflict environment. The first step towards enhancing artisanal diamond-mining livelihoods was to enhance good governance, he stressed. That was being done through the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which aimed to stem the flow of conflict diamonds, as well as through such national initiatives as the Diamondiferous Area Community Development Fund and the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative. Sierra Leone’s highly uneven power structure, however, made governance challenging, and measures to improve it must take the whole socio-economic context into consideration, he said.
Livelihood diversification had long been a mechanism for household survival, he continued, noting that it was widespread and involved the intertwining of farming and mining. Mining was undertaken in the dry season and farming in the rainy season. Many communities produced food for sale to the mining community, which could rejuvenate market-oriented farming. There was, therefore, a need for policy cross-linkages, he said. The artisanal and small-scale mining sector should be harmonized with local development initiatives and poverty reduction strategies, because it could be an employment stimulator, he suggested. Sector policy must be integrated with labour-market policies, he said, adding that it should also focus on youth. Better organization of miners into cooperatives and associations would give the miners greater control over their lives. Any attempt to formalize the sector must be done on an informed and researched basis, he emphasized. Flexible policies should allow diversification and movement between productive activities to improve and safeguard livelihoods.
During the interactive dialogue, speakers emphasized that mining played a central role in sustainable development, contributed to poverty alleviation and created employment. However, the environmental costs of mining were rising exponentially. Transparency on mining activities was needed so as to ensure that people reaped the benefits. Policy areas recommended included: strengthening institutional and legal frameworks; attracting investment flows; protecting the rights of indigenous peoples in mining areas; strengthening technical capacities and transferring environmentally sound technologies; addressing environmental and social impacts; improving safety and health conditions; and developing regulations for the promotion of proper management.
Other speakers stressed that governance should focus on environmental and natural-resource management by increasing efficiency and reducing waste. It was necessary to develop and implement governance and transparency frameworks that would allow mining to be a sustainable activity, respectful of the environment, socially responsible, conscious of the different social composition of regions, and respectful of human rights. Some suggested public-private agreements on clean production and safety, preventive environmental standards through certification schemes and a registration mechanism to cover water use in mining activities.
Public consultations with communities and indigenous people should take place before mining rights were granted, some participants said. Objective information should be provided, as well as capacity-building assistance so that communities could make informed decisions. There should be redress for communities affected by mining, delegates said, urging corporate social responsibility and noting that sustainable mining also entailed environmental and social impact assessments and monitoring. Energy efficiency should be fostered, including through the use of methane from landfills. Speakers also called attention to the disastrous destruction of ecosystems through strip-mining and forest destruction, as well as the dangers that uranium mining posed to local populations.
Comprehensive land-use plans should protect the land rights of indigenous peoples, including their sacred sites and water resources, speakers stressed. Royalties and taxes derived from mining should be distributed to communities, for instance, through infrastructure improvement and making communication technologies available to communities. Speakers also urged support for and implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and the Kimberly Process. However, one delegate noted that voluntary guidelines had never been sufficient, and called for stricter Government legislation. Another speaker, noting that the issues could not be resolved by Government, corporations or communities acting alone, stressed the importance of effective collaboration. Another speaker, calling for the implementation of safety regulations, noted that 12,000 mine workers died every year.
Addressing the issue of informal artisanal and small-scale mining, speakers underlined that that sector should operate according to standards, and that market transparency in the international mineral trade should also be promoted. Informal artisanal mining had negative impacts on communities, including child labour, mercury pollution of water sources and the destruction of forests and biodiversity. Artisanal mining should be formalized, they said, noting that the Commission on Sustainable Development should have a role in helping countries to harmonize and regulate the sector.
Several speakers called attention to problems caused by mine closures and abandoned mines, in particular the socio-economic impact on communities and the environmental impact of mercury pollution, forest destruction and damaged lands. Some stressed that mining companies should provide compensation for such damages and lost livelihoods while fostering diversification during transition periods. They should prepare used land for post-mining use and apply engineering approaches, such as water treatment and stabilizing slopes to reduce landslides.
One speaker drew attention to the fact that small island developing States were striking a balance between the benefits of mining and its negative effects, such as soil erosion and environmental problems. Another participant noted that the proceeds from Latin American mines had financed the development of Europe, during which many lives had been lost, but their wealth had been plundered. People in developing countries provided cheap material to those in the developed world who sold manufactured products back to them at high prices. She, therefore, suggested a policy of nationalization and renegotiation of contracts, as well as national industrialization using national minerals. Developed countries should transfer technology to their developing countries within the framework of their historic responsibility, she added.
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