SECRETARIAT OF THE BASEL CONVENTION
Ms. Sashiko Kuwabara-Yamamoto
at the World Summit for Sustainable Development
Johannesburg, South Africa
30 August 2002
In Agenda 21, UNCED stressed the importance of hazardous waste management
for public health, environmental protection and sustainable development.
Ten years since the Rio Summit, the generation of wastes and emissions
of pollutants or contaminants to soil, air, and water, continue to present
major threats to people and the environment.
The problem is particularly acute in the urban area. Today, nearly half
of the world population lives in the cities. Rapid industrialization coupled
with the expansion of urban areas has significant impact on energy and
other resources consumptions.
Most of the urban expansion is taking place in developing countries
that often lack the capacity to mitigate the harmful effects of wastes
and pollution and are unlikely to build such capacity in the near future.
Unsound management or disposal of these wastes, including hazardous wastes,
has been recognized as being among the most serious environmental problems
facing urban areas in developing countries. Uncontrolled accumulation of
solid wastes, often mixed with hazardous wastes, stocks of obsolete pesticides
and other hazardous materials and discharges of municipal and industrial
toxic effluents, has the potential to cause serious and long-lasting health
and environmental damages in many developing countries and countries with
economies in transition.
Problems of wastes are also presenting a serious challenge to the developed
countries. While waste recovery such as recycling, or re-use has increased
considerably, it has not been sufficient to reverse the trend of increasing
volumes of waste destined for final disposal. Many countries are experiencing
difficulties in managing the wastes they produce - hazardous as well as
non-hazardous wastes - within their territorial boundaries.
Sustainable development cannot be achieved without effective measures
to alleviate the problem of wastes. Indeed, safeguarding of clean water,
air and soil to protect human health and the ecosystems cannot be realized
without the environmentally sound management of wastes and their reduction
at the sources. A strong economy cannot be realised without bringing the
high cost of waste management to a reasonable level. For
example, costs of eliminating asbestos from aging buildings or old
automobiles in developing countries will place an enormous economic burden
on the infrastructure and resources of national and local governments.
Concerted action at the national as well as international level is urgently
required to reduce the amount of wastes, and to better handle what remains.
Added to the existing stocks of hazardous wastes, new types of wastes
are emerging. The Basel Convention is increasingly focusing its attention
on forging public/private partnership to promote the environmentally sound
management of post-consumer goods or end of life equipment within on the
concept of the integrated life-cycle management of materials. The life-cycle
management approach effectively tackles the problem of wastes by going
up stream to their sources. Take dismantling of ships, for example. Better
ship design will help prepare old ships for recycling because such ships
will carry or have as part of their structure less hazardous materials,
which in turn would alleviate environmental and health burdens at the recycling
yard and disposal sites. The same can be said of many other consumer goods
or equipment such as old mobile phones and computers. This new venture
and challenge posed by electronic wastes requires the private sector to
be more proactive and to enter into direct cooperation with bodies such
as the Secretariat of the Basel Convention. Up-front investment in waste
minimization makes environmental, social and economic sense.
The Basel Convention
The Basel Convention thus recognizes that the most effective way of
protecting human health and the environment from the dangers posed by hazardous
and other wastes is the reduction of their generation. Also, the Convention
acknowledges that States should take the necessary measures to ensure that
the management of hazardous wastes and other wastes, including their trausboundary
movements, is done in such a way as to protect human health and the environment,
wherever the place of disposal. The basic obligation of Parties to the
Convention clearly spells out these principles. The Convention, in partnership
with its 151 Parties, is working towards the effective and universal application
of these principles.
The Basel Declaration on Environmentally Sound Management
Experience has shown that even if a waste is not characterized as hazardous
under the Basel Convention, inappropriate handling or unsound management
of such waste may result in damage to human health and the environment.
It is wise to stipulate, in this context, that the underlined principle
of the Basel Convention, namely the environmentally sound management, is
a concept that is equally applicable to non-hazardous wastes.
The 1999 Basel Ministerial Declaration indeed recognizes that environmentally
sound management is applicable to hazardous and non-hazardous wastes. Environmentally
sound management means that disposal or recovery of hazardous and other
wastes must be seen in the context of the integrated life-cycle management
of materials to foster sustainable development, with particular emphasis
on waste minimization. The level of environmental safety varies greatly
from country to country, or from facility to facility. It is seen as important
to harmonize the environmental safety level or standing among countries
and at the disposal or recovery facilities.
Call for global action
On the occasion of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the
secretariat of the Basel Convention would like to call for global action
for the creation of the strategic partnership that could help a quantum
jump in reducing hazardous and other wastes in all countries, developed
or developing. International architecture for cooperation in waste management
is evolving. Within the framework of the Plan of Implementation of the
World Summit on Sustainable Development, Governments will renew their commitment
to sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle and of hazardous
wastes for sustainable development and for the protection of human health
and the environment. In this regard, cooperation en the Basel Convention
and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic pollutants and other
chemical conventions should be further strengthened. The Strategic Plan
for the Implementation of the Basel Convention which is currently being
developed identifies priority activities for the next ten years in the
prevention, minimization and control of hazardous and other wastes. The
twelve Basel Convention Regional Centers for Training and Technology Transfer
that are located all over the world, will be an important regional mechanism
for assisting countries in implementing the Strategic Plan in partnership
with other stockholders. It should be our common goal that ten years from
the Johannesburg Summit, there will be a better and safer world for our
children, and their children to come, through a rigorous and effective
implementation of the Johannesburg commitment.