SEVENTH CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES TO THE BASEL
25-29 OCTOBER 2004
The seventh meeting of the Conference of the
Parties (COP-7) to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary
Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal begins today at the Palais des
Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting will start with a preparatory
segment, from 25-27 October, followed by a high-level segment for ministers and
heads of delegations, from 28-29 October. The theme of COP-7 is “Partnership for
meeting the global waste challenge” and, together with the issue of resource
mobilization for capacity building, this theme will be the focus of the
Delegates are expected to adopt decisions on a range of issues, including: the
Strategic Plan; mechanisms for promoting implementation and compliance;
guidelines for the preparation of national legislation; technical guidelines on
the environmentally sound management of wastes consisting of, containing or
contaminated with persistent organic pollutants (POPs); characteristics of
hazardous wastes; the inclusion of new forms of waste in Annex VIII and XI of
the Convention; and legal aspects of the full and partial dismantling of ships.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BASEL CONVENTION
The Basel Convention was adopted in 1989 and
entered into force on 5 May 1992. It was created to address concerns over the
management, disposal and transboundary movement of the estimated 400 million
tonnes of hazardous wastes that are produced worldwide each year. The guiding
principles of the Convention are: transboundary movements of hazardous wastes
should be reduced to a minimum; they should be managed in an environmentally
sound manner; hazardous wastes should be treated and disposed of as close as
possible to their source of generation; and hazardous waste generation should be
minimized at source. There are currently 162 Parties to the Convention.
Since the Convention’s entry into force, Parties have continued to review its
implementation and have considered additional actions through the COP, which has
met six times.
COP-1: The first COP was held in Piriapolis,
Uruguay, from 3-4 December 1992. COP-1 requested industrialized countries to
prohibit transboundary movements of hazardous wastes for disposal to developing
countries. It also noted that the transboundary movements of wastes destined for
recovery and recycling should take place in accordance with the requirement that
the wastes be handled in an environmentally sound manner (Decision I/22). Since
Decision I/22 was not legally binding, a “pro-ban coalition,” consisting of
developing countries, Greenpeace and the Nordic States, urged delegates to adopt
a binding amendment to the Convention. The issue of hazardous wastes destined
for recycling and recovery was forwarded to the Technical Working Group (TWG)
for further study.
COP-2: During the second COP, held in Geneva from 21-25 March 1994,
Parties agreed on an immediate ban on the export of hazardous wastes intended
for final disposal from countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD) to non-OECD countries. Parties also agreed to ban, by 31
December 1997, the export of wastes intended for recovery and recycling
(Decision II/12). The issue of whether or not the ban was legally binding was
unclear, since Decision II/12 was not incorporated into the text of the
COP-3: At the third COP, held in Geneva from 18-22 September 1995, the
ban was adopted as an amendment to the Convention (Decision III/1). The Ban
Amendment does not use the OECD/non-OECD membership distinction, but bans the
export of hazardous wastes for final disposal and recycling from Annex VII
countries (EU, OECD and Liechtenstein) to non-Annex VII countries. The amendment
thus is not in itself a barrier for non-OECD countries to retain the option of
receiving OECD hazardous wastes for recycling purposes by joining Annex VII.
Entry into force will take place upon ratification by at least three-fourths of
the Parties who accepted it, i.e. a total of 62 Parties. To date, it has been
ratified by 50 Parties. COP-3 further mandated the TWG to continue its work on
the characterization of “hazardous wastes” and the development of lists of
wastes that are hazardous (Decision III/12).
COP-4: Two of the major decisions adopted at the fourth COP, held in
Kuching, Malaysia, from 23-27 February 1998, related to the Ban Amendment. COP-4
considered proposals by countries seeking to join Annex VII and decided that the
composition of this annex would remain unchanged until the Ban Amendment enters
into force (Decision IV/8). In this decision, COP-4 also requested the
Secretariat to undertake a study of issues related to Annex VII. On the question
of which wastes should be covered by the ban, COP-4 considered the proposal put
forward by the TWG on List A, identifying wastes characterized as hazardous, and
List B, identifying non-hazardous wastes. COP-4 decided to incorporate these
lists as Annex VIII and Annex IX to the Convention, respectively.
COP-5: The fifth COP met in Basel, Switzerland, from 6-10 December 1999.
With over 450 participants in attendance and 115 Parties represented, delegates
celebrated the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention. They also
adopted the Protocol on Liability and Compensation for damage resulting from
transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal and a “Basel
Declaration” for promoting the environmentally sound management of hazardous
wastes over the next ten years, along with a decision setting the next decade’s
agenda. Three Parties have ratified the Protocol on Liability and Compensation,
which will enter into force upon receipt of 20 instruments of ratification.
The COP also adopted a number of decisions covering the Convention’s
implementation and monitoring, legal matters, prevention and monitoring of
illegal traffic, technical matters, and institutional, financial and procedural
COP-6: The sixth COP met in Geneva, Switzerland, from 9-14 December 2002.
COP-6 emphasized the importance of the goals of the Basel Convention to
sustainable development and launched a partnership programme with environmental
non-governmental organizations, industry and business. The COP adopted decisions
on a range of issues relating to the implementation of the Convention, amendment
of the Convention and its annexes, and institutional, financial and procedural
COP-6 also agreed on guidance elements for the detection, prevention, and
control of illegal traffic in hazardous wastes, and on technical guidelines on
the environmentally sound management of biomedical and healthcare wastes,
plastic wastes, waste lead-acid batteries, and the dismantling of ships.
Delegates at COP-6 agreed to promote further cooperation between the Basel
Secretariat and other organizations and secretariats involved in chemicals
management. COP-6 set the budget for 2003-2005, agreed on a compliance mechanism
for the Convention, adopted a Strategic Plan, and finalized the Framework
Agreement on the legal establishment of the Regional Centres for Training and
OPEN-ENDED WORKING GROUP: The Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) was
created following COP-6 to advise on and continuously review the implementation
of the Convention. It has convened in Geneva three times: 28 April-2 May 2003,
20-24 October 2003, and 26-30 April 2004. Participants of the OEWG considered a
range of issues relating to the implementation of decisions emerging from COP-6.
Discussions focused on: the legal aspects of ship dismantling; national
definitions of hazardous wastes; enhancing cooperation with the World Trade
Organization; the Basel Convention Partnership Programme; a mechanism for
promoting implementation and compliance; a report on the analysis of issues
relating to Annex VII; progress with respect to the Basel Convention Regional
Centers; hazardous characteristics of wastes; and issues relating to the listing
of wastes in Annexes VIII and IX of the Convention. Participants reviewed drafts
of the instruction manual prepared by the Secretariat on implementation of the
Protocol on Liability and Compensation and countries’ responses to a
questionnaire on ratification of the Protocol.
On the Basel Convention Partnership Programme, participants considered the need
for funding, approved a work programme, and reviewed projects.
On projects initiated under the Strategic Plan, participants discussed the
criteria to be used in the selection of projects, and allocated funding to 21 of
At the second OEWG session, participants discussed guidance elements for
bilateral, multilateral or regional agreements or arrangements and, in light of
a lack of consensus on the issue, decided to recommend to COP-7 that work on the
draft guidance elements should cease.
OEWG participants continued work on the preparation of technical guidelines on:
the environmentally sound management of wastes consisting of, containing or
contaminated with POPs; the environmentally sound recycling of metals and metal
compounds; and the environmentally sound management of wastes resulting from
surface treatment of metals and plastics. At its second and third sessions, the
OEWG considered drafts of general technical guidelines and of specific technical
guidelines on PCBs and forwarded them for consideration at COP-7. The specific
technical guidelines on HCB, aldrin, chlordane, dieldrin, heptachlor, mirex and
toxaphene, on dioxins and furans, and on DDT remain in the early stages of
Recognizing the need for a reliable financial mechanism for the Basel
Convention, participants considered how to mobilize resources for
implementation, and discussed proposals to approach the Global Environment
Facility as a possible source of funding. Participants also highlighted the need
for resources to ensure that the Basel Conventionï¿½s contribution to activities
in follow-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) will be
The OEWG prepared a compilation of draft decisions (UNEP/CHW.7/2), which have
been forwarded to COP-7 for consideration and possible adoption.
BUREAU MEETINGS: The Expanded Bureau met three times during the
intersessional period to focus on organizational matters relating to regional
workshops on the Protocol on Liability and Compensation, implementation of the
Strategic Plan, broadening the Conventionï¿½s resource base, and the OEWGï¿½s work
programme. Bureau members generated two background papers, on partnership for
meeting the global wastes challenge and on mobilizing resources, which are
intended to facilitate discussions during the high-level segment of COP-7.
SAICM: Two sessions of the Preparatory Committee for the development of a
Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM PrepCom)
convened from 9-13 November 2003, in Bangkok, Thailand, and from 4-8 October
2004, in Nairobi, Kenya.
Participants at PrepCom1 agreed that the overarching objective of SAICM should
be to achieve, by 2020, the use and production of chemicals in ways that lead to
the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the
environment, as agreed in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, adopted in
2002 at the WSSD.
At PrepCom2, participants agreed that SAICM will consist of an overarching
policy strategy, a global plan of action, and a high-level declaration.
Participants emphasized that SAICM should create and deepen synergies among the
chemicals-related multilateral environmental agreements, and made specific
reference to the Basel Convention in discussions surrounding the objective of
addressing illegal trafficking in wastes under SAICM.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY
PLENARY: COP-7 will begin at 10:00 am with opening statements from COP-6
President Ioan Jelev, Romaniaï¿½s Secretary of State for the Environment, Basel
Executive Secretary Sachiko Kuwabara-Yamamoto, and a UNEP representative
speaking for UNEP Executive Director Klaus Tï¿½pfer. Plenary will then consider
organizational matters, including the election of a COP-7 President and other
officers, as well as the adoption of the agenda.