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Briefing Paper: No. 4

December 1999

Celebrating Basel's 10th Year: Ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment

 

Introduction: A Little History

Ever since the first inception of the Basel Convention, a majority of countries sought a full ban on the worst forms of the international hazardous waste trafficking. And, ever since its entry into force, the Contracting Parties of the Basel Convention have made good on that promise, making a full ban on the exports of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries the overarching priority and accomplishment of the Convention. Now in honor of Basel's 10th anniversary, it is time to finish the job and move the 1995 Basel Ban Amendment into the force of international law.

At the first meeting of Contracting Parties (COP1) to the Basel Convention in 1992, Decision I/22 was passed, requesting developing countries to prohibit the import of hazardous wastes from industrialized countries. At the next opportunity (COP2) in 1994, the Parties passed Decision II/12 banning the export of all hazardous wastes from Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries to non-OECD countries. Then, at COP3 in 1995 Decision III/1 was adopted, installing the Basel Ban as an amendment to the Convention.

The Basel Ban is seen as vital for two primary reasons:

  • To prevent damage to the environment and human health caused by the export and disposal of hazardous wastes to countries that did not create them and where there was less infrastructure and resources to mitigate the great risks associated with such wastes.
  • To prevent waste generators from avoiding taking responsibility to minimize the generation of hazardous wastes through clean production technologies and methods, by externalization of their costs to countries where disposal is less costly than at home.

Both of the above reasons are fully consistent with the Basel Convention itself, and the concept of Environmentally Sound Management of hazardous wastes.

COP4: Support for the Ban is Reaffirmed

At COP4, the Ban Amendment continued to dominate the meeting. At that conference, despite an effort by some countries to water down the Basel Ban (see Briefing Paper #3), it was wisely decided to leave the amendment unchanged. Furthermore, as stated in Decision IV/7, the conference:

"strongly appeal(ed) to Parties to ratify the Amendment adopted by decision III/1 as soon as possible to enable the early entry into force of the Amendment."

Additionally, COP4 also adopted the new Annexes VIII and IX. These new annexes were the fruit of a compromise deemed necessary to satisfy countries and industrial sectors that feared that the ban could be used to halt recycling trade in non-hazardous wastes. With the adoption of the elaborated definitions of hazardous waste, there can be no further excuse by any Parties not to move quickly now to ratify.

To date, considerable progress has been made by the Parties to ratify the landmark Basel Ban Amendment. But more ratifications are now needed to achieve the necessary 62 for entry into force. To date there are 20 official ratifications deposited at the United Nations. However there are at least 30 parties that have implemented the agreement. Below, we show a progress report of the various groupings of countries and the differing circumstances surrounding each.

PROGRESS REPORT

RATIFIED and Implemented

IMPLEMENTED (by virtue of EU and EEA agreements)

ANNEX VII

European Community, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Austria

Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Portugal

NON-ANNEX VII

Ecuador, Panama, Paraguay, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, Andorra, Trinidad and Tobago, Bulgaria, Tunisia

Note: Countries possessing import bans consistent with the Basel Ban are too numerous to list here.

As we shall see, the Basel Ban Amendment is reflective of numerous regional agreements which in many cases are already in force. However the existence of national and regional bans should not be seen as a reason for countries to ignore or forestall individual ratifications of this vital global agreement.

Annex VII Countries: Europe Takes the Lead

As the Basel Ban is really an Annex VII country export ban, it is of paramount importance that Annex VII countries ratify the agreement. To date the European Union has been the driving force within the Annex VII group. In total there are30 countries represented in Annex VII and of these, 18 European countries have either implemented the agreement by virtue of the updated European Waste Shipment Regulation or have ratified it outright. Included in this tally are Liechtenstein, Iceland, and Norway which are the remaining members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) which via the European Economic Agreement (EEA) abide by the EU Waste Shipment Regulation. Of course, as only actual deposited ratifications can be counted for final entry into force, each European country that has failed to do so, must ratify individually at the earliest opportunity.

To our knowledge, the only European area members of Annex VII which have failed to ratify or implement the ban are Hungary, Poland, and Turkey. These OECD countries should not hesitate in moving quickly to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment.

Non-European Annex VII Countries: No Time to Waste

The record of the non-European OECD countries to date has been dismal with regard to their Basel Ban Amendment commitments. These countries include: Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, and the United States. While all of these countries except Mexico, have been known to oppose the ban in the past, it is time now for these countries to accept the consensus decision in which they participated in good faith and accede to the ban. Failure to ratify the Basel Ban will send a message that these countries wish to solve their hazardous waste problems by exporting them to poorer countries rather than taking responsibility for them at home.

Non-Annex VII: Responsible for Entry into Force

To date, Andorra, Bulgaria, Austria, Sri Lanka, Slovakia, Ecuador, Panama, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia andUruguay have ratified the Basel Ban. These countries are to be congratulated but many more are needed to join them.

It is imperative that after the concerted ban effort marked by unprecedented South-South cooperation and Eastern European solidarity in achieving the Basel Ban, that non-Annex VII countries finish the excellent job they started by quickly moving to ratify the agreement. While this move will not likely make a vast difference in domestic legislation, without non-Annex VII countries also ratifying the global agreement, the Basel Ban Amendment will not go into force.

It must be remembered that while import bans are important, it is legally most important for the world's largest waste producing countries to adopt the export ban embodied by the Basel Ban Amendment. An export ban is much easier to enforce and places the legal onus on those potentially responsible for the problem. Thus non-Annex VII countries must move to ratify the global ban in addition to domestic protections. The existent regional and national import bans should assure the political mandate to move quickly in adopting the global ban.

  • Africa: Africa spearheaded the Basel Ban in the late 1980s and early 1990s and now needs to apply their signatures to the deal. While Africa has numerous national import bans as well as the regional Bamako Convention (now in force), it is crucial that African nations move now to ratify both the Bamako Convention and the Basel Ban Amendment.
  • Pacific: Likewise, Pacific Island States were leaders in pushing for the Basel Ban. While they achieved a regional import ban by virtue of the Waigani Treaty, it is necessary for Pacific region Basel Parties to now ratify the Basel Ban Amendment with the Waigani Treaty.
  • Asia: In recent years, Asian nations have strongly taken up the task of upholding the ban. Besides Sri Lanka which has ratfied, countries which have been highly engaged in the struggle for the ban include: China, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. It is time for these nations to put ink to their commitments.
  • Middle East: Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, have been strong and steadfast proponents of the Basel Ban. Many of the Middle Eastern countries have adopted a protocol under the Kuwait Convention which is consistent with the Basel Ban Amendment. Thus ban ratification in this region should be easy to accomplish.
  • Eastern Europe: In the early 1990s Eastern and Central European countries exhibited great leadership in responding to waste exports from Western Europe, erecting numerous import bans. These leader countries included: Poland, Rumania, Ukraine, Russia, Albania, Latvia, Slovakia. To date Slovakia, and Bulgaria have ratified the ban and need to be joined by the rest of the region.
  • Western Europe: It is important that those countries that are members of the EU that have failed to individually ratify, do so at once. As they are already bound by the EU legislation implementing the ban there is little excuse to delay. These countries include: Ireland, Portugal, France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy.
  • Latin America and Caribbean: To date this region has moved in front with 4 ratifications. However strong and vocal ban advocates such as Colombia, Chile, Cuba, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Argentina, Guatemala, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, and Nicaragua, are missing from the ratification list. They need to join the cause and exhort their neighbors to do the same.

Finishing the Job

n its first decade the primary task of the Basel Convention has been the enactment of the Basel Ban. This agreement has been hailed as the world's first victory for International Environmental Justice. It was achieved by an unprecedented coalition of countries North and South -- East and West working together for the common good. Now that the agreement has been adopted by consensus, now that the final battles over hazardous waste definitions have been largely resolved, it is time to take the final step and enter the agreement into the force of international law. Lets celebrate the Basel Convention's 10th Anniversary by ratifying its crowning achievement -- the Basel Ban Amendment.

 

Basel Action Network (BAN), Secretariat
c/o Asia Pacific Environmental Exchange
1827 39th Ave. E., Seattle, WA 98112, USA
Phone/Fax: 1.206.720.6426
E-mail: inform@ban.org
Website: www.ban.org

   
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