Mr Suemalo Afele Faiilagi (right) at the BRS COPs 2023
May 8, 2023
Waste Management and Pollution Control

08 May 2023, Geneva Switzerland - Pacific islands have added their voice to the call on parties to the Rotterdam Convention to adopt an amendment that would list hazardous chemicals and strengthen the international treaty designed to facilitate informed decision-making by countries, with regards to trade in dangerous chemicals.

The Pacific’s position was made on the floor during the meetings of the conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) conventions, which are being held in Geneva from 1 to 12 May 2023.

“We find the actions of a small number of Parties in continuously blocking the listing of chemicals that have been found by the Chemical Review Committee to meet the Convention’s criteria for listing as undermining the effectiveness of the Convention and not in harmony with its intent and spirit,” said Mr Seumalo Afele Faiilagi of Samoa, who was speaking on behalf of Pacific delegations at the conference.

“In light of the fact that chemicals that are listed under Article III can still be traded if the prior informed consent of the importing Party is sought, we view such actions inconsistent with the Convention’s principle of consensus-based decision-making. As import dependent economies, we rely on the good will of Parties that manufacture and supply such chemicals to disclose all information so that we can make informed decisions.”

A Pacific delegate at the BRS COP

The 2023 meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (BRS COPs) is being guided by the theme "Accelerating Action: Targets for the sound management of chemicals and wastes.”  The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP), as the Pacific Regional Centre for the Basel and Waigani Conventions – and by extension Rotterdam and Stockholm as well as Minamata Conventions, is supporting the Pacific’s participation.

Pacific delegates at the BRS COP recognise that the Rotterdam Convention is an important vehicle for international cooperation, empowering importing countries to decide whether to accept chemical imports and under what conditions, and it also requires exporting countries to respect those decisions.

However, they believe that the Conference of the Parties has repeatedly failed to add hazardous chemicals to Annex III despite the recommendations for listing by the scientific body of the Convention. Annex III is key to the Convention’s operation because it lists the hazardous chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted for health or environmental reasons and that are subject to the Convention’s Prior Informed Consent Procedure.

Solomon Islands is represented at the BRS COPs 2023

These failures by the Conference of the Parties limit the ability of Parties to better control the imports of hazardous substances. On the floor of the BRS COPs in Geneva, Mr Faiilagi, the Assistant Chief Executive Officer, Division of Environment and Conservation of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), said the Pacific wants the issue addressed immediately.

“Despite the Pacific having a small chemicals industry, the Global Monitoring Programme has revealed elevated levels of certain chemicals in some sections of our communities. These findings have been supported by assessments that have been undertaken as part of the Stockholm Convention NIPs review and update as well as Minamata Initial Assessments,” Mr Faiilagi said.

“Our leaders, mindful of the impacts of these chemicals on our people and environment, moved swiftly to protect our region by agreeing to make the Pacific free of some of these hazardous chemicals, in particular asbestos and mercury at recent SPREP Officials meetings.

“Consistent with our leaders’ decision, we the Pacific Parties to the Rotterdam Convention, namely, Cook Islands, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu would like to support the proposal to amend the Rotterdam Convention and add a new Annex VIII, where chemicals could be listed if they cannot be agreed for listing in Annex III by the COP.

“We join the sponsors of the amendment in encouraging the COP to make every effort to understand the aims and the benefits of this proposal, and to engage in positive and constructive discussions on its adoption.”

Delegates from the Pacific are among more than 2000 delegates from around the globe gathering in Geneva, Switzerland for two weeks. Their voice is critical in key decisions being made to address pollution, and achieve the objectives of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, the three leading multilateral environmental agreements for the sound management of chemicals and waste.