The Cook Islands delegation.
April 24, 2023
Waste Management and Pollution Control

24 April 2023, Apia - Pacific delegates preparing for the 2023 meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS COPs) Conventions in Geneva, Switzerland in May 2023, are in a better position to contribute to the discussion on how to achieve the common objective of protecting human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals and wastes.

This follows the Asia-Pacific Regional preparatory meeting for the 2023 BRS COP, held from 14 to 16 March 2023 in Bangkok, Thailand. Amongst the Pacific delegates were Mr Vavia Tangatatia and Ms Roselyn Strickland of the Cook Islands, Ms Patricia Torea of Papua New Guinea, Ms Tiale Panapa and Ms Emily Lafai of Tuvalu and Ms Ionie Bolenga of Vanuatu.

The Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (BRS Secretariat) brings together the three leading multilateral environmental agreements that share the common objective of protecting human health from hazardous chemicals and wastes. The preparatory meeting in Bangkok provided Pacific delegates the opportunity to discuss the issues in advance of the COPs, consider meeting documents, discuss substantive matters, identify regional priorities and challenges, and facilitate the preparation of regional positions.

“Coming from the Pacific, it’s very important for us to engage and be part of these international discussions so we are able to translate what is being discussed at that level into tangible actions on the ground to help our communities,” said Ms Strickland, Environment Legal Counsel, Environment Policy & Planning (EPP) Department of the Cook Islands National Environment Service.

“In the Pacific, it is in our best interest for the world to work together to achieve the common objective of protecting human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals and wastes.”

A delegate from Vanuatu

The challenges identified by Pacific countries include weak legislative frameworks to domesticate their obligations to the BRS and the lack of capacity and financial resources to implement the BRS conventions and provide timely reports. Delegates also lamented the limited and in some countries, the absence of systems for the environmental sound management of hazardous wastes and chemicals as well as the lack of chemical inventories and data on import and use.

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, supported the Pacific’s participation.

SPREP’s Hazardous Waste Management Adviser, Mr Joshua Sam said the Pacific’s participation is crucial for the protection of the Pacific environment, its people and their unique ways of life.

“Addressing the harmful impact of hazardous chemicals and wastes is an important part of the fight to survive the impact of the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste,” Mr Sam said.

“Although chemicals and waste issues have been underplayed in the environmental agenda in the past, times are changing fast. We believe our people have a right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. We also believe the one Pacific voice matters in the formulation of international policies to protect the human rights of people, including Pacific communities, who are exposed to hazardous substances and wastes.”

The 2021-2022 meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (BRS COPs) was guided by the theme “Global Agreements for a Healthy Planet: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste.” The hybrid BRS COPs were attended by over 1500 delegates from around the world.

The Asia-Pacific Regional preparatory meeting was held at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in Thailand.  The regional preparatory meetings were organised thanks to the generous financial support provided by the Governments of Germany and Switzerland. The BRS COPs, will be held back-to-back from 1 to 12 May 2023, in Geneva, Switzerland.

BRS COPs delegates