The Honorable Chair of the Eleventh Conference of the Parties to the Waigani Convention
Distinguished representatives of Parties,
Chair of the Waigani Convention Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee
Chair of the Steering Committee of the Pacific Regional Centre for the Joint Implementation of the Basel and Waigani Conventions
Ladies and gentlemen
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today at this important gathering, the 11th Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the Waigani Convention. While it feels strange that we are not meeting in person, we are grateful that technology has enabled us to meet in these difficult times.
Before I begin, I would like to express my deepest condolences to our families that have lost loved ones to the global COVID pandemic. While the Pacific has been relatively spared the scourge of this calamity, some of our members have been hit hard. Today we mourn the loss of our people and honor them by committing to protecting our region from the dangers of chemicals and hazardous wastes.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Waigani Convention Secretariat host country, Samoa, for the continued support that they have provided during these very challenging times, so that we can continue to discharge our services as mandated by the Convention.
The global pandemic has forced us to reconsider our relationship with the environment and on this COP, I would like to remind all of you of the need to remain vigilant over the impacts of chemicals and hazardous wastes on our lives as well as the environment. Two weeks ago, the world observed the first anniversary of the 2020 Beirut chemical explosion, one of the largest industrial accidents involving chemicals and hazardous waste. The powerful explosion sent a huge orange fireball into the sky, followed by a massive shock wave that overturned cars, damaged buildings, and shook the ground across the Lebanese capital. Sadly, at least 220 people were killed, more than 5,000 injured and an estimated 300,000 people left homeless. Investigators said the explosion was caused by 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a chemical compound commonly used as an agricultural fertilizer, which had been stored for 6 years at a port warehouse.
The Waigani Convention was conceived by our members to ensure we are protected from such dangers as the unfortunate case in Beirut. While we may not be importing large amounts of chemicals and hazardous wastes compared to other regions, our economies and everyday lives rely on many chemicals and chemical products and the dangers are always around. In fact our work on chemicals and hazardous wastes has discovered stockpiles of obsolete chemicals in many of our member countries. We are seeing stockpiles of used oil, e-waste, POPs, lead acid batteries, laboratory chemicals, pesticides, asbestos, mercury containing equipment & medical devices and lead contaminated paint.
As your Secretariat, we see the challenges that lie ahead, and that is why we are taking steps to improve the Convention and the services it can provide. I am pleased to inform you all that for the first time since the Waigani Convention entered into force in 2001, we have conducted a review and an evaluation of its effectiveness as demanded by Article 13 (4). In today’s meeting, you will have an opportunity to discuss the findings and recommendations of the review. I urge you to take affirmative action on the outcomes of the report, so we can improve the effectiveness of the Convention.
Our strategic partnerships with other chemicals and wastes conventions like the BRS and Minamata, have enabled us to be invited by the GEF to apply for funding during the GEF 7 funding cycle of, and I am pleased to report that we have secured the $20 million ISLANDS Pacific Child project which will be dedicated to helping our members with their chemicals and hazardous waste challenges. It is worth noting that Parties to the Waigani Convention will receive assistance with meeting their Article 4 (e) obligations on developing hazardous waste management strategies that are compatible with SPREP’s Cleaner Pacific 2025.
The ISLANDS project will also undertake a massive clean up of our countries and remove obsolete stockpiles of hazardous waste to be disposed off in specialized disposal facilities under the Waigani Convention. We plan to remove close to 12 tonnes of DDT, over a million litres of PCD contaminated oils, 3 tons of mercury containing equipment, and stocks of e-waste. To prevent future build-ups of chemicals and hazardous wastes, we will be supporting countries to establish regulatory frameworks and waste management systems that will take back these items and process them in an environmentally sound manner.
We have limitations as pointed out in the review of the Convention. Therefore, we will need your support. As Parties, you also have an important role to ensure the Convention is meeting your needs. We commend you for always observing requirements for transboundary movements of hazardous wastes. It is your due diligence that has continued to make our region free of illegal movements and dumping of hazardous waste. We encourage you to improve your reporting and to make your subscription payments on time. We will make improvements on our end too.
I am also happy to hear of the functioning of the STAC and Steering Committee of Pacific Regional Centre. Thank you for your active participation in these subsidiary bodies of the Convention. Thank you, Fiji and New Zealand, for your leadership with the STAC and SCPRC. These bodies were established for the effective implementation of the Convention so please continue to make them work for all of us.
Dear colleagues, the Agenda has been shortened due to time limitations but by no means is it devoid of significant issues. We have in consultation with the STAC and SCPRC included two significant agenda items for your deliberations. These are the report of the review of the Convention and Basel Convention Plastic Waste Amendments. We look forward to your deliberations and guidance on how we can serve you better as your Secretariat.
Let me end by thanking all of you for making time to attend the 11th COP. Thank you also to the team at the Secretariat for the preparations made to convene the meeting.
I wish you all a successful COP.