States meeting to cut risks of pesticides, chemicals in developing world: UN agencies

11 October 2001

Officials from over 100 governments have been meeting in Rome to prepare for the entry into force of a global treaty dealing with certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade, United Nations agencies said today.

Delegates will conclude a weeklong meeting tomorrow on the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure (PIC), which contributes to reducing the risks associated with the use of chemicals, particularly in developing countries, and limits the introduction of hazardous chemicals and pesticides into countries that cannot safely manage them, according to a joint statement released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Some 70,000 different chemicals are available on the market, and 1,500 new ones are introduced every year. "This poses a major challenge to many governments who must attempt to monitor and manage these potentially dangerous substances," the statement said. "Many pesticides that have been banned or whose use has been severely restricted in industrialized countries are still marketed and used in developing countries."

Adopted in 1998 under the auspices of UNEP and FAO, the Rotterdam Convention uses the PIC procedure to help governments decide whether to accept or refuse the imports of certain hazardous chemicals. Countries that export such chemicals will have to respect the decisions of importing parties.

David Harcharik, FAO Deputy Director-General, stressed that "global agreements such as the Rotterdam Convention serve to provide a level of control and can help to mitigate the negative effects of globalization." He also urged countries to work towards ratification of the Rotterdam Convention in time for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2002.

Pending the entry into force of the Rotterdam Convention, governments have agreed to apply the PIC procedure on a voluntary basis. The processes developed are operational, with three additional chemicals and two severely hazardous pesticide formulations identified as candidates for inclusion in the interim PIC procedure.

The Rotterdam Convention was adopted and signed by Ministers and senior officials on 11 September 1998. It has received 73 signatures and has thus far been ratified by 16 governments; it will enter into force 90 days after the 50th ratification.


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