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Press Release 98/FAO-UNEP 

ROTTERDAM CONVENTION ON HARMFUL CHEMICALS AND PESTICIDES ADOPTED AND SIGNED


Rotterdam, 11 September 1998 &endash; The Rotterdam Convention, a new treaty on trade in hazardous chemicals and pesticides, was signed today (Friday) during a signing ceremony by ministers and representatives from 57 countries and the European Community.

The legally binding treaty will protect the environment and millions of farmers, workers, and consumers from the misuse and accidental release of toxic substances, particularly in developing countries. By promoting the safe use of chemicals at the national level, it will reduce unwanted imports of harmful chemicals and pesticides. Many substances that are banned or severely restricted in industrialised countries are still marketed and used in developing countries.

"The Rotterdam Convention represents a giant step forward", said Jan Pronk, the Dutch Environment Minister and President of the two-day conference, "but a great deal more work is needed before we can achieve the sustainable management of hazardous chemicals and pesticides. I believe that we may ultimately have to move towards a single, worldwide agreement on chemicals."

The Rotterdam Convention will have to be ratified by at least 50 countries before it enters into force. To ensure that work under the Convention can start immediately, the meeting adopted an interim procedure on the voluntary implementation of the treaty until it becomes legally binding.

The Convention requires that hazardous chemicals and pesticides that have been banned or severely restricted in at least two countries shall not be exported unless explicitly agreed by the importing country. It also includes pesticide formulations that are too dangerous to be used by farmers in developing countries. Countries are also obliged to stop national production of those hazardous compounds.

The treaty covers a list of 5 industrial chemicals and 22 pesticides, including Aldrin, DDT, Dieldrin, HCH, Lindane, Mercury compounds, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB) and others. Many more are likely to be added in future.

For developing countries, technical assistance will be promoted to help them develop their infrastructure and capacity for managing chemicals and pesticides safely. A number of industrialised countries indicated that they would be willing to make financial contributions and to provide technical assistance for this purpose.

A number of countries expressed the view that dispute settlement and the illicit trafficking of hazardous chemicals should be further discussed before the Convention enters into force.

After the Convention enters into force, the Conference of the Parties will become the supreme authority. The location of the Convention's secretariat will be decided by the COP.

Signers of the accord are Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cameroon, Chad, Colombia, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark, Ecuador, European Community, Finland, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Mongolia, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Slovenia, Spain, Sudan, Surinam, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom, USA, Uruguay, and Yemen. The Convention will remain open for further signatures for one year.

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