Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) has now been ratified by 24 countries,* nearly half of the 50 ratifications needed to bring the treaty into effect. While the pace of ratification is slower than NGOs supporting the treaty had hoped, pressure and momentum is building as the list of ratifying countries grows.
The Convention, which was signed into existence in May 2001, calls for global elimination of POPs, a class of chemicals that are toxic, are easily transported across great distances, persist in the environment and concentrate as they move up the food chain. The treaty targets an initial 12 chemicals for phase out and lays out a process for adding new chemicals that meet agreed criteria for persistence, bioaccumulation and transportability (see PANUPs, June 8, 2001).
Seven of the countries which have ratified the Convention to date are in Europe, where several national governments are moving forward with treaty implementation before the Convention goes into effect. Finland, for example, passed legislation in August, 2002 banning the production, import and export of POPs or any goods treated with them (with the exception of laboratory research uses).
Seven countries in the Asia-Pacific region, two in Eastern Europe and five in Africa have now ratified the treaty. The United Arab Emirates is also on the list of ratifiers, and Canada was the first country to ratify following signature of the Convention.
On October 17, 2002, Mexico added its name to the ratification list, with 97 of 128 legislators in the Mexican Senate voting to support the treaty. This ratification was the result of an active advocacy campaign involving many non governmental organizations (NGOs) in Mexico, including the Red de Accion sobre Plaguicidas y Alternativas en Mexico (RAPAM - PAN Mexico) and Greenpeace Mexico. The groups pressed key Ministers to support the treaty, organized and published an open letter calling for ratification with more than 60 grassroots environmental and social justice groups signing on, and staged a public action outside the Senate on the one-year anniversary of the Stockholm Convention's signature. Mexico is the first Latin American nation to ratify the treaty.
In the United States, ratification efforts can move forward only after domestic "implementing legislation" is passed. Implementing legislation is currently being considered in the U.S. Senate, with a key point of contention being the process by which new chemicals will be targeted for elimination in the U.S. when they are added to the list for global elimination under the treaty. NGOs support a streamlined process closely linked to the international process. The Senate may move forward with implementing legislation and ratification by the end of this year or early in 2003.
PANNA joined partner groups around the world--many of them members of the International POPs Elimination Network--in challenging 50 countries to ratify the Stockholm Convention and companion toxics treaties by the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg in September 2002. While this goal was not reached (21 countries had ratified the Convention at that time), participating nations at the WSSD did include in their wide-ranging "Plan of Implementation" specific goals to promote the rapid ratification and implementation of both the Stockholm Convention and its important companion treaty, the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent. The Rotterdam Convention was developed to reduce international trade of dangerous chemicals, and currently has 34 of 50 needed ratifications. The WSSD Plan also includes a renewed global commitment to phase out chemicals that harm human health and the environment, with a specific target date of 2020.
Rapid ratification of the Stockholm Convention continues to be the primary focus of the International POPs Elimination Network, which sponsored a high-profile International Day of Action earlier this year to mark the one-year anniversary of the treaty's signing (see PANUPs, May 22, 2002).
*Countries that have ratified the treaty: Austria, Botswana, Canada, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Fiji, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Japan, Lesotho, Liberia, Mexico, Nauru, The Netherlands, Norway, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, and Viet Nam.
Sources: Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, http://www.pops.int/, Roterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent, http://www.pic.int/, International POPs Elimination Network, http://www.ipen.org/, "Finland outlaws POPs ahead of EU schedule"
PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don't always get coverage by the mainstream media. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.