PANNA: ACTION ALERT: NGOs Mark Anniversary of POPs Treaty, Press for Ratification


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ACTION ALERT: NGOs Mark Anniversary of POPs Treaty, Press for Ratification
May 22, 2002

NOTE: U.S. activists see Action Alert on U.S. POPs legislation at To learn about and participate in activities in other countries, see listing of events and contact information at

On May 23, 2001, the international community officially recognized that some toxic chemicals are simply too dangerous to have on the planet. The occasion was the signing of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the culmination of nearly a decade of intergovernmental discussions, debate and negotiation about a dangerous class of chemicals that don’t respect national borders. Persistent organic pollutants–POPs–can travel great distances, are often toxic at very low levels, and last for many years in the environment and in our bodies.

A year later, more than 140 countries have signed the Convention, but only eight have completed the process of ratification. To bring the treaty into force and move towards POPs elimination internationally, 50 countries must ratify the Convention. To mark the anniversary of the treaty’s signature, NGO’s around the world are participating in a “Day of Action,” calling on their governments to move quickly to ratify the historic treaty.

What’s new and different about the Stockholm Convention is that it calls for the global elimination–not management–of an entire class of chemicals. 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).

The United States has shown some movement toward ratification, as competing bills to amend existing laws and allow for implementation of the treaty are now being considered in the U.S. Senate. The bill supported by the Bush Administration would require new legislation for the addition of each new chemical under the treaty–a major roadblock to the process of expanding the list of chemicals as agreed under the Convention (for more information on the U.S. legislation and what you can do, see Billboard Action Alert at

Canada, Fiji, Germany, Lesotho, Nauru, the Netherlands, Samoa and Sweden have ratified the Convention. NGOs are calling for 50 ratifications by September 2002, in time for the World Summit on Environment and Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Day of Action, organized by the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), involves events and activities in 23 countries, including roundtables with government officials, press conferences and press briefings, seminars, sign-on letters and distribution of flyers. In India, activists have organized a national Children’s Assembly on POPs with 10 days of activities, from a boat procession with banners and flags demanding Stockholm Convention ratification to a petition kiosk at the government secretariat, culminating in a children’s art exhibition on “POPs and Health” and a press conference on May 23.

Activities in North America include a press release in Canada calling for progress on the Canadian National Implementation Plan (Canada was the first country to ratify the Convention), and a range of lobbying activities in Mexico including an open letter published in newspapers from environmental groups in Mexico calling on the Mexican government to ratify Convention.

In Alaska, Dr. Sandra Steingraber, author of Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood, is touring four communities to discuss issues of POPs, their accumulation and health effects. Dr. Steingraber and local activists will also call for ratification and implementation of the POPs treaty at a press conference in Anchorage.

The IPEN Day of Action Statement calls on governments to take the next step in the Stockholm Convention process by ratifying the treaty and committing to work “for a world in which these toxic chemical substances no longer pollute our local and global environments, nor contaminate our food, our bodies, and the bodies of our children and future generations.”

Sources: The IPEN Day of Action Statement and a list of activities can be found at the IPEN Web site: Current information on the status of Stockholm Convention signatures and ratification can be found at UNEP’s Stockholm Convention Web site:

Contact: PANNA

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