Law and Policy
Edited by Katharina Kummer Peiry, Andreas R. Ziegler and Jorun Baumgartner
Chapter 4: A paradigm shift under the Basel Convention on Hazardous Wastes
The 1989 Basel Convention aims to protect human health and the environment against the negative impacts of hazardous and other wastes. Although a pre-Rio treaty, the Convention is not oblivious to social and economic concerns and contains the necessary provisions to ensure that such considerations are taken into account when achieving its environmental objective. The Basel Convention is based on a life-cycle approach: it sets out obligations pertaining to the generation of wastes and to the management of wastes, including their transboundary movements. Over the years, the parties to the Convention have given concrete meaning to the obligation to ensure the environmentally sound management of wastes. They have also striven to strengthen the treaty’s trade control regime through the adoption, in 1995, of a ban on the export of wastes from developed to developing countries. Less emphasis however was directed to the reduction of waste generation. During the Ninth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties in 2009, a decisive political push by the Indonesian President of the Conference of the Parties, relayed by Switzerland through the Country-Led Initiative, opened the door to overcoming the long-standing political deadlock over the ban. Colombia, in its capacity as host of the Tenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties held in 2011, complemented the initiative by proposing the adoption of a Declaration on the Prevention, Minimization and Recovery of Hazardous Wastes and Other Wastes. This combination of efforts led to the historical outcomes of the Tenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties. The meeting witnessed a paradigm shift in the Basel Convention, including the recognition of the economic potential of the environmentally sound recovery of wastes. In doing so, the parties to the Basel Convention gave concrete meaning to the green economy, a new strategic direction subsequently embraced at the Rio+20 Summit.
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