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Rotterdam Convention: UN experts seek amendment, say, list hazardous chemicals

UN experts* have called on all Parties to the Rotterdam Convention to adopt an amendment that would list hazardous chemicals and strengthen the international treaty that is designed to facilitate informed decision-making by countries with regard to trade in dangerous chemicals. The UN experts issued the following statement:
“We urge Parties to the Rotterdam Convention to adopt the proposed addition of Annex VIII, due for consideration at the eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties in May of 2023.
The Rotterdam Convention is an important vehicle for international cooperation. It empowers importing countries to decide whether to accept chemical imports and under what conditions, and it also requires exporting countries to respect those decisions.
However, the Conference of the Parties has repeatedly failed to add hazardous chemicals to Annex III despite the recommendations for listing by the scientific body of the Convention. Annex III is key to the Convention’s operation because it lists the hazardous chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted for health or environmental reasons and that are subject to the Convention’s Prior Informed Consent Procedure. These failures by the Conference of the Parties limit the ability of Parties to better control the imports of hazardous substances.
The breakdown of the science-policy interface mechanism in the Rotterdam Convention undermines the realization of the human right to science and the effectiveness of the instrument. Governments have a duty to align their policies with the best available scientific evidence.
The Rotterdam Convention is an important tool to advance the right to information and effectively prevent exposure of people, soil, and water resources to toxics.
Despite the desire and efforts of the majority of the Parties to strengthen the Rotterdam Convention, a handful of countries have persistently blocked the listing of hazardous chemicals. This situation undermines the international cooperation needed for the realisation of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
The proposed addition of Annex VIII will unblock the paralysis of the Rotterdam Convention. Under the proposal, where consensus on adding a chemical to Annex III is not reached, States can list the chemical in Annex VIII via a three-fourths majority vote procedure. The addition of Annex VIII will only apply to the Parties that have ratified the amendments.
The addition of Annex VIII will further enable the Prior Informed Consent Procedure, which is at the heart of the Rotterdam Convention, to realize its intended purpose. A greater number of States and people will benefit from the Prior Informed Consent Procedure and the consequent access to information. This is particularly important for upholding the human rights of people in vulnerable situations that are disproportionately harmed by exposure to hazardous chemicals.
We call on Parties to adopt the amendment proposed by Switzerland, Mali and Australia, and co-sponsored by others. We need bold actions that will keep our institutions and instruments relevant and fit to address the serious risks and harms posed by chemicals to human rights, human health and environmental integrity.”
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*The experts: Marcos Orellana, Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights; David R. Boyd,Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity

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