Alliances between international organizations:
Chemicals & wastes

Administrative synergies, program outreach and capacity have all benefited from clustering of the chemicals and watse control conventions.

Nik Kiddle

Nik Kiddle
Deputy Permanent Representative, New Zealand

Nicholas Kiddle was President of the Stockholm Convention from 2006-2007 and currently serves on its Bureau. In his capacity as New Zealand's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Mr Kiddle leads New Zealand government delegations to the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions, as well as meetings of the Montreal Protocol and the UNEP Governing Council. He has been active in UN debates on international environmental governance for over six years.

Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

Coordination of environmental conventions: which way to go?

A question arises regularly about the extent to which managers of the international environment conventions coordinate - either with each other or with agreements on related issues such as trade or sustainable development. The situation is changing, particularly in regard to chemicals and wastes control treaties.

Improving collaboration among conventions requires careful management. United Nations treaties create sovereign bodies for governance purposes, and that sovereignty needs to be respected. In addition, collaboration only makes sense where clearly identifiable benefits would result.

Wherever conventions have similar objectives and similar implementation requirements, there are obvious opportunities for collaboration. So one of the first areas for attention has been the risk management treaties for hazardous substances - the chemicals and wastes agreements known as the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions.

These conventions have a common objective: to reduce harm from exposure to damaging substances. Although other conventions share this aim - the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol on ozone depletingsubstances, for example - the focus so far has been on the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm group because other factors also bring them together. They use similar measures to achieve their objectives. They all require trade measures to help control movement of hazardous substances from one country to another. They also encourage governments to take similar steps, both voluntary and regulatory actions, to lower the risks from production and use of hazardous materials. All three provide for information exchanges, including raising public awareness of dangers. And they all ask governments to give attention to technical assistance and capacitybuilding where it is needed.

Treaty managers need to tread carefully, but there is scope for a lot more collaboration.

The secretariats have already developed a wide variety of collaborative activities. These include administrative synergies enabling each of the conventions to benefit from the provision of core services from UNEP's head office and from the Office of the United Nations. The secretariats have also already developed some administrative burden-sharing arrangements. This sharing is in accordance with provisions in their founding treaties, Although not absolutely essential from a programmatic perspective, it helps considerably that the secretariats all make their home together in Geneva's International Environment House.

Occasionally they have teamed up for program outreach and capacity-building at the national level. This cooperation is eliminating duplication of effort both within the convention secretariats and at the level of national governments that have participated in joint capacity-building programs.

This is not all. The convention secretariats have identified other areas that can deliver more benefits by improving the delivery of services and reducing bureaucratic tasks for national authorities responsible for treaty implementation. These areas include documentation requirements, the processing of national reports, convention web sites, legal service arrangements, and the scheduling of convention meetings.

But even more interesting are a number of suggestions on deepening programmatic collaboration. So far, interest has centered on resource use, scientific linkages, and capacity building. In future, they could think of teaming up to mobilize financial resources for their work, especially where potential donors would appreciate collaborative approaches.

Similarly, the three conventions could give further thought to increasing joint use of regional resources to assist national implementation. They could also consider pooling the handling of appropriate aspects of their compliance work. Where the conventions have established scientific panels for advice, they might want to encourage more contact and a greater flow of information between these panels perhaps including those established by other conventions for risk management of hazardous substances.

Capacity building and awareness raising are two additional program activities where collaborative approaches might simplify and improve understanding of the conventions as well as speed the building up of capabilities to implement their provisions.

To advance such cooperation, the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions have established a joint working group to consider ideas and shape recommendations to their governing bodies.

The Three Chemicals and Wastes Conventions are the Basel Convention on the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes, the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS).