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Swiss call for one centre for chemical treaties

International conventions govern the movement of hazardous waste

(Keystone)

Switzerland is advocating that the secretariats of three international environmental conventions be combined in one Geneva-based headquarters.

The proposal will be discussed at the meeting of the parties to the Rotterdam Convention in Rome, beginning on Tuesday.

The three secretariats of the Rotterdam, Stockholm and Basel conventions governing different aspects of the movement, use and disposal of chemicals are already in Geneva but are located separately.

The head of the Swiss environment agency, Philippe Roch, is representing Switzerland at the Rome conference.

"The question now is how to organise them [the secretariats] and to avoid duplication of tasks, especially on an administrative and strategic level. We are in favour of maintaining the secretariats but under one head and within one administrative organisation," Roch told swissinfo.

There are annual conferences for each of the three conventions and all three conferences have to agree on a common document to arrive at a final decision. Roch expects the process to be completed next year.

Chemicals trade

The Rotterdam Convention is designed to promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals.

It stipulates that the export of the most dangerous pesticides and chemicals can only be authorised with the "prior informed consent" of the receiving country. The convention has been in force since 2004.

The Stockholm Convention covers Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), which are harmful chemical substances that persist in the environment, building up through the food chain.

The 12 POPs, which include dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls, are highly toxic for both humans and animals because they accumulate in the host organism.

The "dirty dozen", as they are commonly known, can cause cancer and interfere with the reproductive functions.

Limiting emissions

The aim of the Stockholm Convention is to introduce a worldwide ban on the production and use of these pollutants and to limit emissions to a minimum. Switzerland ratified it in July 2003.

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is a comprehensive global environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes.

It has over 160 signatories and aims to protect human health and the environment against "the adverse effects resulting from the generation, management, movements and disposal of hazardous and other wastes".

The conference in Rome runs until Friday.

swissinfo, Clare O'Dea

Key facts

The Second Conference of the parties to the Rotterdam Convention takes place in Rome from September 27-30.
Three environmental conventions covering chemicals, pesticides and hazardous waste at present have secretariats located separately in Geneva.
The secretariats monitor the implementation of the conventions, and provide administrative and coordination support to the signatories.

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