Ecology and Environment Notes Part 6 – Basel Convention and United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

Basel Convention

  • The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was adopted on 22 March 1989 by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Basel, Switzerland, in response to a public outcry following the discovery, in the 1980s, in Africa and other parts of the developing world of deposits of toxic wastes imported from abroad.
  • The basic purposes of the Convention are to ensure that states have the full ability to protect their own environment and to enable them to not permit actions which might have adverse effects on the environment such as a transboundary movement of hazardous waste.
  • The objective of the Basel Convention is to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes. Its scope of application covers a wide range of wastes defined as “hazardous wastes” based on their origin and/or composition and their characteristics, as well as two types of wastes defined as “other wastes” – household waste and incinerator ash.

Principal aims of Convention are:

  • Reduction of hazardous waste generation and the promotion of environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes, wherever the place of disposal;
  • Restriction of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes except where it is perceived to be in accordance with the principles of environmentally sound management; and
    A regulatory system applying to cases where transboundary movements are permissible.
  • The Convention requires a prior informed consent that must be followed before any export or import is allowed to or from another party.
  • The Exporting State is obliged to get the written approval of the Importing state for such a movement to be legal under the Basel Convention. In this context, each party has the right to ban any import or export of hazardous or other wastes.
  • BAN Amendment to the Convention was adopted at the Third Conference of the Parties in 1995 and incorporated in the text of the Convention. This amendment bans any export of hazardous wastes from Basel Convention Parties that are members of the EU, OECD, and Liechtenstein to all other Parties to the Convention.

Convention on Biological Diversity

  • This Convention was inspired by the world community’s growing commitment to sustainable development. It represents a dramatic step forward in the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.
  • The Convention was opened for signature on 5 June 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Rio “Earth Summit”). It remained open for signature until 4 June 1993, by which time it had received 168 signatures. The Convention entered into force on 29 December 1993, which was 90 days after the 30th ratification. The first session of the Conference of the Parties was scheduled for 28 November – 9 December 1994 in the Bahamas.
  • The CBD was negotiated under the guidance of the United Nations.
  • Unlike other international agreements that set compulsory targets and obligations, the CBD takes a flexible approach to implementation. It identifies general goals and policies, and countries are free to determine how they want to implement them.
  • COP which stands for “Conference of the Parties” is the Convention’s ultimate authority and assembles representatives of all countries having signed the Convention (the ‘Parties’) as well as observers such as non-Party countries, UN agencies, international and non-governmental organisations.
  • CBD has near universal membership of 193 countries
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has 3 main objectives:
    • The conservation of biological diversity.
    • The sustainable use of the components of biological diversity
    • The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.

The Convention also recognizes – for the first time – that the conservation of biological diversity is “a common concern of humankind” and an integral part of the development process.

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification:

  • It is a Convention to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought through national action programs that incorporate long-term strategies supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements.
  • Established in 1994, UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management.
  • Convention addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found
  • Desertification as defined in this Convention:  is not the natural expansion of existing deserts but the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas. It is a gradual process of soil productivity loss and the thinning out of the vegetative cover because of human activities and climatic variations such as prolonged droughts and floods.
  • What is alarming being that though the land’s topsoil, if mistreated, can be blown and washed away in a few seasons, it takes centuries to build up.
  • Among human causal factors are over-cultivation, overgrazing, deforestation, and poor irrigation practices. Such overexploitation is generally caused by economic and social pressure, ignorance, war, and drought.

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