UNEP prepares for adoption of Basel Convention liability protocol

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is holding a series of three meetings in Geneva over the next two weeks to prepare for the Fifth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-5) to the Basel Convention on the Control of the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. COP-5 will take place in Basel, Switzerland from 6-10 December 1999 and ministers are expected to adopt a protocol on liability and compensation.

“The negotiations this month are vital for the success of December’s high-level gathering, which will mark the Convention’s tenth anniversary,” said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. “With a protocol on liability and compensation, this Convention will become the first global environmental agreement to include such a regime.”

In Geneva, The Ninth Session of the Ad Hoc Working Group of Legal and Technical Experts to Consider and Develop a Draft Protocol on Liability and Compensation for Damage Resulting from Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal will meet from 19-23 April. Delegates will try to finalize as much of the draft text as possible, in order to forward it to COP-5 for completion.

The impetus for this protocol comes from developing countries concerned about their lack of financial and technological capacity for cleaning up unwanted hazardous waste dumps or spills on their territory. A key outstanding issue is the protocol’s scope. For example, should the liability regime apply from the moment a shipment crosses a national border to the time complete disposal has occurred? Should the regime apply to illegal traffic as well?

A related question is who is financially responsible in the event of an incident: The generator of the wastes? The exporter? Each phase of a transboundary movement, from the generation of wastes to their export, international transit, import, and final disposal, must be considered. Delegates will also discuss the operation and funding of a Multilateral Fund (to pay for clean-up operations until the liable party is identified) and an Emergency Fund (for urgent action immediately after an incident).

Preliminary documents for the meeting can be found by following the link below.

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