Second Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
Geneva, Switzerland, 1 – 5 May 2006
Opening Remarks by Mr. Shafqat Kakakhel Deputy Executive Director and Officer-in-Charge United Nations Environment Programme
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It is a great pleasure for me to be with you here today for the opening of the second meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention.
Twelve months after the first Conference of the Parties in Punta Del Estae, Uruguay, we meet here in Switzerland.
Let me begin by thanking our host, the Government of Switzerland, and congratulating them on the reopening of the refurbished Geneva International Conference Center.
I am particularly pleased to see that Len Good of the Global Environment Facility is with us here this morning.
By moving quickly to support the development of National Implementation Plans, the Global Environment Facility has proven itself a key partner for the Stockholm Convention.
We know the crucial role that the GEF has played in the implementation of this and other agreements.
I would urge all governments to find a way forward for the GEF and ensure that it is given a full and sufficient replenishment this year.
It is also gratifying to note the presence of other valuable partners in the fight to rid the world of persistent organic pollutants.
These include the UN Development Programme, UNITAR, UNIDO, the World Bank and the World Health Organization.
I am further informed that more than 50 non-governmental organizations have registered for this meeting, demonstrating the importance that environmentalists, community groups and industry place on this Convention.
Together with the fact that this Convention can already claim 122 Parties, the presence here of so many organizations highlights its global significance and the widespread political commitment to reducing and eliminating POPs.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This week marks a critical juncture for the Convention Although the first deadline for National Implementation Plans is still some weeks away, I am pleased to note that nine Parties have already submitted their Implementation Plans.
These Plans demonstrate the keen interest governments have in cleaning up POPs and replacing them with environmentally friendly alternatives in areas from termite control to emissions from furnaces and power stations.
As the National Implementation Plans fall into place, so the challenging work of engaging civil society and industry in reducing and eliminating POPs must become a key focus.
One area of important debate that must be furthered this week centres on the establishment of a Global Monitoring Network.
We need sound science to know if our efforts are making a difference, if we really are removing POPs from the planet.
Big gaps exist, not least in the monitoring capabilities of developing countries, especially in Africa.
The role of DDT, one of the so-called Dirty Dozen, in the area of disease prevention is also an important topic.
We need clarity here. You must know that is still confusion among the public in many countries about DDTs status in terms of malaria control.
We must also make progress in the arrangements for regional and sub-regional delivery of technical assistance.
There is clearly an opportunity to build on what exists in the key sectors of agriculture, health, industry and waste, and to find solutions that are ‘lean and mean’ and not an extra layer of expensive bureaucracy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We also meet at an important moment for the entire United Nations system. The reform process now underway in New York has the potential to reinforce and rationalize the environmental activities of UNEP and other UN bodies.
In this context, you have already taken steps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the chemicals conventions by strengthening the ties between the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions through a joint Executive Secretary.
You have before you other ideas on how to promote even greater collaboration between the Stockholm Convention and both the Basel and Rotterdam Conventions.
Clearly, in a world where a growing number of major issues must compete for the attention of policymakers and the resources of national governments, we in the environmental community must bolster our collective strength by coordinating and linking our respective efforts.
We need to identify areas where promoting synergies can help us to achieve the broad goal of safely managing chemicals and waste while securing the unique advantages that each Convention and programme can bring to its particular area of focus.
I believe this goal is achievable. The Parties to each Convention are, of course, responsible for deciding how best to structure their own work.
We must also take into account the views of other relevant UN bodies.
We will listen closely to your guidance as we seek to support you in this changing international environment.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The global chemicals agenda is currently benefiting from a growing political profile.
The adoption in Dubai earlier this year of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) by UNEP’s Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum was a landmark event. It is vital that the Stockholm Convention and the SAICM process invigorate and cross-fertilize one another.
Your sister conventions are also making steady political progress. Later this year, the Basel Convention is expected to adopt new technical guidelines on the environmentally sound management of DDT, dioxins and furans, and other POPs wastes.
Meanwhile, just as your POPs Review Committee has five new substances under consideration for the POPs list, the Rotterdam Convention is evaluating the addition of 10 new chemicals to its Prior Informed Consent list.
These ongoing activities fully complement your own efforts to reduce and eliminate POPs in the natural environment.
As agreed at the 1992 World Summit on Sustainable Development and the 2005 United Nations World Summit, we must build on this momentum in the various chemicals-related fora and, especially, work to strengthen national capacities for implementing the global chemicals agenda.
UNEP is fully committed to contributing to these goals in areas where it has a comparative advantage and the necessary skills.
Most directly, UNEP Chemicals continues to develop and implement, in partnership with donors, a growing portfolio of projects that are helping countries to manage and eliminate POPs.
In its role as an Implementing Agency of the GEF, UNEP has major projects addressing alternatives to DDT, PCB management and disposal, and the management and disposal of obsolete stocks of pesticides.
UNEP also has the cross-cutting Green Customs Initiative, which involves the Stockholm, Rotterdam and Basel Conventions, together with CITES and the Montreal Protocol, and provides capacity building, media and outreach and administrative support.
In conclusion, finalising the establishment of the Secretariat for Stockholm Convention is, of course, a priority for UNEP, and for you. A key element will be the appointment of an Executive Secretary for the Stockholm Convention who will also serve as a co-Executive Secretary for the Rotterdam Convention. This will be an early task for UNEP’s new Executive Director, Mr. Achim Steiner, who will join us on 15 June.
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen,
Let us never forget why we are here. The objective of this Convention is to protect human health and the environment from POPs.
Persistent organic pollutants are amongst the most hazardous substances known to humanity. For decades we have allowed them to penetrate the natural environment as well as our own bodies.
Both the known and the yet to be discovered health effects are frightening. The consequences for vulnerable birds, mammals and other species are potentially disastrous.
Thanks to the good work of scientists we now understand the risks better than ever before. It is a problem that we know how to solve.
We must not allow a slackening of political commitment or resistance to investing time and money to hold us back from finishing the job.