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UNEP/SIDA launch Regional Enforcement Network Project to Combat Illegal Trade in Harmful Chemicals and Hazardous Waste in Asia

Bangkok, 8 February 2012 – Today the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in cooperation with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) launched the Regional Enforcement Network for Chemicals and Waste (Project REN), a US$1.56 million project that aims at detecting and preventing illegal cross border trade of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS), other harmful chemicals and hazardous waste in 25 countries of the Asia Pacific region.

As the most populous region, Asia is the largest producer and consumer of ODS in the world, while production and consumption of a wide range of other chemicals is growing rapidly. Asia is also the major destination for dumping of hazardous waste. Less stricter environmental regulations and lower awareness on chemicals and waste in many countries of the region compared with developed countries, caused many poor people suffer more from environmental pollution and health damage.

“The Swedish Government fully supports efforts to avert the illegal trade in ODS and other hazardous wastes through networking and capacity-building. We believe that Project REN will contribute significantly to improve the capacity of countries and partners to address regional transboundary challenges of which illegal trade in harmful substances and hazardous waste is one important challenge with highly negative impact on poor and marginalized people.” said Ms. AnnaMaria Oltorp, Head of Development Cooperation Section, Embassy of Sweden to Thailand.

Unwanted trade of ODS, remains a concern for the next 10 years at least, in particular for Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) which are commonly used as propellant and in air conditioning applications, as developing countries are heading for their phase-out.

Basel Convention Secretariat reported that 7 to 8 millions tones of legal hazardous waste have been moved cross boundary annually. It is difficult to estimate how many illegal hazardous waste have been trafficked. Basel Action Network (BAN) traced 179 waste containers originated from North America during 2008 to 2010 and found that 96% of them have arrived at Asia . Therefore achieving better control of ODS and Harmful substances and hazardous wastes (HSHW) in Asia is sure to generate global impact.

“Project REN aims to combat smuggling of harmful substances and hazardous waste in Asia. It will do this by improving global and regional enforcement cooperation and by training customs officers and other key enforcement officers to monitor and control cross border movements of chemicals and waste more efficiently,” stated Dr. Young-Woo Park, UNEP Regional Director and Representative for Asia and the Pacific.

Project REN is built upon an earlier project known as the Multilateral Environmental Agreements Regional Enforcement Network (MEA REN) which has been implemented in the region between 2007 to 2011. The MEA-REN project, which was also funded by SIDA and implemented by UNEP, was the only inter-governmental forum in the world where national environmental authorities and customs administrations are networked to address illegal trade in harmful substances and hazardous waste jointly and constantly.

Apart from major partner agencies, national Customs administrations of the 25 countries, Border Liaison Offices in the Greater Sub-Mekong Region and UNEP DTIE, Secretariats of Basel Convention, Rotterdam Convention and Stockholm Convention will be involved in project implementation. The duration of the project is 3 years.

Dr. Young-Woo Park, and Ms. AnnaMaria Oltorp, launched the project in Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand together with other partners and the media.

For further information please contact:

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Satwant Kaur, Regional Information Officer, UNEP, Tel: 02 288 2127/02 288 2314;, Mobile: 083 9086000; E-mail: satwant.kaur@unep.org  

Ms. Anne Fenner, Information Manager, UNEP OzonAction Programme, Tel: +33 1 4437 1454; Email: anne.fenner@unep.org

Mr. Atul Bagai, Senior Regional Network Coordinator, OzonAction Programme, UNEP Regional Office for Asia and Pacific. Tel: +6622881662; Fax: +6622883041; Email: atul.bagai@unep.org.

OzonAction Programme: www.unep.fr/ozonaction
Secretariat of Basel Convention: www.basel.int/TheConvention/Overview/tabid/1271/Default.aspx
Secretariat of Rotterdam Convention: www.pic.int/
Secretariat of Stockholm Convention: chm.pops.int/Convention/tabid/54/Default.aspx
www. Mea-ren.org

Notes to Editors

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the United Nations system’s designated entity for addressing environmental issues at the global and regional level. Its mandate is to coordinate the development of environmental policy consensus by keeping the global environment under review and bringing emerging issues to the attention of governments and the international community for action.

Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production and consumption of a number of substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion. The treaty was opened for signature on September 16, 1987 and entered into force on January 1, 1989. Since then, it has undergone five revisions, in 1990 (London), 1992 (Copenhagen), 1995 (Vienna), 1997 (Montreal), and 1999 (Beijing). Due to its widespread adoption and implementation it has been hailed as an example of exceptional international cooperation "Perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date...”

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 overarching 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.

The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade was adopted on 10 September 1998 by a Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The Convention entered into force on 24 February 2004. The objectives of the Convention are: to promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among Parties in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals in order to protect human health and the environment from potential harm; to contribute to the environmentally sound use of those hazardous chemicals, by facilitating information exchange about their characteristics, by providing for a national decision-making process on their import and export and by disseminating these decisions to Parties. The Convention creates legally binding obligations for the implementation of the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure. It built on the voluntary PIC procedure, initiated by UNEP and FAO in 1989 and ceased on 24 February 2006.

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have adverse effects to human health or to the environment.  Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can lead serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and even diminished intelligence.  Given their long range transport, no one government acting alone can protect is citizens or its environment from POPs.  In response to this global problem, the Stockholm Convention, which was adopted in 2001 and entered into force in 2004, requires Parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment.  The Convention is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme and is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

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