Statement by Jim Willis, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, to the 42nd GEF Council Meeting
Washington DC, USA, 5 June 2012
I would like to thank the Secretariat of the Global Environment Facility and its CEO for the invitation to this 42nd meeting of the GEF Council.
I wish to start by expressing my gratitude to the outgoing CEO, Ms Monique Barbut, for her invaluable contribution in leading the GEF during her tenure. Under her leadership, a series of important reforms have been implemented that helped to strengthen the role of the GEF as a principal financial institution in the environment field. Also, she has been strongly committed to building and nurturing a close and fruitful working relationship between our Secretariats.
These efforts have laid a strong and lasting foundation for our joint efforts of supporting Parties to protect human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals and wastes. I remain committed to the practice of our two Secretariats continuing to work closely together to provide a high level of support to Parties.
The last 12 months have been intense for those involved in the chemicals and waste field: Mercury negotiations, CSD, SAICM OEWG, Consultative Process on Financing Options for Chemicals and Wastes, the Conferences of the Parties of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, and subsidiary body meetings for each. I provided an update on the outcomes of Stockholm COP-5 at the Council meeting in May of last year, and today would like to briefly update you on the Rotterdam and Basel COPs, as well as progress towards achieving synergies.
Before I begin, however, I would like to remind you of the COP Presidents for the three conventions, whose term of office began at the conclusion of the 2011 COPs, and will end at the conclusion of the 2013 COPs: Mr. Franz Perrez (Switzerland) for the Basel Convention, Ms. Magda Balicka (Poland) for the Rotterdam Convention, and Mr. Osvaldo Alvarez (Chile) for the Stockholm Convention.
Rotterdam COP-5 took place from 20 to 24 June 2011 in Geneva. A key outcome of this meeting was the decision to add three chemicals, aldicarb, alachlor and endosulfan to the convention. With the addition of these chemicals, the Rotterdam Convention has proven that it continues to be highly relevant and effective globally, and extremely useful to developing countries in preventing unwanted imports of highly toxic chemicals and pesticides.
This success could not have been achieved without the dedication and expertise of the COP President, Ms Zukie Gwayi of South Africa. Her tremendous efforts helped to make this COP a success.
The COP also undertook deliberations or took decisions in a number of other areas of possible interest to the Council, for example on possible options for lasting and sustainable financing as well as on technical assistance.
The tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention took place from 17-21 October 2011 in Cartagena, Colombia. The COP adopted several decisions and approved a number of technical guidelines that collectively, has had the effect of completely revitalizing the convention – leading to what many refer to as the miracle of Cartagena.
Let me acknowledge that none of these far reaching decisions would have been achieved without the outstanding leadership of the President of COP-10, Ms Paula Caballero. Thanks to her vision, personal commitment and outstanding chairing skills, the international environmental community was able to witness one of the most outstanding comebacks in the history of international environmental governance. I would like to personally express my gratitude to Paula and Team Colombia for making the COP such a remarkable success.
The single most important decision taken was on the Country-led Initiative or CLI for short. Following a three year consultative process led by Indonesia and Switzerland, the COP agreed on a package of measures to improve the effectiveness of the Convention which includes: a fixed-time approach to entry into force of the BAN amendment; a process for the development of a framework and standards for environmentally sound management of wastes, which could include wastes that are being traded because of the potential resources they contain; work to improve the legal clarity of the Convention; capacity building and other activities to help Parties meet their obligations under the Convention.
The steps agreed to in Cartagena are being put into action, with the mandated technical expert group already having met once in Tokyo to begin the development of the ESM framework. And a number of generous donors have made resources available to help developing countries take the next steps to ratify the ban amendment through workshops and country-based activities.
COP-10 also adopted the Cartagena Declaration which, among other things, emphasizes that measures should be undertaken that focus on waste prevention and minimization; it also recognizes that considerable trade in wastes is taking place because of the resources that can be recovered from them; these recovered resources can mean more jobs but safeguards also need to be put in place to ensure protection of workers and the environment. The declaration is a vision of the future for the Basel Convention, and how it can contribute to sustainable development.
The 2011 Stockholm, Rotterdam and Basel COPs each adopted decisions on synergies that are identical in substance to one another. They also approved a large number of joint activities for the programmes of work for the biennium 2012–2013.
The decisions also requested me to prepare a proposal for the organization of the secretariats of the three conventions, in consultation with the bureaux, by the end of 2011, and to implement that proposal by the end of 2012.
The proposal has been posted on the conventions’ synergies webpage and the reorganization has been implemented, effective 18 February of this year. The secretariat has moved from a programmatic structure – with three individual secretariats serving each of the three treaties to an integrated matrix structure that serves all three conventions equally. This newly formed matrix structure consists of four branches covering administrative services, convention operations, technical assistance and scientific support. The next steps of the restructuring process involve the formal selection process for the five new management positions. The recruitment process is underway.
In line with the 2011 synergy decisions, I have also prepared a proposal to hold the ordinary and extraordinary meetings of the conferences of the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions back-to-back from 29 April to 10 May 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland. This proposal was approved by all three bureaux yesterday and is posted on the synergies webpage.
As noted in my opening, the past year or so has been a busy one for the secretariat, with three COPs, three subsidiary body meetings and the reorganization. The focus has now shifted strongly towards implementing the COPs’ decisions and trying to realize synergies.
The secretariat has begun posting a quarterly report on efficiencies, cost savings and synergies on the conventions’ synergies page. Actions taken in the first quarter of 2012 have resulted in cost savings for the biennium of over $1.5 million USD by identifying efficiencies, eliminating duplication and in administrative areas. These savings will be returned to parties in the form of improved and increased support to developing countries and countries with economies in transition to implement the treaties.
The restructuring has also resulted in direct improvements in services by applying best practices across the three MEAs, and by having a greater pool of human resources that can work across multiple MEAs.
Holding the 2013 COPs back-to-back will result in further synergies – taking the progress of the last several COP cycles on synergies to the next level – and saving nearly $1.5 million in administrative expenses in the process.