WAIGANI CONVENTION TO COME INTO FORCE

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SOUTH PACIFIC REGIONAL ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME (SPREP) Apia, Samoa

PRESS RELEASE September 26, 2001

The crossing of a new and important step for the Region in terms of management of hazardous wastes has been made possible when, on 21 September 2001, the Government of Tuvalu deposited its instrument of accession to the: Convention to Ban the Importation Into Forum Island Countries of Hazardous and Radioactive Wastes and to Control the Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within the South Pacific Region (otherwise known as the WAIGANI CONVENTION as it was signed at Waigani, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.)

The Director of SPREP, Mr. Tamari’i Tutangata, said, "It is an historical moment. The continuing relevance and reawakened consciousness of the importance of the Waigani Convention to the region as the legal framework to address the management of hazardous wastes provides the cornerstone for its future successful implementation.

"I am happy to note that the region met the timeline that it set for itself at the Eleventh SPREP Meeting (Guam 2000) where SPREP members agreed that the SPREP Secretariat would further its collaborative efforts with members to enable the entry into force of the Waigani Convention in 2001 and organize the First Conference of Parties in 2002. The willing support of the Forum Secretariat in this process, as the depositary for the Convention, is greatly appreciated."

Aside from the first action to be taken such as the nomination of Focal Points and Competent Authority, the first practical use of the Convention in the very near future will be to facilitate the removal and disposal of stockpiles of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides.

The increasing threat to human health and the environment of the South Pacific posed by hazardous and radioactive wastes led countries of the Region to adopt on 16 September 1995 the Waigani Convention with the following main objectives:

Dr. Jacques Mougeot, SPREP Legal Officer, recalled that the importance of the Convention has been demonstrated by the increasing interest from the relevant Secretariats of Global Conventions, in particular the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), the Basel Convention and the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.

The Waigani Convention can be a model for other regions if we work together. It has the real potential to be an effective legal frame of reference to synergize the implementation of global, regional and national activities related to the environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes. It promises to avoid overlap and duplication of efforts under the waste related Conventions as well as to reduce the burden put on Parties regarding their reporting obligations. The entry into force of the Waigani Convention will address immediate and long-term issues. It will facilitate the role of the Secretariat with the identification of funds and foster cooperation towards the strengthening of the legal, institutional and technical capacities of Pacific island countries.

According to Jacques Mougeot, "The Waigani Convention, through the process of workshops, subsidiary bodies meetings, and Conferences of Parties will be instrumental in projecting a harmonized and strong voice of the Pacific islands region into the global fore, particularly when seeking assistance for the management of hazardous wastes."

The ten parties to the Waigani Convention currently are: Australia; Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. Other eligible countries that have yet to ratify the Convention are urged to do so as soon as possible so that the Pacific islands region can show a totally united front to the rest of the world.

For more information, contact Fatu Tauafiafi by email at fatut@sprep.org.ws or Chris Peteru at chrisp@sprep.org.ws

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