Opening statement for the first AOSIS workshop on Persistent Organic Pollutants

2003-04-07 H.E. Ambassador Tuiloma Neroni Slade Download PDF

Topic: Sustainable Development

It is a great pleasure for me to be here today to open this workshop. I wish to thank the
Government of Antigua and Barbuda for their graciousness in hosting this important
meeting. I also wish to thank, on all our behalf, the UNEP Chemicals Secretariat and the
Global Environment Facility for making this meeting possible.
When the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) was founded in 1990 our key concern
was of course climate change. Climate change was the global phenomenon and the key
international negotiation that united all our islands – from the Caribbean, to the Pacific, to
the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, even unto the Mediterranean and the South China Sea.
We have grown in membership and coverage since those early days, and we number 44
Members and Observers today.
After the Rio Conference in 1992, our countries began preparing for a Global Conference
on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States. Eventually convened
in Barbados in 1994, this Global Conference sought to define a sustainable development
agenda for SIDS, translating Agenda 21 into action for our group of countries.
The Barbados Conference considered the management of hazardous wastes to be an
important issue for our countries. However, we did not refer to all Persistent Organic
Pollutants, and in more general terms to the actual remedies we sought. POPs was
lumped together with other hazardous waste, and the advocated approach to all these
wastes was seen in part as capacity building, technical training and the transfer of
appropriate disposal facilities.
In the context of our deliberations at UNEP meetings and other conventions, it began to
become clear that the issue was one of greater urgency than we had expected. A series of
studies also became available. A study carried out in the Pacific by the South Pacific
Regional Environment Program concluded that “the management of chemicals and
hazardous waste is particularly in Pacific Island Countries for the following reasons:
• A lack of information on the types and volumes of materials being brought into
the countries, or already there.
• A poor understanding within the wider community of how these should be used,
stored and disposed.
• Limited knowledge of the threat that certain chemicals pose for community and
environmental health.
• An absence of appropriate disposal facilities. (SPREP: Management of POPS in
Pacific Island Countries. 2000)
The study concluded that an appropriate program of remediation and capacity building,
with estimates garnered from the study, would cost the region US$ 6.5 million in the near
With this sort of knowledge in mind, our group rallied together during the negotiations
for the POPs Convention. A dedicated team of our professionals followed the
negotiations and cooperated on ensuring that SIDS would be given the necessary
consideration as prescribed by the Barbados Program of Action. I believe our group was
very successful in this regard, as the text of the Stockholm Convention will testify to. We
will be hearing more about that this week.
Let me turn to the role of our work here and its implications to the broader cooperation
we are seeking within AOSIS. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held
in Johannesburg, South Africa in August and September 2002, the international
community agreed to convene an international meeting specifically to review the
implementation of the Barbados Program of Action. As you are now more familiar with
the Barbados Program of Action I will seek to explain a little bit about the process ahead.
I will also seek to establish a firm agreement that this workshop will indeed make a
greater contribution to those preparations.
The details of the modalities of the preparatory process have been debated in the UN
General Assembly.
It has been agreed that workshops such as this one should contribute
to the preparatory process, and should inform our delegations and decision makers on the
key concerns of our countries and regions. It is therefore our hope and expectation that
the workshop should produce a brief contribution on the most important issues regarding
POPS for SIDS. I will request the Chairman of the workshop to disseminate this
information through the UN SIDS Unit.
The main issues of SIDS and hazardous wastes relate to the fact that in Agenda 21 SIDS
are recognized as a special case for both environment and development because they are
ecologically fragile and economically vulnerable, they face particular constraints in their
efforts to achieve sustainable development and their specific physical circumstances often
make it difficult for them to benefit from global economic development and thus achieve
sustainable development.
SIDS are vulnerable due to the small size, isolation and fragility of their ecosystems, and
their ecosystems are among the most threatened in the world from a variety of hazardous
wastes. The main problems we in the small islands face include the following:
• Demographic and economic pressure;
• Limited surface water and groundwater resources;
• Land and sea-based pollution;
• Dependency on conventional energy sources;
• Climate change, including climate variability and sea level rise;
• Natural disasters (volcanic eruptions, tsunami, earth quakes and landslides, etc);
• Impact of tourism activities on the environment.
Among the major constraints encountered by SIDS in implementing measures to deal
with hazardous wastes are:
• Inadequate coordination among international agencies;
• Lack of capacity at the national level to implement programs
• Inadequate regional support mechanisms in many SIDS regions
• Lack of capacity to produce inventories of wastes in the context of national plans
and other sustainable development priorities and
• Lack of integrated strategies for the management of wastes
It has always been our contention that the international community, through the
Convention Secretariats and the UN system could actively contribute in all the
aforementioned areas.
The Stockholm Convention makes specific reference to SIDS and recognizes their special
conditions. The GEF Instrument, which finances many Convention related activities also
takes special cognizance of the Barbados Program of Action.
These possible interventions should be planned in close consultation with the SIDS POPS
or Environment focal points and the regional organizations of SIDS. It would also be
helpful to coordinate information through SIDSNet and the SIDS Unit. Any planned
activities in response to implementing these interventions should be the result of
transparent processes that give clear indications of financing, capacity building,
responsibilities of different actors and institutions. It is also important that any decision of
the COP on cooperation with SIDS must be complementary and supportive of the
Barbados Program of Action.
Let me turn to the issue of the contribution from this workshop to the preparatory process
for the 2004 International Meeting on the implementation of the Barbados Program of
Action. While an agreed format for these contributions has yet to be set, I would venture
that the following format could be a useful one for our purposes:
1. State of POPS issues in the SIDS
– all States in AOSIS are Parties to POPS?
– waste containment areas established –
– legal regimes at national level
– areas under threat (sectors, countries?)
– marine protected areas established –
2. Significant new initiatives in the region
– details, innovations, etc
– problems encountered
3. Suggested steps that are required for significant improvement in the sustainable
management of POPS in AOSIS countries.

The SIDS Unit will be represented at this workshop and will be taking notes
throughout the proceedings of the workshop and will hopefully be able to contribute
to such a paper being finalized by this workshop.
Thank you

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