from 122 nations ended negotiations in Johannesburg, South Africa,
on 10 December 2000 with an international agreement to control
health and environment risks posed by 12
persistent organic pollutants by reducing or eliminating
their production and release into the environment. The treaty
will be signed at a ministerial meeting in Stockholm, Sweden,
in May, and will go into effect once it has been ratified by
health advocates greet government representatives arriving
at the UN negotiations in Johannesburg, South Africa.
the terms of the treaty, nations are committed to eventual elimination
of POPs chemicals. Timetables for elimination vary among the 12
chemicals, depending upon the details of their use and production.
treaty includes provisions for financial assistance to developing
nations to meet treaty obligations, for adding new chemicals to
the treaty, and for public health exceptions that will allow DDT
to be used for malaria control while efforts continue to find alternatives
to this dangerous compound.
of the most controversial aspects of negotiations leading to the
agreement was over the role of the Precautional Principle in the
treaty in general and specifically over criteria to be used in evaluating
whether and which additional chemicals should be added to the convention.
For most of the negotiations, a coalition of nations that included
the United States, Japan, Australia and Canada adamantly opposed
explicitly precautionary measures in the treaty language on this
issue, while the European Union was the strongest proponent for
precaution. The US-lead group argued that the Precautionary Principle
was "unscientific." Behind this claim was a concern that
using the Precautionary Principle would make it too easy to add
new chemicals. In contrast, the EU argued that in the face of uncertainty,
when scientific knowledge of the impacts of chemicals was not complete
but enough information was available to raise legitimate concerns,
the treaty should act to protect public health.
the end, the US and others accepted the need for precautionary approaches
in evaluating new chemicals for inclusion while also requiring that
the process involve a rigorous scientific review of potential health
uncontroversial was the proposal for public health exceptions for
DDT use. Despite the efforts by a small group of advocates (including
some with clear links to US-based right-wing organizations) to use
this issue to drive a wedge between developed and developing countries,
and thereby to prevent a successful conclusion to the negotiations,
virtually all other participants reached a broad consensus over
a year ago on the need to allow continued DDT use while simultaneously
searching for safer alternatives.
contributors to this consensus were the World Health Organization
(through its "Roll Back Malaria Program), the World Wildlife
Fund, and key delegations from the developing world (notably Thailand).
same group of advocates using DDT as a wedge issue also attempted
to undermine agreements on financial mechanisms to assist developing
nations in meeting their treaty obligations. Here their efforts
focused on fueling developing country distrust of the Global Environment
access to press coverage may be limited by website policies of the
information from StopPOPs,
a coalition of NGOs working in support of a strong POPs convention.