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<nettime> E-Waste 'officially' becomes HR Issue
Soenke Zehle on Wed, 30 Jul 2003 17:36:51 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> E-Waste 'officially' becomes HR Issue


The UN Special Rapporteur on Adverse Effects of the Illicit Movement and
Dumping of Toxic and Dangerous Products and Wastes on the Enjoyment of Human
Rights has recently turned to e-waste issues. The EDC review [1] includes
Basel Action Network [2] and EarthJustice [3] materials submitted to the UN
Commission on Human Rights. Good news, likely to intensify the convergence
of environmental and human rights activism in general [4].

Earth Justice started as the legal defense fund of the much-maligned US
Sierra Club, and many dematerialization-through-technology cyberlibertarians
are also, and not necessarily paradoxically, wilderness advocates (for
'bionomics' promoters like Rothstein or Kelly, 'nature' represents the
ultimate information economy). So maybe, their philanthropic support is
coming full circle when they are finally paying for campaigns that address
the hr-implications of e-waste.  sz

[1] <http://www.padrigu.gu.se/EDCNews/Reviews/HumanRights-Env.html>
[2] <http://www.ban.org/>
[3] <http://www.earthjustice.org/>
[4] <http://www.amnestyusa.org/justearth/>

Environment and Human Rights Linked Before UN Commission

The case for linking human rights and environmental protection is receiving
increased recognition as a prevailing legal norm, says an nonprofit
environmental law organization based in the United States. The International
Program of Earthjustice submitted its annual issue paper, "Human Rights and
the Environment" at the 59th Session of the United Nations Commission on
Human Rights in Geneva. [April 2003]

Trends and themes in the field of human rights that are pressing enough to
warrant the appointment of special rapporteurs include a Special Rapporteur
on Adverse Effects of the Illicit Movement and Dumping of Toxic and
Dangerous Products and Wastes on the Enjoyment of Human Rights. This special
rapporteur, Fatma Zohra Ouhachi Vesely of Tunisia, highlighted a new trend
in the area within her mandate - the export of hazardous electronic waste
from developed countries for recycling in developing countries in Asia.

As documented by many reports received from different sources, she wrote,
these wastes are processed in operations that are "extremely harmful to
human health and the environment, with severe implications for human
rights." Improper disposal of electronic waste that contains heavy metals
and pollutants poses a threat to human health.

US exports to China, India, and Pakistan

She cited a comprehensive report from the Basel Action Network, a Seattle
based global network of toxics and development activist organizations,
alleging that substantial amounts of hazardous electronic wastes are
exported from the United States to Asian countries such as China, India and
Pakistan for recycling. The report alleges that improper disposal of
electronic waste that contains heavy metals and pollutants poses a
significant threat to human health, leading to respiratory illness, skin
infections, stomach diseases and other conditions.

Computer or television monitors contain cathode ray tubes, which typically
contain enough lead to be classified as hazardous waste when being recycled
or disposed of. A typical computer monitor may contain up to eight pounds of
lead. The report submits that such exports of electronic waste are contrary
to the Basel Convention, to which the United States is not a party.

Representing the United States, Malik Hasan, a neurologist and former owner
of HMOs, said that his country remains "concerned that in a number of
instances, unverified allegations were reported and often treated as fact"
in the Special Rapporteur's report.

Hasan told the delegates that the United States is currently making efforts
to seek ratification of the Basel Convention. He acknowledged that
nongovernmental organizations consider that this would do more to legitimize
international waste dumping than it would do to prevent it. The United
States "disagreed strongly with this characterization," and noted that by
ratifying the treaty, the U.S. would gain in "the ability and responsibility
to better regulate exports of hazardous waste." It would not legitimize
international waste dumping, he said.

Canadian exports to China

The Basel Action Network report also alleges that hazardous electronic waste
originating from Canada is being exported to Asia for recycling. One of the
receiving countries, China, has banned the import of electronic waste, and
the report alleges that Canada's refusal to honor that ban by furthering
exports of electronic waste to China is in contravention of the Basel
Convention.

During a visit to Canada in October 2002, Vesely said she had an opportunity
to raise the issue of the Basel Action Network report directly with the
government. The government spokesman informed the Special Rapporteur that
Canada is meeting its international obligations in the field of hazardous
wastes and that Environment Canada is reviewing its definition of hazardous
waste, including electronic scrap, as part of ongoing amendments to the
Export and Import of Hazardous Wastes Regulations.

Environment Canada has not issued any permit for the export of hazardous
electronic scrap to any developing country, the spokesman said. Canada also
prohibits the export of hazardous wastes to countries that have notified
Environment Canada that they themselves prohibit imports of such waste. As
of November 2002, China had not notified Environment Canada of any ban on
the import of electronic waste. In view of the allegations of electronic
waste export to China, Environment Canada has requested information from the
Chinese authorities as to whether China has a prohibition on the import of
electronic scrap.

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