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<nettime> UN on Toxic Waste Export
Soenke Zehle on Fri, 9 Jun 2006 16:29:18 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> UN on Toxic Waste Export

A note on World Environment Day (June 5) from the UN. Ibeanu's mandate=20
is defined as follows: "The Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of=20
the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and=20
wastes on the enjoyment of human rights is mandated by the Commission on=20
Human Rights to receive communications from individuals and groups who=20
allege that their human rights have been violated by illicit movements=20
and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes. In accordance=20
with resolution 2005/15, the Special Rapporteur transmits information=20
received which is considered to contain credible allegations of human=20
rights violations to the Governments concerned - either together with=20
other special procedure mandate holders or independently - inviting=20
comments on the allegation, seeking clarification, and requesting=20
information, where relevant, on steps being taken by the authorities to=20
redress the situation in question."

So send your reports to the man whenever someone else's discarded=20
net-tech shows up in your neighborhood (most NGOs active in this area=20
already do).

In his Feb 20 2006 report, Ibeanu notes that "Many private companies=20
have taken action unilaterally against toxics in their products,=20
demonstrating that the substitution of hazardous chemicals is possible.=20
Sony Ericsson, for example, is phasing out brominated flame retardants=20
and other toxic chemicals from its entire product range. Samsung and=20
Nokia are committed to the elimination of toxic flame retardants and PVC=20
plastic from some of their products. ... While such voluntary=20
initiatives are very welcome, they do not replace the primary duty of=20
States to respect, protect and fulfil human rights as they are affected=20
by the exposure of individuals and groups to hazardous chemicals."

This is an incredibly difficult process, eco-issues have fallen out of=20
favor with many people, but they re-emerge in unexpected ways. Ibeanu=20
notes, for example, that the 2005 Tsunami also created environmental=20
havoc because it spread the toxins from unregulated waste disposal=20
sites/dumps across a huge terrain etc. Closer to home/nettime, there is=20
the upcoming wave of 'smart' gadgets/products, from RFIDs to smart wall=20
paint etc. So the ewaste issue is here to stay, hence the decision to=20
finally write sth about it from a net-cultural perspective.

I am working on/contributing to a series of reports on ewaste and=20
related social issues in electronics manufacturing and disposal, will=20
post URLs when done,


2 June 2006

The Special Rapporteur on adverse effects of the illicit movement and=20
dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of=20
human rights, Okechukwu Ibeanu, today issued the following statement:

=93On the occasion of the World Environment Day (5 June), I would like to=
draw the attention of the international community to the question of=20
impunity for violations of human rights around the world due to the=20
illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes,=20
resulting in unmitigated deterioration of the environment, particularly=20
in the developing countries.

Economic growth and demand for energy and consumer products have led to=20
unprecedented levels of industrial production, thereby increasing the=20
problem of toxic wastes that have to be disposed of. In the=20
industrialized countries, the classic disposal options, namely land=20
filling and incineration, are being subjected to restrictions, bans or=20
phase-outs, principally because they are widely rejected by the=20
population. Therefore, there is an increased pressure to export waste to=20
poor and remote areas.

Over the last four decades, at least 50,000 tons of obsolete pesticides=20
have accumulated in stockpiles across the African continent. For=20
decades, these chemicals will continue to threaten the environment and=20
surrounding communities - often the poorest and most vulnerable -=20
through the contamination of food, water, soil, and air. Added to this=20
is the emergence of new phenomena such as the export of polluted vessels=20
to developing countries for ship-breaking, the growing trade in=20
electronic waste, the transfer of industries producing large quantities=20
of waste and the export from industrialized countries to developing=20
countries of near obsolete products, ranging from cars to medicines.=20
Products that are banned, taken off the market, strictly regulated or=20
not permitted in industrialized countries continue to be produced and=20
exported to developing countries where their use is encouraged through=20
advertising, linking their use to project financing and aid, or=20
falsification and manipulation of data.

Although not sufficiently reflected in the media, exposure to toxic=20
wastes constitutes nonetheless a peril for the health and life of=20
millions of people, and this has been widely documented. In my last=20
report, I noted the impact on human rights of chronic, low-level=20
exposure to hazardous chemicals, including pesticides. As well, in a=20
recent report, Greenpeace has described the effects of exposure to=20
chemicals on reproductive health. Yet, this situation has persisted in=20
all countries and there is reluctance to assert the responsibility of=20
various actors in producing and transferring toxic wastes and exposing=20
populations to their deadly effects.

Various factors impede identification of those responsible including=20
difficulties in tracing the origin of products, establishing a causal=20
link between the offence and the injury, and identifying the victims=20
with precision. There is yet a pervasive dearth of information to the=20
public on the composition of products and their impact on health and the=20
environment. Industries and their lobbies try to prevent initiatives=20
that might establish their responsibility and offer redress to victims.=20
States are also unenthusiastic about investigating the claims of=20
victims, as scrutiny may show that they have direct or indirect=20
responsibility in exposing their nationals or foreigners to harm.

Therefore, I urge States to take effective and concrete measures to end=20
impunity for exposition of populations to toxic wastes, and to fulfil=20
their duty to protect the life and health of their populations, as well=20
as not to endanger the life and health of the populations of other=20
States. I appeal to all States to take measures to control the=20
activities of their industries and transnational corporations and to=20
ensure that they do not violate human rights through harmful=20
environmental practices, such as the illicit movement of toxic and=20
dangerous products and wastes, particularly in developing countries.=20
States should ensure that measures are taken to establish responsibility=20
for the production of toxic wastes and their management, and, in case of=20
violation of human rights due to these products, that legal remedies and=20
compensation are made available to victims.

I urge all States to, inter alia, implement procedures to trace toxic=20
wastes from their production to their disposal, including all parties=20
that intervene in that process; to clearly establish the parties that=20
are to be held accountable and responsible for the disposal of toxic=20
wastes and for eventual harm to human rights of individuals or=20
communities; to conduct scientific and medical assessment of all=20
products that may potentially generate biological and environmental=20
hazards, and to set up legislation that halts production of toxic wastes=20
for which there are no established disposal means without endangering=20
human rights.

I invite civil society to bring to my attention such cases of violations=20
of human rights, which I will forward to the Human Rights Council. I=20
also call on States to ensure that commitment and efforts to combat=20
pollution of the environment and the negative effects of toxic wastes on=20
the enjoyment of human rights are taken into account when the Council=20
reviews the fulfilment by each State of its human rights obligations and=20


In 1995, the Commission on Human Rights adopted its first resolution=20
specifically concerning the adverse effects of the illicit movement and=20
dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of=20
human rights (resolution 1995/81). The Commission noted with grave=20
concern that the increasing rate of illicit dumping of toxic and=20
dangerous products and wastes in developing countries continued to=20
affect adversely the human rights to life and health, and decided to=20
appoint a Special Rapporteur with a mandate (a) to investigate and=20
examine the effect on the enjoyment of human rights; (b) to investigate,=20
monitor, examine and receive communications and gather information on=20
the subject; (c) to make recommendations and proposals on measures to=20
control, reduce and eradicate illicit traffic and dumping; and (d) to=20
compile a list of the countries and transnational corporations engaged=20
in such practices, in addition to a list of victims.

Mr. Okechkwu Ibeanu (Nigeria) was appointed to this function in 2004. He=20
is a professor of political science at the University of Nigeria, and=20
has published widely on environment issues, including on the link=20
between environment and security, and on issues relating to the impact=20
of the petrochemical industry.

For more information:

For use of the information media; not an official record


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