THE STOCKHOLM CONVENTION
The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic
Pollutants (POPs) is an international treaty designed to
end the production and use of some of the world’s
most poisonous chemicals.
• Many of these chemicals have been
used to kill insects and other pests. Others were used as
industrial chemicals, or were produced as a by-product of
industrial processes. What they have in common is that they
are bad for people and environment, they last a long time,
and they travel over great distances, transported by the
air and water.
• The Convention picks twelve of these
chemicals that it intends to try to get rid of. They include
PCBs, Dioxins and DDT.
• A part of the Convention allows countries
to continue using DDT for malaria control, if necessary.
• The Convention allows countries that
belong to it to add more chemicals to the list of substances
to be banned or restricted in member countries.
• The Convention was signed in 2001
after several years of negotiations between representatives
of more than 120 countries. After fifty of those countries
officially ratified the Convention, it came into force.
Once the Convention comes into force, countries
that belong to it are bound to take certain steps:
1. End the production and use of some chemicals,
and restrict the production and use of others.
2. Clean up stockpiles of unwanted and out of date chemicals.
Many of these chemicals are stored in unsafe conditions,
and are poisoning the water, animals, and people.
3. Develop a plan within two years that shows how the country
will meet its obligations under the convention.
4. Try to stop the production and use of new chemicals which
are like the ones already in the Convention.
• The Convention recognizes that it
will be too costly and difficult for some countries to clean
up the chemicals on their own. It commits richer countries
to helping out, with money, and with technical help.
• Donors have promised to contribute
hundreds of millions of dollars. POPs projects in more than
100 countries are already being supported.
WHY RATIFY THE STOCKHOLM
The biggest benefit of ratifying the Convention
does not flow to just one country, but to all countries.
The types of poisonous chemicals that the Convention deals
with do not stay in one place. They do not recognize national
borders. They travel on the wind, and on the water, and
can poison people and the environment for many years after
they were released. As more countries ratify the convention,
then more countries have the ability to clean up these poisonous
chemicals, so all countries benefit.
• Financial and technical assistance:
The people who negotiated the Stockholm Convention realized
that some countries need money and resources to clean up
the chemicals in their countries. Without this help, they
can not afford to ratify the Convention. The developed countries
that have ratified the Convention have agreed to provide
the help necessary.
• For instance, Belarus, a country that
has just ratified the Convention, notes that it is now eligible
for up to $500,000 U.S. to complete its national plan for
controlling and eliminating the chemicals identified in
• The Convention makes it clear that
providing assistance to countries that need it is essential
to the Convention’s success: “The extent to
which the developing country Parties will effectively implement
their commitments under this Convention will depend on the
effective implementation by developed country Parties of
their commitments under this Convention relating to financial
resources, technical assistance and technology transfer.
The fact that sustainable economic and social development
and eradication of poverty are the first and overriding
priorities of the developing country Parties will be taken
fully into account, giving due consideration to the need
for the protection of human health and the environment.”
• Stockpiles: There are large and small
stockpiles of poisonous chemicals in many countries. Some
developing countries in particular received some dangerous
chemicals that were banned in other countries. Many of these
chemicals are now stored in old rusty barrels, and other
unsafe conditions, and are leaking into the water and soil.
The Stockholm Convention helps countries to identify, then
safely collect, transport, and dispose of these stockpiles.
• A voice in international decisions:
Many decisions on parts of the Stockholm convention have
yet to be made. These decisions cover such things as how
assistance will be provided to developing countries, adding
new chemicals to the Convention, and best methods of dealing
with existing chemicals. The decisions will be made at a
meeting called a “Conference of the Parties”
early in 2005. Only countries that have ratified the Convention
at least 90 days before will have a vote at that meeting.
THE STOCKHOLM CONVENTION & DDT
The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic
Pollutants (POPs) will not make it more likely that people
will be infected with malaria. The Convention allows countries
that ratify the Convention to continue using DDT for controlling
mosquitoes that spread malaria.
• The Convention says that countries
that use DDT for malaria control should use guidelines written
by the World Health Organization. These guidelines try to
stop the DDT from getting into the environment.
• DDT has been shown to harm animals.
It is thought to also harm people. It is thought to cause
cancer. Recent studies have also linked DDT to premature
births, and to the production of less milk by nursing mothers.
• Although the Stockholm Convention
allows countries to continue using DDT for malaria control,
it encourages them to also look at safe, effective and affordable
• It should be no harder or more expensive
for countries that now use DDT to continue using it after
they ratify the Convention. The Convention contains no powers
to forbid countries from producing, importing or using DDT
for malaria control.
• DDT is not a permanent solution for
malaria control. Besides the risk that DDT use may be harmful
to people and the environment, mosquitoes can also become
immune to DDT, so that it is no longer useful.
• The Convention encourages countries
that have ratified to help countries using DDT to find other
products or methods to combat malaria. The steps that will
be taken are to be discussed at a future meeting.
• Several countries (Côte d’Ivoire,
Ethiopia, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Yemen) that use
DDT for Malaria control have already ratified the Convention.
THE STOCKHOLM CONVENTION & STOCKPILES
“There is virtually no developing country
or economy in transition that does not have a stockpile
of obsolete pesticides.”
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
• The FAO has spent several years trying
to find out how many stockpiles of outdated pesticides exist,
and deal with those stockpiles. The organization estimates
that there may be as much as half a million tonnes of old
pesticides in these stockpiles.
• About 20,000 tonnes are believed to
be stockpiled in Africa, with perhaps another 80,000 tonnes
in Asia and Latin America, and at least 150,000 tonnes in
countries of the former Soviet Union.
• Stocks of old pesticides can includes
a variety of poisonous substances, including arsenic and
mercury. The FAO estimates chemicals to be eliminated under
the Stockholm convention make up about 20% of stockpiles.
• Stockpiled pesticides that come under
the Stockholm Convention (endrin, mirex, toxaphene, chlordane,
heptachlor, aldrin, dieldrin) are associated with a variety
of harmful effects on human health. Those effects include
damage to the nervous system, the immune system, and damage
to internal organs such as the kidneys and liver. They have
also been linked to cancer, and health defects.
• Many of the stockpiles are small and
scattered, making it difficult to contain and control them.
In some cases, the chemicals are stored unsafely and are
leaking into the environment. Most stockpiles are situated
near water, as that is where most agriculture takes place.
The FAO has documented cases where the water relied on for
drinking by local people has become contaminated. In other
places, the pesticides have contaminated soil in the area
where they are stored.
• Ratifying the Stockholm Convention
will help countries to deal with their stockpiles. The convention
requires that countries make lists of what is in their stockpiles.
Stockpiles containing Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs),
the chemicals listed for elimination under the Convention,
must be securely stored until they can be destroyed in an
environmentally sound manner.
• A program recently started by some
non-government and United Nations organizations, the “Africa
Stockpiles Program”, will give African countries additional
help to deal with their stockpiles. In October 2002, the
Global Environment Facility (GEF) pledged US$25 million
to the program. A condition of funding will be ratification
of the global Stockholm Convention.
THE NEXT PHASE – A LIVING CONVENTION
The entry into force of the Stockholm Convention
finishes one phase or work on dealing with Persistent Organic
Pollutants (POPs), and signals the start of a new phase.
The Convention does not just deal with the past, the twelve
substances that it identified for action, but also with
future potential threats of a similar nature. The convention
was designed to be able to respond to those new threats,
and to find new and better ways of dealing with the old
• Those countries which have ratified
the convention have the ability to make decisions at regular
meetings called “Conference of the Parties”.
The decisions they can make include:
1.Adding new POPs: The twelve pollutants chosen
for action by the Stockholm Convention have a long record
of harm to the environment and people’s health. They
have already been banned in some countries. There are several
other substances that did not make the list, but may prove
to just as harmful. The Stockholm Convention allows countries
that have ratified the Convention to propose adding new
substances to the list of those targeted for ultimate elimination.
2. Defining best techniques and technologies:
In trying to dispose of pollutants identified under the
Convention, countries that have ratified are obliged to
use the best methods and technologies. What those “best
available techniques and best environmental practices”
might be are not yet defined.
• There are some immediate obligations
for countries that have ratified. Perhaps the most important
is that they have two years from the date that the Convention
enters into force to develop an action plan on how to start
getting rid of POPs. This can be done separately, or with
other countries in a region.
• Under the action plan, each country
must work out how much of each of the POPs identified it
is currently releasing, and must review its laws and policies
to see if they are up to the task of meeting obligations
to reduce and eliminate those POPs.
• Every five years, each country must
report on the effectiveness of its plan.
• In many countries, non-government
organizations, such as environmental groups, or health organizations
helped persuade their governments to take part in the Stockholm
Convention, and also helped to provide information on POPs
to the people of the country. The Convention recognizes
that contribution, and encourages countries to provide opportunities
for public participation at the national level in providing
input on the implementation of the Convention.