IPEN Statement To The COP 1 of the Stockholm Convention

By Romeo Quijano, IPEN Southern Co-Chair

Thank you, Mr. President, for giving us this opportunity. I speak as Co-chair of the International POPs Elimination Network or IPEN.

We view the Stockholm Convention as a promise to take actions needed to protect global health and the environment. We celebrate this First Conference of the Parties as one more significant step towards keeping that promise.

Our network sincerely offers cooperation in working out implementation measures leading to a toxics free future. Such cooperation will certainly be ensured by keeping the Convention’s promise of full access to information and transparency and public participation in implementation activities, including the design and application of National Implementation Plans.
We stand ready to help develop and undertake speedy and effective measures to reduce or eliminate releases from intentional production and use of POPs as promised by the Convention, to consider wholistic alternatives and to promote substitutes that are not harmful to human health and the environment.

The Convention’s promise of “continuing minimization and, when feasible, ultimate elimination” of unintentional POPs is a critical guiding principle that needs to be considered in reviewing the proposed technical guidelines.We are ready to cooperate in further developing these guidelines to make them more responsive to developing country needs and to take more into account considerations of potential harm to public health and the environment. We believe parties and stakeholders need better opportunities to provide input and to review the results.

The Convention also promises to identify new POPs. We view this promise as an urgent matter and we congratulate countries who have already taken the first steps in fulfilling this promise. The inclusion of several substances widely used and known to have POPs characteristics, such as lindane, PCP, endosulfan, and PBDEs, among others, should be expedited, using the precautionary approach as a guiding principle in the review process. It would be highly desirable to add additional chemicals to the treaty, where applicable, in groups of chemicals with similar properties.

We appreciate the opportunities for capacity building made available to us and we look forward to the full realization of the Convention’s promise of financial and technical assistance to developing countries and countries with economies in transition.

Finally, I believe that the ultimate test is whether this Convention could help improve the lives of the most vulnerable communities. Benefits are hardly felt at the grassroots level where fundamental human rights are minimally, if at all, enjoyed, such as, the right to health and a healthful environment, the right to land and food, and the right to life itself. Unjust social structures that severely limit efforts to address specific problems like POPs remain. Power structures have hardly been tilted in favour of health and the environment.

If we ever hope to make a difference, I believe we need to go beyond the technicalities of the Convention. We need to transcend our formal representations and be just fellow human beings concerned about our common future. Promises cannot be kept just within the formal structures of power. The Stockholm Convention gives us a unique opportunity to make a difference. Let’s keep the promise and eliminate POPs.

Thank you very much.

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©heal toxics, 2003
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