Basel Convention

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was adopted on the 22nd of March 1989 by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Basel, Switzerland, as a response to the discovery of deposits of toxic wastes imported from abroad in Africa and other developing countries during the 1980s.

The tightening of environmental regulations in industrialized countries, brought by an awakening awareness of the danger caused by hazardous waste, led to an escalation of disposal costs. This in turn led operators to seek out cheaper disposal options for hazardous wastes in Eastern Europe and other developing countries. The main objective of the Basel Convention, negotiated at the end of the 1980s, was therefore to fight the so called “toxic trade” as well as to protect human health and the environment against the harmful effects of hazardous wastes.

The measures adopted in the Convention revolve around three main aims:

  • The reduction of hazardous waste generation;
  • Restrictions of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes except where it is perceived to be in accordance with the principles of environmentally sound management;
  • A regulatory system that applies to cases where transboundary movements are permissible.
The first aim is addressed through general provisions that require states to observe the fundamental principles of environmentally sound waste management.
The second purpose is designed to be attained through a number of specific prohibitions: hazardous wastes cannot be exported to Antarctica, to a state not party to the Basel Convention or to a party that has banned the import of hazardous wastes; in addition, parties may establish agreements concerning the management of wastes with both party and non-party states under the condition that the principles of non-discrimination and environmentally sound management are observed.

Lastly, the regulatory system requires that, before an export may take place, the authorities of the exporting state notify the authorities of the prospective state of import and transit, providing detailed information regarding the intended movement, that may only proceed after written consent is given by all states.

The Basel Convention also stresses the relevance of cooperation between parties, especially in the form of exchange of information. In the event of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes that have been carried out illegally, responsibility is attributed to one or more of the states involved and this often implies the employment of safety measures by the Convention, such as the re-import of the wastes into the state of generation.

Furthermore, the Basel Convention has established fourteen regional and sub-regional training centres regarding the management of hazardous wastes and the minimization of their generation in order to meet the needs of different regions and subregions.

Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes -20113644.pdf