Transboundary Transfers of Toxic Wastes and Their Effect on Human Rights


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Following the 1986-1987 scandals triggered by the dumping of toxic waste in Afric­an countries and the dramatic effects of this dumping on both the environment and the health of the local populations, the African governments, under the aegis of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), unilaterally condemned it, characterizing it as “a crime against Africa and the African populations”. A year later, the international community followed their example by adopting, on 22 March 1989, the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. Affirming the necessity of protecting human health and the environment from the risks caused by dangerous wastes, this convention constitutes an international declaration of awareness of the problems linked to transboundary movements of hazardous wastes. In the 1990s, there followed the adoption of numerous international, regional and national instruments, attempting to regulate these movements (v. Chapter I). Faced with the difficulties encountered by poor countries in trying to control and manage waste, the international community, at the initiative of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention, mobilized to provide technical assistance to these countries.

In spite of these efforts, movements of hazardous wastes between rich and poor countries continue into and within countries with little economic power, all under new and varied manifestations: fraudulent “recycling” programs on their territory, relocation to them of polluting industries, the “eco-mafia” etc. These movements are the cause of violations of human rights such as the right to life and the right to health (to cite only two), even though human rights are not mentioned explicitly in any of the ratified conventions dealing with the matter. Given the seriousness and magnitude of the phenomenon, the former Commission on Human Rights ad­dressed the problem and adopted, on 8 March 1995, Resolution 1995/81 creating a mandate for a special rapporteur on the “adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights” (v. Chapter II).

The purpose of this critical report is to analyze the current state of transboundary movement and dumping of toxic products and wastes as well as its evolution, and to present the principal measures taken in this area at the international and re­gional (notably African) levels. The report also presents the mandate and the activit­ies of the special rapporteur. We would like to thank the two first mandate holders whose reports have contributed greatly to this report.


Annex 1 – Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (5 May 1992)

Annex 2 – Status of Ratification of Basel Convention (Basel Convention Webpage)
Annex 4 – Status of Ratification of Basel Convention Ban Amendment (Basel Convention Webpage)

Annex 7 – Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (revised version 2005), and Rotterdam Convention Website HERE

Annex 8 – Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

Annex 12 – Norms on the responsibilities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises with regard to human rights (adopted by the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in 2003) and its Commentary (Sub-Commission, 2003)

Categories Critical reports Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Environmental justice HUMAN RIGHTS PUBLICATIONS
Tags Toxic wastes
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