The Rotterdam Convention

 

The text of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade was adopted on 10 September 1998 by a Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.The Convention entered into force on 24 February 2004.

The objectives of the Convention are:

  • to promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among Parties in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals in order to protect human health and the environment from potential harm;
  • to contribute to the environmentally sound use of those hazardous chemicals, by facilitating information exchange about their characteristics, by providing for a national decision-making process on their import and export and by disseminating these decisions to Parties.

The Convention creates legally binding obligations for the implementation of the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure. It built on the voluntary PIC procedure, initiated by UNEP and FAO in 1989 and ceased on 24 February 2006.

Major Provisions:

The Convention covers pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted for health or environmental reasons by Parties and which have been notified by Parties for inclusion in the PIC procedure. One notification from each of two specified regions triggers consideration of addition of a chemical to Annex III of the Convention, Severely hazardous pesticide formulations that present a hazard under conditions of use in developing countries or countries with economies in transition may also be nominated for inclusion in Annex III.

There are 40 chemicals listed in Annex III of the Convention and subject to the PIC procedure, including 25 pesticides, 4 severely hazardous pesticide formulations and 11 industrial chemicals. Many more chemicals are expected to be added in the future. The Conference of the Parties decides on the inclusion of new chemicals.
Once a chemical is included in Annex III, a "decision guidance document" (DGD) containing information concerning the chemical and the regulatory decisions to ban or severely restrict the chemical for health or environmental reasons, is circulated to all Parties.

Parties have nine months to prepare a response concerning the future import of the chemical. The response can consist of either a final decision (to allow import of the chemical, not to allow import, or to allow import subject to specified conditions) or an interim response. Decisions by an importing country must be trade neutral (i.e., apply equally to domestic production for domestic use as well as to imports from any source).

The import decisions are circulated and exporting country Parties are obligated under the Convention to take appropriate measure to ensure that exporters within its jurisdiction comply with the decisions.

The Convention promotes the exchange of information on a very broad range of chemicals. It does so through:

  • the requirement for a Party to inform other Parties of each national ban or severe restriction of a chemical;
  • the possibility for Party which is a developing country or a country in transition to inform other Parties that it is experiencing problems caused by a severely hazardous pesticide formulation under conditions of use in its territory;
  • the requirement for a Party that plans to export a chemical that is banned or severely restricted for use within its territory, to inform the importing Party that such export will take place, before the first shipment and annually thereafter;
  • the requirement for an exporting Party, when exporting chemicals that are to be used for occupational purposes, to ensure that an up-to-date safety data sheet is sent to the importer; and
  • labeling requirements for exports of chemicals included in the PIC procedure, as well as for other chemicals that are banned or severely restricted in the exporting country.

How does it work?

The Players

Parties and their Designated National Authorities (DNAs) – Parties are countries or regional economic integration organizations that have ratified, accepted, approved or acceded to the Convention. Each Party must designate one or more national authorities, which are the primary contact points for matters related to the operation of the Convention and are authorized to perform the administrative functions required by the Convention.

Conference of the Parties (COP) - The Conference of the Parties oversees the operation of the Convention and makes decisions regarding amendments to the Convention, including the addition of chemicals to Annex III.

Chemical Review Committee (CRC) - The Chemical Review Committee is a subsidiary body of the COP. Its members are government designated experts in chemicals management. Its responsibilities include reviewing notifications and proposals from Parties, and making recommendations to the COP on the addition of chemicals to Annex III.The requirement for a Party to inform other Parties of each ban or severe restriction on a chemical it implements nationally

Secretariat - The Secretariat for the Rotterdam Convention is provided jointly by FAO and UNEP. The functions of the Secretariat include making administrative arrangements for meetings of the COP and its subsidiary bodies, verifying information accompanying notifications and proposals, disseminating import responses provided by the Parties, facilitating assistance to developing country Parties, facilitating information exchange between Parties and ensuring coordination with other international organizations.

The Mechanism

To achieve its objectives the Convention includes two key provisions, namely the Prior Informed Consent ( PIC) procedure and information exchange.

The Prior Informed Consent ( PIC) procedure – The PIC procedure is a mechanism for formally obtaining and disseminating the decisions of importing Parties as to whether they wish to receive future shipments of those chemicals listed in Annex III of the Convention and for ensuring compliance with these decisions by exporting Parties.

The PIC Procedure is a mechanism for formally obtaining and disseminating the decisions of importing Parties as to whether they wish to receive future shipments of those chemicals listed in Annex III of the Convention and for ensuring compliance with these decisions by exporting Parties.

For each of the chemicals listed in Annex III and subject to the PIC procedure a decision guidance document (DGD) is prepared and sent to all Parties. The DGD is intended to help governments assess the risks connected with the handling and use of the chemical and make more informed decisions about future import and use of the chemical, taking into account local conditions.

All Parties are required to take a decision as to whether or not they will allow future import of each of the chemicals in Annex III of the Convention. These decisions, known as import responses, are sent to the Secretariat by the DNA. A listing of the import responses given for each chemical subject to the PIC procedure is circulated by the Secretariat to all DNAs every six months via the PIC Circular. Import decisions taken by Parties must be trade neutral, that is, if the Party decides not to accept imports of a specific chemical, it must also stop domestic production of the chemical for domestic use and refuse imports from any source, including from non-parties.

All exporting Parties are required to ensure that exports of chemicals subject to the PIC procedure do not occur contrary to the decision of each importing Party. They should ensure that import responses published in the PIC Circular are immediately communicated to their exporters, industry and any other relevant authorities, such as the Department of Customs.

Information Exchange - The Convention facilitates information exchange among Parties for a very broad range of potentially hazardous chemicals. The Convention requires each Party to notify the Secretariat when taking a domestic regulatory action to ban or severely restrict a chemical. A developing country Party or a Party with an economy in transition that is experiencing problems caused by a severely hazardous pesticide formulation may report such problems to the Secretariat. All Parties receive summaries of these notifications and proposals on a regular basis via the PIC Circular. When a chemical that is banned or severely restricted by a Party is exported from its territory, that Party must notify each individual importing Party before the first shipment and annually thereafter. Exports of banned or severely restricted chemicals, as well as chemicals subject to the PIC procedure, are to be appropriately labeled and accompanied by basic health and safety information in the form of a safety data sheet.

Last Updated ( Monday, 11 January 2010 )