The Africa Institute for Environmentally Sound Management of Hazardous &Other Wastes; Environment Department briefing


27 May 2008
Chairperson: Mr L Zita (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism gave a presentation on the establishment of a permanent centre in South Africa for the Africa Institute for the Environmentally Sound Management of Hazardous and Other Waste. This followed the ratification of the Basel Convention by South Africa. She gave a background to the matter, noting that there had been an interim centre for five years, but that a permanent centre would now be established, to be staffed initially with one professional and one support staff member. It was hoped that the ownership would be more evenly distributed, and the documentation was still being drawn, for the Council meeting in August, during which a Council Chairman would be elected. Membership fees would be collected from the member countries and potential donors had been approached for, and had indicated their willingness to give, sponsorship. Members raised questions around the hosting, and it was queried whether the hosting should not rotate, whether persistent organic pollutants would be dealt with at this permanent Centre, the incentives in place to get the other 21 countries to ratify, and the reasons for the different fees for the different countries. Members also enquired how this Basel Convention and establishment of the Centre tied in with the Bamoko Convention, and some expressed their disquiet that the Bamako Convention was not ratified by South Africa. Because the issues were too broad for this Department alone, it was decided, after discussion, that the Department would facilitate a meeting between the Committee, the Minister, this Department and the Departments of Trade and Industry (with a suggestion from a Member that Department of Science and Technology also be included ) to thoroughly address all issues and consider the interests addressed in each Convention. A report back would be given to the Committee.

Meeting report

Committee Business: adoption of Minutes of 6 March
The Minutes of 6 March were adopted, subject to a correction, because Mr Julies was recorded as having moved in favour of the vote although he was not present.

Africa Institute For The Environmentally Sound Management Of Hazardous And Other Wastes (The Institute); Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) Briefing
Ms Judy Beaumont, Acting DDG: International Cooperation Unit, DEAT, gave a presentation on the Africa Institute for the Environmentally Sound Management Of Hazardous And Other Wastes (referred to as the Centre). She explained that the Basel Convention’s aim was to minimise hazardous waste, and particularly the trans-boundary movement of waste. It was explained that in Africa there were five Centres established: namely in South Africa, Egypt, Senegal, Nigeria and Kenya. Lesotho was also becoming more involved.

An interim Centre, set up as a South African institution, had operated for five  years and established 24 training centres. In 2006 the decision to liquidate the interim centre was taken, and instead to establish a permanent centre.

Ms Beaumont explained that there were three conventions, Rotterdam, Stockholm and Basel. They had been working independently but were now trying to work together. There was recognition of the  importance of regional conventions. It was explained that South Africa was the host country for the Southern Centre and would provide, over and above the R300 000 already allocated, stationary and accommodation. The Basel Convention was particularly important because of the dumps being created, for instance in the Cote D’Ivoire. On 24 and 25 April the task force involved in the Africa Institute had met with to determine how the permanent Centre would be established and run.  The ownership of the Centre was hoped to be more evenly distributed. All 21 countries still needed to be briefed on the Centre. The documents that needed to be agreed upon by the Council were being drawn up for the Council meeting in August in South Africa. A Council Chairman would also be elected at that meeting. The membership fees were being collected to get the process under way. Potential donors were being approached for funding for the three-year programme to get the Centre off its feet. From a human resources perspective, the interim Centre was too heavy. The permanent Centre would have one professional and one support staff member to get the Centre onto a strong footing. It was hoped that the increase in countries involved would  increase the funding for the permanent Centre.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) asked if the fact of South Africa hosting was a permanent arrangement.

Ms Beaumont explained that the hosting in South Africa would be a permanent arrangement.

Ms Chalmers asked where persistent organic pollutants were being considered in the Centres.

Ms Beaumont replied that persistent organic pollutants (POPS) would fall under the ambit of the Centre once it had agreed to the Stockholm Convention. To do this, a proposal that the centre should like to include POPS would be made at the next meeting.

Ms Chalmers asked about the incentives in place to get the other 21 countries to ratify, as also the reasons for the different fees in place for the different countries.

Ms Beaumont said that the main incentives were tied to the recognition of the need to deal with the waste.

She said that the contributions of the different countries would calculated using a United Nations formula, and each would contribute according to their place on the scale. This would need to be further investigated once the Centre was up and running. There was a legal agreement to facilitate the implementation of the Rotterdam and Basel conventions. Other regions had similar centres, such as South America.

Mr A Mokoena (ANC) asked if this was a duplication of the Bamako convention.

Ms Beaumont explained that South Africa had not ratified the Bamako convention due to the concern with the potential of trade in waste. The Bamako Convention banned all waste import into Africa. South Africa and Nigeria had felt they may have an interest in importing waste for recycling in the future, thus the Centre would not deal with the Bamako Convention.

The Acting Chairperson stated that it appeared that it had been problematic to get the interim structure going, and he wondered if, in order to create the permanent Centre, the interim Centre would not need to be resuscitated

Ms M Ntuli (ANC) asked what this Centre would be adding that the interim Centre had not done.

Ms Beaumont explained that the reason the temporary Centre had been established was to deal with the chemicals while ratification of the agreement was pending. The permanent structure would not be a Section 21 company, as it would be set up under the international agreement, and not the South African law. and would fall under the international agreement not SA law.

Mr Mokoena suggested that the Centre should rotate between the different countries to involve them more.

Ms Beaumont commented that the proposal of rotation would make sense from the point of view of establishing some sense of ownership, but practically it would not work. In order to built institutional capacity there was a need to form a strong base and that could not happen with rotation.

Ms Chalmers asked what the initial priorities of the Centre were, and asked how the Centre was conceived to function, as she thought that there would be considerable staffing and expertise needed.

The Acting Chairperson asked what would be the main difference between the permanent centre and interim centre that would motivate the interests of the participants to give their full support, so that this Centre could succeed where the last had failed.

Ms Beaumont explained that there were two differences. The first was that in the interim Centre there was no political buy in. For the permanent Centre a source of annual funding from the ratified members would be received.  There was a much greater sense of ownership for the permanent Centre. Secondly, the importance of dealing with chemicals was increasing, and thus the permanent Centre was taking a higher profile role where the interim centre had not. She explained that the Centre would need to start slowly. Membership fees from five countries would come in the first year, and increase thereafter. For the first year, the priority would lie in training, awareness raising and information trading. From there a three to five year strategic plan would be decided upon. She also explained that donors had expressed an interest, since the interim Centre had been known as the best regional Centre. It was a flagship example and all donors had been concerned about its closure, but understood why it had to happen. These donors were still interested in being donors for the permanent Centre.

Ms Chalmers asked if the other regional centres were up and running and if South Africa could learn from them, particularly South America.

Mr Mokoena felt that the Bamako issue should have been central to the workshop, and reasons should have been given as to why the interim Centre had been disestablished.

Ms Beaumont agreed that the Bamako Convention was an important question that should have been raised at the workshop. The question whether Bamako should be ratified was an important strategic question and required a discussion with the Department of Trade and Industry, due to the potential business and trade interests in this area. That discussion went beyond DEAT, and the difficulties between trade and environmental interests were slowing this decision. It was not useful to simply ban trade in waste. It was agreed that a full discussion to examine all issues should take place between the Departments and then a report must be made back to this Committee.

Mr Mokoena said that he disagreed with the non-ratification of the Bamako Convention. Africa had been very clear through Bamako that it did not want the importing of waste to the Continent. He felt that politically it would be disastrous not to ratify the Bamako Convention.
Mr J Durand, Parliamentary Liaison Officer, DEAT, suggested that the Committee should arrange a new meeting with the Department of Trade and Industry. He recognised the sensitivity around trade of hazardous waste, but suggested that there may be importance attached to the trading of waste, and this trading should not be stopped without understanding the full implications.

The Acting Chairperson suggested that the Department should have a joint meeting with the Department of Trade and Industry and then re-present to the Committee so the Committee would have a better idea of what they were dealing with, and better understand why Bamako was not ratified when it was an African incentive.

Mr Mokoena suggested that the Department of Science and Technology should also be included in this meeting. He also asked for clarification of the meeting in Basel, as to who would be there and what would be discussed. He did not want the feelings of the Committee to be misrepresented.

Ms Ntuli asked if the loopholes of not ratifying Bamako lay in awareness and if there was a strategy to close these loopholes.

Mr Durand clarified that the Basel, Bamako and Stockholm conventions were not contradictory but they concentrated on different things.

The Acting Chairperson asked why Bamako had not been ratified.

Ms Ntuli asked what are the environmental issues around trade were.

Ms Beaumont felt that the Bamako and Basel conventions should be separated. The difference between the two conventions was that Basel put in place measures to control movement of hazardous waste, whereas Bamako banned movement. She explained that the Basel convention was more sustainable. She explained that if the Basel Convention was ratified the Africa Institute would be the vehicle of implementation. The African group had been pressurising SA to ratify the Convention so the Centre may be established. The African group participating in the Basel Convention had decided that the best way to deal with the Convention was to split the centres into the North, South, East and West of Africa, with Nigeria convening the centres overall.

Ms Chalmers believed that it was very important to get this Institute up and running but that waiting for the ratification of Bamako would take too much time.

Mr Mokoena countered that he would be opposed to quickly ratifying a Convention and regretting the decision later.

The Acting Chairperson asked for agreement that the Department should arrange an urgent meeting with the dti and that the Committee would meet with the Minister and discuss the issues in study groups.
Ms Beaumont asked for clarification if the Study group with the Minister would deal with the Bamako and Basel conventions as well.

The Acting Chairperson confirmed that it would.

The meeting was adjourned.


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