Press Releases

    13 December 2002


    NEW YORK, 12 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the Sixth Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, delivered on his behalf by Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Geneva, 12 December 2002:

    Hazardous wastes are not like any other substances or products: they require permanent vigilance to ensure that they do not cause harm to human health or contaminate the environment. The volume of hazardous wastes -- a yearly global deluge of some 150 million tons -- is simply not sustainable.

    As Parties to the Basel Convention, you and your partners from intergovernmental bodies, industry and civil society are to be commended for your efforts to address this challenge -- in particular for the help you are providing to developing countries and countries with economies in transition, which often lack the skills and equipment needed to manage hazardous and other wastes in an environmentally sound manner. Since wastes tend to follow the path of least resistance, efforts are also needed to ensure that they are disposed of, as far as is practicable and sound, as close as possible to where they were generated. But of course, the overall challenge we face concerns more than disposal. We must also minimize the quantity and hazardousness of wastes, including by improving the design of products and processes.

    Your gathering, just three months after the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, is especially timely. The Summit’s outcome has generated different assessments. That was inevitable, given the breadth of the agenda. But it is clear that Johannesburg identified concrete ways to accelerate the implementation of Agenda 21. The Summit also marked a major advance in forging partnerships; indeed, in some cases we are seeing confrontation give way to cooperation, and former adversaries becoming allies, working together on concrete, practical projects. Much of the conceptual confusion that had plagued sustainable development also appears to have been put to rest. The world now understands, more than ever before, that fighting poverty and protecting the environment are two sides of the same coin -- compatible, mutually reinforcing goals, rather than a zero-sum game.

    The Basel Convention is among the key instruments in the world’s quest for sustainable development. The United Nations will continue to support your work. In that spirit of partnership, please accept my best wishes for a successful conference.

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