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Benefits of Mainstreaming the Basel Convention and Developing Capacities to Implement the Convention

Integrating Environment and Development

Sustainable development entails the integration of economic, social and environmental objectives of a country in order to maximize human well-being for the present generation without compromising that of future generations.

The current emphasis of development policy is on the reduction of poverty, protection and improvement of human health, economic development and market reform. Effective implementation of the Basel Convention can contribute towards meeting many elements of the development agenda. Indeed, it is arguable that the broader sustainable development objectives cannot fully be met without addressing those issues that the Basel Convention aims to address.

The critical challenge is to integrate responses to global threats from hazardous wastes into national social and economic development polices at the international, national, sectoral and local level. This can be done by (1) raising awareness of impacts, (2) linking or coordinating the policy-making process across the international, national, sectoral and local level, and (3) coordinating planning and budget allocations at the national, local or sectoral level.

Environmentally sound recycling and material recovery can make a positive contribution to sustainable development in terms of reducing pressure on virgin materials, safeguarding landscapes from expanding mining activities or by reducing the environmental problems and economic costs associated with the disposal of wastes and hazardous wastes.

Poverty Reduction

The protection and preservation of natural resources upon which people rely for food, water, fodder, fuel, shelter and their livelihood, may be promoted by the effective implementation of the Basel Convention. The poorer members of the population particularly rely on the availability of such natural resources, lacking the means to find alternative sources to maintain their livelihood.

In addition, ESM of wastes may also have beneficial effects on human health, reducing disease and illness and, by so doing, enhancing the capacity to undertake gainful employment. Human health: reduction of mortality and combating disease

Unsound management and dumping of wastes can have significant impacts upon the health of the local population. Such impacts can range from direct exposure to poisons and carcinogens, to introduction of hazardous chemicals that have leaked into the soil and ground water and into the food chain.

The management of healthcare wastes poses a particular challenge. The unsafe disposal of healthcare wastes such as used medical equipment, as well as of obsolete stocks of pharmaceuticals, expose the general public to high risk of disease. Environmentally sound management of medical wastes, as well as other hazardous wastes, can prevent the spread of disease, improve human health and reduce mortality rates.

Global partnerships for development

The Basel Convention is an instrument that enables and requires the effective coordination of local, national, regional and global environmental policies for its effective implementation.

Such coordination is required not only with regard to policy-making, but also with capacity-building and the technical aspects of implementation.

The Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention has recognized that capacity building should be accomplished in partnership, between interested countries, regional and international institutions, agencies and other bodies. Such partnerships should engage stakeholders from both recipient and donor countries, as well as other stakeholders from both the private sector and civil society.

Developing markets

Reuse and recycling services may help to increase employment opportunities, for example, in the collection, separation and recycling of materials, and may provide a valuable source of raw materials which may be of benefit to the wider economy. Currently, in many countries, such activities are frequently undertaken by the informal sector.

Effective planning, taking into account the lifecycle approach, and promoting environmentally sound practices for the management of wastes, could have economic benefits.

In addition, consistent with the obligations under the Basel Convention, there is increasing emphasis in the international community that wastes should only be shipped for disposal (of whatever nature of disposal process, including recycling) to a destination where they can be managed in a manner consistent with ESM. If a country chooses to engage in the waste management industry, and wishes to import wastes for that purpose, it is likely that this sector will only develop sustainably if the country can demonstrate that it will manage such wastes in an environmentally sound manner.


Effective implementation of the Basel Convention requires that enforcement agencies, including customs, are provided with the necessary skills, knowledge and facilities to monitor shipments of hazardous wastes, and to detect illegal shipments of such wastes.

Addressing such aspects of implementation of the Basel Convention brings with it two important benefits. Firstly, enhanced detection of illegal shipments prevents improper disposal of hazardous substances; illegal shipments are those most likely to be disposed of in a manner that can later pose risks to human health and the environment. Secondly, the skills gained by enforcement agencies serve to promote their overall capacity to regulate shipments. For example, the investigative skills needed to detect and prevent smuggling of toxic and chemical substances that could pose a threat to security. Similarly, expertise in the handling and management of hazardous waste will enhance the handling and management of other dangerous substances.

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