30 Apr 2020

Venue: Live | Webex Event & Facebook

Organization: Geneva Environment Network

The twelfth meeting of the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG-12) of the Basel Convention cannot be as a face-to-face meeting in Geneva, and will be held by electronic means from 22 to 25 June 2020. The meeting may run beyond 25 June (but no later than 5 July 2020). The OEWG is one of the one of the subsidiary bodies of the Basel Convention, which overarching objective is to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes.

About the GENeva Environment Dialogues

The GENeva Environment Dialogues’ special COVID-19 series discusses the impacts of the pandemic on the global environmental agenda. Experts are concerned that the world is losing critical time to turn around alarming trends in biodiversity loss, climate change, sound management of chemicals and other environmental threats.

The series addresses the following topics:

  • The impact of the crisis on the invited organization activities
  • The response of the invited organization to the COVID-19 crisis
  • The impacts on the preparations of the conferences and negotiations they are hosting
  • New schedules and programmes for these conferences and negotiations


Facilitators: GEN Team


Executive Director, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions


Senior Policy and Strategy Advisor, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions


Chief Governance Branch, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions



Moderated by: Diana Rizzolio, Geneva Environment Network

The Geneva Environment Network has the pleasure to welcome you today virtually for a new session of the GENeva Environment Dialogues, focused on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global environmental agenda. This new series of events will take place bi-weekly and is aimed at keeping you informed on the latest developments of major upcoming negotiations.

Those who generally attend our events in Geneva know that, although our events are broadcasted live, we like to organize physical meetings, where our guests can have informal discussions with other guests or with the experts involved. Unfortunately, most of us are closed at home for a few more weeks or months, and therefore we reconnect with our usual public and some new guests through these virtual events.

Today we have invited the Joint secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions to brief us on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on their activities and their response to the crisis. We will also discuss more in detail the preparations of the 12th meeting of the Open-end working group of the Basel Convention, which is still scheduled to take place in June this year. The Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions was among the firsts to raise the problem of waste management in these challenging times.

Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions and COVID-19

Rolph Payet, Executive Director, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions Secretariat

  • We are living in unprecedented times
  • Our hearts and thoughts are with the Parties and colleagues who have been on the frontline of this global pandemic
  • The BRS Secretariat has been busy setting up remote work to continue the deliver on our mandate – looking into Rules of Procedure, processes, online options, logistics, …
  • Must deliver results ahead of the COPs in 2021
  • Impact of COVID-19 on face-to-face meetings that had to be cancelled and rescheduled
  • If we don’t manage wastes efficiently and safely, health consequences will follow
  • Dealing with this issue is critically important
  • What are we doing to support Parties?
    • Cross branch team within the Secretariat to look at the relationship between COVID-19 and POPs as well as COVID-19 and waste
  • Attention, for instance, on incinerators not equipped with the proper mitigating measures related to POPs, which could be used to dispose of healthcare waste
  • Must ensure that chemicals used in disinfectants are safe

Maria Cristina Cardenas-Fischer, Senior Policy and Strategy Advisor, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions Secretariat

  • BRS Secretariat is active in working to respond to COVID-19
  • Impact of COVID-19 on face-to-face meetings that had to be cancelled and rescheduled- some suspended, some held virtually
  • BRS Secretariat press release: waste management is essential in the fight against COVID-19 – link to existing guidance under the Basel Convention and to the work that China has undertaken in waste management
  • Short-term
    • Develop fact-sheets on transboundary movement of waste, healthcare and biomedical waste, household waste, plastic waste, and on case studies on countries dealing with chemicals and waste issues
    • Working with UNEP, GEF and the Minamata Convention on Mercury to ensure activities are synchronized and mutually supportive
    • BRS contribution to UNEP’s Earth School with a lesson on plastics on 13 May
    • BRS and partners continuation of the MOOC on electronic waste
    • Plastic Waste Partnership Photo Contest with deadline on 30 September
    • Special Programme extended deadline for application until 4 September – opportunity for further implementing BRS Conventions
  • Long-term
    • Creation of a dedicated page on the website related to COVID-19 and its impacts, including a part on technical assistance
    • Online training activities

12th meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group of the Basel Convention

David Ogden, Chief Governance Branch, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions Secretariat

  • The network of UN Secretariats is interlinked
  • BRS Secretariat is going ahead with planned meetings, switching to online meetings
  • OEWG-12 scheduled on 25 June 2020 in Geneva
    • Not possible to have it face-to-face
    • Not possible to postpone the meeting (conflicting schedule, …)
  • Need to ensure intersessional work continues towards the COP
  • On 9 April, OEWG Bureau agreed on a virtual meeting
  • A virtual meeting is a challenge
  • The format focuses on having decisions that enable intersessional work to continue
  • Invite parties to provide comments on drafts and then on the final product
  • Two parts: online session + email correspondence
  • Maximum duration is 2 weeks
  • Online session – 22 June
  • First: procedural matters and organizational work
  • Second: substantive agenda
    • Parties can make statements
    • Parties are invited to draft decisions and submit them
    • Parties have 48h for proposals of modification and objections by email
    • After that period, resolutions without objections will be adopted
    • The process is repeated until an agreement is reached or decisions are postponed to COP15 in 2021
  • Pre-registered Parties are registered for online session
  • Meeting documents will be translated in the 6 UN languages
  • Statements can be made in any of the 6 UN languages
  • Correspondence and online sessions will be in English only
  • BRS Secretariat will be starting webinars in English and Spanish next week


Sirine Rached, GAIA
How will fairness be ensured between anglophone and non-anglophone parties to provide comments during the 48h windows? Is there an opportunity for more time and/or funding for translators for parties/or accepting comments in several languages?

Carlos Garcia, Permanent Mission of Peru
Will there be interpretation and translation into all official languages during the proposed OEWG virtual session? The Secretariat may wish to consult with other Geneva organizations, such as WHO, which allow simultaneous interpretation during its virtual meetings.

Chiara Tellarini
Thank you very much for the interesting presentation. I’m very new to this, would that be possible to explore more in detail the topics that will be covered in the Convention?

Giulia Carlini, CIEL
Is the Secretariat going to facilitate the organization of regional online meetings in preparation for the OEWG-12?


D. Ogden

  • Difficult decision to hold the meeting virtually
  • We will look into the possibility of providing simultaneous translation, but it will be difficult
  • We are trying to provide documents and decisions in the 6 UN languages
  • Changes to documents will be in “track change” mode, to facilitate comprehension
  • It is not optimal, but it is the best solution at the moment

R. Payet

  • These are unprecedented times
  • Time zones are a big constraint
  • Opportunity for us to move ahead with work that can be done in an online mode, but not everything can be completed online at OEWG
  • We invite partners to share with us ideas and technologies to make simultaneous translation possible
  • Documents will be in all 6 UN languages
  • Webinars will be organized in preparation for OEWG to brief new delegates, along with specific regional training sessions on the new mode of working and to ask questions on Rules of Procedure, logistics, comments, …
  • We will also test connectivity, since different countries have different levels of connectivity

D. Ogden

  • More information on the meeting is on the BRS website
  • Participants in the meeting will have access to the participants’ list with contacts to allow for private consultations
  • 3 baskets:
    • Strategic Framework under the Basel Convention, tracking progress over 10 years
    • Technical issues – Environmentally Sound Management of chemicals, POPs, E-waste, plastic waste, national reporting, custom code
    • Legal issues – Implementation and Compliance Committee on a Party by Party basis, review of the 11 Annexes
  • Partnerships: on plastic waste, on household waste, …

Closing remarks

R. Payet

  • We are looking into new technologies and approaches to make virtual meetings better
  • Share with us comments and opinions
  • We are looking forward for successful COPs in 2021
  • We are going to address impacts of COVID-19 on countries, particularly in relation to POPs and wastes, engaging Parties in the process

Questions not directly addressed during the live stream

Giulia Carlini, CIEL
Will there be opportunities for parties and observer to interact with each other? Will they have their contacts shared online?

D. Ogden: We will plan to prepare a draft list of participants that includes contact information that would be available on the password protected website. Participants can communicate with each other through the usual means like email. We are not sure that participants will be comfortable sharing their portable phone numbers (for WhatApp) or skypenames.



The event was live on Facebook.