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International conventions, agreements and bans have been adopted by governments around the world in the following areas:

  • Climate change
  • Bans on pharmaceuticals, pesticides/herbicides, ozone depleting substances and persistent organic pollutants
  • Pollution and hazardous materials
  • Wildlife, biodiversity and natural heritage
  • Labor and human rights

International conventions and agreements on climate change:

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1992. Encourages the stabilization of greenhouse gas (GHGs) concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.

Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1997. Sets binding reduction targets for 39 industrialized countries and the European Union for four greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and sulphur hexafluoride); requires other countries to commit to reducing emissions by an average of 5% of their 1990 baseline levels over a five-year period (2008 to 2012).

International bans on pharmaceuticals, pesticides/herbicides, ozone depleting substances and persistent organic pollutants:

UN Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, 1996 and 1998. Controls the use and trade of pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted.

UN Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, 1985. Establishes a framework for international efforts to protect the ozone layer by controlling human activities found to cause stratospheric ozone depletion through the use of chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs).

Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, 1987. Phases out the production and use of substances which deplete the ozone layer by requiring parties to commit to take action to reduce and eliminate emissions of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, carbon tetrachloride, methyl chloroform, hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), hydrobromofluorocarbons (HBFCs) and methyl bromide.

UN Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, 2001. Eliminates or reduces the release of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), which can be pesticides, industrial chemicals or by-products that remain intact for exceptionally long periods of time.

International conventions and agreements on pollution and hazardous materials:

International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) 1973 and 1978. Requires the minimization of accidental discharges of oil, noxious liquid, substances carried in bulk, harmful substances carried in packaged form, sewage, and garbage from ships to the marine environment.

UN Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and Their Disposal, 1989. Seeks to minimize hazardous waste generation and regulates the transport and disposal of hazardous substances.

African Union Bamako Convention on the Ban of the Import into Africa and the Control of Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes Within Africa, 1991. Reduces the generation of hazardous wastes and prohibits the import of any hazardous (including radioactive) waste.

London Protocol to the Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1996. Prohibits all dumping in the marine environment except for acceptable wastes such as dredged material, sewage sludge, fish wastes, vessels and platforms, inert, inorganic geological material (such as mining wastes), organic material of natural origin, bulky items (comprising iron, steel and concrete), and carbon dioxide streams from carbon dioxide capture processes for sequestration.

International conventions and agreements on wildlife, biodiversity and natural heritage:

African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, 1968. Requires parties to adopt measures necessary to ensure conservation, utilization and development of soil, water, flora and fauna in accordance with scientific principles; requires parties to use resources wisely, manage populations and habitats, control hunting and fishing, and prohibit the use of poisons, explosives and automatic weapons in hunting.

Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar Convention), 1971. Promotes the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation.

UN Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, 1972. Protects unique natural and cultural areas on the World Heritage List of sites of exceptional cultural or natural value.

IUCN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), 1973. Ensures that international trade of flora and fauna does not threaten the survival of more than 33,000 listed species of animals and plants.

UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (Bonn Convention), 1979. Requires parties to protect terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species threatened with extinction by conserving or restoring the places where they live, mitigating obstacles to migration, and controlling other endangering factors.

UN Convention on Biological Diversity (Biodiversity Convention), 1992. Promotes the conservation of biological diversity; sustainable use of the components of biological diversity; and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.

International conventions and agreements on labor and human rights:

UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. Promotes human rights, social progress, better standards of life, and larger freedom for all people.

UN Convention Concerning Forced or Compulsory Labor, 1957. Eliminates all forms of forced or compulsory labor by requiring parties to commit to taking measures to abolish forced or compulsory labor.

UN Convention Concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation, 1958. Eliminates all forms of discrimination associated with employment, including hiring practices and equal treatment in the workplace.

International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965. Promotes the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination and encourages understanding among all races.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 1979. Commits parties to end discrimination against women by incorporating gender equality into domestic legislation, repealing all discriminatory provisions in laws, and enacting new provisions to guard against discrimination against women.

African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights, 1981. Promotes and protects human rights and basic freedoms in the African continent.

UN Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries (C169), 1989. Recognizes the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples and encourages the involvement of indigenous and tribal peoples and their traditional organizations in the planning and implementation of development projects.

ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, 1998. Commits parties to respect and promote principles and rights including freedom of association and recognition of the right to collective bargaining, elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor, abolition of child labor, and elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

UN Convention Concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor, 1999. Prohibits and eliminates the worst forms of child labor, including all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, commercial sexual exploitation of children, and the use or procurement of a child by others for illegal activities such as for trafficking or production of drugs.

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007. Sets standards for the treatment of indigenous peoples to eliminate human rights violations against indigenous people and assist them in combating discrimination and marginalization.


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