CWIT & COP @ Geneva (2/2)

This is part 2/2 blog on the FP7-CWIT organized side event with the COP to Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, on 9 May 2015 in Geneva.

In the first part of this blog I shared a brief overview of the FP7-CWIT project and the Meetings of the Conferences of the Parties (COP) to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, held in Geneva during May 2015. In this second part of the blog I explain about my presentation on the main CWIT-recommendations – still very much work-in-progress – as well as about the first set of verbal and written feedback we received during the Saturday 9 May session, from our 80 person global expert audience. CWIT-consortium was present in Geneva with Ms. Vittoria Luda di Cortemiglia of UNICRI; Ms. Ioana Botezatu (The CWIT Coordinator), Ms. Emily Nash, Ms. Denitsa Dimitrova and Mr. Bogdan Ghenciu from the INTERPOL; and myself, Dr. Juha Hintsa of the Cross-border Research Association.

Drafted by the whole CWIT-consortium since the beginning of year 2015 by the whole CWIT-consortium, and ultimately architected by Dr. Jaco Huisman of UNU - the CWIT Scientific Coordinator – we now have 16 draft recommendations to reduce substandard treatment, the amount of illicit e-waste volumes, and the subsequent negative impacts for the environment, human health and economics -within Europe and also globally. The 16 draft recommendations are categorized under the following four main themes:

  • Theme 1: Collect more, prevent leakage and monitor performance;
  • Theme 2: Trading, treatment and the economics behind criminal behavior;
  • Theme 3: Robust and uniform legal framework and implementation; and
  • Theme 4: Best practices in enforcement and prosecution.

Let’s look next each theme in bit more detail, while also reflecting some of the instant feedback received from the global expert audience at the COP-meeting in Geneva.

Theme 1 - Collect more, prevent leakage and monitor performance – is all about preventing problems and improving collections in the early stages of the WEEE chain. In essence, there are four key mechanisms to improve today´s situation: (i) Prevention first like less appliances in the waste bin; (ii) More collection, thanks e.g. to increased consumer education; (iii) Stopping leakages, e.g. via enhanced security at collection points; and (iv) Better reporting and monitoring to improve supervision. This recommendation theme specifically deals with the improvement of actors’ behavior in order to increase official collection and reduce unreported flows of e-waste in the early stages in WEEE chain and thus to reduce the potential for illegal shipment, while enhancing recovery – or, “promoting circular economy” - of valuable natural resources. For this first theme, the COP-participants voted “Secure collection” as the most important single recommendation cluster, while still highlighting some concerns on the anticipated high costs to implement new security measures at collection points. Various COP-experts shared effective best practices: One COP-expert proposed “storage in lockable shipping containers” as a practical lower cost measure, while another one emphasized the importance of international benchmarking in exploring and discovering best security practices. Active involvement of NGOs was suggested by a third COP-expert as a key action to enhance security at collection – again a relatively low cost measure to improve today´s situation.

Theme 2 - Trading, treatment and the economics behind criminal behavior – focuses on following four action areas: (i) Improving the environmental performance of recycling and pre-processing in Europe specifically by ensuring quality of treatment by proper de-pollution of e-waste; (ii) Enhancing cooperation and communication between organizations involved in countering the illegal trade in WEEE, including police, customs and environmental authorities; (iii)Educating and professionalising the actors active in the reuse, refurbishing and charity organisations related to shipment of used EEE outside Europe; and (iv) Ensuring more effective and successful inspections and investigations by the various enforcement agencies, e.g. via improved risk assessments and intelligence led inspections; detection and inspection techniques; and equipment and knowledge. Regarding this second recommendation theme, the voting by the COP-participants was fairly equal across the four recommendation clusters - improving the economics of treatment still receiving the highest number of votes. The timescale on this to achieve tangible results was estimated to be anything between one and three years. At the same time, some explicitly highlighted the importance of “facilitation and capacity building in developing countries to have effective treatment”.

Theme 3 - Robust and uniform legal framework and implementation – plays an important role in the overall efforts to reduce illegal activities across the WEEE chain. Firstly, there are major problems today with non-accurate statistics, calling for much more accurate ones setting the basis for a proper evidence-based policy making on WEEE trade and management - the more accurate the statistics are and the more harmonized the definitions are, the more convincingly they highlight problem areas that call for further attention. Thus the first recommendation: “Improve waste codification”. Secondly, at present the non-harmonized guidelines for Law Enforcement Agencies lead to the situation where e-waste is not being identified as such during inspections, and information sharing is hampered due to different terminology, definitions, and interpretations. To address this, consistent guidelines need to be produced, maintained, and adopted by relevant national authorities. Thus the second recommendation: “Produce and maintain consistent guidelines”. Thirdly, there is a lack of adequate training of law enforcement officials underpinning the effective fight against e-waste related crimes. Increasing the amount and quality of training materials that is available for law enforcers, investigators, and prosecutors on e-waste matters, is a crucial step towards the “low crime WEEE trade and management” in the future. Thus the third recommendation: “Train authorities”. And fourthly, there is an urgent need to increase the risk of facing repercussions in e-waste crime and to dissuade potential e-waste offenders, thus the legislators should improve and harmonize (specifically across the European Union) the penalty systems with regards to e-waste crimes. Thus the fourth recommendation: “Harmonize and enhance penalty systems”. Here, the COP-participants voted “train the authorities” to be the top priority.

Theme 4 - Best practices in enforcement and prosecution – is all about (i) Enhancing international information management; (ii) Investing in capacity building for law enforcement agencies; (iii) Improving international co-operation among enforcement agencies; and (iv) Enhancing prosecution and sentencing capabilities. The votes of the COP-experts were more controversial on this theme than on any of the other three themes, varying across the board from “high importance”, to “medium” and even “low importance”. When it comes to information sharing, one of the COP-experts called for “global involvement … and development of advocacy”; while another one highlighted the relevance of “sustainable development and life-cycle concept”. When it comes to law enforcement capacity building, one COP-expert explained that “..regional networks are most effective… more use of the Basel regional centers (is important)”. At the same time, another COP-expert called for “customs and police to understand the (relevant) linkages..” Then, regarding improving international co-operation among enforcement agencies, one COP-expert simply stated that “this is the only way to succeed (in the future)”! Lastly, on prosecution and sentencing capabilities, references were made to “Scandinavian legislation” as a good practice by one COP-expert; while another expert had concerns about “donations and illegal e-waste” – again calling for better prosecution and sentencing capabilities across the WEEE chain.

… and this does it for the blog part 2 of 2 on the FP7-CWIT organized side event with the COP to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions – I hope that you have enjoyed reading it, and maybe learnt a few new aspects about the European and global fight against illegal trade and management of WEEE… I also take the opportunity to thank all the COP-experts for joining our session in Geneva, as well as for the valuable feedback they gave to us. Cheers, Juha

PS. Please join the FP7-CWIT Final Conference at INTERPOL, Lyon, France, on 25-26.6.2015. Registration is open at: http://www.cwitproject.eu/cwit-final-conference/

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