BAN Statement on StEP Program's Lack of Transparency and Refusal to Denounce E-Waste Trafficking
BAN Press Release
7 March 2007 (Seattle, USA) – The Seattle based toxic trade watchdog, Basel Action Network (BAN), today voiced grave concern that the newly launched StEP program, which is being called a multi-stakeholder United Nations program (standing for "Solving the e-Waste Problem"), has very pointedly not denounced the global dumping of electronic waste on developing countries. Indeed the StEP program has even failed to note that most of the trade in electronic waste currently taking place globally is illegal under the United Nations' Basel Convention and has failed to condemn this massive illegal trade. According to BAN, while the program has many excellent aspects, the program seems unfortunately to be designed to promote the continued use of cheap foreign labor to manage the world's hazardous e-waste, justified by technological improvement in developing countries.
BAN further decried the glaring lack of balance and transparency in the program, noting that despite repeated attempts to become part of the dialogue and founding of the StEP program, BAN has not been invited to participate after it criticized the failure of StEP to denounce the illegal trafficking in e-Waste globally. Further, BAN noted that most of the lead non-governmental organizations working on e-Waste globally, including BAN, the Computer TakeBack Campaign, Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, and Greenpeace are pointedly not part of the so-called multi-stakeholder program.. Further, the preeminent intergovernmental organization working on the global e-waste issue -- the Basel Convention has no formal relationship to the StEP program.
"It is sadly telling that there is not one mention of the Basel Convention on the StEP website, despite the fact that the StEP program claims to be pursuing an inclusive approach to the global e-waste problem," said Jim Puckett, coordinator of the Basel Action Network. "It is also very telling that the only federal government environment agency that is part of the program is the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States -- the only developed country in the world that refuses to ratify the Basel Convention and is on record as opposing the Basel Convention's ban on the export of hazardous waste to developing countries. StEP appears to be designed to create a refuge for those that wish to undermine the environmental justice principles of the Basel Convention and has shunned participation of those that defend them. We hope we can someday say otherwise, but the StEP program now appears to be part of the global e-Waste problem, rather than a solution."
What the StEP Global launch Press Release does not say:
- BAN, Greenpeace and the Basel Convention Secretariat have all on separate occasions confronted StEP leadership with concerns that they appear to be advocating export of hazardous e-waste to developing countries as a form of development despite this being counter to obligations under existing international law.
- BAN has asked StEP many months ago to at least state publicly that they uphold the Basel Convention and its decisions. This they have refused to do despite the fact that upholding international law should not be a matter of controversy.
- One year ago, BAN asked to participate in the StEP program and questioned why the organization that first raised the issue of global e-waste dumping and harmful management in developing countries had not been invited. We received a reply that failed to answer the question and likewise failed to extend an invitation.
- It has just been learned that StEP requires participating NGOs to be accepted by the founders (too late now to be a founder) and to pay dues of 2000 Euros. This is hardly an open, inclusive program but seems designed to lock out some interested parties.
- Despite the claim of support from the United Nations' Environment Programme, StEP has never received support or endorsement from the Basel Convention Parties. The Basel Convention is the UNEP body dealing directly with electronic waste.
- The only national government environmental agency that is member of StEP is the US EPA -- an agency that is openly hostile to the Basel Ban Amendment, which forbids all export of hazardous electronic waste from developed to developing countries. The United States is the only developed country in the world that is not a Party to the Basel Convention.
- BAN has asked organizers for transparency in revealing StEPs funding sources but have not been given the answer so far.
- The principle of environmental justice states that no peoples however poor, should bear a disproportionate burden of the world's hazardous waste, risk or harm, but StEP's rhetoric about bridging the digital divide and the need for jobs in developing countries that can be filled by electronic waste management, appears to be a thinly veiled cover to encourage export of e-waste to developing countries.
- Electronic waste management currently is never without substantial risk and costs which developing countries should not have to bear disproportionately. The Basel Convention calls for hazardous waste to be managed in the country of origin to the extent possible.
For more information contact:
Jim Puckett, Basel Action Network, Seattle.
Phone: 206.652.5555, 206.354.0391
and visit the BAN website for more information on e-waste dumping globally: www.ban.org
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