LATIN lessons

 Flor de María Perla de Alfaro describes Central America’s measures to control trade in hazardous waste as part of its increasing environmental commitment

Central America is now seeking broader integration than ever before, aiming to combine social, economic and environmental issues to guarantee sustainable development for all its members. This new orientation is in keeping with economic globalization and its accompanying political and cultural transformation. There must also be a new outlook towards the rest of the international community if effective solutions are to be found to environmental problems.

The demands of environmental protection in the world market are becoming greater every day, but programmes aimed at achieving it are costly. As the region has only limited resources, a joint effort seems the most feasible way to respond to the challenges it faces.

A series of national efforts have been developed to protect the environment in the last few years. These in turn have led to regional agreements for cooperation in tackling environmental problems and harmonizing environmental policies. They can be divided into:

  • Agreements aimed at strengthening the overall protection of the region, such as the Central American Commission for Environment and Development (Comisión Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarrollo) and the Alliance for Sustainable Development (Alianza para el Desarrollo Sostenible) in its environmental clause.

  • Cooperation agreements with third countries or groups of countries, notably the Joint Central American-USA Declaration.

  • Agreements that help compliance with commitments made in international environmental conventions, such as the Regional Convention on Climate Change and the Regional Agreement on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes. This last was established in December 1992, and adopted measures for making it compatible with the Basel Convention.
Central American governments have good reason to believe that both individuals and corporations have dealt in illegally imported hazardous waste, and recognize that they must take immediate action to prevent such traffic. There is a growing consensus in favour of banning the transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous wastes in all countries. So governments in the area are agreed that it has become necessary to introduce regulations to control movements across borders.

Adaptation and improvement
The Regional Agreement takes into account the Guidelines and Principles on Environmentally Sound Management of Hazardous Wastes adopted by UNEP’s Governing Council in Cairo in June 1987, among other international requirements and regulations. Integrating the sections of the Basel Convention which expressly allow current international regulations to be adapted and improved is particularly important.

Article 3 of the Agreement clearly states that Central American signatories should take all legal, administrative and other appropriate actions within the areas under their jurisdiction to prohibit the import and transit of hazardous wastes to Central America from countries that are not Parties to it. The Parties are committed to demanding that all offenders against this regulation adhere to the obligations in the Agreement, according to national and/or international law.

Another extremely important regulation states that each Party shall promote specific norms in its national legislation to penalize all those who plan, carry out or contribute to illegal traffic in hazardous wastes. These fines are to be severe enough both to punish and to discourage such conduct.

Central America must adapt its regional projects and legislation to the new national and international dynamics. At the national level, increasing urban concern about the quality of the environment has pressed governments to adopt adequate measures. One immediate measure would be dealing with the problem created by movements of hazardous wastes.

From regional to global
Meanwhile, environmental demands are also increasing at the international level, providing incentives for countries to draw up and apply well devised laws. Internal and external pressures have caused countries of the region to adhere to the increasing number of agreements to protect different aspects of our global environment – thus becoming obliged to comply with their conditions. This is reflected, for instance, in the adoption of the Basel Convention guidelines.

The increasing number of regional agreements confirms that cooperation is a key element in efforts to improve the environmental quality of the region. The commitment to international environmental conventions – or regional agreements linked to other international ones – clearly demonstrates the region’s progress towards achieving sustainable development, eagerly desired by all

Flor de María Perla de Alfaro is Director of Environmental Quality, Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, El Salvador.


Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Celebration and challenge | Informal diplomacy | Being in earnest | International Declaration on Cleaner Production | Clean = competitive | Not on Planet Earth! | The Basel Convention | At a glance | Competition | It’s a waste | Move these poisonous mountains | Broad, global and dynamic | A monumental challenge | UNEP Chemicals | Latin lessons | Sasakawa Environment Prize | Of potholes and ozone holes | Will we learn?