Spirits were high in Dakar, Senegal, as the world took the first step towards a treaty to end plastic pollution. Delegates attending the ad hoc open-ended working group (OEWG) to prepare for the intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC) to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, convened for the first of a two-and-a-half day meeting. The meeting is focusing on organizational issues for the coming INC negotiations.
In her opening address, Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), underlined the global consensus to tackle plastic pollution in an expeditious manner, and expressed hope that the “Nairobi spirit” of consensus will continue to guide the entire INC process. She outlined a number of important issues that countries will need to consider when negotiating the new treaty, stressing that the instrument should be science-based, and engage a broad range of stakeholders including waste pickers.
Welcoming delegates to his country, Abdou Karim Sall, Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, Senegal, reminded OEWG delegates that time is of the essence to address the global plastic pollution crisis. He called on delegations to commit to setting a clear path for the INC process, to facilitate the successful negotiation of a new treaty on plastic pollution.
Countries elected Cheikh Ndiaye Sylla as the Chair of the OEWG and adopted the UN Environment Assembly rules of procedure to guide the session. In this regard, a number of countries highlighted that these rules, which allow for a vote if consensus cannot be achieved, would be incompatible with a consensus-based INC. Delegates will need to decide on the rules of procedure governing the INC at the first meeting of the Committee.
Delegates heard general statements, touching on the timeline for the INC, with many preferring a 5-meeting process over a 4-meeting process. They also shared their priorities for the process, including that it should be inclusive and engage a wide range of stakeholders, from the private sector to informal waste pickers. Overcoming some technical issues throughout the day, delegations also began discussions on the timetable and organization of work of the INC. These discussions will continue on Tuesday.
Over lunchtime, a multi-stakeholder dialogue convened, addressing a just and inclusive transition to a plastic pollution-free economy. Panelists addressed, inter alia, empowering informal waste workers, including informal waste workers in decision making processes related to plastic pollution, creating decent work opportunities for waste workers which ensure social protections, and establishing platforms for informal waste workers to engage with policymakers.
The Government of Senegal hosted a reception in the evening.