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Protecting the South Pacific from Hazardous and Nuclear wastes dumping: the Waigani Convention’

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 01:20 authored by Peter LawrencePeter Lawrence, Van Hoogstraten, D

The Convention to Ban the Importation Into Forum Island Countries of Hazardous and Radioactive Wastes and to Control the Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within the South Pacific Region (the Waigani Convention) was adopted in Waigani, Papua New Guinea in September 1995. As at 17 August 1998, the Waigani Convention had not yet received the 10 ratifications required for its entry into force. While 13 members of the South Pacific Forum have signed the Convention, only four have ratified: Papua New Guinea, Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, and, on 17 August 1998, Australia.

Negotiated over the course of two years under the auspices of the South Pacific Forum which has its headquarters at Suva, Fiji, the Waigani Convention is an important regional instrument that seeks to deal practically with a series of issues of special concern to countries within the South Pacific region. These include historical concerns over nuclear testing reignited by recent French tests in the region and a proposal by the Marshall Islands to create a nuclear waste disposal facility on Bikini Atoll, a site still contaminated from US nuclear tests which had taken place in the 1950s. Other interests reflected in the Convention, include the need to protect the fragility and vulnerability of island ecosystems and a concern that island nations might become a dumping ground for certain wastes. It could be tempting to island governments badly in need of foreign exchange to offer waste disposal facilities.

Also of concern was the movement - or threatened increased movement - in and out of the South Pacific region of an ever increasing amount of hazardous wastes, including nuclear wastes, and the perceived need for a set of rules governing their import and export, disposal and recycling.

The Waigani Convention represents an interesting example of a regional instrument which may facilitate micro-states acting in a co-ordinated fashion on a regional basis to gain the benefits of the global Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (the Basel Convention) in a context where it remains impracticable for many island states with tiny bureaucracies to actively participate globally.

It is especially interesting and significant that the negotiators and observers in Suva and Port Moresby found a new way of viewing these issues and concerns in designing a regional instrument intended to be wholly consistent with the already existing Basel Convention and all other pre-existing multilateral agreements to which the Parties to the Waigani Convention were also a Party. This article outlines the main provisions of the Waigani Convention, and considers the merits of this regional approach to the issue of hazardous and nuclear wastes.

This article outlines the main provisions of the Waigani Convention, and considers the merits of this regional approach to the issue of hazardous and nuclear wastes.


Publication title

Review of European Community & International Environmental Law (RECIEL)








Faculty of Law


Blackwell Publishers Ltd

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 1998 Wiley

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Justice and the law not elsewhere classified

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