Toxic pesticides and other hazardous chemicals kill or seriously sicken thousands of people every year. They also poison the natural environment and damage many wild animal species. Governments started to address this problem in the 1980s by establishing a voluntary Prior Informed Consent procedure. PIC required exporters trading in a list of hazardous substances to obtain the prior informed consent of importers before proceeding with the trade.
In 1998, governments decided to strengthen the procedure by adopting the Rotterdam Convention, which makes PIC legally binding. The Convention establishes a first line of defence by giving importing countries the tools and information they need to identify potential hazards and exclude chemicals they cannot manage safely. If a country agrees to import chemicals, the Convention promotes their safe use through labelling standards, technical assistance, and other forms of support. It also ensures that exporters comply with the requirements. The Rotterdam Convention entered into force on 24 February 2004. The contracting parties take measures to:
- Establish an official notification procedure i.e. to inform the importing country that an export of a chemical figuring on the PIC list will take place before the first shipment
- Inform the importing country that an export of a chemical that is banned or severely restricted for use within its territory will take place before the first shipment
- Inform other countries of each national ban or severe restriction of a chemical