The Illegal Trade in Chemicals

Awareness and cooperation

Many of the soft initiatives intended to combat the illegal trade in waste and chemicals are targeted at increasing a country┬┤s capacity to prevent illegal international traffic. Awareness of the trade in hazardous waste and other waste, particularly between countries with economies at different stages of development, is growing. Reports to the Basel Convention by the Parties confirm cases of transboundary movements of hazardous waste (BRS Secretariat 2019b). Difficulties associated with the large number of chemicals on the market makes chemical control challenging. Knowledge andawarenessof the scaleof the illegal trade inchemicals isnot well established among customs and competent authorities. Interviews with individuals coordinating enforcement suggest that the key challenge is that the frontline law enforcement officers are rarely trained to detect and recognize chemicals. In addition, frontline officers may simply not be aware that a substance in front of them is illegal. Policymakers and enforcement agencies have limited awareness of the scale of the problem, and thus chemicals enforcement does not rank high in the national political agendas. A survey conducted by the Secretariat of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions reveals that only 11 out of 44 respondents were aware of illegal shipments of industrial or agriculture chemicals (BRS Secretariat 2019b). And the regulated community may be equally uninformed: a study on illegal pesticides in Laos, for example, found that most retail shop owners lacked a license to sell pesticides and were unaware of banned pesticides (PANAP 2013).

The main trade routes for illegal chemicals pass through places where regulation or monitoring is weaker. Many of the free trade zones set up to facilitate trade and offer incentives for business operations are also vulnerable to illicit trade and other illegal activities (EIU 2018). Monitoring of goods is limited considering the nature of the free trade zones. Local law enforcement authorities may not have authority to carry out checks or enforcement is limited. Implementation and enforcement of the existing provisions of international conventions are based on established national coordination mechanisms to facilitate the exchange of information among relevant authorities. The information gathered from the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions by their secretariats reveals that most of the countries have established national coordination mechanisms. This can be stipulated in national legislation or through established cooperation agreements between organizations such as national authorities responsible for the implementation of conventions, customs authorities, and police, among others. Eight countries out of 44 responding parties reported that they did not have national coordination mechanisms (BRS Secretariat 2019b). The cooperation of informants may be a path to better enforcement results. According to a US Department of Justice audit released in 2016, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) used more than 18,000 human sources between 2010 and 2015. Most of these informants were criminals who, in exchange for lenient sentences for their own crimes, agreed to help the DEA gather information about targeted individuals and criminal enterprises (Bhattacharjee 2018).

The Illegal Trade in Chemicals

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