INTOSAI – Working Group on Environmental Auditing

Focus on waste: International agreements on waste

Pollution does not recognize borders. It is transported freely between countries and continents. The international community has recognized this fact, and a number of international agreements have been established in the last few decades, which SAIs can use to develop audit criteria for auditing waste issues and waste management systems. Links to the most relevant agreements on waste and to overviews of participating countries are listed on this page.

Agreements regarding radioactive waste

The Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management (1997) was the first legal instrument to directly address spent fuel and radioactive waste management on a global scale. The Convention entered into force in 2001.

The objectives of this Convention are to

  • achieve and maintain safety worldwide in spent fuel and radioactive waste management through the enhancement of national measures and co-operation;
  • ensure that there are effective defences against potential hazards during all stages of spent fuel and radioactive waste management; and
  • prevent accidents with radiological consequences and to mitigate their consequences, should they occur.

A list of the signatories and contracting parties is available at Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.

The Convention on Nuclear Safety (1994) is a global agreement that was adopted in Vienna in 1994 and entered into force in 1996. Its aim is to legally commit participating states that operate land-based nuclear power plants to maintain a high level of safety, by setting international benchmarks.

All countries with operating nuclear power plants are now parties to the Convention. The list of contracting parties is available in the list under the Convention on Nuclear Safety.

Agreements regarding hazardous waste

The Basel Convention (1989) is a global agreement addressing the problems and challenges posed by hazardous waste. Its objectives are to

  • minimize the generation of hazardous waste, according to quantity and level of hazardousness;
  • dispose hazardous wastes as close to the source of generation as possible; and
  • reduce the movement of hazardous waste.

A central goal of the convention is environmentally sound management (EMS) which means addressing the issue through an "integrated life-cycle approach". This approach involves strong controls from the time the hazardous waste is generated to its storage, transport, treatment, reuse, recycling, recovery, and final disposal.

A list of which countries are parties to the convention is available at: Ratifications.

The Bamako Convention (1991) is an agreement controlled by the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes that was adopted in Bamako, Mali, on 30 January 1991 and aims to prohibit the importing of any hazardous wastes (including radioactive) and products that have been banned, cancelled, or withdrawn from registration for environmental or health reasons.

The following link lists the countries that have implemented or ratified the ban: parties to the convention.

The Waigani Convention (1995) is an agreement that came into force in 2001 to ban the importation of hazardous and radioactive wastes into Forum Island Countries and to control the transboundary movement and management of hazardous wastes within the South Pacific Region.

The aim of this treaty is to prohibit each Pacific Island that is a party to the convention, from importing all hazardous and radioactive wastes from outside of the convention area. Australia and New Zealand are prohibited from exporting hazardous or radioactive wastes to all other South Pacific Forum Island countries.

A ist of countries who are parties to the convention is available in the Table of countries.

Agreements on waste and oceans

The London Convention (1972) on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter is a global agreement that was drawn at the Intergovernmental Conference on the Dumping of Wastes at Sea in London in 1972.

The objective of the convention is to prevent pollution of the sea, by the dumping of waste and other matter, which is likely to

  • create hazards to human health,
  • harm living resources and marine life,
  • damage amenities, or
  • interfere with other legitimate uses of the sea.

The list of parties to the London convention is available at Parties to the London convention as of April 2006 .

The MARPOL 73/78 Conventionis the main international convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. Its key objectives are to

  • eliminate pollution of the sea caused by the discharge of oil, chemicals, harmful substances in packaged form, sewage, garbage, and other harmful substances;
  • minimize the amount of oil that is accidentally released by ships; and
  • improve the prevention and control of marine pollution from ships, particularly oil tankers.

In December 2001, 161 countries were parties of the convention. The latest accessions and ratifications are available at latest ratifications.

Agreements including non-hazardous or solid waste

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ( OECD) has instituted binding agreements, OECD decision C(2001)107/FINAL, for its member countries that regulate the transboundary movements of waste destined for recovery operations. The agreements are compatible with the Basel Convention.

Several acts have been adopted covering waste identification and definition, and control of transboundary movements of waste. The control system aims to facilitate the trade of recyclables in an environmentally sound and economically efficient manner. It uses a simplified procedure and introduces a risk-based approach to assessing the necessary level of control of materials.

General agreements included waste

The Stockholm convention on persistent organic pollutants (pops) is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from POPs, which circulate globally and can cause damage wherever they travel. The convention

  • sets up a system for tackling chemicals that are identified as unacceptably hazardous,
  • seeks to ensure that special efforts are made to phase out certain chemicals for certain uses,
  • points the way to a future free of dangerous POPs, and
  • tries to reshape our economy's reliance on toxic chemicals.


A list of the 90 countries that have joined as Party and the status of the national implementation plans submitted by each party is available at parties and status of national implementation plans.

Database for international environmental treaties and agreements

This ENTRI Environmental Treaties and Resource Indicators website is a comprehensive online service for accessing multilateral, environmental treaty data. It is possible to search for each country's environmental treaty profile, including waste, through this site.

The Division of Environmental Conventions under the United Nations Development Program

The Division of Environmental Conventions under the United Nations Development Programme provides links to multilateral agreements, including agreements on waste.