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Step E-Waste Should Appear To Operate Within The Un Basel Convention Framework

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2007-07-04 10:55:32     
Article by Samwel Kipsang

Despite the United Nation's impressive program to create global standards for recycling e-waste and harvesting of useful and valuable components through the scheme: solving the e-waste problem (STEP), there are issues that may portray the program as not truly truly a UN and an all inclusive organization.

STEP program is supposed to bring together public and private organizations, whereby companies will work with UN, governmental, NGO and academic institutions. And being a UN program, it would be reasonable and justifiable to think that it must have links with the Basel Action Network, other environmental organizations, and Basel Convention Secretariat, a UN non-governmental organization that addresses all issues concerning toxic substance. Some environmental organizations think that despite STEP'S brilliant ideas, it is not all inclusive and transparent. Basel Convention secretariat and Basel Action Network have raised concern that STEP appear to be advocating export of hazardous e-waste to developing countries as a form of development despite this being counter to obligations under existing international law.

Though it is increasingly becoming difficult to tell whether all UN programs are truly UN, Step program seem to stand out more. Perhaps Step e-waste program should develop links with Basel Convention and open its doors to organizations that may differ with them. BAN claimed that it had asked to participate in the STEP programs, being the first organization to question the issue of global e-waste dumping and harmful management in developing countries. According to BAN, the STEP refused to denounce e-waste traffic and therefore STEP appears to have been designed to create a refuge for those that wish to undermine the environmental justice principals of the Basel Convention and has shunned participation of those that defend them. Perhaps STEP is in a difficult and genuine dilemma being faced by difficulty to handle vast and diverse voices in a divided and a seemingly very controversial program.

While nations and organizations have a right not to ratify a UN protocol or convention, it may not make much sense to UN to have protocols, conventions and programs that work against each other. Since regulations of e-waste were included in the Basel Convention, it would have been reasonable to have STEP as its program. No wonder, most of the members of G8 that met recently in Germany, having reached a compromise to replace Kyoto protocol, insisted that it should be done within the UN framework. Perhaps business interest lobby groups have more say with the STEP e-waste program.

Thomas S. Bateman and Carl P Zeithaml of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in their book Management, Function and Strategy, wrote that some economist maintain that it is the responsibility of management to maximize return for shareholders... but other economists argue that such a strategy caters to immediate profit maximization for stock speculators and neglects serious investors who are with the company for the long haul. Bateman and Zeithman added that for the later economist, attention for environmental issues enhances the organization's long term viability because the goal is the long-term creation of wealth for the patient, serious investors in the company not to mention the future state of our planet and the generations who inhabit. But where does STEP program lie? Due to competition, pressure, strong urge and temptation for quick profits, managers from both economic persuasions would often succumb to short term pressure for profits and avoid spending on reduction and management of waste, where the potential payoff is years down the road. And a cheap opportunity for waste disposal may be more attractable.

Being the major recipient of the e-waste, all developing countries together with NGOs that voice concern for them should have been invited to become members of STEP program. Perhaps STEP program should help to prepare the third world to be able to successfully recycle e-waste to be able to protect the environment and reap economic and digital benefits. STEP should appear without doubt, a body out to solve the e-waste problems. But if first world countries find recycling of e-waste to be time consuming and expensive, it would even be much for the third-world. Though STEP program require manufacturers to work to design products that are more easily upgradeable, their aspirations may only become a mere public relation exercise. These may not be implemented by all electronic companies. An easily upgradeable machine would be the darling of the third world and as active members of STEP program third world would promote the idea of an upgradeable machine if they is made part of STEP Program.

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