Frequently Asked Questions about the Rotterdam Convention

This is a list of frequently asked questions about how Parties can meet their obligations in the implementation of the Rotterdam Convention.

Q1. The Convention requires that Parties provide Designated National Authorities (DNAs) with sufficient resources to perform their tasks effectively. What does this mean?

A. In order to ensure the implementation of the Convention, DNAs for each Party must be nominated and these must be persons or institutions/offices that can undertake the following:

  • Gather Statutory Instruments, Decrees and other national regulatory decisions (such as positive and negative lists of chemicals) for the management of pesticides and industrial chemicals and communicate this information to the Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention;
  • Make regular contact with Customs officials regarding controls on the import and export of chemicals;
  • Share information and be part of a mechanism that ensures that the import responses contained in the PIC Circulars, provided by the Secretariat, are communicated to potential exporters and relevant stakeholders;
  • Be able to access information on human and environmental poisoning incidents involving pesticides;
  • Communicate the Party’s decisions on the future import of chemicals listed in Annex III of the Convention by filling in the relevant forms and notifying the Secretariat;
  • Be the contact point for matters related to the Rotterdam Convention with the Secretariat, other DNAs and national stakeholders.

Q2. During the processing of an application by industry for the use of a chemical in our country, concerns about its impacts on health (or the environment) were raised and, in the end, industry withdrew its application. Should this be notified?

A. No! .Since this chemical was only being considered for use in the country but was never allowed for use shows that there was no final regulatory action against it. That is, it was neither severely restricted nor banned.

Q3. Our country has undertaken a re-evaluation of the regulatory status of a chemical and found that there was insufficient data to support its continued use. As a consequence its use has been phased out. Should this be notified to the Secretariat?

A. No. Data deficiencies in themselves do not constitute an identifiable health or environmental concern. However, if the data deficiencies are such that continued use of the substance was considered to pose unacceptable health or environmental risks, and therefore the substance was then banned or severely restricted, then this will be sufficient basis on which to notify the Secretariat.

Q4. Our country had previously notified a ban of a hazardous chemical to the Secretariat. Subsequently, we have discovered that possible alternatives are ineffective and because of needs in our country, we have re-approved the original uses of the chemical until effective alternatives are found. Should we notify this change to the Secretariat?

A. Yes. This constitutes a change in the final regulatory action and should be communicated to the Secretariat. Please note that any Party has the right to change its previous decisions on the list of Annex III chemicals. Any such changes should be immediately communicated to the Secretariat so that the change will also be reflected in the next PIC Circular. If this change in decision was for a non-Annex III chemical, the secretariat must still be informed so that the chemical is removed as a potential candidate for listing in Annex III of the Convention and the obligations of your country with respect to the provision of export notifications will no longer be valid.

Q5. Our country has failed to notify the Secretariat of certain valid final regulatory actions that it has taken. What are the consequences of this?

A. At this stage, there are no direct penalties in the Convention to be imposed upon countries in this situation. The issue of non-compliance is still being discussed by the Conference of the Parties and a mechanism has not been finalized.. However, the country will have lost an opportunity to alert other countries of concerns regarding a particular chemical.If the failure to notify has meant that the chemical is not included in Annex III when it may otherwise have been listed, then the country will not be able to ensure that the chemical is not exported to it by Parties to the Convention.

Q6. There are many types of controls that countries can impose on the possession and use of chemicals. Which of these actually constitutes a ban or a severe restriction?

A. A ban is where all uses of the chemical have been prohibited. A severe restriction is where virtually all uses of the chemical have been prohibited but there remains a few limited uses. The determination of whether a chemical has been severely restricted in line with the Convention will need to be determined on a case by case basis. For example:

  1. The restriction of the use of a pesticide or an industrial chemical to certain qualified users/operators will limit the number of persons who can use the chemical but all of the uses that are approved for the chemical will remain unchanged. Therefore, this is not a severe restriction.
  2. Similarly, the imposition of standards such as stringent environmental exposure limits, maximum residue limits (MRLs) or occupational exposure limits such as Threshold Limit Values (TLVs), do not by themselves modify the uses of the chemical and do not constitute severe restrictions.
  3. Regulatory controls requiring the use of protective clothing or safety equipment to minimize exposure also do not limit the uses and again would not be considered as severe restrictions.

Q7. In our country a chemical was banned (or severely restricted) because its use caused wildlife kills but did not affect human health. Should this be notified to the Secretariat?

A. Yes. The Convention includes final regulatory actions (bans or severe restrictions) where the action was taken for the purposes of human health OR environmental reasons.

Q8. Industry has failed to pay registration (or other) fees and the chemical has therefore been banned. Should this action be notified to the Secretariat?

A. No. Notifications of bans or severe restrictions must be made where the final regulatory action was taken for health and/or environmental reasons. A regulatory action based upon failure to pay fees does not relate to health or environmental concerns and is therefore not eligible for consideration under the Convention.

Q9. The use of a pesticide was banned in our country because it was seen that this might cause problems with our export trade in agricultural commodities due to residues for which our trading partners either had very low or no Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs). Should this ban be notified to the Secretariat?

A. Yes. However, since actions must be based upon health or environmental concerns, this type of notification would not have enough data to support it being a candidate chemical for inclusion in the PIC list. If there are concerns about the impacts of pesticide residues occurring in commodities in international trade then the country concerned should consider making a proposal for consideration of the relevant MRLs to the Codex Alimentarius Commission through its sub-ordinate committee the Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR).

Q10. Several minor uses of a chemical have been banned in our country while 2 or 3 major uses remain permitted. Is this a severe restriction that should be notified to the Secretariat?

A. No. The Convention does not establish parameters for what constitutes major or minor uses, although the overall quantity of product still being used is a helpful indicator. However, if the situation were that all major uses were banned and only 1 or 2 minor uses remain as approved uses then this action could be notified as a severe restriction. The difficulty for some Parties may be the lack of quantitative data on the level of usage of chemicals for them to determine what is a major or minor use.

Q11. Because of the high toxicity of a chemical to fish, it is not approved for use within 30 meters of waterways. Is this a severe restriction?

A. No. This is a precaution and does not limit the use of the chemical.

Q12. Recent information on the hazards of a chemical and information on the exposure of workers to the chemical raised concerns for their health. Although several protective measures were proposed and investigated it was decided that the chemical could not be used in a way to guarantee the safety of the workers and consequently under our national legislation the chemical was banned. Should this be notified to the Secretariat?

A. Yes. This action contains the necessary elements for a valid final regulatory action. In making a notification the DNA should provide all the necessary information collected at the national level that contributed to the making of the decision to ban the chemical.

Q13. Concern was raised about possible health (or environmental) impacts regarding a chemical which led to industry reformulating the product and changing the application methodology for the chemical to reduce the risks. The new product replaced the original product and application technique. Should the removal of the original formulation and application technique be notified to the Secretariat as a ban?

A. No. The chemical marketed in a different product would still be available for all its uses. However, the DNA may wish to advise other governments of these changes through the Secretariat as part of the information exchange provisions of the Convention.

Q14. Our country has banned a chemical because of health concerns. Current stocks are being allowed to be used until exhausted. Manufacture of the chemical in our country in recent years was solely for domestic consumption. This manufacture has now ceased and there appears to be no international trade in the Chemical. Should this chemical be notified?

A. Yes. Once a final regulatory action to ban or severely restrict a chemical has been adopted, the DNA is obliged to notify the Secretariat. The notification should be made as soon as possible and no later than 90 days after the regulatory action has taken effect. The obligation to notify the Secretariat regarding a final regulatory action is independent of whether the chemical is still being traded internationally or not.

If there were a notification from a second PIC region then the Secretariat would gather information including any indication of ongoing international trade in the chemical for consideration by the Chemical Review Committee.

Q15. The Secretariat has notified that a chemical has been included in Annex III of the Convention. Are we required to ban all uses of this chemical in our country?

A. No. The inclusion of chemicals in Annex III is not an invitation for Parties to ban their use. The purpose of the prior informed consent procedure is to allow countries to make their own informed decisions on future imports of the chemical depending on their own needs, circumstances and uses of the chemical. However, if a Party decides not to allow any future import of a PIC chemical, then they must also ensure that any domestic manufacture and use of the chemical is banned. Imports of the chemical from non-Parties to the Convention should also not be allowed.

Q16. Many of the suicides in our country are the result of people ingesting pesticides and severely hazardous pesticide formulations. Are these pesticides and severely hazardous formulations eligible for notification to the Secretariat?

A. No. Notification should only be made when the Party has decided on a regulatory final action. As for the listing of chemicals into Annex III, the Convention contains criteria which must be considered in the evaluation process. One of these criteria specifies that intentional misuse is not an adequate basis on which to list a chemical in Annex III.  The criteria for listing a chemical in Annex III are contained in Annex II of the Convention.

Q17. How do I know if a human (or wildlife) poisoning incident has been caused by a particular hazardous pesticide formulation?

A. There needs to be specific and characteristic symptoms of poisoning typical for most hazardous pesticide formulations and sufficient clinical evidence to link the chemical to the poisoning. Similar characteristic symptoms may also be used for wildlife.  

Q18. A chemical included in Annex III of the Convention has never been used in our country and so has never been banned in our country. Is there any need to do anything in this case?

A. Yes. The fact that there has never been any registration or final regulatory action taken against a chemical in a particular country change the obligation to complete  an Importing Country Response  for that chemical. In many countries, there are general provisions that do not allow the use or importation of any chemical that is not registered or approved. This could be the basis for an import response for all unregistered/unapproved chemicals in Annex III which informs that there is no consent to import.

Q19. When our country becomes a Party to the Convention can we be assured that no chemicals listed in Annex III of the Convention will ever be exported to our country?

A. No. The act of becoming a Party to the Convention does not in itself obligate other Parties to ensure that there are no exports of the chemicals listed in Annex III to your country. To guarantee this, you need to provide the Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention with Importing Country Response for each of the chemicals listed in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention stating that no consent for each one.

Q20. If our country indicates "no consent" in its Importing Country Response regarding a chemical listed in Annex III of the Convention, can we expect that there will be no imports of this chemical into our country.

A. No. The obligations of the Convention on responsible trade fall on those exporting countries that are Parties to the Convention. Although Parties to the Convention should not be exporting the chemical to your country, non-Parties may export the chemical to your country. The Convention does require countries to strengthen their own chemicals management infrastructures and enforcement mechanisms.

Q21. Our country does not manufacture any chemicals. Do we need to do anything more than provide importing country responses.

A. Yes. Each Party is required to make notifications of final regulatory action whenever the country has made a decision regarding the regulation of any chemical and provide a response to an exporting country that seeks to export a chemical that is not listed in the PIC procedure but is banned or severely restricted in the country of export.  

Q22. What is the maximum quantity of a chemical listed in Annex III that can be imported for research purposes, under the Convention?

A. There is no amount specified in the Convention. Some Parties in implementing the Convention have set a level of 10 kilograms whereas others have set lower amounts. Whatever amount Parties choose to apply, it is important to recognize that these should be small amounts compared to commercially traded quantities.

Q23. Our country does not allow the use of any chemical included in Annex III of the Convention; therefore do we need to put in place an export notification scheme.

A. Yes. Export notifications apply to chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted in the exporting country and are not in Annex III of the convention. The obligation for export notification ceases when the chemical is included in Annex III and, the importing party has provided an import response on this chemical to the Secretariat and the response has been published in the PIC Circular.

Q24. Our national chemicals management legislation has provisions to ban or severely restrict a chemical but it has no provisions related to the export of a chemical. How do we control exports of chemicals?

A. A major obligation of Parties to the Rotterdam Convention is sharing responsibility in the international trade of chemicals. The convention enumerates information and labeling requirements necessary if a Party exports a non PIC chemical. An exporting country may wish to follow these guidelines while at the same time undertake to update its regulations to include control of chemical exports. A Party will also need to make industry aware of the need to comply with importing country responses regarding exports of chemicals and encourage them to comply.

Q25. An export of a chemical that is included in Annex III of the Convention as a pesticide is about to occur but the chemical also has a dual use as an industrial chemical. How do I know that it is being exported for use as a pesticide or an industrial chemical to the importing country?

A. The chemicals in the PIC list are clearly divided into two groups: industrial chemicals and pesticides. Parties make import responses for each chemical and the responses are published in the PIC Circular. The only way to know whether a chemical is being exported for a particular use is to check with the exporter, consider the information on the label of the container or contact the DNA of the importing country or the actual importer.

Q26. Our country has just received an export notification for a chemical. What am I to do now?

A. You are required to acknowledge receipt of the export notification by sending a return message to the DNA of the exporting country with a response on whether the chemical is accepted or not.

Q27. Following receipt of an export notification for a chemical, the DNA of the importing country concluded that the importer has no authorization for such imports: what can the DNA do now?

A. You are still required to acknowledge receipt of the export notification by sending a return message to the DNA of the exporting country. However, in your response to the DNA in the exporting country you should indicate that, the importer does not have authorization to import the chemical into the country.

Q28. A chemical is listed in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention under the category “pesticide”. However, Party, according to their national regulation, uses the chemical for the same purpose as the one described in the Decision Guidance document but the chemical is not registered in the category Pesticides.  What import response should the DNA submit?

A. The import response should reflect the actual status of the chemical regarding import. More specific details can be provided in the Import Response Form under the “Conditions” for import, or under “Remarks”, or in the Administrative or legislative act. In any case, the import response has to refer to the same category under which the chemical is listed in Annex III of the Convention.

Q29. Who can communicate any changes to the Secretariat on the contact details of Designated National Authorities?

A. Minor updates of contact details of existing Designated National Authorities can be made directly by the DNA, or other official authorities. Replacement or new nominations of Designated National Authorities can only be made by the Official Contact Point of the Party. The complete, updated list of Designated National Authorities as well as the list of Official Contact Points for each Party can be accessed on the web site, or is available from the Secretariat