The dramatic growth in chemical production and trade during the past three decades has raised concerns about the potential risks posed by hazardous chemicals and pesticides. Countries lacking adequate infrastructure to monitor the import and use of these chemicals are particularly vulnerable.
In response to these concerns, UNEP and FAO developed and promoted voluntary information exchange programmes in the mid-1980s. FAO launched the International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides in 1985 and UNEP established the London Guidelines for the Exchange of Information on Chemicals in International Trade in 1987. In 1989, the two organizations jointly introduced the voluntary Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure into these two instruments. Together, these instruments helped to ensure that governments had the necessary information to enable them to assess the risks of hazardous chemicals and to take informed decisions on their future import.
Seeing the need for mandatory controls, officials attending the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in 1992 in Brazil (Rio Earth Summit) adopted Chapter 19 of Agenda 21, which called for a legally binding instrument on the voluntary PIC procedure by the year 2000. Consequently, the FAO Council (in 1994) and the UNEP Governing Council (in 1995) mandated their Executive Heads to launch negotiations.
Talks started in March 1996 and concluded in March 1998, after a series of seven meetings of the Inter-Governmental Negotiation Committee and two years in advance of the deadline set by the Rio Earth Summit.
As a clear testimony to the urgency attributed to addressing international trade in hazardous chemicals, between the adoption of the Convention and its entry into force, governments also agreed to operate the Convention on a voluntary basis as the Interim PIC Procedure.
The text of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade was adopted and opened for signature at the Conference of Plenipotentiaries held in Rotterdam on 10 September 1998.
During the interim period, over 170 countries designated some 265 national authorities (DNAs) to act on their behalf in the performance of the administrative functions required by the Convention.
The Convention entered into force on 24 February 2004 and became legally binding for its Parties.