Obstacles to preserving precaution and equity in global hazardous waste regulation: an analysis of contested knowledge in the Basel Convention
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The Basel Convention is regaining attention for the potential entry into force of the heretofore stalled Ban Amendment. In this paper, we draw parallels between the current debate surrounding the Ban Amendment and contestations that occurred in the early years of the Basel Convention’s Technical Working Group (TWG) over defining ‘hazardousness.’ Like the present debate, TWG deliberations involved a contestation between two divergent discourses concerning how hazardous wastes should be regulated—as ideally managed versus actually managed in the global South. Scholars have shown how the TWG is a site for industry to press for a definition of hazardousness favorable to their economic interests. However, explorations of the specific processes by which this occurred—particularly, how a framework for defining hazardousness that privileges private technical expertise over concerns of precaution and equity was successfully institutionalized within the TWG—have yet to be completed. We show that it is important to reexamine this debate today in order to better understand current Basel Convention developments.
KeywordsBasel Convention Hazardous waste Global environmental justice Technical discourse Knowledge creation
The authors wish to thank Sarah Babb and Juliet Schor for their insights and guidance on drafts of this paper. Special thanks to the Boston College Environmental Sociology Working Group for allowing us to present this paper, and for their useful comments. An earlier draft of this paper was presented in 2011 at a roundtable session of the Political Economy of the World-System section on “The Political Economy of Global Environmental Governance,” Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. We are also very grateful for the comments of two anonymous reviewers. We have no financial interest or benefit arising from the direct applications of this research to disclose.
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