East and South East Asian (ESEA) countries are no strangers to “persistent organic pollutants”. The chemicals become widely distributed throughout the environment as a result of natural processes involving soil, water, and air. Once released into the environment, the pollutants remain intact and are toxic to humans and wildlife. Given the long-term nature of persistent organic pollutants, no government acting alone can protect its citizens or its environment from this toxic invader.
In response to this global problem, the Stockholm Convention, adopted in 2001, requires its parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of persistent organic pollutants into the environment. However, most participating countries do not have any best available techniques (BAT) and best environmental practices (BEP) provisions or dioxin standards in their regulatory frameworks.
The Regional Plan for the Introduction of BAT/BEP Strategies to Industrial Source Categories of Stockholm Convention Annex C of Article 5 in ESEA Region project, financed by GEF and implemented by United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), therefore sought to assist them to reduce unintentionally produced persistent organic pollutants through the BAT/ BEP adoption for Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Mongolia, Thailand, Philippines, and Vietnam.
A regional approach was adopted, although each of the 8 countries involved had specific needs. Several knowledge exchange activities, primarily workshops, were designed to facilitate learning. To begin, all partners undertook a preliminary needs analysis and conducted pretraining assessment to gauge the baseline comprehension of the participants on the topics to be presented. The platform of regional cooperation (the ESEA Forum) allowed for countries with stronger regulatory framework to contribute toward building capacity in other countries, particularly the smaller ones.
The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) sent experts to deliver a phased program on Appropriate Regulatory Framework for the Successful Introduction of BAT/BEP.
Phase I focused on information sharing (for understanding). Phase II tackled how to integrate provisions into a regulatory framework, based on country reporting of their achievements or barriers faced in implementing the knowledge shared. Subsequently, as part of capacity building and mentoring, China, one of the regional partners, hosted a workshop on analyzing dioxins at Tsinghua University. In all, about 70 technical officers of counterpart environment ministries and other relevant stakeholders benefited from the knowledge-sharing activities.
- A needs analysis should always be undertaken prior to an exchange to ensure that shared knowledge matches the requirements of participants.
- Where resources are tight and countries in a region share common interests, coming together can create an effective knowledge-sharing partnership, foster capacity building, and lead to unintended but mutually beneficial developments. To supplement project funding, for example, partner entities have provided funding support to help implement knowledge activities.