Obstacles to preserving precaution and equity in global hazardous waste regulation: an analysis of contested knowledge in the Basel Convention

Cristina A. Lucier, University of North Florida
Brian J. Gareau, Boston College


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.