TED Case Studies

Somali Waste Imports

          CASE NUMBER:          64 
          CASE NAME:          Somalia Waste Imports from Italy


1.   The Issue

     During the Somali civil war hazardous waste was dumped in this
African nation by industrialized countries.  The alleged
perpetrators were Italian and Swiss firms who supposedly entered
into a contract with the Somali government to dump waste in the war
ravaged African nation.  The issue of dumping in Somalia is two
fold in that it is both a legal question and a moral question. 
First,  is there a violation of international treaties in the
export of hazardous waste to Somalia.  Second, is it ethically
questionable to negotiate a hazardous waste disposal contract with
a country in the midst of a protracted civil war and with a
government that can best be described as tenuous and factionalized?

2.        Description

     With the abdication of President Siad Barre in 1989, the
country of Somalia was thrown in a state of anarchy.  The country
is currently ruled by a series of warlords each holding a small
section of the country.  The rival factions have been at war with
each other since the mid-eighties and a mission by the United
Nations to stabilize the country has now ended in apparent
political failure.  The war led to a serious famine that was solved
by the intervention.  Less publicized was the exploitation of the
Somalian crisis by firms who specialize in the disposal of
hazardous waste.

     In the fall of 1992 reports began to appear in the
international media concerning unnamed European firms that were
illegally dumping waste in Somalia.  By most reports, several
thousand tons of waste, mostly processed industrial waste, had
already been dumped there.  It was also reported that waste was
seen being dumped off the Somali coast into the Indian Ocean.  To
further compound the country's environmental problems, a storage
facility in northern Somalia filled with pesticides had been
destroyed during the war.  The spilt chemicals and resulting fire
poisoned one of the few sources of drinking water in the famine
ravaged country.

     What caused controversy in 1992, however, was reports of a
contract established between a Swiss firm, Achair Partners, and an
Italian firm, Progresso, with Nur Elmy Osman, who claimed to be the
Somali Minister of Health under an interim government headed by Ali
Mahdi Muhammad.  Osman had been a health official in the Barre
government, but allegedly was no longer recognized as a government
official by Ali Mahdi.  Osman had supposedly entered into an $80
million contract in December of 1991, whereby the two firms would
be allowed to build a 10 million ton storage facility for hazardous
waste.  The waste would first be burned in an incinerator to be
built on the same site and then stored in the facility at the rate
of 500,000 tons a year.

     Reports of the alleged contract outraged the world community. 
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) investigated the
matter at the urging of Somalia's neighbors and the Swiss and
Italian governments.  What ensued was a period of accusations as
both firms denied entering into any agreement, Osman denied signing
any contract and the Swiss and Italian governments said they had no
knowledge of the two firms activities.

     As a result of the UNEP's investigation, the contract was
declared null and the facility was never built.  Still it became
apparent to the UNEP's director Dr. Mustafa Tolba that the firms of
Achair Partners and Progresso were set up specifically as
fictitious companies by larger industrial firms to dispose of
hazardous waste.  At one point Dr. Tolba declared that the UNEP was
dealing with a mafia. 

     Beyond the obvious ethical question of trying to coerce a
hazardous waste agreement out of an unstable country like Somalia,
the attempt by Swiss and Italian firms to dump waste in Somalia
violates international treaties to which both countries are
signatories.  Switzerland has signed and ratified the Basel
Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous
Wastes and their Disposal (see BASEL case).  Somalia and Italy have
not signed the Basel Convention.  The Basel Convention prohibits
(among other things) waste trade between countries that have signed
the Convention and countries that have not signed the Convention
unless a bilateral waste agreement has been negotiated.  Somalia
and Switzerland had no such bilateral agreement.  The Basel
Convention also prohibits shipping hazardous waste to a war zone.

     Although not a signatory to the Basel Convention, Italy has
signed the fourth Lome Convention.  It is the only country in
Europe to do so.  Italy signed the Lome Convention in order to
"prove" its good intentions with regard to the disposal hazardous
waste.  No reason is given for Italy's failure to sign the Basel
Convention (see NIGERIA case).  Article 39 of the Lome Convention
clearly prohibits the export of waste to Africa as well as the
Caribbean and the Pacific.    

3.        Related Cases

     BARREL case
     MEDIT case
     JELLYWAX case
     KHAIN case
     BASMEX case

     Keyword Clusters         

     (1): Trade Product            = WASTE
     (2): Bio-geography            = DRY
     (3): Environmental Problem    = Pollution Land [POLL]

4.        Draft Author:  Michael Poaletta

B.        LEGAL Clusters

5.        Discourse and Status:  DISagreement and COMPlete

6.        Forum and Scope:  SOMALia and BILATeral

     The case is both internal to Somalia and external to the Basel
Agreement, since all three parties are signatories.

7.        Decision Breadth: 3 (Somalia, Italy and Switzerland)

8.        Legal Standing:  TREATY

     These exports should have come under controls of the Basel
agreement to which all three parties are members.

C.        GEOGRAPHIC Clusters

9.        Geographic Locations

     a.   Geographic Domain : MIDEAST
     b.   Geographic Site   : HORN OF AFRICA [HORN]
     c.   Geographic Impact : SOMALia

10.       Sub-National Factors:  YES

     The export of the waste was tied to the breakaway republic of

11.       Type of Habitat:  DRY

C.        TRADE Clusters

12.       Type of Measure:  IMBAN 

     In this case the attention of the United Nations and the
international community forced the Somali government (which may or
may not have known about the contract) to recant the alleged

13.       Direct vs. Indirect Impacts:  DIRect

     The measure is direct because it would ban the importation of
these waste products.

14.       Relation of Measure to Environmental Impact

     a.  Directly Related     : YES  WASTE
     b.  Indirectly Related   : NO
     c.  Not Related          : NO
     d.  Process Related      : YES  Pollution Land, POLL

15.       Trade Product Identification:  WASTE

16.       Economic Data

     Given the few operating industries in Somalia, waste importing
is probably a major source of income for Somalis.

17.       Impact of Measure on Trade Competitiveness:  BAN

     Due to the chaotic state of the Somali Republic, no trade
protection measures are effective at this time.  It is also worth
reiterating that Somalia has still not signed the Basel Convention
or the Bamako Convention, which bans the import of hazardous waste
in African States.

18.       Industry Sector:  WASTE

19.       Exporter and Importer:  ITALY and SOMALia

     Some fear that Africa may become a dumping ground for
hazardous waste from industrialized countries such as Italy.  The
primary cause of this is cost. It has been estimated that it costs
as little as $2.50 per ton to dump hazardous waste in Africa as
opposed to $250 per ton in Europe.

E.        ENVIRONMENT Clusters

20.       Environmental Problem Type:  Pollution Land [POLL]

21.       Name, Type, and Diversity of Species 

     Name:          Many
     Type:          Many
     Diversity:     768 higher plants per 10,000

22.       Resource Impact and Effect:  MEDium and REGULatory

23.       Urgency of and Lifetime:  MEDium and 100s of years

24.       Substitutes:  Bio-degradable [BIODG] products 

     Europe must export these waste because they have few areas
left to fill.  The ultimate solution is in cutting down the volume
of waste that is produced.

VI.       OTHER Factors

25.       Culture:  NO

26.       Trans-Border:  NO

27.       Human Rights:  YES

     The dumping of this waste threatened human health and
therefore human rights.

28.       Relevant Literature

"The Deadly Trade: Toxic Waste Dumping in Africa."  Africa Report
     (September-October 1988). 
"Africa: Wastebasket of the West."  Business and Society Review
     (Fall 1988).
Concern over Toxic Dumping."  Times of Oman 12 (September 1992).
"Italian Firm Denies Somali Waste Deal."  The Guardian (September
     11, 1992).
"Italy Demands Inquiry on Toxic Waste Dumping in Somalia." 
     European Information Service (September 12, 1992).
"Italy Denies Export of Toxic Waste to Somalia."  Agence France
     Presse (September 14, 1992).
"Somalia: EC says it Cannot Stop Toxic Waste Dumping in Somalia."
     Inter Press Service (September 30, 1992).
"Somalia: European Firms Dumping Toxic Wastes, UNEP to Probe."
     Inter Press Service (September 10, 1992). 
"Somalia: Italy Under Fire for Toxic Dumping Reports."
     Inter Press Service (September 11, 1992).
"Somalia: OAU Concerned Over Toxic Waste Dumping."  Inter Presse
     Service (September 24, 1992).
"Somalia: UN, Evacuates Relief Workers, Denies Reports of Toxic
     Waste Dumping"  The British Broadcasting Service 3
     (October 1992).  
"Somali Government Allows Toxic Waste Dumping."  Saudi Gazette
     13 (September 1992).
"Switzerland asks UN help on Somalia Toxic Waste Links."  
     Reuters Limited (September 11, 1992).
"Toxic Terrorism invades Third World Nations."  Black Enterprise
     (November 1988).
"Toxic Waste Joins Somalia's List of Woes."  Chicago Tribune
     (September 11, 1992).
"Toxic Waste Shipment to Somalia Believed Aborted: UNEP."  Agence
     Presse France (October 6, 1992).
"Trans-Boundary Waste: UNEP Team Explores Dumping in Somalia."
     Inter Press Service (September 30, 1992).
"UNEP Official Urges African Nations to Approve Basel Accord on
     Waste."  International Environment Reporter (BNA, October
     7, 1992).


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