A black and white image of two women in a protest, one speaking through a sound magnifier. Text overlay in green reads: "Civil Society Urges Action on Conflict of Interest. Advocating for transparency in Global Plastic Treaty Negotiations

Global Plastic Treaty Negotiations: Action on Conflict of Interest

Posted By: Petra Al Aridi 1 Comment

Civil Society Calls for Action on Conflict of Interest at the Global Plastic Pollution Treaty negotiations

“Public participation is a human right, and meaningful and active participation is integral to the success of the negotiations of the plastics treaty.”

Dear Executive Director Andersen and Secretary Mathur-Filipp,

At least 143 fossil fuel and chemical industry lobbyists registered for the third convening of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to negotiate the text of a legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution (plastics treaty). These lobbyists represented companies that continue to perpetuate and profit from the plastics crisis that this treaty is meant to end. This indicates the critical need for conflict of interest policies that can address this situation. The lack of these policies leads to disproportionate access to spheres of influence and decision-makers and the continuation of inaction and business as usual.

Conflicts of interest must be addressed in the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committees, and equal and substantive participation must be ensured for the groups not affiliated with the industry that are most impacted by this crisis and hold effective solutions. Any mechanism to address conflicts of interest should be focused on preventing vested interests which could conflict with the objectives of the treaty. In the context of negotiations of the plastics treaty, the participation of businesses from the oil, gas, and petrochemical sectors poses a severe threat to the objectives of the treaty, introducing potential conflicts that need careful consideration. Therefore, any steps taken need to include requirements for disclosure of conflicts of interest but also must include policies to truly prevent and mitigate these conflicts.

Conflict of Interest in UN Spaces

The common aim of Conflict of Interest provisions in treaties is to prevent the influence of personal, financial, commercial, or other interests that could compromise the impartiality, objectivity, and integrity of decision-making processes within the respective UN conventions. Various multilateral environmental agreements and science-policy bodies have conflict of interest policies (IPCCIPBESMontreal TEAPCBDGEO).

The policies cited above provide models for managing conflict of interest in advisory bodies and authorship of reports. For the policy making bodies, whether governing or subsidiary bodies, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC)  provides a good example for preventing influence in the treaty negotiations and implementation from the vested interests of the tobacco industry. Article 5.3 offers procedures with direct relevance to the plastics treaty. An important first step towards this is to restrict tobacco industry engagements in accordance with WHO FCTC Art 5.3 and the Model Policy for UN Agencies, and to require, at a minimum, disclosures and public registry of affiliations and funding from all non-state actors across the plastics supply chain.

Therefore, we request:

  • At a minimum, in all its activities involving stakeholders, UNEP should require disclosures of affiliations and funding from all non-state actors and publish a registry on the same for transparency. Transparency of the vested interests, the amounts and destination of their funding in the INC process, the background of their representatives, and their representation in the INC process must be ensured.
  • UNEP should further screen all Non-State actors engaging as stakeholders for links or affiliations with the tobacco industry and prevent interactions in order to ensure policy coherence with respect to its own due diligence policies and Model Policy for UN Agencies in Art 5.3 of WHO FCTC.
  • The INCshould apply Article 5.3 of the FCTC and use it as a minimum standard to set up policies and procedures to protect the negotiations and implementation of the plastics treaty from conflicts of interest and adopt codes of conduct consistent with those policies. Article 5.3 should then be used by the Secretariat and the INC as a model for policies that protect against other conflicts of interest from the petrochemical and plastics industries.

Protecting Public Participation

As opposed to the vested financial interests of the companies mentioned above, the interests of civil society and rights holders are to protect human and environmental health and the lives and futures of their communities. Indigenous Peoples, representatives from frontline communities,  workers, scientists, young people, and public interest organizations represent a massive diversity of issues, perspectives, and communities from around the world. These voices must be uplifted and protected in these spaces. This includes protecting space in the INC agenda for interventions from observers without conflicts of interest. Specifically:

  • The rights of Indigenous Peoples as Rights Holders and representatives of Sovereign Nations must be respected and upheld. This includes protected access to participation and speaking rights, dedicated meeting and ceremonial spaces during the INCs – for registered participants and Indigenous Peoples from the host country – and the accreditation process should also be made clearer and communicated in a timely manner so that meaningful participation of Indigenous Peoples can be realized with full and effective guarantees.
  • Independent scientists, including Indigenous scientists, must have a clear way to meaningfully participate in the INC as technical experts rather than just observers.
  • The participation of young people from communities affected by plastic pollution around the world must be supported by UNEP and the INC. Young people who are already and will continue to be affected by plastic pollution must be given the opportunity to advocate for a treaty that will protect their future, not the profits of a few companies.
  • Space for observers’ interventions at INCs must be respected and ensured. At all meetings, including informal and ad-hoc ones such as contact groups, sufficient time should be allotted so that observers can deliver their interventions.

Public participation is a human right, and meaningful and active participation is integral to the success of the negotiations of the plastics treaty. We hope that the INC Secretariat will take the measures stated above to prevent conflicts of interest from affecting the negotiations and ensure the participation of key stakeholders is maintained to the fullest degree.


  1. Center for International Environmental Law, International
  2. Action on Smoking and Health, United States
  3. Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC)
  4. Association For Promotion Sustainable Development, India
  5. Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF), International
  6. Project Foundation, Ecuador
  7. Marine Ecosystems Protected Areas (MEPA) Trust, Antigua and Barbuda
  8. Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Global
  9. Solid Waste Management Roundtable (SWMRT), India
  10. Centre for Financial Accountability, India
  11. Recycle Hawai‘i, United States
  12. Fenceline Watch, United States
  13. Nipe Fagio, Tanzania
  14. Trash Hero World, International
  15. EARTHCARE, The Bahamas
  16. Reachout Salone, Sierra Leone
  17. Resilient Foundation, The Netherlands
  18. Community Action Against Plastic Waste (CAPws), Nigeria
  19. Greenish Foundation, Egypt
  20. IndyACT, Lebanon
  21. Earth Day Network, International
  22. Objectif Zéro Plastique, France
  23. Break Free From Plastic, Global
  24. Mingas por el Mar Foundation, Ecuador
  25. We Yone Child Foundation, Sierra Leone
  26. Taller Ecologista, Argentina
  27. Alianza Basura Cero Ecuador
  28. Green Heritage Fund Suriname, Suriname
  29. Health and Environment Justice Support (HEJSupport), International
  30. Vietnam Zero-Waste Alliance, Vietnam
  31. Surfrider Foundation, United States
  32. Azul, United States
  33. Wonjin Institute for Occupational and Environmental Health (WIOEH), Republic of Korea
  34. Red de Acción por los Derechos Ambientales RADA, Chile
  35. Alianza Basura Cero Chile
  36. Gallifrey Foundation, Switzerland
  37. Thant Myanmar, Myanmar
  38. Nexus3 Foundation, Indonesia
  39. OceanCare, Switzerland
  40. EcoWaste Coalition, Philippines
  41. Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), United Kingdom
  42. Green Korea United, Republic of Korea
  43. Sciaena, Portugal
  44. Fundación El Árbol, Chile
  45. Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environment, Armenia
  46. ACT Health Promotion, Brazil
  47. MarViva Foundation, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia.
  48. Pacific Environment, International
  49. Environmental Defence Canada
  50. Breathe Free Detroit, United States
  51. Center for Coalfield Justice, United States
  52. Plastic Pollution Coalition, United States
  53. CESTA, Amigos de la Tierra El Salvador
  54. RAPAL Uruguay
  55. Foundation for Environment and Development (FEDEV), Cameroon
  56. The Last Plastic Straw, United States
  57. Consumers’ Association of Penang, Malaysia
  58. Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth), Malaysia
  59. Aotearoa Plastic Pollution Alliance
  60. Our Sea of East Asian Network (OSEAN), Republic of Korea
  61. Centre for Chronic Disease Control, New Delhi, India
  62. Eco Chakra Abhiyan, India
  63. All India Women’s Conference, India
  64. Korean Women’s Environmental Network (KWEN), Republic of Korea
  65. Tearfund, International
  66. Red de Jóvenes de Latinoamérica y el Caribe – Tearfund, International
  67. Friends of the Earth Canada
  68. National Hawker Federation, India
  69. Trash Free Trails, United Kingdom
  70. Now!, Germany
  71. International Pollutants Elimination Network, International
  72. Alaska Community Action on Toxics, United States
  73. Ecojustice Canada
  74. Sustainable Environment Development Initiative, Nigeria
  75. TOXISPHERA Environmental Health Association, Brazil
  76. Reacción Climática, Bolivia
  77. Society of Native Nations, International
  78. Eco Circular India Foundation, India
  79. Just Transition Alliance, United States
  80. Plastic Soup Foundation, The Netherlands
  81. Fondation Tara Océan, France
  82. Oceana Brasil, Brazil
  83. Greenpeace
  84. Environmental Coalition on Standards (ECOS), Belgium
  85. Environment and Social Development Organization-ESDO, Bangladesh
  86. Port Arthur Community Action Network (PACAN), United States
  87. Association de l’Education Environnementale pour les Futures Générations (AEEFG), Tunisia
  88. Earthworks, United States
  89. Plastic Free Future, United States
  90. Ohio Valley Allies, United States
  91. WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia
  92. HealthJustice, Philippines
  93. Fair Resource Foundation, The Netherlands
  94. Les Amis de la terre, Togo
  95. Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development (SRADeV), Nigeria
  96. Friends of the Earth International
  97. Basel Action Network, United States
  98. Earthwatch  Australia
  99. Australian Microplastic Assessment Project, Australia
  100. Retorna, Spain
  101. Race for Water Foundation, Switzerland
  102. Zero Waste France, France
  103. Polish Zero Waste Association, Poland
  104. The Descendants Project, United States
  105. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Canada
  106. Integrative Strategies Forum (ISF), United States


Rachel Radvany, Center for International Environmental Law – rradvany@ciel.org

Laura Salgado, Global Center for Good Governance in Tobacco Control – laura@ggtc.world

Laurent Huber, Action on Smoking and Health – huberl@ash.org

Extra Resources: 

Explore our blog post which shares the email addressed to the High Ambition Coalition co-chairs on Tuesday, 16 April 2024 titled “No Ambition with UAE in the HAC” which discusses concerns over UAE’s participation in the High Ambition Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty, citing potential conflicts of interest

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