Linking Chemicals and Sustainable Development

Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at the Opening of the International Conference on Chemicals Management in Dubai

His Excellency Dr Al Midfaa, Health Minister of the United Arab Emirates; Dr Bin Fahad, honorable ministers, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

We are delighted to be in this global city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

We would like to express our thanks to you Health Minister and to the vision of the Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

We are also delighted to hold UNEP’s first Special Session of its Governing Council here in the Arabic world.

Ladies and gentleman, our first job however is to discuss chemicals. We must do our utmost to conclude with a good result from this International Conference on Chemicals Management.

WE have a very demanding two and a half days as we are here to finish and conclude the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management.

It is an issue that has been on our agenda for some time. I remember when we were in Bangkok with a ‘white sheet’ of paper.

If you see the document before us, you can see the work that has been put into developing this strategic approach.

The issue dates back to 1992 and Agenda 21 via the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002 and the Johannesburg Plan of Action up to the 2005 World Summit in New York where its was endorsed by heads of state.

We are aware that chemicals are very much part of all our daily lives. They are important for development and for sustainable development and poverty eradication and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

However, we know they can also create problems and so the WSSD called for us to aim at using and producing by 2020 chemicals in a way that leads to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment.

We have to date tended to deal with groups of chemicals. One thinks of the Stockholm or Persistent Organic Pollutants Convention.

We have partly dealt with the Life Cycle question through things like the Basel Convention.

SAICM however goes beyond this linking the chemicals agenda even more intimately with the sustainable development agenda.

It has a lot to do with the Millennium Development Goals of halving poverty by 2015, with supply safe and sufficient quantities of water with hunger and with gender issues.

So I sincerely hope everyone here is committed. We must be aware that SAICM is not a regional responsibility but a global one.

I believe the preparations for this conference have been good and I must wholeheartedly thank Viveke Bohn for all her work.

So let’s be honest and come to a good solution in doing so we can contribute to a peaceful and stable sustainable development for all human kind.


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