A Global Strategy for Protecting Health & the Environment from Chemicals Risks
Vienna, 19 September 2005 – Representatives of the world’s governments, intergovernmental organisations and other stakeholder groups are meeting here this week to finalize arrangements for the launch of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).
The Strategic Approach will provide an overarching framework for global action on chemical hazards and enable governments and other stakeholders to collaborate more effectively on minimizing potential risks.
It will also focus efforts on achieving the goal agreed at the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development of ensuring by the year 2020 that chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health.
This third and final SAICM preparatory meeting comes immediately after the World Summit in New York, which gathered together over 150 heads of state. The 2020 goal was reconfirmed by the declaration adopted by the Summit last Friday.
“Today we have a golden opportunity to strengthen national and international efforts to promote chemicals safety by linking them all together into a coherent whole,” said Executive Director Klaus Toepfer of the United Nations Environment Programme, which provides the SAICM secretariat.
“The production and use of chemicals will continue to grow over the coming decades. This new Strategic Approach will save lives and reduce environmental impacts by minimizing the hazards and risks that accompany the many benefits that chemicals bring,” he said.
The Vienna meeting aims to finalize SAICM’s three core documents: the High level Declaration, the Overarching Policy Strategy (which will outline what countries hope to achieve through SAICM) and the Global Plan of Action (which will serve as a "tool kit" of voluntary national actions).
Key outstanding issues include the institutional and funding arrangements that will be needed to ensure SAICM’s success. There will also be a debate on some of the principles and approaches that will determine how SAICM works in practice.
The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management has been developed through a highly participatory process involving developed and developing country governments, nongovernmental organizations, industry groups and multilateral agencies.
The global chemical industry boasts annual sales of some one and a half trillion US dollars, or about 3.75% of the global GDP of 40 trillion dollars. Some 70,000 chemicals are available on the market today and around 1,000 new ones are introduced every year.
The sheer scale of chemicals production and use can pose a major challenge to governments attempting to monitor and manage these potentially dangerous substances. Around the world, accidents and the inadequate management of hazardous chemicals and wastes kill or sicken thousands of people every year and cause wide-ranging impacts on the environment.
To meet this challenge, governments have adopted over 50 regional and international agreements on chemicals and wastes management. The key global treaties include the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the 1989 Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous and Other Wastes, the 1998 Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, and the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
SAICM will focus on promoting capacity building, technology transfer and improved chemicals management. One of its key benefits will be the improved implementation of these and other treaties.
SAICM PrepCom3 runs from 19 to 24 September and is being held in the Austria Center Vienna. SAICM is to be formally adopted and launched by ministers and other senior representatives of various stakeholder groups at the International Conference on Chemicals Management in Dubai, United Arab Emirates from 4 – 6 February 2006.
Note to journalists: Journalists are invited to today’s press briefing on SAICM by Conference President Viveka Bohn, UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer and a representative of the Government of Austria, which is being held in the UNIS press briefing room at 13h. For more information, please contact Michael Williams at+41 79 409 1528 (cell) or firstname.lastname@example.org. See also www.chem.unep.ch/saicm/.