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Statement by Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, read at the Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants

Opening Statement

To be delivered by

Bakary Kante, Director, Division of Environmental Law and Conventions

On the behalf of Achim Steiner, Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP)

Fourth Meeting of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
4 - 8 May 2009

Geneva, Switzerland - Mr. President, Mr. Executive Secretary, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen

As this fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties opens, I offer my apologies for not being able to deliver this address in person. But please know that I will be regularly updated on the forthcoming discussions and welcome what I am sure will be a fruitful meeting during the coming days.

Let us be reminded that the overarching objective of the Stockholm Convention is its focus on minimizing the impact of hazardous chemicals and pesticides on human and the environment. Your deliberations during this meeting will be critical in this regard. There is an ambitious programme of work before you and I look forward to the outcomes of these deliberations.

Since its inception, the Stockholm Convention has focused on the 12 persistent organic pollutants or POPs. Today, and in the discussions during the days to come, marks a turning point in this focus. Before you are nine new chemicals to be considered for listing. This marks a new chapter in the history of the Stockholm Convention.

Distinguished Delegates, we need no reminding that chemicals connect with almost every facet of life. We have seen how the environmental narrative is played out on the world stage: replete with climate change, habitat loss, deforestation, droughts, melting polar ice caps, floods, hurricanes and depleting fossil fuels. Events in which the effects of hazardous chemicals play no small part - POPs know no boundaries - and are to be found around the world. Today, we have arrived at a crossroads. A moment in time where our deliberations can make a real and tangible difference. Together we can act to minimize our chemical footprint for the benefit of our children and future generations.

This is your opportunity, Distinguished Delegates, to consider the dangers posed by hazardous chemicals. The consequences for inaction are clear. The burden on public health will increase if we do not seize the opportunity to use the Stockholm Convention effectively as a tool for meaningful action.

The Stockholm Convention has engaged with a number of partners who share its focus. International partnerships that are increasing every year as the synergies momentum gathers pace. The Chemicals Conventions are a shining example of such collaboration - the synergies between the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions and excellent cooperation with the Basel Convention - cooperation which I am delighted to see moving from strength to strength.

Distinguished Delegates, we need no reminder that world leaders adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000, setting clear targets to be achieved by 2015. The sound management of chemicals makes a significant contribution to achieving the MDGs. Goals that great strides have been made towards achieving, but that we are still far from reaching. Amid a global climate of an economic slowdown and food insecurity, we need to refocus, and to redouble our effort to achieve the MDGs.

Distinguished Delegates, we have taken note of the program of work to be funded through the voluntary Special Trust Fund set out in the proposed budget for the Stockholm Convention for the 2010-2011 biennium. I want to assure you that UNEP is committed to providing assistance with raising the funding necessary for these activities and that we are confident this will be accomplished through our combined efforts with the Secretariat of the Stockholm Convention.

Before closing, I would like to return briefly to the global arena. International concern for human health and the environment cannot be drowned in a sea of eco-fatigue. The Stockholm Convention is about raising awareness of chemicals-related issues that concern us all -it is about people. The COP's theme is on "Meeting the Challenges of a POPs-free Future. I am confident we can come together to meet these challenges and continue to achieve results.

Distinguished Delegates, the Stockholm Convention is your Convention. I wish you a very successful and rewarding meeting.