Pesticides are used because of their toxic properties towards target species. The development and application of pesticides is arguably one of the most important examples of chemical use in the history of mankind. Unprecedented gains have been achieved through the application of pesticides in controlling disease vectors and agricultural pests. However, pesticides cause harm to non-target species. The mode of action which makes them effective pesticides also makes them hazardous to humans and / or the environment, often in subtle ways. It is important to understand associated risks and to limit use of these substances to necessary situations and limit potential damage to human health and the environment.
UNEP’s Chemicals Branch has activities in the field of pesticides, and also maintains the thematic DDT Information System and Termiticide Information System.
Many of the Branch’s activities are carried out in cooperation with other IGOs, NGOs, MEA Secretariats and national governments.
UNEP, in conjunction with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), hosts the Secretariat to the Rotterdam Convention. The Rotterdam Convention objectives are: to promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among Parties in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals in order to protect human health and the environment from potential harm; and to contribute to the environmentally sound use of those hazardous chemicals, by facilitating information exchange about their characteristics, by providing for a national decision-making process on their import and export, and by disseminating these decisions to Parties.
UNEP established in 2007 an initiative to promote the development of a Flexible Framework for addressing Major Chemical Accident’s prevention and preparedness. This initiative complements UNEP’s current efforts in promoting chemical safety in fast-growing economies that are experiencing a very rapid industrialization and modernization, and need support to address major chemical accident prevention and preparedness. In order to coordinate the development and discuss the contents, needs and implementation mechanisms of this Flexible Framework, a UNEP expert Working Group has been created involving selected experts and institutions in the fields of chemical safety and prevention of major industrial accidents. This Working Group comprises representatives from the European Commission, the OECD Working Group on Chemical Accidents, the ILO, UNIDO, UNECE, WHO, the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), amongst others. The expert Working Group has already met three times and a Guidance has been drafted and will be proposed to several countries. UNEP will pursue its work with the expert Working Group to develop more supporting material for capacity building and for promoting the approach in several developing countries contributing to the Bali Strategic Plan and SAICM.