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Mainstreaming Sound Management of Chemicals into Developments Planning and Strategies

Vision of mainstreaming

Sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle to become a policy and investment priority to decouple sustainable development advances from the potential and growing risks to human health and the environment.

Rationale for mainstreaming

UNEP Chemicals Branch work on mainstreaming is directly concerned with implementation of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) in support of the achievement of the World Summit on Sustainable Development goal that by the year 2020 chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health.

Implementing the sound management of chemicals at the national level requires a variety of actions that together form an enabling environment. Some of these actions are likely to be beyond the direct mandate of an environment ministry. Typically a number of ministries and state administrations may need to act and cost-effectiveness gains are available where actions are coherent and well-coordinated between national agencies. Ensuring that sound chemicals management needs are ‘mainstreamed’ – integrated into national policies and programmes, including sustainable development strategies, also facilitates support through national budgets, bilateral development assistance plans, and multilateral assistance framework processes.

Governments demonstrated support for a paradigm shift in environmental stewardship at the first meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly, decisions related to the production, use and disposal of chemicals, they adopted the Special Programme to support institutional strengthening for the implementation of the sound management of chemicals and waste at the national level, as an element for an integrated approach to financing chemicals. Further reflecting their commitment to sustainable development and recognizing that current trends in chemicals management have far reaching economic, social and health implications, they targeted chemicals and wastes in a number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as health, water and sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Purpose of Mainstreaming

Make sound management of chemicals a critical factor in achieving sustainable development and SDGs: urgent and coordinated actions at national, regional, corporate and civil society level as well as international level so that the sound management of chemicals is perceived as a vital element that underpins each aspect of a green economy and sustainable development and should be integrated not only by investments in natural capital in the realm of agriculture, fisheries, forest and water, but also in the investment in energy and resource efficiency, manufacturing, waste management building and urban design, tourism and transportation.

Need to bring convincing economic arguments for the sound management of chemicals to prove that sound chemicals management is as valid an area for investment as education, transport, direct health care services and other essential public services and that it could foster the creation of many green, decent and healthy jobs and livelihood for developed and developing countries.

UNEP’s Mainstreaming Activities

The mainstreaming initiative relies on coordination and complementarity of actions, bringing together main entities involved in national economic and social development as well as health and environment. This allows to address key priority issue in an integrated a holistic way.

  • Improve cross-sectoral governance for better coordination of chemicals management activities
  • Raise political awareness of the need for preventive and integrated chemicals management for sustainable development
  • Promote and assist the integration of chemicals management into development planning policies
  • Build capacity of national chemicals management practitioners to  develop coherent and comprehensive solutions and make a convincing case for sustainable financing of chemicals management

The initiative has demonstrated a management method for national ministries to make better use of available evidence – through linked assessment and health and environment impacts and costs and benefits which supports evidence-based economic development policies with a view to stimulate the needed investment and further strengthen and sustain the institutional infrastructures.

Global Chemicals Outlook
Mobilize support and commitment from governments, private sector, civil society, academia and scientific societies toward a comprehensive, coherent and complementary policy approach to chemicals.

UNEP-WHO Health and Environment Strategic Alliance (HESA)
Promote and facilitates coordinated action in developing countries to reduce environmental threats to human health in support of sustainable development objectives. It provides an integrated approach to policy making in the health and environment sectors that fully takes into account the services that ecosystems provide to human health. It will leverage the necessary changes in institutional arrangements and investments framework to mobilize and build capacities within institutions and members states to mainstream health and environment linkages.

Costs of Inaction Initiative
Provide an economic business case for increasing investments in Sound Management of  Chemicals for sustainable development, by providing a more complete picture of the  environmental and health costs of chemicals mismanagement.

LIRA Guidance
Help the design of comprehensive and coherent legal frameworks and related institutional arrangements for life-cycle management of chemicals, including sustainable financing options.

Country Pilot Projects
Promote and assist the integration of selected SMC priorities into national development planning decision-making processes of developing countries.


The mainstreaming team
UNEP Chemicals Branch