Remarks by Mr. Achim Steiner, Executive Director, UNEP at the Third session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM) Mon, Sep 17, 2012

H.E Mr Chirau Ali Mwakwere, Minister of the Environment Kenya

H.E Tomaz Gantar, ICCM-3 President and Minister of Health Slovenia

Distinguished Delegates

Ladies and Gentlemen

Welcome to the headquarters of the UN Environment Programme in its 40th anniversary year.

UNEP was established as a result of the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm Sweden in 1972.

Many observers have pondered what the triggers were that led to governments taking that historic and ambitious decision.

Many have suggested that it was indeed the chemical agenda, illuminated by Rachel Carson’s famous book Silent Spring on the pitfalls of DDT to the environment, which played a pivotal and catalytic role.

I hope you have a chance to look at UNEP’s milestone banner in the foyer that sets out the history of this institution, including the establishment of the chemicals and waste conventions, against the major events of those four decades.

Yesterday we also celebrated the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer in the 25th anniversary year of the Montreal Protocol.

This is a chemicals treaty with universal membership and a shining example of how the world can raise its ambitions and find that cooperative spirit to deal with an environmental and health challenge ? and in doing so deliver multiple, what one might term green economy benefits, from reduced risk of skin cancers and eye cataracts, to significant climate benefits too.

A key part of your discussions and decisions here will focus on the issue of financing in a world?or at least in parts of the world?still reeling from the ongoing economic and financial crisis that began in 2008.

Often?or too often?environmental sustainability is still viewed by some as a cost rather than a benefit.

The Montreal Protocol is living proof that the economic, environmental and social benefits can often in the end far outweigh the costs.

The final phase-out of lead in petrol, which UNEP spearheaded with governments and industry as another ambitious outcome of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, is also another fascinating example.

Researchers now estimate that the annual benefits of this across the globe are around $2.4 trillion?gains in terms of improved IQ and reduced ill-health but also perhaps reduced criminality.


We meet here under the theme ‘Chemical safety for sustainable development’ just months after the Rio+20 Summit in Brazil.

There Heads of State and governments agreed to a range of potentially transformational outcomes and renewed ambition ? from the enabling of an inclusive Green Economy to a new indicator of wealth, a new direction for corporate sustainability reporting and a decision to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals for post 2015

Rio+20 also gave the green light to the 10 Year Framework of Programmes for Sustainable Consumption and Production

Many of these decisions have relevance to this third session of the ICCM given the importance of the chemical industry and the role of chemicals in overcoming poverty and supporting development and economic growth.

Heads of State at Rio+20 also re-affirmed global support for the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management adopted in Dubai in 2006 and the 2020 goal to achieve sound chemicals management throughout their life cycle agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg 2002.

Rio + 20 also called for the effective implementation and strengthening of the Strategic Approach as part of a robust, coherent, effective and efficient system for the sound management of chemicals.

This Conference needs to take stock of what has been achieved to date and in a sense look itself in the eye as to whether?with eight years to go?the world is on track to meet the 2020 goal.

If not, why not and where governments, industry, civil society and intergovernmental partners need to raise their collective ambition with the clock and the countdown running fast?

Stocktaking?from GEO-5 to the Global Chemicals Outlook

In support of the Rio+20 Summit and in a sense to remind Heads of State why they were meeting 40 years after the Stockholm, 20 years after the Rio Earth Summit and 10 years after Johannesburg, UNEP launched its flagship science report?Global Environment Outlook-5.

GEO-5, launched during World Environment Day in advance of Rio+20, noted that of 90 key sustainability goals only four have been met.

These are eliminating the production and use of substances that deplete the ozone layer, removal of lead from fuel as mentioned previously, increasing access to improved water supplies and boosting research to reduce pollution of the marine environment.

GEO-5 reports some progress in 40 goals including sound management of chemicals and sound management of waste but also emphasizes that significant global and regional data gaps exist on the ‘uses, emissions, exposure pathways and effects of chemicals’.

The Global Chemicals Outlook report, released by UNEP on 5 September in Geneva, Nairobi and elsewhere, is also part of this stock-taking exercise.

It also provides a sense of urgency towards that central aim of mainstreaming chemicals and wastes management into national development agendas.

The report spotlights not only the growth of the industry but the way that industry is now shifting production from the developed to the developing world, in part to support the growth in developing economies and thus a growth in the demand for chemicals.

It underlines how new economic relationships can represent new challenges to large corporations and their supply chains in respect to traceability and safe management practices globally.

It also underlines the challenge for rapidly emerging and developing country governments in terms of developing robust and appropriate mechanisms to ensure sound chemicals management.

And it spotlights the need for further resource efficiency and substitution of high-risk chemicals

The Global Chemicals Outlook also provided some economic perspectives on unsound chemicals management.

For example, it concludes that the estimated costs of poisonings from pesticides in sub-Saharan Africa now exceeds the total annual overseas development aid given to the region for basic health services, excluding HIV/Aids.

And that the accumulated costs of illness and injury linked to pesticides in small scale farming in the region between 2005 and 2020 could reach $90 billion.

The report also suggests that poor management of volatile organic compounds may be responsible for global economic losses of over $230 billion a year.

And that exposure to mercury from multiple sources could be leading to health and environmental damage of $22 billion annually.

The report also highlights the benefits of improved management.

Indonesia’s introduction of integrated pest management programmes may, over the period 2001-2020, lead to economic gains equal to 3.65 per cent of that country’s GDP in 2000.

And there are further good and positive example from Ecuador and Ghana.

Delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

We know that chemicals have an essential role in our economies in terms of combating poverty, improving health, supporting agriculture and increasing access to clean and renewable energy?the list is long and needs to be better recognized.

The aim of the Strategic Approach is to manage up the benefits and the opportunities and manage down the risks and the challenges.

ICCM-3 and SAICM implementation

Let us first all agree that the Strategic Approach has scored many successes.

Its multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral approach is in many ways unique and exemplary?it has catalyzed a dialogue and working relationships between and within the developed and developing world that have rarely been see before.

This approach has not been without challenges?getting industry and governments and workers and NGOs from often different or disparate backgrounds to come together and operate together takes time.

But it is registering successes on the ground.

For example:

  • The Quick Start Programme (QSP) has been supporting initial enabling activities for the sound management of chemicals in over 100 countries.
  • The QSP has mobilized a total of US$40.8 million, including contributions to the Trust Fund and in-kind contributions from project implementers and executing agencies;
  • The QSP has been successful in leveraging US $25.2 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to support projects in the Africa and Asia-Pacific regions;
  • The QSP Trust Fund has demonstrated success in prioritizing the provision of assistance to least-developed countries and small island developing states, which constitute 70 per cent of the portfolio of funded projects.

What started as an incipient idea from a group of very creative donors has become one of the references for the development of financial mechanisms directed at quickly initiating enabling activities.

I would like to thank those donors, and indeed all stakeholders who have contributed to the implementation of the Quick Start Programme.

However, as the time-limited Trust Fund comes to an end, this Conference needs to decide on future financial arrangements to support developing countries’ efforts to develop the necessary capacities nationally and regionally.

Otherwise the opportunity to meet the 2020 goal may be seriously challenged.

There are other successes:

  • Work is underway to address the emerging policy issues identified at the second session of the conference, including actions on lead in paint; chemicals in products; hazardous substances in the life cycle of electrical and electronic products; and nanotechnologies and manufactured nanomaterials.
  • UNDP-UNEP Partnership Initiative for the integration of the sound management of chemicals (SMC) into development planning, has demonstrated that countries benefit significantly from undertaking a mainstreaming approach towards sound management of chemicals.
  •    The process to nominate new and emerging issues, developed at the second session of the Conference, is another case in point. I believe that this is a very positive step for the future of sound chemicals management globally as human ingenuity and human knowledge expands.
  •    Finally, the SAICM secretariat, in consultation with the WHO, is to develop a strategy to strengthen the engagement of the health sector in the Strategic Approach. 

The proposed strategy draws attention to challenges and opportunities for engaging the health sector, objectives for strengthening engagement and a number of activities that would serve to achieve greater engagement.

Again this blossoming engagement with the health sector reflects the multi-sectoral nature of the Strategic Approach.

Funding for the Strategic Approach

Delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

As a voluntary initiative in the field of international management of chemicals, SAICM is not a legally binding instrument.

While this has allowed a great deal of flexibility on how sound management of chemicals is addressed by different stakeholders and sectors, it has also made funding its implementation a real challenge. The Quick Start Programme helped to ease that challenge for the first five years of its implementation, but we need now to look hard and long at the future.

There are three critical topics for discussion on financial and technical resources at this Conference, which I believe need to be addressed and addressed with a sense of urgency and of ambition:

  • Recommendations of the Executive Board on the midterm evaluation of the Quick Start Programme, including its recommendation for a time‑limited extension of the Quick Start Programme Trust Fund.
  • Promoting wider support for implementation of the Strategic Approach in compliance with resolution II/3 of the Conference, on financial and technical resources for implementation. 
  • The draft proposal by the UNEP Executive Director on an integrated approach to financing the sound management of chemicals and wastes.

This will be the first opportunity for Strategic Approach stakeholders to consider and discuss the draft proposal.  Guidance and input from the Conference will contribute to shaping this initiative, how it will proceed and its ultimate success.

The draft Proposal comes after a long journey that began in May 2009.

Since then the Consultative Process on Financing Options for Chemicals and Wastes has met five times, with active participation from developed and developing countries as well as the private sector and civil society.

Based on the consultations, and also on the views expressed in the Chair’s Summary of the Contact Group on finance of the Open Ended Working Group that met in Belgrade last year, this draft proposal presents three complementary elements: Mainstreaming, industry involvement and external financing.

The proposal seeks to respond in a balanced manner to the concerns expressed by governments, and to identify possible ways forward.

The aim of the draft proposal is to support efforts to secure sustainable, predictable, adequate and accessible financing for the implementation of obligations under chemicals-related multilateral environmental agreements, and the implementation of voluntary commitments under international policy frameworks such as SAICM.

We have had the benefit of initial advice from participants of the Consultative Process at a meeting in Mexico City 10 days ago, which also included some SAICM focal points.

The draft has also been sent to governments for written input by the end of September.

Thus the deliberations here at ICCM3 are extremely timely to further consider the components put forward and to enable our finalization of the proposal.

Moreover, I would like to add that we had the benefit of the presence of the Global Environment Facility secretariat at the Mexico City meeting.

And in my own discussions with the new GEF Chief Executive Officer this past week, UNEP has committed with her to work closely with the GEF on the feasibility of the external financing options as outlined in the proposal.

Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Again welcome to UNEP?one of the United Nations four duty stations.

Over the weekend there was a really positive piece of good news with the announcement by the government of Canada that it is prepared to support the listing of asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent.

That bodes well for your conference here this week.

In conclusion, there is a lot to be pleased and to be proud of in respect to SAICM.

But there is unfinished business that will only be completed by renewed ambition to rise to both the challenge but also the opportunities from sound chemicals management.

The Global Chemicals Outlook notes that of an estimated 140,000 and more chemicals on the market only a fraction have been thoroughly evaluated to determine their effects on human health and the environment.

I am sure if you asked someone in coffee shop they would be surprised if not dismayed.

The world knew before Rio 1992 that a different approach was needed if the world was to match human creativity with the imperative of a more sophisticated approach in respect to chemicals and wastes?that approach is SAICM.

There is no such thing as a risk-free world?but managing risk and minimizing hazards is the responsibility of each and every one of us.

In New York in a few days’ time, governments will meet for the 67th session of the UN General Assembly to activate the outcomes of Rio+20 in support of a sustainable century for seven billion people rising to over nine billion by 2050.

The ambition you will show this week in Nairobi can send a strong and positive signal to the UN GA that action to meet the chemicals and wastes part of the Future We Want outcome is in good shape and on track to meet the Heads of State’s 2020 goal.

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