Remarks by UNEP Deputy Executive Director at the International Conference on Chemicals Management Thu, Sep 20, 2012

International Council of Chemical Associations High level event at International Conference on Chemicals Management session 3: "Strengthening SAICM through Partnerships"

Nairobi, 19 September 2012 - Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, distinguished government representatives and guests from the private sector and civil society

Thank you for inviting me to address this High Level event organized by the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA).

Partnerships are at the heart of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).

Well-organized, well-financed and above all ambitious partnerships with clear aims and willingness to engage with all sectors will be the key to the success of SAICM and the achievement of our collective goal-namely the sound management of chemicals by 2020.

Stocktaking is very much at the heart of this third session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management.

Stocktaking not for its own sake-but honest stocktaking that can be then transformed into a sense of urgency and accelerated action so that 2020 is a cause for celebration rather than criticism by the global public.

Sometimes in international negotiations, discussions and processes we can lose sight of the bigger picture.

The Global Chemicals Outlook, released just before this Conference, reminds governments, industry, the UN and civil society of the importance of chemicals in our daily lives.

But it also points to the costs in terms of human health, the environment and economies of the unsound management of chemicals, which in far too many areas is the norm.

The report also points to the emerging challenges of an industry that is growing fast and shifting production and the consumption of its products to the developing world.

The Global Chemicals Outlook showed that Africa and the Middle East are set to register an average 40 per cent increase in chemical production between 2012 and 2020, with Latin America expected to see a 33 per cent rise.

Let me underline that this is in many ways a good thing and holds the potential to lift people out of poverty and provide products that can enhance human health, cleaner, greener products and more productive agriculture.

But it also underlines that we have, in short, a moving target that requires all of us to scale-up and accelerate what is working and swiftly put in place the policies, procedures, partnerships and resources where we are falling behind.

The fact that, for example, the estimated costs of poisonings from pesticides in sub-Saharan Africa now exceeds the total annual overseas development assistance given to the region for basic health services, excluding HIV/Aids, should be ringing alarm bells everywhere.

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 underlines that we cannot be complacent.

There are multiple drivers behind these numbers-the lack of adequate safety equipment, low levels of awareness of the risks among users and even the fact that some people using chemicals can neither read nor write.

It is also true that there are some chemicals still on the market that are simply unacceptably toxic-why are these still being made and sold?

Public-private partnerships have an important role to play in addressing these issues.

Members of the ICCA operate under a code of conduct, which is a positive feature of the association.

But how can we together raise the collective norms and standards of industry everywhere-perhaps particularly among small and medium-sized enterprises and especially in the developing world - so that chemicals resonate in the public's mind with the word 'benefit' rather than the words 'risk' or 'hazard'.

UNEP and the international chemical industry have worked together since the mid-1980s to reduce industrial risks, improve community preparedness in respect to chemical accidents and build capacity in chemicals management in developing countries.

More recently this has developed into a formal partnership between ourselves and the ICCA-so we have a new and closer working relationship built on a far-longer friendship.

That partnership is now evolving into concrete and funded actions on the ground in support of SAICM and in support of an inclusive Green Economy as way of realizing sustainable development.

And I am looking forward to hear from Cal Dooley and colleagues from the ICCA on where we are on the joint pilot project for improved safety in the transportation of dangerous goods and safe warehousing in Africa.

And how we are progressing on a joint pilot project in Vietnam, which includes building capacity and raising awareness on safe chemicals management.

I also look forward to learning from the distinguished participants at this High Level Panel on other partnerships blossoming across the globe.

Distinguished delegates, there is a lot to be pleased and to be proud of in respect to SAICM, including the development of unique partnerships cutting across multiple sectors and stakeholders.

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 Quick Start Programme may have started less quickly than perhaps had been hoped when SAICM was established in 2006.

Meanwhile SAICM was born in a very different world to where we find ourselves today with many countries still struggling with an on-going economic and financial crisis.

Funding from the industry thus takes on even more importance today than perhaps it did six years ago.

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 mentioned to this to someone over a cup of coffee they would be taken by surprise 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.

It is also an issue of reputational risk given the growing interest of consumers in their food and their products and the way they are made alongside the health and the quality of life of the workers involved.

Rio+20 in June sent a clear political message that heads of state wish to see the sound management of chemicals and wastes.

Yesterday in New York governments met for the 67th session of the UN General Assembly to activate the outcomes of recent Rio+20 Summit 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.

comments powered by Disqus