4 April 2019: Negotiations at the third meeting of the Open-ended Working Group of the International Conference on Chemicals Management reviewed progress towards the 2020 goal of sound management of chemicals, among other agenda items. This goal was set by the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and was reaffirmed in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The meeting convened in Montevideo, Uruguay, from 2-4 April 2019.

On the question of how the sound management of chemicals and waste should be addressed beyond 2020, the Earth Negotiations Bulletin analysis of the meeting highlights that, while most stakeholders want to keep the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management’s (SAICM) multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral nature, which is a marked difference to traditional intergovernmental processes, they recognize that this structure blurs the responsibilities of actors.

In addition to assessing SAICM progress toward the global goal of achieving by 2020 the use and production of chemicals in ways that lead to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment, and the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020, when the current mandate of the Strategic Approach is due to expire, participants also prepared for ICCM5, scheduled for 5-9 October 2020 in Bonn, Germany, and considered the planned activities and draft budget of the SAICM Secretariat for the period 2019-2020.

A contact group, co-chaired by Silvija Kalnins (Latvia) and Sam Adu-Kumi (Ghana), considered the Intersessional Process (IP) Co-Chairs’ paper on the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020 (SAICM/OEWG.3/4).

The paper focuses on the vision, scope, principles and approaches, strategic objectives and targets, institutional arrangements, mechanisms to support implementation, and financial considerations for SAICM beyond 2020. It also includes an appendix detailing proposed strategic objectives and targets.

The contact group discussed:

  • text from an EU proposal on all elements covered by the IP Co-Chairs’ paper (SAICM/OEWG.3/CRP.1);
  • provisions on financing in a proposal offered by the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC), the African Group, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Iran, Oman, Thailand, and Tuvalu (SAICM/OEWG.3/CRP.2); and
  • other textual additions and edits suggested by delegates participating in the contact group.

The contact group recommended that, inter alia: the IP Co-Chairs, with support from the Secretariat and in consultation with the Bureau, undertake further work on other mechanisms to support implementation, additional measures to achieve multi-sectoral engagement, issues of concern, and a review of “principles and approaches” based on input from stakeholders. It also recommended that the Secretariat prepare a report in preparation for IP3 and IP4 of examples of successful mechanisms for cost recovery and implementation of the polluter-pays principle, and invited the UN Environment Progamme (UNEP) to provide an assessment on linkages with other clusters related to chemicals and waste management.

The ENB analysis notes that, “Two approaches discussed could potentially determine the success of SAICM moving forward. One involves seeking a mandate from the top: a high-level resolution to gain the necessary political buy-in and thus the global attention that may lead to more support and resources for SAICM. Or, second, a more concentrated and strengthened Strategic Approach implemented at the national and regional levels that will eventually lead to the much-coveted public attention that SAICM needs.” The ENB report goes on to indicate that, “stakeholders have been quick to point out that SAICM has all the elements to bring stakeholders together to make progress on identified issues of concern—what is needed is just a more coherent and defined approach to get significant and measurable results, despite it not being legally binding.”

Discussions on these questions will continue at the end of September, at the third meeting of the Intersessional Process for Considering SAICM and the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste Beyond 2020. [IISD RS Coverage of OEWG3] [OWEG3 Website] [Paper by the Co-Chairs of the Intersessional Process on the SAICM and the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste Beyond 2020]