Participants at a discussion on “SAICM and the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020” discussed the preparations for the October 2020 meeting of the fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5).

The Strategic Approach on International Chemicals Management (SAICM) is a global multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder, voluntary policy framework aimed at minimizing significant adverse effects of chemicals on human health and the environment by 2020. A new overarching approach for SAICM and the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020 is currently under negotiation through an intersessional process that is expected to conclude at ICCM5.

Brenda Koekkoek, Programme Officer, SAICM Secretariat, moderated the discussion on SAICM and preparations for ICCM5 during a side event at the third meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, on 28 November 2019.

Judith Torres, Co-chair of the intersessional process considering SAICM and the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020, Uruguay, noted that the fourth intersessional meeting preparing for ICCM5 is taking place in March. She said this process is mandated with providing recommendations for SAICM and the sound management of chemical and waste beyond 2020 for consideration at ICCM5, and highlighted that the mandate recognizes the added value of SAICM’s current voluntary, multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach to mobilize all actors.

Betty Maina, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Kenya, discussed her government’s work to address chemicals and waste, noting that chemicals contribute to 10% of GDP in Kenya and that Kenya is also a transit country for chemicals and wastes. She said Kenya has used SAICM to open doors to many avenues of chemicals management, including the development of an implementation plan through public participation, and the development of a national chemical policy, which is currently being finalized, as well as a national strategy.  

Tatiana Tugui, Environmental Pollution Prevention Office, Ministry of Agriculture, Regional Development and Environment, Moldova, highlighted her country’s efforts to develop legislation in line with European guidelines. She noted that, despite the fact that the country had changed government multiple times, waste legislation has been passed. She said a national program for the sound management of chemicals, focused on the legal and institutional framework and institutional reform, has been approved. She also discussed the importance of an informational system, noting that a Waste Management Information System has been developed and put into operation, and an inventory of mercury releases has been conducted. She said efforts include the establishment of an information infrastructure to do national chemicals reporting, and trying to implement a life cycle approach in procurement.

Rico Euripidou, Environmental health campaigner, groundWork, Friends of the Earth SA, South Africa, presented the efforts of the Zero Mercury Working Group, which is a network of over 110 NGOs from more than 55 countries that promote strong policies at the regional and global level and supports NGO activities at the national level. He said the Group works in a multi-sectoral way and that supporting projects in developing countries can lead to the identification of implementation needs and mercury reduction and awareness raising activities, and help to develop and promote legislation. He said “delinks” between the departments of environment and health need to be addressed, and SAICM can help us to address those delinks.

During a discussion, a speaker said the missing or weak link is the private sector. One speaker highlighted that good laws do not necessarily lead to the capacity to implement them, especially in countries where over 80% of society is living in informal sectors. One participant noted that, in African universities, chemicals are only considered to be “good,” and suggested that we should ensure that universities understand how products with chemicals affect human health.

Participants were informed about the timeline for the events leading to ICCM5. A workshop by UNITAR is taking place in Frankfurt, Germany, from 14-16 January 2020, on how to improve the engagement of stakeholders outside the circle of chemicals family. The fourth intersessional meeting (IP4) will take place in Romania from 23-27 March 2020. Regional meetings will take place in August and September. ICCM5 will take place from 5-9 October 2020, and will include a high-level segment, given that political awareness is very important for implementing the sound management of chemicals and waste. [SDG Knowledge Hub sources] [SDG Knowledge Hub news story on Minamata COP3]