9 September 2019: The Secretariat of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) has published the Executive Summary of an Independent Evaluation of the SAICM from 2006-2015 to inform discussions during the third meeting of the Intersessional Process Considering SAICM and the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste Beyond 2020 (IP3).

IP3, meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, from 30 September to 4 October, aims to develop recommendations on the ‘Beyond 2020’ process for consideration by the fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5) in Bonn, Germany, in October 2020.

The report (SAICM/IP.3/9) provides an analysis of SAICM activities from 2006-2015 to help stakeholders decide on future arrangements for SAICM and the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020. It describes strengths, weaknesses and lessons learned from SAICM implementation.

The evaluation highlights successes and progress made on Emerging Policy Issues (EPIs), including:

  • the Lead in Paint EPI, and the establishment of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead in Paint under the auspices of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO);
  • UNEP engagement of representatives from the toy, electronics, clothing and construction sectors around the gaps, obstacles and common areas of interest under the Chemicals in Products EPI, which led to a voluntary international progamme for information on chemicals in products along their supply chain; and
  • the Nanotechnologies EPI, with the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) contributing to awareness-raising workshops, pilot activities, production of a report, an e-learning course and the production of online assessment tools.

The Quick Start Programme (QSP) represents another successful SAICM outcome, with 184 approved projects over the ten-year period and 70 completed by 2015, many of which helped create an enabling environment for sound chemicals management in developing countries.

SAICM has also made progress in developing a monitoring and evaluation framework for assessing progress. The report notes that stakeholders had some success in influencing drivers affecting SAICM outcomes and demonstrated their commitment to SAICM through in-kind contributions to SAICM-related activities.

The evaluation also highlights weaknesses, including that some EPI workplans and outcomes were limited in their ambition and scope, with activities delayed due to lack of funds and/or capacity of lead organizations. The delay in convening an initial workshop on hazardous substances in the lifecycle of electronics and electrical products is cited as an example. In addition, progress was slow in recognizing highly hazardous pesticides as an EPI.

Other weaknesses highlighted in the report relate to:

  • monitoring progress of indicators;
  • “a chronic shortage of funds,” which has inhibited the SAICM Secretariat from delivering on its mandate;
  • concerns over lack of commitment at the highest levels of some UN agencies;
  • slow progress regarding the strengthening of formal collaboration between the SAICM and Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Convention Secretariats, which was first addressed in 2014;
  • limited information sharing between SAICM stakeholders on chemical composition of products as well as hazard and risk assessment data; and
  • lack of involvement of academia, scientific bodies and industry.

Among lessons learned the evaluation highlights: coordination within government and stakeholder engagement and collaboration; the need to ensure that national focal points are able to fulfill their roles and engage with all stakeholders; integration across sectors, including health, agriculture, finance and industry; and participation of non-government actors in the SAICM process, allowing for their perspectives and priorities to be heard and considered.

The evaluation indicates broad consensus among SAICM stakeholders and others that the 2020 goal of minimizing the adverse effects of chemicals on human health and the environment will not be achieved and that the gap between countries in achieving this goal is widening, with the poor and most vulnerable being left behind. It underscores the need for SAICM stakeholders to increase their cooperation efforts to act on highly hazardous pesticides and promote agroecology, which will both protect and enhance biodiversity and minimize adverse health impacts from exposure to chemical inputs for these vulnerable groups.

The evaluation also calls for: strengthening adaptive management regimes in developing countries through access to knowledge, science and technology, including the provision of technical infrastructure, such as poisons centers; incorporating a scientific perspective into the ICCM’s structure; and beyond 2020, a fully functioning Secretariat at full capacity.

The ‘Beyond 2020’ process was launched in Brasilia, Brazil, in 2017, and aims to create a new and enhanced platform to support implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs, as well as consider the broader pollution agenda. The goal is to have the new framework ready for adoption at ICCM5 in October 2020 in Bonn, Germany. [Independent Evaluation of SAICM from 2005-2016] [Meeting Webpage] [IISD RS IP3 Coverage]