4 October 2019: While delegates attending a preparatory meeting of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) did not succeed in producing a zero draft text as hoped for by the Co-Chairs of the intersessional process, they made progress in identifying key issues that should be incorporated in a “Beyond 2020” framework for the sustainable management of chemicals and waste.

The third meeting of the Intersessional Process Considering SAICM and the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste Beyond 2020 (IP3) explored a broad range of issues, including: possible elements of a new institutional structure and whether to establish a dedicated science-policy interface for chemicals and waste; how to scale up SAICM’s profile and ambition; criteria and mechanisms for adopting new issues of concern to be addressed by the platform; how to manage SAICM’s legacy “emerging policy issues,” such as lead in paint, nanotechnology, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and highly hazardous pesticides; and proposals for a possible fund dedicated to the sound management of chemicals and waste.

The outcomes of this meeting, and a final preparatory meeting scheduled for March 2020 in Bucharest, Romania, will be crucial in informing negotiations at the fifth meeting of SAICM’s governing body, the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5). With SAICM’s current mandate ending in 2020, ICCM5, which convenes in Bonn, Germany, in October 2020, will make the final decision on whether to endorse a fresh mandate for SAICM to pursue its goal of achieving the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle.

One of the areas of progress at IP3 was agreeing on a process for developing targets and indicators to track progress under the five draft Strategic Objectives envisioned for a post-2020 chemicals and waste management framework. The discussions were guided by the outcomes of a technical workshop on ‘Indicators for the Strategic Approach Beyond 2020,’ held in Cambridge, UK, in September 2019. During the week, delegates also held four “sector” meetings on health, labor, agriculture, and environment, with a view to identifying linkages with other issue clusters and opportunities for encouraging broader participation in and cooperation on the chemicals and waste agenda.

Areas where common ground was difficult to reach and which also point to possible sticking points at ICCM5, include: calls by some developing countries and emerging economies for increased contributions from the private sector, based on the polluter-pays principle, to ensure access to adequate and predictable resources for chemicals and waste management; criteria for identifying new issues of concern to be addressed by a future programme of work under SAICM, and how to integrate these with current Emerging Policy Issues; and governance and financing arrangements for a “SAICM 2.0.”

Prior to the meeting, a number of international meetings and other developments contributed to growing calls for a stronger international chemicals management framework, aligned to the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They include:

  • the launch of the High Ambition Alliance, co-chaired by Sweden and Uruguay, in July 2018, which seeks to raise the political profile of the benefits of tackling hazardous chemicals and waste and make it a more ambitious programme;
  • A resolution on the sound management of chemicals and waste by the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) in March 2019 that requested the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to enhance support to SAICM and called on governments and other stakeholders to consider ways of strengthening the science-policy interface for chemicals and waste; and
  • An independent evaluation of SAICM’s first decade (2006-2015) that highlighted successful programmes such as the Quick Start Programme, and international partnerships to eliminate lead in paint and ensure increased information sharing on chemicals in the toys, electronics, clothing, and construction sectors.

IP3 convened in Bangkok, Thailand, from 1-4 October 2019, and was attended by approximately 305 participants from government, industry, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia, and intergovernmental organizations.

SAICM was adopted in 2006 as a policy framework to promote chemical safety around the world, with the goal to ensure that by 2020 chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health. As 2020 rapidly approaches, governments have been examining progress towards that goal and discussing SAICM’s future beyond 2020, when its current mandate expires. [IISD RS Summary and Analysis of IP3] [IISD RS Meeting Coverage] [IP3 Website] [SDG Knowledge Hub Stories on Chemicals and Waste]