12 March 2019: Opportunities for, and a broader structure of, international chemicals and waste governance are the focus of a submission made to the third meeting of the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG3) of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM) on the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020.

OEWG3 will convene in Montevideo, Uruguay, from 2-4 April 2019.

The submission (SAICM/OEWG.3/INF/27) was made in response to the second element of work of the intersessional process (IP), as established by the 4th session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM4) held in 2015, on “a possible broader platform to address the fragmented nature of initiatives and agreements to promote international chemicals and waste management.”

The authors propose a ministerial conference and declaration in 2020, along with a process for a resolution “at the highest possible political level,” such as the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) or the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), as possible pathways “towards an encompassing governance dimension” for sound management of chemicals and waste (SMCW).

On the context of international chemicals and waste governance, the authors highlight fragmentation in the governance landscape on chemicals and waste and insufficient progress towards the 2020 goal of sound management of chemicals and the relevant SDGs. The paper underlines that despite efforts to foster effective coordinated collaboration and cooperation, the multi-sector and multi-stakeholder nature of the chemicals and waste cluster has resulted in fragmentation of the global governance landscape. The authors warn that uneven engagement of stakeholders from multiple sectors has “hampered the potential overall impact and effectiveness of existing organizations, programmes and initiatives in the field.”

At the current rates, efforts would be insufficient to meet the 2020 goal of sound management of chemicals.

The paper highlights responses to SMCW challenges established through, inter alia: legal instruments; voluntary guidelines and standards; intergovernmental organizations’ (IGOs) respective work programmes; support instruments or programmes, including finance and knowledge exchange; and voluntary initiatives such as the SAICM and multi-stakeholder partnerships including the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (GAELP) or the Household Waste Partnership.

In addressing progress towards the 2020 goal and the SDGs, the authors assess reports on SAICM implementation for the periods 2011-2013 and 2014-2016, and indicate that “some progress has been made” on hazardous waste management, implementation of chemicals-related multilateral agreements, exchange of knowledge and information, and regional cooperation. They note limited progress in providing financial support and mainstreaming, and “significant variation” in progress between countries and regions. The authors warn that, “at the current rates, efforts would be insufficient to meet the 2020 goal.” In this context, the submission highlights an “urgent need for enhanced action towards a coherent, synergistic and strengthened approach to enable and support significant progress towards realizing the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.”

On considering a broader chemicals and waste governance dimension, the authors underline the importance of governance arrangements that facilitate policy coherence and coordinated collaborative and cooperative implementation towards agreed goals by relevant sectors and stakeholders. They propose governance arrangements that keep pace with the chemical sector’s rapid innovation and development, including: raising the profile and priority of an ambitious chemicals and waste agenda to increase commitments; enhancing strategy and policy coherence and coordination to maximize synergies, efficiency and effectiveness; and assessing progress to facilitate improvements in policy, systems and coherent accountable implementation.

On key elements of SMCW governance, the submission recommends, inter alia: a clear commitment at the highest possible level to a SMCW agenda that is informed by the best available science and addresses existing needs; development of new, or endorsement of updated existing, overarching vision, goals, targets and indicators that trigger, guide and bring together commitments from all sectors and stakeholders; and means to disseminate and share experience and lessons from projects and programmes, including best practices and failed or challenging projects and approaches.

The Submission was authored by Alf Wills, Maro Luisa Schulte and Nils Simon of Adelphi, an independent think tank and public policy consultancy on climate, environment and development, supported by an Ad Hoc Advisory Committee with representatives from governments and intergovernmental organizations. The paper was commissioned by the German Environment Agency. [Submission] [OEWG3 Website] [German Environment Agency] [IISD RS Coverage of SAICM OEWG3]