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Drafting Group Provides Recommendations for Post-2020 Chemicals Declaration

 

An informal drafting group has concluded its work to develop essential elements for a possible high-level declaration on a post-2020 chemicals agreement, and the group's co-facilitators have issued a final report to advance discussions. The group's recommendations will form the basis of a proposal for continued discussions on the declaration when face-to-face meetings resume. 

The group was convened under the auspices of the President of the fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5). It met six times between October 2020 and June 2021 in a virtual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fourth Meeting of the Intersessional Process (IP4) on the Strategic Approach and sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020 and ICCM5 have been postponed due to COVID-19.
 
The informal drafting group, co-facilitated by Kay Williams (UK) and Angela Patricia Rivera Galvis (Colombia), aimed to compile, organize, and synthesize input, views, and proposals from stakeholders of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) to inform the scope, structure, and content of a possible high-level declaration for finalization at ICCM5 on the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020. The recommendations, contained in an annex to the co-facilitators' final report, reflects elements discussed by the informal drafting group and will form the basis of the ICCM 5 President’s proposal for continued discussions on the declaration. 

The co-facilitators’ report identifies issues requiring further review, including funding, peer review, science-policy interface (SPI), and capacity building, as well as the need for tracking progress of implementation of the eventual declaration. 

Discussions built on a first draft of the declaration circulated in December 2020. Regarding the introductory/overarching statement and commitment to the Beyond 2020 framework, the text was strengthened to press for a call to action. A reference to pollution was replaced with language on the “misuse and mismanagement of chemicals and waste.”

On links to other environmental challenges (climate change, biodiversity) and scientific evidence, participants: strengthened language on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; added the notion that safely managing chemicals at all levels is a prerequisite to achieving the SDGs; added a reference to SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production); and included a reference to agriculture and labor.

Another section in the draft declaration addresses advances and gaps. Participants called for: explicit mention of “by 2030” as the projected date and the Global Chemicals Outlook II (GCO-II); emphasizing the benefits of chemicals in addition to challenges; referring to the private sector; and retaining a reference to COVID-19. The draft HLD mentions the widening capacity gap, improving access to knowledge, science and technology, and precaution. Reference to judicial mechanisms was deleted in this element, while the acknowledgement of human rights was inserted.

A reference to “planetary emergency” was deleted in the section on commitment and actions. The section includes elements related to: implementing the Beyond 2020 framework/instrument; national legal frameworks; mainstreaming into national plans and budgets; implementation of international/regional agreements; and capacity building. Participants added specific reference to relevant international and regional agreements, and to technical assistance and capacity building.

An additional element evolved out of the group’s desire to reflect the responsibility of industry among other stakeholders to make data available, accessible, and understandable, while also taking note of confidential business information. The text clarifies that confidential business information does not refer to information on health and environmental effects. It includes a reference to the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

On the connection with multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and other fora/sectors, participants sought to reflect a mix of legally binding and voluntary frameworks. 

Another element focuses on communicating the benefits of some chemicals and moving away from hazardous chemicals. Health and environmental threats are included. The co-facilitators’ report indicates that further consideration is needed as, for example, some countries lack facilities for treating hazardous wastes and must export them.

Reference to illegal traffic/trade was removed from other elements and combined into one separate element that addresses illegal traffic in hazardous chemicals, capacity of customs, and the best technology to enforce laws.

An element on gender mentions equal and effective participation, women and vulnerable groups, children and the unborn child, and indigenous groups, while another element mentions gender mainstreaming and gender differences in exposure and effects. Another element focuses on green and sustainable chemistry, with participants deciding to elaborate on the different steps of the lifecycle.
 
On capacity building and closing the gap, the report mentions attempts to emphasize the need for innovative and new ways of financing in addition to the integrated approach to financing the sound management of chemicals and waste. The element also refers to emerging economies in addition to developing countries. The group could not agree on whether to maintain the term “Low and Middle Income Countries” (LMIC) or replace it with “developing countries.” A more detailed discussion is required on whether to incorporate such language used by the financial community. Some suggested retaining an element on incentive measures for the financial system.

A final section addresses strengthened collaboration and contribution, with one element addressing coordination and cooperation with MEAs, downstream users, health regulations, and labor standards. The report notes further discussion is required on whether to include a proposed call for endorsement by the UN General Assembly (UNGA). Participants supported a strong statement on partnerships and guidelines for new partnerships. Partnerships could be based on UN agencies guidelines for partnerships. For example, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has rules of engagement between the UN and private actors. [Co-Facilitators' Final Report] [Drafting Group documents]