New report from the Center provides ideas for enhancing global chemicals and waste governance
By Niko Urho (Senior Fellow at the Center for Governance and Sustainability)
A new report published by the Center for Governance and Sustainability recommends the careful design of critical functions needed for effective global governance of chemicals and waste. The report focuses on objectives and milestones, national actions plans, reporting, review and scientific support. The report is intended to inform ongoing UN discussions concerning the future model for sound management of chemicals and waste in the post-2020 era.
The report recommends the development of time-bound and measurable objectives and milestones to provide strategic guidance, raise the level of aspiration and ease communication beyond conventional actors for achieving sound management of chemicals and waste. Their delivery will require engagement of all relevant stakeholders through the development and implementation of national action plans (NAPs). Furthermore, the indicator and reporting framework needs renewal to help better measure progress on the ground. Review of progress could be carried out through an iterative global stocktake, complemented by voluntary national reviews. Lastly, options are provided for enhancing the dialogue between researchers and decision-makers based on a gap-analysis of existing science-policy interfaces. Ensuring sufficient financing and responding to capacity building needs will be key for the successful implementation of the new framework.
These recommendations are based on experiences from other international regimes, including the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Convention on Biological Diversity. The examined functions can be designed to be voluntary or legally-binding in nature, depending on the level of ambition. The report is highly topical considering the recent pledge from ministers from eight countries calling for an ambitious global deal on chemicals and waste, following the footsteps of the Paris Agreement.
Chemicals have been highly beneficial for our societies and their number has grown rapidly. To date, over 140 000 chemicals have been introduced on the global markets. However, many chemicals are unintentionally interfering with biological systems placing human health and nature at grave risk. Harmful substances can be found in everyday consumer products, such as food, packaging materials, toys, furniture, cleaning products, cosmetics, clothes, and textiles, as well as in buildings.
In 2006, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) was launched as a voluntary framework with an ambitious goal ‘to achieve sound management of chemicals throughout their life-cycle by 2020’. In practice, the aim is to ensure that the toys we give to our children, the clothing we wear, the food we eat, the water we drink and the electronics we use are safe and free from dangerous chemical – just to mention a few examples of the societal transformation required for achieving the 2020 goal. However, progress has been slow and new challenges have emerged.
In 2015, the Fourth International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM-4) launched an intersessional process for the development of a new framework – often referred as the ‘Beyond-2020 framework’ – with the view for its adoption in 2020. To date, two intersessional meetings have been organized bringing together governments and other stakeholders to consider its formulation. Next, the development of the Beyond-2020 framework will be discussed in conjunction with the third meeting of the open-ended working group (OEWG3) of SAICM to be held in spring 2019.