Increasing the global implementation of GHS through a pilot focusing on Africa

The "Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)", addresses classification of chemicals by types of hazards and proposes harmonized hazard communication elements, including labels and safety data sheets down the supply chain. It aims at ensuring that information on physical hazards and toxicity from chemicals is available to enhance the protection of human health and the environment during the handling, transport, and use of these chemicals. The GHS also provides a basis for harmonization of rules and regulations on chemicals at national, regional, and worldwide level, an important factor also for trade facilitation. In addition, the information on toxicity to human health and the environment can be used in the context of a risk evaluation, enabling in particular developing countries to take informed decisions on chemicals management.

Since its adoption in 2002, the GHS has been identified as one of the fundamental tools to achieve sound management of chemicals. However, the GHS is operational only in about 80 countries, mostly developed countries. Countries in Africa remain mostly outside of the GHS. These developments prompted some SAICM stakeholders, i.e. the European Union (the European Commission and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)), UNEP, UNITAR and industry - represented in this project by the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) to join forces in their funding and capacity building efforts to support the global implementation of GHS with an initial focus on Africa.

The European Union (EU) and International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) co-funded project on ‘Increasing the global implementation of GHS through a pilot focusing on Africa’ was approved in June 2022. The project aims to increase the global implementation of GHS by providing long-term direct support to four African countries and in parallel developing reusable training packages, developing/refining an implementation framework based on the experience from this project, and creating a regional aspiration effect.

To implement the GHS, dedicated, long-term support for enhancing capacities and developing legislation are key needs in the region. The beneficiary countries, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and Côte d’Ivoire have been selected based on clear and early indications of their commitment to the GHS. In addition, they are considered countries that can have strong multiplier effects on their regional neighbors and around the world.

The project is designed based on many years of experience of the GHS Partnership that started in 2012 as well as EU activities in supporting accession countries in their efforts to harmonize their legal acquis with that of the EU. This four-year pilot project sets ambitious goals to progress in the implementation of GHS in the proposed recipient countries. For example, legislation to implement the GHS, activities that facilitate cost recovery mechanisms, as well as ensuring that the necessary capacity, guidance, and tools are in place to implement and enforce the legislation.

The project will have direct relevance to the Sustainable Development Goals; GHS implementation contributes in particular to the achievement of target 12.4 of Agenda 2030. Furthermore, GHS is explicitly mentioned in relation to the original objectives 1 to 4 of the SAICM Global Plan of Action (risk reduction; strengthening knowledge and information sharing; Governance: strengthening of institutions, law, and policy; capacity building) and their related activities (22, 99–101, 168, 248-250).

Project Updates

The Inception Workshop took place on 4th and 5th of October in Nairobi Kenya.

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