Improving quality of life, reducing the burden of disease, and safeguarding the environment while pursuing economic growth are aims few of us would contest. Getting there and doing it by 2020 is an attainable goal.
At the height of its 10th anniversary, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) hosted a high-level segment that brought together Ministers, Heads of Agencies and Organizations, Chief Executive Officers, and Major Groups and Stakeholders from across the private sector, environment, health, trade, agriculture and labour sectors. Sharing the platform to guide common solutions, the conference culminated with the high-level segment “Commitment To A Chemical-Safe Future for Health, Environment and Economic Growth”.
ICCM4 came on the heels of the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the sustainable development goals that emphasize healthy livelihoods and well-functioning ecosystems, goals that are therefore inseparable from a sound approach to managing the way we use chemicals from their design to production, use and disposal.
Chemicals are used in almost all sectors of society, bringing important benefits in areas from medicine and agriculture to consumer goods, clean technologies and overcoming poverty. Up to 100,000 chemical substances are either found in products we use often or that are on the market, and chemical production and use are increasing worldwide. Many of these substances are critical for our livelihood, for our health or for our survival. Yet, if improperly managed, chemicals and the pollution linked with their manufacture, use, and disposal come at a cost to the economy and the environment.
The high-level segment provides a platform to inspire wider stakeholder engagement and renewed commitment to implementing the Strategic Approach, maximising SAICM’s unique mix and ways of working across sectors and stakeholders. Keynote speakers elaborate on the importance of chemicals management for the indigenous communities as well as the perspective that sound management of chemicals makes business sense. Sound management of chemicals plus sustainable development equal a win-win for business, people, environment and society as a whole.
Panel discussions follow on Multi-sectoral Collaboration For More Efficient Chemicals Management, Multi-stakeholder Collaboration For Sustainable Development, and The SAICM Model in Action, followed by a plenary panel. The collective outcomes included showing the importance of collaboration among policy sectors, highlighted opportunities for contributing to achieving the SDGs through SAICM’s broad stakeholder participation, and explored existing and potential creative partnerships.
Speakers and panelists include leaders and decision-makers from sectors directly involved in making, using or disposing of chemicals and waste and others who help drive and influence economic, environmental and development agendas. They address questions such as:
- How can SAICM extend the stewardship of chemicals to a full lifecycle approach, better engaging downstream entities?
- What are some examples from other areas that could inspire new, creative partnerships that could advance the implementation of SAICM?
- How is regional collaboration strengthening national chemicals management and supporting efficient use of limited resources?
- How can the unique features of the SAICM model be more effectively used to speed up implementation towards 2020?
- What new commitments are needed?
In the past 10 years, SAICM has enabled actions beyond legal requirements, brought attention to, and catalysed actions on emerging policy issues, supported projects worth more than $110 million in more than 100 developing countries, built networks among sectors and stakeholders and facilitated cooperation among them. Only five years remain for governments, industry and other stakeholders to achieve the 2020 goal – great strides are being made yet all stakeholders need to commit and stay engaged in order to accelerate progress. In the next five years, SAICM will continue to close the gap in chemicals management between developed and developing countries. The joint challenges of sound chemicals management and waste, along with sustainable food security, consumption, production and resource efficiency offer the potential for successful breakthroughs for a sustainable future.