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Statement by Mr. Okechukwu IBEANU, Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights to the Second Session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management, Geneva , 11-15 May 2009

Mr. President, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour and a pleasure for me to address the Second Session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM 2) in my capacity as Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights.

As some of you will recall, I already addressed the Third Session of the Preparatory Committee for the Development of a Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM PrepCom3). On that occasion, I invited the Preparatory Committee to consider acknowledging the important contribution that sound chemicals management may have on the effective realisation of several human rights, including the right to life, the right to health, the right to just and favourable working conditions, the right to an adequate standard of living and so on.

I am therefore extremely pleased to note that the Dubai Declaration on International Chemicals Management and the Overarching Policy Strategy expressly recognise the important contribution of sound management of chemicals to the promotion and protection of the human rights set out in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in other international and regional human rights treaties. In particular, I note with satisfaction the commitment in the Dubai Declaration to the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, which will ensure a rights-based approach to international chemicals management.

A rights-based approach to chemicals management should be normatively based on international human rights standards, and operationally directed to promoting and protecting human rights. Its aim should be to integrate norms, standards and principles of the international human rights system into plans, policies and processes of chemicals management. This approach should expressly recognise the responsibilities of all actors involved in chemicals management, especially national governments and the private sector, in protecting and promoting human rights. It should also ensure the participation of all stakeholders, and in particular those particularly vulnerable to discrimination – such as women, children, poor communities, indigenous peoples and ethnic or national minorities – in the design, implementation and monitoring of chemicals management strategies and policies affecting them.

These groups are most vulnerable to the adverse human rights impacts of poor chemicals governance, because they lack the requisite information about the dangers of the misuse, dumping and improper disposal of chemicals. They also lack the capacity to seek redress when they are victimised by negligent chemicals management. These rights to information and redress for victims of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes, including chemicals, have preoccupied my mandate in recent times.

Mr. President,

Since many of the participants in the Conference may not be familiar with the mandate entrusted to me by the United Nations Human Rights Council, please allow me to provide a brief account of the work carried out by the Special Rapporteur on toxic wastes .

The Human Rights Council is the main UN organ in charge of promoting and protecting human rights. The Council, as well as its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, have repeatedly noted with grave concern that the illicit traffic in, and dumping of, toxic and dangerous products and wastes pose serious threats not only to the environment, but also to the enjoyment of human rights – including the right to life, the enjoyment of the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health, the rights to clean water, food, adequate housing and safe and healthy working conditions. These bodies have also stressed on various occasions that concerns associated with the transboundary movement of toxic and hazardous substances are particularly serious when these wastes and products are transferred or dumped in countries that do not have sufficient capacity and technologies to process them in an environmentally safe manner.

In 1995, the Commission of Human Rights decided in to appoint a Special Rapporteur with a mandate, inter alia , to investigate the effects of the illicit dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes in African and other developing countries on the enjoyment of human rights. Ms. Ouhachi-Vesely from Algeria was appointed as Special Rapporteur in 1995, and her mandate was renewed twice, in 1998 and 2001. Following the end of Ms. Ouhachi-Vesely's mandate in 2004, I was appointed as Special Rapporteur in July of that year. In resolution 9/1, adopted at the 9th session of the Human Rights Council in 2008, the Council extended my mandate for a further period of three years, and strengthened it to cover all kinds of movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes, whether illicit or not, whether transboundary or not.

Over the years, I have examined and acted upon numerous communications from victims of human rights violations related to the illicit movement and dumping of toxic wastes and dangerous products, often in the form of pesticides. I have also undertaken several missions to countries in Africa, Europe and the Americas to study the country situation with regard to toxic wastes and products, and reported back to the Human Rights Council. Since 1995, the mandate has been reporting annually to the Commission, and then the Council.

Mr. President,

As the Dubai Declaration clearly recognises, the achievement of sustainable development, environmental protection and effective enjoyment of human rights depends, inter alia, on the sound management of chemicals. I stand ready to continue working closely with the International Conference on Chemical Management and all relevant stakeholders in the elaboration and implementation of appropriate actions and strategies to promote chemical safety and prevent, in every practicable way, any potential adverse effect of chemicals on the enjoyment of human rights and the protection of the environment.

Thank you.