Unsound management of chemicals and wastes fuelling global toxic emergency: UN experts
20 September 2023
GENEVA (20 September 2023) – The serious adverse impacts of the unsound management of chemicals and wastes are fuelling an unprecedented global toxic emergency, UN experts* said today. On the occasion of the fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM-5), a group of UN experts issued the following statement:
“ICCM-5 is expected to be a watershed moment for international cooperation on chemicals and wastes. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver a robust outcome to confront the global toxic tide. We, the UN human rights experts, call on ICCM-5 to be guided by human rights principles in the design of the post-2020 global policy framework on the sound management of chemicals and wastes.
The threats of infertility, deadly illnesses, neurological and other disabilities resulting from exposure to hazardous chemicals and wastes, reveal the widespread and systematic denial of basic human rights for countless persons and groups in vulnerable situations, among them workers, children, women, Indigenous peoples, people living in poverty, people of African descent, internally displaced persons, migrants, and minorities.
Humanity cannot afford to further aggravate the toxification of the planet.
The 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development set out the global 2020 goal on the sound management of chemicals. Yet, the international community has failed to achieve this objective. The need for the sound management of hazardous substances and waste remains ever pressing.
Guided by the global 2020 goal, ICCM-1 adopted the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) in 2006. SAICM is unique in its set-up as a multi-sectoral global policy framework and has delivered notable achievements. Despite achievements, much more needs to be done to tackle and reverse the toxification of the planet.
The post-2020 framework must be grounded in human rights. This includes articulating a vision in a high-level declaration that reflects human rights principles. In that regard, the post-2020 framework should explicitly incorporate the recently recognised right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.
Also, the design of the post-2020 framework should reflect a human rights-based approach. Key elements include: ensuring non-discrimination; preventing exposure to hazardous substances and wastes and not just minimising adverse effects; undertaking human rights due diligence; promoting meaningful participation in decision-making processes on toxics; securing access to information on chemicals and wastes, including in consumer products; ensuring access to effective remedies; and implementing special measures to protect those most vulnerable in society and their livelihoods.
For ICCM-5 to deliver the ambition and strength needed to overcome the global toxic emergency facing humanity, it needs to explicitly embrace a human rights-based approach.”
The experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.
For more information and media requests please contact: Noura Humoud A. AlZaid ([email protected])